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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, 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.

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    • I think that could be a bad deal. Hearing protection act could end up being a requirement. In the name of safety they require all firearms to have permanently attached suppressors. You still end up paying the cost for tax stamp and increased production costs are passed on to consumer. You end up hurting gun rights. It could happen. Politicians “working together” could lead to concessions. NFA repeal would be better.

    • Arizona wants to bypass Federal Regulation as well to make silencers “Safety Equipment.”
      Hey, the Libbers are saying loud guns scare people. There’s a simple solution to that. Safety equipment shouldn’t require paperwork.

  1. I am sure that these numbers will hold true or even improve once the Rodham/ Kaine administration takes office.

    /s (in case you couldn’t tell)

    • By no means is that a sure thing.

      Wiki Leaks is going to be our best friend in this election cycle.

      The results of their first doc dump on how the DNC shafted Sanders just got Wasserman-Schultz booed off the stage of the DNC convention a short while ago.

      Julian Assange has announced the really juicy e-mails have yet to be released… 🙂

    • I used to think the same way…until I went to a silencer expo. I have been waiting since mid-April on my Form 4 and Feb. 29th on my Form 1. Silencers make shooting even MORE fun!

      • My oldest currently-open application (SBR) dates to February. Still in ‘processing’.

      • I don’t think he meant “why buy a suppressor?” but actually meant “why is a safety device so heavily regulated?”

  2. Is this for paper applications or e-filing?

    I thought e-filing was supposed to take the wait time down to <60 days?

    • Took 4 months for my e-filed Form1.

      No idea how things look right now, they’re probably swamped with the submissions under the rules revision wire.

    • Probably paper forms. E-forms have not been available for Form 4s in more than a year. E-forms are no longer available for either Form 1 or Form 4 as the e-form system cannot handle photos and fingerprints. In the past, Trusts and Corporations could use e-forms, but with the new ruling requiring photos and fingerprints from “responsible parties”, its no longer a usable option.

  3. Crossing my fingers that I’ll have my Optimus in my stocking for Christmas, but I’m not holding my breath.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the 41F tsunami abates. Either wait times will go down because everyone was rushing to get their forms in before 41F (guilty), or wait times will go up because of all the additional background checks that need to be done with each trust purchase. Guess we’ll see in 6 months…

    • They’ll stay the same. There will be more paper for each transaction, but fewer transactions as people won’t want to bother:

      • That really depends. What was the % of forms that were trusts? If its not that big, it might be overshadowed by people who wanted them before but couldn’t due to police chiefs or whatever.

      • There are great swaths of people for whom the new rules finally make suppressor ownership possible, without the need for CLEO sign-off. I think the new rules will increase the number slightly of people getting NFA items. The awesomeness of NFA items will make the overall numbers continually go up. You silence one pistol, and all of a sudden, you’ll want to silence EVERYTHING!!

  4. For the next ~2yrs the wait times will be longer thanks to the huge surge in applications the past 6 months. But afterwards, wait times might actually decrease significantly due to 41F rules negating Trusts and basically discouraging would-be NFA buyers in general.

    • Not gonna lie. If 41F gets removed by the next administration, I’m gonna laugh so freaking hard.

      • Yeah, I’m not sure why people think 41F made things HARDER. The way I see it, the new system is only a problem for trusts which were the end result of working around a rule that no longer exists.

        From my point of view, it actually made things far EASIER as I only have to drop by my local police station, get a dozen fingerprint cards run up, and then I’m ready to SBR every rifle I own.

        • That depends on how the Trust is structured and what curves life throws you.

          My Trust will have to be altered in order for me to add NFA gear to it (I called my friendly local ATF office about this). It was set up to avoid a dumbass estate attorney turning an NFA item over to an unauthorized person (supposedly far and away the #1 way people get an NFA felony). So mine was designed that if my wife and I die things can be moved around the immediate family with 0 threat of this happening because everyone has some spot on the trust and is therefore totally legal if some ignorant lawyer just hands them a silencer as part of an estate.

          Well, until 41F this wasn’t a problem at all. However, my brother in law recently moved to Minnesota for work and NFA gear is verboten there. With the current informing rules I can’t buy anything and add it to the trust because he lives in a prohibited state and must provide a CLEO informing letter for his jurisdiction. The ATF will see he’s in Minnesota and will deny my tax stamp until he’s removed from the trust.

          At this point I’m booting everyone from my trust other than my wife because getting getting seven sets of fingerprints and seven CLEO informing letters from people in four different states is a pain in the ass and with my BiL’s recent move the application would be denied anyway even if everything was in order.

