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.

53 Responses to The NFA Process – An Update from the Trenches

    • It’s too bad that there isn’t anymore free land on this planet – people of the gun could just jump in some boats and sail off leaving the government lovers to continue to strip their rights away in the old country.

      Maybe someday our grand kids great grand kids will be able to take our dream to a whole other planet…

      • Going to another planet doesn’t solve anything. It just starts the process all over someplace else. Free people shouldn’t relocate to someplace else, they should stand and defend their rights and prevent this nation from rotting from the inside out.

        The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

        • Classic fight or flight. Personally, my preference, considering the opposition, flight is a lot less messy and much quieter. That is if there were a place to fly to.

        • The English colonies were largely populated with people (Quakers and Puritans) who were essentially religious refugees. This, after a bunch of crazy crap happened, resulted in the United States. I’m not saying we should beat feet just yet (or within our lifetimes if we can help it) but eventually the core of civilization has to move on to greener pastures.

        • Can I be eternally vigilant on the moon? The Autobots and I are gonna hold down like 50 acres of moon real estate on which to use our suppressed firearms. I’ll be out there in my fishbowl helmet making sure nobody infringes on my Moon Rights. This is the most feasible option for me, a moon ranch costing 50 quadrillion is well worth the cost of having a suppressor. If you see a strange man bouncing across the moonscape with a suppressed 1911, it will be me, LongBeach. I will be moon-bouncing while I brainstorm a constitution for my newfound moon-ranch. I will be blasting 80s rock while i bust caps at the liberal alien invaders.

        • Longbeach, I’m sorry to bust your bubble (biodome?) but I don’t think the suppressor will do much good on the moon. Noise just isn’t an issue there, due to lack of neighbors and air.

        • We don’t have to leave this planet or even this country. If they don’t like guns, then they can stop yelling about it and just leave. We have the Constitution and the guns remember. And if they want to leave let’em.

          Gus: From now on, the only person who gets to yell is me. Why? Because I have a gun. People with guns get to do whatever they want. Married people without guns – for instance – you – DO NOT get to yell. Why? NO GUNS! No guns, no yelling. See? Simple little equation. – The Ref

          One of the funniest movies ever.

  1. To the author – can you give us a rundown on the paperwork you received back? Are you subject to less rights now that you have an “evil sound reducing device?” By less rights – I mean that now you are on a government list and they can assume that you have at least one firearm that would work with that suppressor. Do you have to consent to searches of your home on demand now? Do you have to carry the paperwork with you to the range?

    • Yes, you are on a list, but no you do not subject yourself to any searches and your 4th amendment rights are still in place. Lastly, the paperwork (ATF Form4) has to go everywhere the suppressor goes.

    • Basically, the paperwork I got back was my copy of the Form 4. You can see what one looks like by doing a google search. The suppressor is registered to my trust, but my name is on the trust documents, so there’s no real hiding that. As for whether or not I’m on a list – I suspect that the Feds can simply query the system that my state uses to conduct background checks whenever I buy a gun. I don’t see owning one of these things as making me more likely to have issues.

      Unlike holding an FFL (which does give the ATF the right to inspect your business and records whenever they like), and NFA item does not grant the same latitude. The ATF does have the right to confirm the NFA items are still in my possession, but I can meet them at my place of business or any other place to do this – they don’t have the right to conduct a warrantless search of my home.

      I do need to carry a copy of the Form 4 with me when I travel with an NFA item as any law enforcement officer can ask me to prove I legally own the item in question. I don’t have to carry it with me if the suppressor stays at home.

      I am obligated to inform the ATF of my new address if I move. There is some question regarding whether or not I need to get ATF permission to move my suppressor across state lines if I’m going to visit someone. Of course, I would need to follow the laws of the state, so I couldn’t travel with my suppressor to say, California or Massachusetts which consider suppressors illegal for private ownership.

      One other interesting note – I am required to file a copy of my Trust document with the paperwork, so the ATF has a current copy as of the filing date. If I later amend the trust document to add or remove trustees, I don’t believe that I am required to notify the ATF of the changes, so additional people added to the trust at a later date could legally use the suppressor without the ATF knowing about them.

      The bottom line is that it really comes down to what NFA item you own. Suppressors and even SBRs and SBSs are probably not something the ATF is going to take deep interest in given how common they are. On the other hand, if I own something like a belt-fed .50 machine gun (which is legal in some states), they are probably a bit more likely to take an interest. If you want to get into the fun of suppressors, I would not let fear of the ATF stop you.

      One note on the trust

  2. There was a bill on the table here in GA to make silencers legal for hunting…not much but a positive move I’d say. Not sure how it turned out, need to check that…

    I’ve never understood why silencers are a bad thing and how they got lumped into the NFA to begin with, but unfortunatley we have to live with it now.

    I’m looking/thinking/hoping to get one for my .22 one day…and yeah I’ve heard a trust is the way to go with ANY nfa item…

    In fact, I’d love to see an article on how to make an NFA trust here…(HINT HINT). That would be a good reference for folks…like me…thinking about doing it. I’ve heard you can do it with Quicken, but using an attorney is better (or at least offers more options and freedom within the trust).

