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A lot of shooters still don’t realize that they can own silencers legally, or if they do know that, they’re intimidated about the process. And it’s true, making your initial silencer purchase can be a major pain in the range bag.

Photo courtesy of CZUSA
CZ 455 rimfire rifle with suppressor. Photo courtesy CZ-USA.

To demystify the process, TTAG talked to Michael Bowes, Social Media Manager at Silencer Shop based in Austin, Texas. Silencer Shop, available online at, is the country’s largest distributor of suppressors in the country, and they sell thousands of suppressors every month. We asked Bowes to walk us through the process of how to buy a silencer.

TTAG: Okay, Mr. Bowes. Clear up the most basic question: Which is the correct term? Silencer or suppressor? 

Bowes: Both words are technically correct. The first firearms-report-reduction device was called the The Maxim Silencer, patented by Hiram Percy Maxim in 1908. We think “suppressor” is the more-accurate word, because the devices don’t really “silence” a firearm report. Certainly, most people say and understand “silencer,” thus our name. And a shorthand term for suppressor or silencer is “can,” because that’s what they look like.


TTAG: We’re interested in buying a suppressor. What’s next? 

Bowes: Determine if suppressor ownership is legal in your state of residence. You can check our website to see the states that allow suppressor ownership. Currently, 42 states allow private ownership of suppressors. But even if you live in one of the states listed, you should still verify that owning a suppressor is legal in your area.

states that don't suck t-shirt
The states that allow suppressor ownership of some sort are in white, aka the “states that don’t suck,” as shown on this T-shirt sample from Silencer Shop. Used with permission from Silencer Shop.

Many people are still under the mistaken impression that they need a Class 3 license to own a suppressor. This is not correct. If you’re an American and live in a state where suppressor ownership is legal, and you are legally able to purchase a firearm, then you can buy a suppressor. A license is only required to be actively involved in the reselling of silencers for profit.

Here are the major qualifications for buying a silencer:

— Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a suppressor from a dealer.

— Reside in one of the states that currently allows civilian ownership of suppressors.

— Be a resident of the United States.

— Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm and pass an FBI NICS background check.

— Pass a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) background check.

— Pay a one-time $200 Transfer Tax per item.


TTAG: Okay, we’re citizens, are way more than old enough, and live in a state that allows suppressor ownership. Time to shop?

Bowes: Not quite yet. Give some thought to which firearm your suppressor is going on. Go to a Class 3 arms local dealer and pick one that fits your shotgun, handgun, or rifle.

To accept a suppressor, your firearm will need to have a threaded muzzle or quick-detach coupling. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to have those muzzle treatments added by a competent gunsmith. 

If you don’t know which shops are Class 3 capable, we have an extensive list of dealers on our website under the “Class 3 Finder” tab. You can enter your state or ZIP code to narrow the choices.


TTAG: Where do most people start out?

Bowes: Rimfire. People usually choose a rimfire can for its smaller size, lighter weight, and generally lower price as compared to other suppressors.

After rimfires, the most common choices are for centerfire pistols, 5.56 NATO-chambered rifles, and 7.62mm rifles. 

For suppressing AR-15 rifles, the shooter has to determine the most important characteristics for the silencer: weight, length, sound suppression, attachment method, and/or caliber. Generally, people choose 5.56 if they’re looking to suppress their rifle and they’d prefer a smaller size and lighter-weight can.

Picking out a 7.62 suppressor follows the same guidelines as the 5.56. Determining your preferences will help you narrow down what you’ll want. These bigger cans are considered the jack-of-all-trades choices because they’re rated to run any caliber from 7.62 and below, or in some cases, up to .300 RUM and below. They’re generally longer and heavier in comparison to their 5.56 counterparts.

Sometimes you need a specific can for larger calibers such as .338, .458, .50. And then there are specialty items, which often only work with one particular firearm.

Depending on the store, you’ll have lots of options to consider. Or you can buy it online at our site, and we’ll ship it to your Class 3 FFL dealer.

glock suppressor with target
Part of your suppressor consideration has to be the firearm. Is it equipped to handle a can? Here, this Glock has had a drop-in 5.19-inch-long threaded stainless barrel from Storm Lake added ($177, Brownells #842-000-096WB Mfr. Part: GL179MM51901TT). The barrel was threaded 1/2-28 and came with a thread-protecting cap. Photo by Woody for TTAG


TTAG: Okay, making the buying decisions is still shopping for cool toys, which is enjoyable in itself. We know that there’s paperwork at some point. 