          I wasn’t trying to skirt any laws. Quite the opposite; I was trying to keep the family in compliance with the law no matter how many tragedies might befall us. Now it all has to be undone and it will cost me somewhere on the order of $500. I find that rather unreasonable. Can I afford it? Sure. Should I have to do this? Fuck no I shouldn’t. I bent over backwards to obey the NFA and keep everyone nice and legal. Now the ATF has fucked me for it.

        • Strych9 I’m in the same boat as you with the trust situation. There is a workaround though. All you need to do is drop your co-trustees before you send in your paperwork and then add them back after it is approved. There is nothing the .gov can do about you modifying your trust. It is also perfectly legal and a good way to give them the middle finger while remaining compliant with the new rules. Did you consider this?

        • I had considered it, it’s what my attorney recommended actually.

          However, for the time being I’m just booting everyone. Otherwise 20 minutes after I add them back on to the trust I’ll find some new toy I just have to have.

          I just find the whole thing annoying. You jump through every hoop they ask of you to stay on the right side of the law and then they change the rules so you have to go back and undo your jumps through the hoops. I don’t really care about cost very much. I care about the priciple of the matter which is that they’re going out of their way to be a pain in the ass for exactly the purpose of discouraging people from gEttinger NFA gear.

        • Well the majority of applications are by Trusts, so yes 41F does make things harder for most now. The only silver lining is no more CLEO approvals for individual applications. Again, not the majority.

          Photo – HARDER
          Fingerprints – HARDER
          Form 23 – HARDER
          CLEO copies – HARDER
          New longer forms – HARDER

        • “Well the majority of applications are by Trusts”

          Which may well change now, since you don’t need CLEO Sign-off on individual filing now, and I’d guess that a large proportion of trusts were used to duck that single issue.

        • “… I’d guess that a large proportion of trusts were used to duck that single issue.”

          Maybe it was. The government’s argument about this was that it was being used to allow prohibited persons to obtain firearms. Fox had a report on it months back and the government’s claim was that people like rappers who had felony convictions got a friend or bodyguard who was clean to set up a trust and buy guns and NFA gear after adding the felon to the trust so that the felon could “legally” possess the weapons.

          That’s bullshit. If you add a prohibited person to a trust it doesn’t nullify their status as a prohibited person.

        • The whole point is that it opens up NFA ownership to piles of people who never wanted to bother with a trust. (Which is FAR more complicated than an individual filing.) While the estate issues are a thing, most of us are in our 20s – 40s and it’s not a major consideration right now. I did personal filings for my SBRs (the only NFA item Illinois will let me own) and now it’s a lot simpler. Honestly, I don’t see a good reason to own a 16″ barrel AR anymore now that filing a form 4 is so easy.

          My AR collection is going to be…

          10.3″ mk18 clone
          14.5″ M4 clone
          18″ mk 12 clone
          20″ A2 clone

          Right now only the mk18 is wearing its proper barrel and has a tax stamp. The M4 upper is doing double duty on the mk18 lower. Now that the new process is in place, I’m going to SBR two AR lowers just to have the ability to transfer my mk18 and M4 uppers to a new lower if something goes wrong.

          Hell, the new format has me seriously looking at buying a FAL para with a 11″ barrel, just so that I can continue my cold war collection. (I already have a G3 clone)

        • @serge:

          I can understand where you’re coming from but a Trust is was not very complicated. Lawyers do all the work. In the entire time I’ve had a trust, with two addendums added to it over the past few years (due to my marriage) it’s taken maybe 50 minutes of my life to work with and most of that was driving to/from a notary.

          You call the drafting attorney, pay them over the phone, papers arrive, you go to a notary, sign on the line, get it stamped, pay the notary and you’re done. Once that was done, until 41F, you just tossed a copy in with your Form 4 and sent it off to the NFA branch with a check.

          If anything it was easier because you didn’t need any sign-offs, fingerprints or photographs. I’d bet rounding up all that stuff today, just for myself, would take half a day of driving from place to place. In fact, I just looked it up, I would have to drive at least an hour each way just to get fingerprinted as this point.

        • You live over an hour from your nearest police station?

          The point is that now, personal filings are almost as easy as trust filings used to be. I can get passport photos done at any Walgreens in less than 20 minutes. (I have a stack of them stashed away for various ID and permit purposes.) The fingerprints take longer, but I live ~10 minutes from my police HQ and they don’t even need an appointment as the duty officer is quite happy to take your prints at no cost to you.

          The biggest hangup in my previous NFA items was waiting on my chief of police to sign the damn form. (He’s not against them, but it goes on a pile of routine paperwork which may take a week or two to get back to me depending on his schedule.)