    • Step 1) Find an attorney with a practice focusing on gun laws.

      Step 2) Pay attorney between $500 to $3000 depending on the amount of legal protection you want in your trust and how awesome that particular attorney thinks he/she is.

      Step 3) Do what your attorney tells you to do when procuring your NFA items.

      • you don’t need to go through all that. Go to http://www.guntrustlawyer.com/. The Apple law firm was one of the early gun trust lawyers and they work with local lawyers in most states that permit NFA items. Cost is about $750. You can also contact a firearms lawyer in most states these days as most of them have gotten into the gun trust game and they can do it even cheaper. I went with the Apple law firm primarily because they have been doing it the longest and I have faith that they have gotten the bugs worked out. Plus, the attorney they deal with in my state is one of the top gun lawyers here.

    • I wouldn’t use quicken for an NFA ttust. I believe there needs to be specific language about disposition of the items if the primary trust holder should die, as they can’t simply be inherited by next of kin like other property.

      I plan on using a lawyer when I do my trust.

      • YES YES YES. For something like this it’s short money to pay an actual lawyer to do this. You don’t want to screw this up.

    • Okay – was wondering if anyone wanted to see how to do the trust route. I’ll pull an article together in the next week or so on exactly how its done – now that I know that the way I did it works.

    • They are scary. People were not informed. Same reason that, here in WI, you can carry a concealed handgun with your CCL, but ‘automatic knives’ and knives opened by the use of gravity are still illegal.

  3. I sent in the paperwork to the ATF for my SWR SpecWar suppressor last month. Knowing there is a long wait I bought a new lower that I will register as a SBR, get the paper work started and save up for a nice upper till the ATF approves it.

  4. I would be willing to bet a dollar that the “research assistants” aren’t even government employees. They’re probably contractors (basically temps) which means that, while they are underpaid, you, as a taxpayer are probably paying 1.5 times the amount for their fee as you would be paying for the ATF to hire government employee examiners.

    And most government employees hate contractors because it means their own jobs are basically in jeopardy, so they do everything they can to slow down the process to make the contractors look inefficient, making them do things over and above “by the book” standards.

    I only have my own workplace, and other federal workplaces I have encountered, to base this claim on, so it’s pure conjecture, but we’re all outsiders to the black boxes that are “law enforcement”, and the situation described has eery similarities to what I’ve encountered.

    • 12 month contract employees. There is a way to look at new gov job listing, they list them and what quals you need to get them. These jobs where listed there a were specifically listed as contract and 12 months.

  5. Also, you mentioned tracking by serial number to check progress. Is there some easy website tracking thing out there, or do you just call in?

    • Call the ATF at 304-616-4500. Every time I called, I got a live person who checked the status of the S/N for me and was very helpful in explaining what the status meant and what the estimated wait time was for the next step. We really beat up on the ATF on this site, but I have to say that every person I spoke with was very courteous and helpful. The process is time consuming and it sucks to have to go through it, but the people I dealt with during the process were all very professional.

  6. Serious question here.

    What are the uses or benefits for silencers? I have no issue with people owning them, but aside from saving my ears, or maybe not spooking wildlife when hunting, I’m not getting it.

    The things aren’t cheap so there must be something to it, but it escapes me. It also escapes me why they are so highly regulated.

    Personally I’d rather get that next item on my wish list than be quieter, but there are many folks and many wish lists, so give me a few thoughts please.

    Bob

    • You are right – the cost is not cheap and the $200 extra tax is not pleasant, but I can’t really convey the big shit eating grin you get on your face the first time you touch off a suppressed round. Youtube just can’t convey the feeling and I know that Foghorn can back me up on this.

      A suppressor is not much use if most of your shooting is done at a public range where you would need to wear hearing protection anyway, but I do a lot of shooting in private where my gun is the only one and it’s amazingly convenient not to need hearing protection. The real winners are the hunters who don’t need to wear protection when tracking game.

      It can also be useful when teaching new shooters. Eliminating the noise can help a newbie reduce the startle reflex that is normal when shooting unsuppressed rounds.

      I also have been led to believe (and will verify it myself once my .300 Win Mag suppressor comes in in a couple of weeks) that a suppressor on a powerful rifle helps with recoil control as well much in the way that a muzzle brake does.

      if you are going to go the suppressor route, try to get something that can fit as many guns as you can. I have my .22 can and a AAC Ti-Rant .45 and a Thunder Beast 30P1 on the way. I have ordered an additional mount for the Ti-rant that will let me use it on my 9mm as well as my .45, and the Thunderbeast will work on my .300 Win Mag, my Sig .308 bolt, my Sig 716, my AAC .300 Blackout, my Sig 716, and with a $55 Gemtech adapter on my Sig 516 and P556 as well.

      One area where I could see a major benefit would be the home defense angle. Chances are if you hear the bump in the night, you are going to be shooting without hearing protection and those guns are damn loud. A suppressor in that case would make a world of difference.