Bowes: Yes. Because of the National Firearms Act — NFA — regulations, you’ll have to buy the suppressor before you get it registered, because its serial number will be used for the registration process. Before you can purchase a silencer and take possession, you must be approved and your silencer registered by the BATF.

If you haven’t purchased a suppressor before, there are three ways to register the suppressor for purchase:

— Register it to yourself;

— Form a trust and register the suppressor to that trust; or

— Register as a corporation.

Many legal experts advocate option B, forming a trust, to make a personal suppressor purchase. Forming a trust requires a legal document to be filed with the state, usually $100 to $500.

It is a simple process to submit a BATFE Form 4 applications to own a silencer. If you’ve obtained a concealed firearm permit in most states, then you’ve done most of the steps.

For a silencer purchase, the typical process includes submitting two forms, two sets of fingerprint cards, two passport photos, a citizenship declaration form, and a signature from a local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) in your home jurisdiction. If you form a trust, then you likely won’t need the CLEO signature.

Using an NFA Trust to register your suppressor is definitely the way to go for nearly 100% of our customers. An NFA Gun Trust allows multiple people to legally have possession of the suppressor or other NFA item, such as machine guns.

An NFA Gun Trust allows you to add and/or remove trustees at any time, which provides a lot of flexibility. Registering using an NFA Gun Trust or Corporation is typically faster than registering as an individual. Also, you only need to set up a gun trust once. After that, you can use the trust to register as many silencers, short barrel rifles, or other NFA items as you want.

We offer a quick way to get these set up. The Single Shot NFA Gun Trust is $25. Our NFA Gun Trust is $130.


TTAG: So, regardless of the method, we’re going to be on a “list?”

Bowes: Yes. You and your family members will be the “registered owner” of that silencer, which is recorded by the BATFE. But you’re not registering your firearms. Just the suppressor. 


TTAG: Any shortcuts or time savers in getting the paperwork done? 

Bowes: Yes. Technological advances have allowed us to implement a more streamlined effort in obtaining your suppressor. ATF 41F was a game changer.

We’re happy to report that acquiring a silencer is the easiest it’s ever been. All of it can be done digitally without any paper forms when you use one of our Secure Identity Documentation (S.I.D.) Kiosks and our official Silencer Shop mobile app.

We’ve streamlined the process so you don’t have to worry about filling out the forms manually. The kiosk and our mobile app offer a digitalized way to enter all of your information — and after you do it once, you don’t have to re-enter the information again.

Image used with permission of Silencer Shop.


TTAG: How do the S.I.D. Kiosks work?

Bowes: You figure out what you suppressor you want and add it to your cart on In finalizing your purchase, at checkout you’ll be prompted to locate a dealer to receive it, and if that dealer has a S.I.D. kiosk, the use of the kiosk is free at that location.

Upon completion of the purchase, you’ll receive your serial number(s) and a registration code and QR code in an email. These are very important numbers to keep track of.

Please keep in mind that even though you’ve completed your purchase online, you won’t be able to obtain it right away because it will have to go through the NFA approval process.

You can see what the current wait time is here.

screen capture of wait times
The delay in purchasing a suppressor is because of BATF processing of your tax stamp. Expect to wait from 4 to 12 months for your tax stamp to be processed.

We make finding your S.I.D. kiosk super easy. All you need to do is go to our kiosk locator online and select the location that’s most convenient to you.

Then use that registration number we emailed to you at the kiosk. You’ll be prompted by the kiosk to enter in that registration code for you to proceed. If you lost that code, don’t worry. You can request another at the kiosk or simply log into your web account.

You’ll be able to create your fingerprints at the S.I.D. kiosk, as well as enter your personal data and sign your fingerprint card and DocuSign all the forms. You can take and submit your photo using the mobile app or website.

Our mobile app will give you directions for what is acceptable to meet the ATF’s requirements, and you can also upload your photo to the website through a link we will email to you if we notice you don’t have a photo on file. You can log in using that six-digit code you received along with your QR code.

At this point, you’ve reached the end of the process and submitted all of your necessary information. After that is received, we will prepare your paperwork and send it you to sign via Docusign. We will then submit all of your paperwork to the ATF. The next email you get will be when the ATF cashes your check for the tax stamp.


TTAG: And if we’re not able or willing to do all this electronically? 