          Now, I just take my form 4, throw a copy to his secretary, and away I go. It shaves half a month off of my purchase to approval timeline.

        • “You live over an hour from your nearest police station?”

          Local cops here won’t do fingerprints unless you’re being booked or applying to work for them. They consider it a waste of time. Ditto the Sheriff’s office. So you have to drive to a private company that does certified fingerprints. There are three in the area and all in the same basic location. One might shave 10 minutes off your commute as opposed to the others. Really it would depend on the parking situation more than anything else.

          The other issue that non-trust firearms/silencers/AOWs have is legal. I’m married. I can’t just leave an SBR or a can in my house without a trust because that’s a felony for me and a felony for the wife if it’s discovered. Now, what is chance is there of that? Admittedly not a very great one but I don’t particularly want to run the risk of turning a potential home invasion (or burglary discovered and reported by my wife) while I’m at the grocery store/work/out of town into an NFA case because the cops found NFA gear in my house and decided to be dicks about the fact that she’s not allowed to possess the stuff. Sitting in the cell next to the guy who burglarized me on a technical NFA violation just isn’t something I need.

        • Ok, that’s just silly. I don’t think a single case like that has seen the inside of a courtroom since 1934 where the spouse was not a prohibited person. If you’re that concerned, buy a $100 gun locker and stash the NFA stuff in there while keeping the key on your person.

          Oh, and your local cops are dicks. I’ve never had a problem with the local PD getting prints done for me so long as I called ahead and asked politely.

        • If you think our police are silly you should meet our prosecuting attorneys…

          Keep in mind that NFA violations don’t have to prosecuted by the federal DOJ, states can prosecute them too and in the past they have.

        • pwrserge, you live in IL?! No freakin wonder you’re so delighted about 41F lol.
          May I suggest moving 😉

        • Nah, I’m staying put. We’re winning in Illinois. We got SBRs legalized along with some Destructive Devices. In a year or two, at most, we’ll have suppressors. Outside of #chiraq and the collar counties, Illinois is a very conservative state. (It’s why we have a GOP governor).

        • Not yet. Managed to get the bill past one house, but it is still hanging out in the Senate. That being said, if it passes, our governor WILL sign it.

        • So you’re basically 2/3rds of the way there.

          If you had told me such a thing would be possible in Illinois even five years ago I would have laughed at you.

        • @Sian

          My trust was not created to duck the CLEO sign-off. Our Sheriff signed them rapidly and it was a non-issue. I created a trust for efficiency, and that’s all down the toilet now. With a trust instead of a personal application, I could 1) e-File Form 1s 2) not have to get photos taken 3) not have to do fingerprint cards 4) not wait the few days it would take the Sheriff to do the sign-off. Then perhaps most importantly, I could have my wife on the trust so even if she’s “in possession” of my NFA items it isn’t a felony. “In possession” includes things like her having the code to my safe while I’m out of the house but she’s here. Felony if I owned the NFA thing personally. Or her borrowing my car with my range bag in it that has some NFA thing in there. Felony. The only way to avoid these sorts of scenarios is to have her on a trust.

          Now, that most important aspect of the trust — shared legal possession — still exists, but all of the time sucking, money sucking processes like requiring current (within 6 months, I believe it says) passport photos for both of us and fingerprint cards for both of us and sending a letter to the CLEO and having to physically mail all this stuff to the ATF for EVERY SINGLE Form 1 or Form 4 are new burdens that didn’t previously exist for a trust. And passport photos and fingerprint cards for two people plus mailing forms to two places cost real money. My $200 tax stamp just turned into $300 and a couple extra hours of my time and a couple hours of my wife’s time (when it previously required no effort or even knowledge on her part… now she not only knows if I add an NFA item to the safe but has to do me a major favor and spend her time getting photographed and fingerprinted for something she couldn’t care less about).

    • Yeah, killing the vastly faster e-form system off is a major step backwards. I don’t care how anyone’s routine is, trust were faster, with less government processing time which equals less wasted tax payer money. It didn’t and doesn’t take a lawyer to form or amend a trust. This is a net negative for most people. Screw the NFATCA.

  5. Bull. Been waiting since December 2015 for my Form 1. Got my Form 4 stamp back in late June. So, is there a difference in processing for an SBR?

    • If you’ve been waiting > 6 months for a Form 1, you need to contact the NFA Branch to find out what’s up.

      I submitted a Form 1 in Nov 2015, it spent a month in ‘research’ (the model # had never been made an SBR before apparently..). That changed at the end of December, and I received the approval in April.

