Today was a happy day. I finally got to pick up my first suppressor, a SilencerCo Sparrow .22. I’ll be posting a review of said gadget once I’ve had the chance to take it for a spin and really kick its tires. Today, though, I took it out and got some initial impressions – it’s real quiet with subsonic, but not so much with CCI Stinger High Velocity rounds. But more on that as I try it with a few more ammo combinations. For now, let’s talk about the process . . .
First of all, how long did it take? Well, I plunked my credit card down at my local dealer back in April of 2012. That puts us at just about 10 months from soup to nuts. Now, there were a few abberations with the transaction. First of all, my dealer didn’t have it in stock, so he had to wait until the distributor shipped it to him. We finally got the chance to file the paperwork in late June.
This, then, is the first lesson I would like to impart – if you can find a dealer with the actual item you want in stock, you will save yourself at least a month of waiting time. If the dealer needs to get it from someone else, the transaction will need to clear the ATF since they track all movements of NFA items and the paperwork for that takes three to four weeks.
I know this because the second and third suppressors I ordered came from Silencershop.com in Austin, TX. Silencershop had them in stock, but I did need to wait for paperwork to clear to get them moved from Texas to my local FFL SOT who would handle the transfer to me. Unless you are ready to be very very patient, do not pay for something that must be ordered from a distributor or manufacturer if you can avoid it.
The ATF received my Form 4 on June 26 and my check was cashed on July 3. The application went “pending” on July 19. Going pending means your application has been entered into the NFA system and can then be tracked via the serial number of the NFA item in question. At that point, you know you can sit back and wait for about six months or so.
For me, I had the unfortunate experience of finding out that my dealer had entered the wrong serial number on the form. The dealer had used SP-1234 (not the real number) when the correct serial number was SS-1234. Fortunately, the ATF figured that one out pretty quickly and I was able to trace my application using the correct number. It would still need to be corrected by my dealer once my paperwork got to the examiner, but at least it was not lost in processing.
My application went into problem status on December 6, 2012. Unfortunately, paperwork that went back and forth between the dealer and the ATF was lost in transit. Finally I just went into the dealer and we re-did the paperwork with the correct info. Once that was sent back to the ATF things started moving again.
You may have read that the ATF has hired some more assistants to help the examiners conduct the background checks and other steps necessary to process applications. These people were definitely in place for my transaction and I spoke to one of them while trying to clear up the serial number issue. But the researchers have added an additional step to the NFA approval process.
In the past, you went from “check cleared” to “pending” to “approved” to receiving your tax stamp in the mail. Now, there’s an additional checkpoint, which ATF has helpfully called “pending” as well. Basically, this step means that the research assistant has completed their background check and your application is simply waiting for the signature of the examiner to be complete. My application went into the second “pending” step on January 31 and was approved by the examiner on February 6. My dealer received the paperwork in the mail on February 20 – exactly two weeks after approval.
So, simply looking at turnaround time from sending in the application to receiving my stamp, total time was one week shy of eight months. In fairness, I probably lost at least a month because of the serial number snafu and the “lost” paperwork, but there it is.
An alternate example is a Ti-Rant .45 suppressor that I mailed at the end of July 2012. It went into the first pending state on August 15, went into second pending on January 31, and was approved on February 13. If the two weeks from approval to receipt of tax stamp pattern holds, I should get my suppressor in hand next Wednesday, Feb. 27. That would mean a turn time from mail to receipt of about seven months.
The question of whether the research assistants make a difference is hard to gauge. When I sent my paperwork in, turnaround time was averaging about six months and for a short period, people were reporting even faster results. I don’t know if there’s been an explosion of applications in the past year or not. If there has, then the research assistants may well be helping to keep wait times from getting even longer than the one month extension the have now versus last fall.
My dealer seems to think that the researchers are making things worse rather than better. The reason is that unlike the examiners themselves who have a degree of latitude, the research assistants have to follow things to the letter. If you have something out of place on the form, the assistant flags it and kicks it back before the examiner ever gets it. On the one hand, it means that a completely clean application might indeed go through faster. On the other, miss one thing and you’re likely to experience a longer delay.
In the end, as I (and others) have said before, the wait times aren’t going to get any shorter in the near future. Furthermore, with the current political climate, while a Federal AWB or mag cap limit is unlikely, any chance of removing suppressors from the NFA process isn’t likely to be on the table as long at the O-meister is in the White House. So, if you want one of these gadgets (and you know you do), bite the bullet and get in line.
Yes, the wait sucks, but the end result makes the pain worthwhile. And for those who are curious, I used an NFA trust rather than going an an individual.