Getting your NFA paperwork approved by the ATF is an annoying necessity for those who want cool gun toys (like silencers and SBRs) to play with. Given the torrential weight of applications and the grossly underfunded nature of the NFA branch it takes ages for anything to get approved, and the processing time for the various applications will vary wildly depending on how many other people are in the queue with you. The ATF has just released their estimate for processing times for new NFA forms, but while that might hold true for right now there’s no guarantee that it won’t change tomorrow.
According to the ATF, here’s what you can expect:
- FORM 1: 6 months
- FORM 2: 1 month
- FORM 3: 2 months
- FORM 4: 6 months
- FORM 5: 1 month
- FORM 9: 1 month
Based on the information from NFATracker.com, using only the last 6 months of data, the ATF’s estimate seems about right. The average processing time for a Form 4 is tracking right around 6 months (177 days), and the Form 1 processing time is about 20 days shorter than that.
The question: will that hold true going forward? With the ATF’s new 41F rule going into effect there has been a massive tidal wave of people filing their paperwork, trying to squeeze in under the deadline. This will no doubt increase the ATF’s workload and prolong those processing times, but there’s really no way to know the impact for sure until we see the results coming out the other side.
That said, the old saying still holds true: the longer you wait the longer you wait. It really doesn’t pay to wait until the processing times drop to send your paperwork. If you are so inclined to buy a silencer, do it. Just be aware that the ATF’s prognostications might not match up with reality.