      So, yeah, contact NFA to see what’s up…

    • Did you eform your SBR? If so, what is the status? I thought mine was taking a while (Feb), but your is out of line.

    • I filed an e-form 1 for SBR in January and got approved in May.

      You need to call the office with your serial number and ask what’s up. (304) 616-4500

    • Don’t listen to these other idiots. 6 months is absolutely average for a late January Form 1 submission. That is the date range that is be approved right now, as we speak. The ATF nearly stopped processing Form 1’s in mid January, creating a giant rift between early Jan and late Jan submissions. This isn’t some big secret, just look at the NFA Tracker graph. Your approval should be coming in the next couple weeks.

      • I’m waiting on a papered form 1 on a trust from jan 29. So, they are taking more time. People get lucky sometimes and then everyone panics and jams up the phones at the ATF, which probably only further delays the process for everyone.

  6. NFA rules went into effect in, what, 1929? At any rate, long before NICS came into existence. Now, there are background checks on ALL firearm purchases, the only thing ATF does in 6 months (or whatever) is REGISTER your item to you. One agent (typist) should be able to process something like 10,000 per day. If that is not true, please, can somebody advise me of what else ATF considers, and how it can take so long?

  7. grossly underfunded nature

    Really. $200/application. 5min/app for ATF to “process”??

    30min of “productive” work per GS – process 6 = $1200/hr. That PROFIT/bonus/lifestyle guys not “underfunded”.

  8. When I read that the average NFA wait time is 6 months, I am reminded that the new President will take office in just over 6 months. My advice – if you really want it, get it NOW!

    In the past 6 months, I have registered the following NFA items:

    AR-15 SBR
    AK-47 SBR
    CZ Scorpion Evo SBR
    MP5 SBR
    SilencerCo Octane 9
    Silencerco Omega 7.62

    It was fantastically expensive (for me) but worth it. If Hillary wins, I honestly believe I will likely never get another NFA item. I got them all on a trust, so when I move on to the great shooting range in the sky, my sons will be able to enjoy them.

  9. ATF took my money 126 days (18 weeks) ago today on a Form 1 suppressor (er, silencer to them) and I’m still waiting.

  10. If you care about this issue you’d be wise to boycott the NFATCA. Let them know on their social media pages and let everyone else know this kind of practice in our culture will not be tolerated, will not be spun as a positive and won’t go unpunished.

  11. I bought a 9mm sidewinder 3/1/16 from SS check cashed 4/9/16 its in jail, Its now 9/8/16 so hopfully the end of this mouth i get the appoval

    • Purchased a Rugged surge from SS in March. Check cashed 4/6.
      Form 4 trust-paper
      Still waiting………………………….

  12. For what its worth:
    I just sent in a Form 1 (suppressor) last week. I am retired LEO so I called the local ATF office and spoke to an agent, he told me that the ATF had hired several new people to handle the increased paperwork. He said no need to wait, just send it in and see how it goes.

  13. Well heres an up date call the atf an they toll me, that the times have change again 8 mouths now, for approvals on form 4s an 1s, well iam at 7 maybe nov for me, hopefully

    • Benjamin Franklin said “A watched pot never boils”. I tried it and found out he was right. He had no clue what ATF would be and if he had it would never have been. Those guys are all gone now and look what we have. Maybe starting in January, 2017, things will change. It’s about time. You only live so long and to screw around for nearly a year to get some federal approval that could be done in less than 5 minutes is absolute nonsense. Trust and corporations to buy a damn gun? Are you kidding? They could have the FFL’s do the background check, collect the $200 and good bye. But no, they got to hire a bunch of six figure goons to do it. We are tired of it, eventually we will be sick of it and then something will happen. We, the people, are letting them get away with this. We can stop them. We just have to get busy.

  14. Form 1 still waiting. Going on 8 months. E-filed as a trust. I have several approved prior. You would think that would take about a microsecond to approve. Nope.

  15. Applied for a stamp on Sept 7, 2016, still waiting. My FFL dealer told me things around that time are just starting to show up at his store. Hopefully soon.everything is paid for, just no toy.

  16. I filed two trust Form 1s back in August 2016. The checks cleared in December but I have not heard anything at all from ATF.

  17. not true. mine has been in 8 months already and haven’t heard anything…. store tells me their doing last june right now…. that’s 11 months behind.

  18. Instead of doing the paperwork on the spot taking at most 5 days to send in a completed form 4, now you have to wait until a truck load is reviewed by silencershop. Instead of keeping the work load spread out it has been concentrated. They must have gotten that idea from the ATF.

  19. So you notice there not been any update to the publication on wait-times from 2016 even though it says updated every 90 days…

    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

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