Bowes: Fill out the BATF’s required forms, Form 4 and Form 5330.20, in duplicate. So you must fill out the paper forms and also have your dealer fill out the dealer portion before sending. If you’re registering as an individual, you’ll need to get fingerprinted and photographed. Ask your dealer about the forms and proper fingerprint cards.

For any of you “old school” types out there, we will also accept any/all of this information by mail if you would rather fill it out on paper. You can mail us a set of completed standard FD258 fingerprint cards and we’ll scan them in and keep them on file digitally for you, and the same goes for your passport-style photo.

Then, pay the $200 transfer fee to the BATF. This is commonly called a tax stamp. 

tax stamp detail
Here’s what your $200 and a lot of patience buys you. A tax stamp for your suppressor. Photo by Woody for TTAG

In addition to this cost, your dealer will often charge a transfer fee for completing the paperwork, mailing it and receiving and transferring the suppressor.

When the BATF receives your paperwork and fee and approves your form 4, your dealer is then authorized to transfer the silencer to you via a standard form 4473 used in firearm purchases. The tax stamp stays with the silencer for as long as you own it; it can be used on various guns. If you go to buy another silencer, the entire process (except setting up a trust) must be completed again and another $200 paid for each silencer you buy.

You can’t just walk into a store and buy silencer. You have to go through a few extra steps. The process may sound complicated, but it’s fairly easy. We think our Silencer Shop kiosk system is the easiest solution, but your local Class 3 dealer knows the process inside out and will walk you through it. 


TTAG: You recommended using a trust, which is helpful if we wanted to legally share the device with friends and family. But tell us about the “individual purchase” option.

Bowes: The advantage to buying as an individual is that you don’t have to create the legal trust. You can walk into a store and start the process. The downside is that only you can possess and use the silencer.

  • As an individual, you’ll find a silencer you want at your local Class 3 dealer. You’ll probably have to pay for it in advance or leave a deposit. You won’t be able to leave with it.
  • With the dealer’s help, you’ll complete two copies of ATF Form 4 with the model and serial number of your suppressor.
  • You will need two passport photos. Some dealers may do this for you.
  • Next, you’ll need to get fingerprint cards.
  • You will then need a signature on your application forms from the local chief law enforcement official.
  • Attach a check or money order made out to BATFE for $200. 
  • Mail all of this to BATFE.

If you purchased the item from the counter stock at the dealer, they’ll hold the item until BATFE approval is complete.

BATFE will return to your dealer one of your Form 4 copies with the tax stamp imprinted. That stamp costs $200.

You take possession of the silencer.


TTAG: If we take the suppressor to the range, does the paperwork need to go with us?

Bowes: Once you have your tax stamp document, scan or copy the original. Keep the original paperwork with your other important documents. Then, make a copy of your tax stamp form and keep it with your suppressor. You need to be able to produce the tax stamp on demand.


Here are some other TTAG articles that can help guide you in how to buy a silencer or about silencer products.

Silencers For Beginners: Shooting a Suppressor “Wet”

SHOT Show: The Latest From SilencerCo, Kraken Ballistics, and Franklin Armory’s Providence

A Quick Thanks to Silencer Shop

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  1. Step 1 ) Ask BATF for ‘ Permission ‘

    Step 2 ) Pat a TAX you do not owe.

    I don’t think so.

    NO JURISDICTION —- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, has no venue or jurisdiction within the borders of any of the 50 States of the united States of America, except in pursuit of an importer of contraband alcohol, tobacco, or firearms, who failed to pay the TAX on those items. As proof, refer to the July 30, 1993 ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 1 F.3d 1511; 1993 U.S. App. Lexis 19747, where the court ruled in United States v. D.J. Vollmer & Co. that “the B.A.T.F. has jurisdiction over the first sale of a firearm imported to the country, but they don’t have jurisdiction over subsequent sales.”

    • You are a liar. The court decision doesn’t even contain your quote. The decision said the BATF could put on rules regarding the first sale of the guns in question, which were non-sporting arms that had been imported (semi auto Steyr AUGs to be exact). BATF allowed the import as long as buyers from the importer (first sale) were police or government and were buying for the use in official duties and not resale. They had to sign a paper stating so. A military officer bought many with the intent of selling them to Vollmer. The convictions against the officer were upheld, except for mail fraud since the BATF had no ownership stake in the guns (material interest), so they weren’t defrauded of any property. Vollmer, the aftersale buying party, was acquitted.