        • This is really not going to be high on my list of concerns should I ever find myself in a DGU situation. Surviving said situation is more important. Besides, its just as likely the 5-0 would confiscate everything in the gun safe anyway, so they’d get it either way

    • Spend an hour at a range shooting a suppressed firearm, and trust me, it won’t escape you. Imagine being able to have a conversation with your friends while you shoot targets, instead of having to lock your self inside a noise protected shell that only you can occupy. Suppressor’s should be mandatory at all indoor ranges. Not just for the reducing the risk of damage to your hearing, but for safety purposes for hearing vital range safety commands. It was our esteemed politicians who saw only villainy and contract murder when looking at the suppressor, so the obvious call, to them, was to ban them. That’s where we are today. The symbolism over substance crowd are at it again with AR-15’s, and 30 round capacity mags.
      The anti-gun forces are counting on you not caring about suppressor’s and military styled firearms, and most importantly, doing nothing about it.

      First they came for the suppressor’s, but I said nothing because I didn’t own any. They came for the fully-automatic firearms, but I said nothing, because I didn’t own any. They came for the military-styled firearms, but I said nothing, because I didn’t own any. Then they came for the hunting rifles and handguns, but by then, it was too late to say anything, and then we became subjects.

    • What brought it home to me was the .338 win mag. Several friends have them, and I have been aroung them and shot them. The noise and concussion is fearsome to all in attendance. It can penetrate decent earpro quite easily. Then I watched a magpul training video, and they were shooting one without earpro, and having normal conversation. I had to rewind and see if I saw what I saw. Those big bore guns are uncomfortable, to say the least, without the supressor. With, well, I’d like to experience it.

    • You want to be saying “WHAT?!” to everyone for days after a DGU in the home? You want to not be able to hear the commands of the officer sent to “help” you? No? Use a silencer. They are only cost prohibitive because they are almost impossible to own. Shred the NFA and they will halve in price, probably more like quarter. And that’s just for whole ones. No NFA means you would be able to put one together from parts.

  7. In the tactical world there are several benefits. Less need for hearing protection, almost completely eliminates muzzle flash, and reduces felt recoil. The biggest is the obvious though, it’s much quieter and more pleasant to shoot.

  8. I have to go through a similar process the first time I buy a long gun and every time I buy a handgun. Even from a private seller.

  9. I completely agree. I am class 3 dealer in here in Eastern, NC and the Apple Law firm is who I send people to who are interested in a NFA trust.

  10. Thanks Jim and David,

    Your explanations helped a lot.

    I’m a public range guy so I couldn’t really justify it. Home defense is the only one that got close, but crime in my little town is when the neighbors house gets toilet papered or the occasional shoplifting incident. I have something secure & accessible, but doubt I’d ever need it.

    It sounds like one of those items that if you are into it enough to appreciate the finer things that make your experience better, you get it. In fact it sounds a lot like the $2,000 portrait lens I bought for my main obsession, photography. Most would think me crazy, but I can appreciate what it can do, and use it to great effect.

    I don’t understand why they make it so hard to get one, but that’s a whole different discussion.

    Again, thanks for helping me understand, and enjoy your toys!
    Bob

  11. What a coincidence! Just got my stamp for my Ti-Rant 45 the other day.

    Mailed – 8/21/12
    Check cashed ACH – 8/27
    Pending – 9/7
    Approved – 2/16/13 (a Saturday!)
    Form4 in hand – 2/22

    Exactly 6 months, with no issues. Was actually very surprised given the election, recent events, and winter holidays. Looks like NFA examiners routinely work on weekends too. The system may suck, but the employees are great.

    • You are lucky for the five day turn around from approval to mailing. It’s 2 weeks up in my neck of the woods. I’m still waiting on my 2/13 approval.

  12. For my 22 Sparrow

    ATF cashed check 7/12/12

    And the dealer had the form back approved on 12/27/12.

    What was odd though is I called them two weeks prior to get an update and was told it would probably not get approved until late January. It was a good Christmas surprise from the ATF.

  13. I’m really confused. You can walk in and with an instant background check buy the part of the system that can kill someone and walk out with it. But a tube you put on the end of the system takes eight months.
    What might they learn in the eight month that they don’t know from the NICS?
    Anybody know?

    • It doesn’t make sense because it’s stupid, just like all the AWB proposals. The suppressor is controlled because it’s scary, not because it’s dangerous.

      Switchblade knives are no more dangerous than kitchen knives, but they are banned in many places because people were scared after seeing them in movies.

  14. Interesting your’s was approved with “Sparrow” as the model. Mine had to be sent back to the dealer and corrected as “22 Sparow SS”

    That also caused them to hold onto my 9mm Gem-Tech until the problem was fixed. For reasons I don’t understand. The forms were sequentialy numbered.

  15. “going an an individual”

    Fix your shit. The high number of spelling, grammar, and usage errors I see on this site seems to be very reflective of the intelligence of the typical pro-gun right-wing circle-jerker.

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