What are legalities of/procedures for traveling with an NFA device? What, if any, notifications to the ATF or local LE do you need to make if you are traveling with a can? I’ve heard mixed stories of guys having to tell their local ATF Offices that they are traveling with an SBR or a can but others say that’s not needed. What’s the deal?
Here’s the caveat: I AM NOT A LAWYER and this is not legal advice. However, I will happily impart to you the sum total of my understanding of the situation based on my own travels with cans and conversations with industry experts . . .
In general, when items registered under the National Firearms Act cross state lines the ATF needs to be notified. There’s a quick and easy form that needs to be submitted to the ATF called the 5320.20 or “Application to Transport Interstate or Temporarily Export Certain NFA Items.” Click here to get the form. This usually takes about a week to get back from the ATF. The form requires an address for the destination as well as the means used for transportation.
The good news is that for people who frequently cross state lines with NFA items, you can specify a date range for the travel. One of my friends who lives in VA but uses a range in West Virginia put the range address as the destination and used a one year date range. It was duly approved by the ATF. So now for the next year he’s clear to go to and from WVa as he pleases.
There’s one exception to this rule: you don’t need to bother with the paperwork for interstate travel for silencers.
Silencer owners aren’t required to fill out the paperwork for crossing state lines with cans. The only time you would fill out one of these forms is if you are moving permanently (in which case you’d check “NO” on “Firearm to be returned to the original location” question), but even then there’s some question about whether that is necessary. I still did it when I moved just to be on the safe side. So while the rules apply for machine guns and SBRs, not a soul needs to know that there’s a silencer in your gun case.
For air travel, you still need to declare the silencer as a firearm even if you’re not actually traveling with any guns. The silencer is legally considered a firearm and you can’t take it into the secured areas of an airport. So it needs a locked, hard sided case and a firearms declaration tag from the check-in counter. Same process as checking any other firearm, except you get to laugh when they ask “is it loaded?”
The only difference really between traveling with a silencer in your bag and any other firearm is that you have to be aware of which states are NFA friendly. Sure, the Firearm Owners Protection Act helps a little bit with being able to pass directly through unfriendly states if you’re going somewhere better (in theory), but I still avoid them if at all possible when I have my can in the bag.