      • Please ……… show us where ATF has any ” authority to put on rules ” , NOT authorized by CONGRESS ……. how does that work ?

        ATF , is …. and always was , a Legal FICTION.

      • It’s pointless to argue with folks like this. They exist in their own legal mindspace where an admiralty flag’s fringes mean something in a court room. This is fine as a theoretical matter up until the moment they actually come in contact with the system at which point they end up getting a quick legal lesson and/or go to federal prison- because no one is law unto themselves. Unless, of course, you are powerful enough to enforce whatever you want.

        But ranting about pet legal theories on the internet is still pretty safe for them.

  2. Once upon a time we used a car muffler and a 30-06. One guy held the muffler I pulled the trigger, it worked. But not so great in the accuracy department. And volunteers are hard to find, Jack Daniels helps

  3. There is no requirement to be able to produce the tax stamp, proof of registration, or any qualifying documents for lawful possession of NFA items.
    However, it’s not likely worth the fight with your local LEO or range master, so it’s a good idea to avoid a “I know my rights!” argument.
    Not legally required, but legally useful.

    • That depends entirely on state law.

      In Colorado a silencer is a “dangerous weapon” and possession is a Class 5 Felony. Possession of a Tax Stamp is an affirmative defense to this charge.

      FYI: An affirmative defense is when the “defendant introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal liability or civil liability, even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts.”

      So, if you’re using a can in Colorado and a cop sees you with it you better have a Form 4 with a stamp on it or your ass is going to prison. In fact, you could still end up in court even if you have a Form 4 and be forced to introduce it as evidence of your affirmative defense.

      • Yup, there are some local and state laws that make possession of threaded mufflers (or their constituent pieces) punishable by instaneous and lifelong loss of inalienable freedoms unless, of course, you have your government permission slip in hand. Almost sounds like another country …
        My FFL just got our SOT for 2019-2020; glad we just have the federal “minimums” in our state. Thanks for the heads up on knowing your local laws!

      • You don’t need the actual stamp in possession. Replacing a lost NFA stamp is possible, but it’s a PITA. A photocopy is usually good enough, along with a copy of the business or trust documents, if applicable. If they really want to push it, you’d be able to show the actual stamp.

        • I carry a copy because being arrested for this kind of thing is expensive and time consuming.

          If they want the original I can get that within an hour or so in most cases but I’m not going with the “It’s legal I swear officer!” line because that’s a great way to have to call my wife to bring a copy that I should have had and then get chewed out for being a moron and not carrying a copy.

          Truth is most locals don’t know what they’re looking at. If it looks official they’ll buy it so a copy works.

          Take a double sided photocopy, personally I prefer full sized, and have it laminated. Toss it in your suppressor case or gun case and you always have a copy at the range or when traveling.

        • Yeeeahh… since with an affirmative defense the onus is very much on you to ‘prove’ your legality, I would be very wary of having anything but the most obvious and legitimate deal in that sort of case.

  4. Having tried a suppressor out a few times, I can’t justify getting one in my particular situation. If I lived out in the country, or had a private place to shoot, I would absolutely get a few for my various long guns. I don’t have a threaded barrel for any handguns. Yet.

  5. How to Buy a Silencer? Step 1: Select desired silencer. Step 2: Proffer monetary compensation to retailer of said item. Step 3: Walk out the door with silencer…At least that is how it’s done where the 2nd Amendment is honored. Any steps over and above these three is BS.

  6. Please fix #4 and #9. The Chief Law Enforcement Officer is only notified now, there is no signature required from them (signature requirement was removed as part of ruling 41F).

  7. “A lot of shooters still don’t realize that they can own silencers legally”

    #1 Determine if suppressor ownership is legal”

    Do you read your own shit?

    • I’m sure they read their own shit and I’m sure that they’re aware that state, local and county laws vary.

      Fill out a Form 4, or even a 5320.20 with the wrong addresses and it will be denied because ownership and/or possession in that locality or state is illegal. You cannot change your address in Colorado to an address within Boulder County because a silencer is illegal within Boulder County. The ATF will deny that form every time because Boulder County prohibits the possession of silencers, the ATF knows this and will not grant you a federal permission slip to move one to that location in violation of local law.

      I have a denied copy of a 5320.20 sitting in my desk drawer and all my NFA stuff sitting in a safety deposit box for that very reason.

      So yeah, check your local and state laws before you try to buy. Just because it’s on sale at the LGS doesn’t mean you can fill out the paperwork with your home address and just have it whenever the ATF decides to finally process your paperwork.

