BATF & Legal Issues
Welcome to the world of Title II firearms. There's a few things you might want to know:
- Overview of the
Process to buy an NFA weapon
- Contacting the BATF
- On-Line Forms
- State Governments
- On-Line References
- Other References
Overview of the Process to Buy an NFA Weapon
process of purchasing NFA weapons doesn't really differ that much from state to
state or from one locale to another. You generally can either get them or you
can't. A few states don't allow them at all, or allow some but not others. A few
states allow them but have their own registration requirements. If you live any
where in the US that allows NFA weapons, and your CLEO will sign, the basic
procedure is like this:
Once you have located an NFA weapon to purchase, it will need to be transferred to the state you live in before it can transferred to you. Most people selling a weapon are going to require you to pay for the weapon prior to them transferring out of their state. If it is in the hands of a private party, it is usually considered acceptable for them to transfer the weapon to a dealer in their home state prior to you paying. Once in the hands of a licensed dealer in their state, you make the payment to the out of state dealer, who in turn pays the private party. Note that this isn't a required way of doing things, just a common and safe way for all involved. Once paid, the dealer transfers the item to a dealer in your state using a BATF form 5320.3 (aka form 3). This will take around 4-5 weeks, depending on BATF and there is no federal tax on that transfer. Alternatively, a private seller could transfer directly to a dealer in your state. In either case, the transfer from a private seller to any dealer requires an approved BATF form 5320.4 (aka form 4) and a $200 tax. The seller may require that you pay for that first transfer tax. Be sure to clarify that with the seller as part of your purchase agreement.
If you are
buying the NFA weapon from an out of state dealer rather than a private party,
you pay the selling dealer for the weapon and they can transfer it to a dealer
in your state by using a form 3 with no transfer tax. One final twist is that if
you are an FFL holder (or C&R holder if you are buying a C&R NFA weapon), the
out of state dealer can transfer directly to you on a form 4.
Once in the weapon is in your state (either at a dealer or if the seller is already in your state), you are ready to start the form 4 that will transfer the weapon to you. If you bought the weapon from out of state and your dealer is just helping with the transfer, it's likely that he will charge you a fee, which has nothing to do with the federal transfer tax you'll need to pay. Common dealer transfer fees are around $100. You will need two copies of BATF form 5320.4 (form 4), one certificate of compliance form (proof of citizenship), two photo's (passport size - aka 2" x 2") and two fingerprint cards. Your local dealer should be able to get you the form 4 and possibly the fingerprint cards as well. If not they can be obtained by contacting the BATF or from an on-line source. As for the fingerprint cards, it's important that you use a card properly formatted for the BATF. The cards have an area (ORI field) that must have the ORI for the BATF in Wash. DC. If you get your cards from a local PD it will have the local PD's ORI and will not be accepted by the BATF. If you have to use a local fingerprint card, get a blank, white sticker and cover the local PD ORI. Fill in
FIREARMS & EXPLO DIV
Filling out the form 4 requires specific info from the weapon and from your dealer so the dealer should help you with this. Once the form 4's are filled out (fill both out by hand rather than photocopying), attach the two photos - one to each copy of the form. The photos can be glued, taped or stapled to the form 4. Take the two forms and the two fingerprint cards to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where you reside (unless you are purchasing this weapon for some sort of job requirement). Get your fingerprints taken (usually a charge for this so bring money) and either request to see the Chief/Sheriff or drop off the forms for him to sign. In most small counties you will just go in and see the CLEO. In most large counties you will just drop off the forms and be called when they are signed. Again BIG NOTE, you should already know if your CLEO will sign for these types of weapons before purchasing. Your local dealer should be able to give you at least a clue.
Below is a list of eligible CLEO’s.
Chief of Police (if you reside inside city limits).
State Attorney General.
Chief of State Police and/or Chief of State/Highway Patrol (some states have both)
Head of Department of Public Safety.
District Court Judges.
County Judge (no traffic court or municipal judges though)
Head of local Highway Patrol office.
Head of local Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (don't bother).
U. S. Attorney (don't bother).
and maybe a few more.
Once you get your forms back from the CLEO, take them, the fingerprint cards, the certificate of compliance (proof of citizenship), and a check or money order for $200.00 made out to the Dept. of the Treasury, and mail it all off to the address on the form 4. Sometimes the dealer will do this for you, but it doesn't matter either way.
If this is your first ever application of any kind to the BATF it will take a few months to process. It's been known to take as much as six months average at some times, but should take more like three months. If you have already purchased an NFA weapon in the past year or if you have an FFL, the process can be much quicker IF you alert the examiner to your previous transaction. They will not automatically know. After September 11, 2001, the FBI started pre-screening and de-contaminating fingerprint cards before they process them. This has slowed the process by a few more weeks but it is unknown how long this procedure will be in place.
Once the BATF approves the form 4 they will retain 1 copy for their records and send the other back to your dealer. NOTE, under the law, the seller is the person paying the tax. Therefore if you have any questions during this lengthy wait, the BATF will not talk to you in any great detail. They can't give out someone else's tax information to you. If you have any questions, you need to speak to your dealer. Be patient, dealers can't do anything to speed up the process, and constantly pestering them will only make them not answer your calls. Once the dealer has the approved form in hand they will call you and you can go pick up your new weapon.
Contacting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
National Firearms Act Branch
650 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20226
National Firearms Act Branch
244 Needy Road
Martinsburg, West Virginia 25401
Phone - (304) 616-4500
Fax - (304) 616-4501
This is the office that handles all transfers of NFA weapons, and maintains the Registry.
You can fax Form 2's and 3's in, Form 5 transfers for repair, 5320.20's and probably others as well. Check with NFA Branch to be sure your faxed form will be acceptable and see ATF Ruling 89-1.
This is the office that makes all determinations as to whether something falls into one of the NFA categories, as well as determinations as to importability, and many other technical issues to things regulated by ATF (at least as to firearms).
This office handles permits to import firearms, parts and other related items regulated by federal law.
ATF Distribution Center
Address: P.O. Box 5950
Springfield, VA 22150-5950
Paper forms can be be ordered from this office. They can also be ordered on-line at www.atf.gov/dcof/index.htm.
On Line Forms
An electronic version of the BATF forms is maintained by danbrew on his site http://www.titleii.com. The forms are in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf) and you'll need the free Acrobat Reader software to use the forms. You can either print out the forms and fill them in by hand or you can type the information directly into the forms before printing.
There's also a non-Acrobat version of form 5320.20 (application to transfer NFA weapons interstate) that can be downloaded or run from here. It has better font control than the .pdf forms, allowing you to type more information into each box. (Form originally posted by XM777 on AR15.com.)
James Bardwell's site is an excellent collection of information on NFA and other gun related legal issues.
State by state summary of Title II weapons allowed:
On-line copy of the federal
Industry circulars and BATF rulings:
Examiner info and turn around time:
Check the validity of an FFL:
The Machine Gun Dealers Bible is an excellent reference on
NFA weapons and laws. You can purchase a copy from
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Last Modified: October 8, 2005