How to Buy a Suppressor Using an NFA Trust


Last year, Foghorn did his usual thorough job of covering the basics of buying  a suppressor. In that article, Nick ran through the basics of selecting one and provided an overview of the steps you’ll have to go through to get one transferred to you. His post covered the process if you’re buying as an individual. Since then, we’ve had a few requests to cover the process using an NFA trust. And since I’ve just recently done just that, I’ll take this one . . .

Let’s assume that you already have an NFA Trust set up. Because if you did, why would you be reading this? You may want to start with my post, “Want a Suppressor? Consider Setting Up an NFA Gun Trust.” In it I cover the benefits a trust offers and discuss the process to make it happen. There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. First of all, a trust conveys three main advantages:

  • No CLEO sign off required to submit your paperwork
  • No fingerprints or photo required to submit your paperwork
  • NFA item is registered to the trust rather than to any one person

That last advantage is worth noting. With a trust, you have the freedom to amend the list of trustees at any time. That means multiple people can be authorized to hold the NFA item in their possession. If you register as an individual, you have to be present whenever the NFA item is out of your safe.

One final note before we get into the meat of the matter — don’t try and do the trust thing on the cheap. With a trust, you’re using a legal construct to purchase highly regulated items. Screw it up and you could be looking at a felony conviction and permanent loss of all of your firearm rights.

So get a competent attorney to do it or use one of the well known legal services such as the Apple Law Firm’s GunTrustLawyer.  These guys have been doing it for a long time and their boilerplate document pretty much has all the bases covered. Plus, they partner with lawyers in each state to ensure that your trust complies with any state-specific laws, too.

Okay, so you have your trust set up and are ready to go. Here’s what you need to fill out:

Box 1:  Check the type of transfer (usually $200)

Box 2A: Your trust’s name and address (this should be the same as what appears in your trust documents).  County goes in box 2B

Box 3A, 3B: Dealer’s information goes here

Box 4A: Name and address of Manufacturer of the suppressor

Box 4B: Silencer (don’t use any other term)

Box 4C: Primary caliber of the suppressor

Box 4D: Model of the suppressor

Box 4E: Ignore

Box 4F: Overall length of suppressor

Box 4G: Serial number of the suppressor

Ignore Boxes 5 & 6 unless you are an FFL. You DO NOT need to put your SSN anywhere as you’re not buying the suppressor – your trust is. Nor do you need to obtain a tax ID for your trust and use that either.

Box 7 – 10: FFL information & signature

Boxes 13 & 14 – Answer all questions truthfully, but chances are a “Yes” anywhere will mean trouble.

Box 15 – Name of trust goes here. “All lawful purposes” is the reason

Signature – Sign as trustee, so I would sign XYZ Trust by Jim Barrett, Trustee. Date it.

You’re finished with the form. Now go back and double check everything, otherwise you will be in for a longer wait if there are errors to be fixed.

You’ll need to submit two original copies of the form. This is a two-sided form and your submission must be two sided as well. You can’t submit two single sided pages stapled together.

You will also need to submit an ATF certification of compliance (form 5330.20). Fill this out and sign it the same way you did the Form 4 – as trustee for the trust.

Along with these two ATF documents, you’ll need to send a copy of your full trust document along with any amendments. In my trust package, the lawyers also included a one page ‘assignments’ page on which I explicitly assign the suppressor to my trust. The guidance given with the trust document says this is necessary. I didn’t do with with my earlier suppressor purchases and the transfer still went through.  That said, it’s no big deal to do it and your NFA inspector might be more rigid than mine was.

Finally, you need to send in payment. To distance myself from the trust, I used a bank check rather than a personal one. This way, there’s no record with the ATF that could be used to link the suppressor to me rather than my trust due to the method of payment for the tax stamp.

That’s pretty much all there is to it. Other than the months of waiting. Good luck and let us know how you make out.