  8. Step9A: Wait fucking forever for said item. 8-15 months is total bullshit, we all just bend over and take it, don’t we?

    • Currently going through the easy 10 step process for a can. Paperwork submitted on 9/18/2018. Called dealer six months in. He was getting approvals that were a year old. So maybe in September I’ll get it.

        • I find it’s best to do something else. Generally I forget about them after awhile. Which is kind of intentional.

          That way when the shop calls with the approval in hand it’s like a surprise party but without the annoying people you don’t want to deal with.

    • Well, what’s the alternative? No one is going to go to war over a 9 month wait for a suppressor (when they could just make one themselves if they really wanted to). And come election time when you start asking why the people you voted for didn’t trash the restrictions on them you know what they’ll say…. “Vote for me this cycle! Because what else are you going to do anyway? You wouldn’t want a DEMOCRAT in there passing gun control do you?”

  9. Step 1) Go to auto parts store and buy an oil filter.

    2) Buy a filter adapter.

    3) Have fun and keep mouth shut.

    • 4/ If caught, enjoy your long stay in the gray bar hotel and don’t cry too much about loss of all your gun rights forever.

  10. Buy better ear protection and avoid the hassle. Until the BATFE is disbanded or the NFA and tax requirements dropped for a suppressor, I am not interested in owning one. If the NFA requirements are dropped, I would guess at least 10% of the guns in the country would have suppressors on them in a year. The price would drop significantly and suppressor companies would do very well. Walk in to LGS, pick out a suppressor, fill out your 4473, pay the store, and walk out with your new suppressor. There is no logical reason why this is not done.

  11. Need to take a page out of the liberal handbook. First step to banning something is to demonize it.

    First thing we need to do is de-demonize them. The name needs to be as Benin as possible, like “muffler”. Gun mufflers or sound moderators are legal in the UK for hunting rifles… how bout that. And they don’t cost 200 or 300 bucks. You can buy them for like 50 bucks.

  12. If any process takes 10 steps, over $200 and 12 months I would call it many things, but ‘easy’ isn’t one of them.

  13. As much as I’d like to have a supressor or two, it’s absolutely NOT gonna happen until the cost of ownership is somewhere near reasonable. Between the artificially high price (low demand brought on ENTIRELY by gov’t interference), insane and COMPLETELY unnecessary $200 ‘permission slip’, and the asinine wait for processing, my interest is officially ZERO.

    If these manufacturers want my business they’ll start lobbying hardcore to get supressors off the NFA list.

    • I think that part of it is that if you have low regulatory hurdles and fees to getting a can you’ll end up with lower quality “adequate” cans that don’t have the long term durability of a high end can. This means that because you’re spending a year plus and $200 even for a free can you may as well spend the money once and buy nice. Deregulation would cause a rise of low end to mid range while causing a collapse in the high end. You’d see a lot of people running around with mag lites and freeze plugs. I have a lathe and theoretically it’s a few hours work for me to build something like that. Only thing stopping me is john law and the time it’d take me to get a mcmaster-carr order shipped in.

  14. The funniest part is silencers/ cans do not muffle the sound very much.
    If you could get a can to get a 9mm go pfft when fired I might reconsider and get one.
    I have listened to 22’s fired with and without and could not tell the difference.

  15. It’s not the process that keeps me from getting a muffler, it’s the fact that I absolutely will not pay $500 for $25 worth of parts. Never mind the bs $200 tax stamp, which is a bunch of legacy racist and classist horseshit.

  16. The article is informative, interesting, and….

    totally and completely undermined by the comments that followed.

    I wouldn’t touch a suppressor, no way, no how.

  17. there should be NONE of this bs just to get a can. some states getting a gun is easier. the can is just a part, and the part is not a weapon. but the way you have to jump through all these hoops you may as well by a 20 mm M61 Vulcan. and I love the way you get nickeled and dimed. the can is a harmless attachment. and the only reason you have to go through all of this is because of the way it was used on TV . just like when states banned nunchuks and balisongs. in my state ( which is communist by the way) we just got a Trump judge to throw out the nunchuk ban and stun gun ban and now in a surprise I hear governer Homo himself just threw out the ban on gravity knives. ( unfournately I still have to live with ” SAFE ACT”). it would be nice if Trump would get a judge to throw out the hoops, registration and the BS paperwork and finger prints on cans. honestly it is stupid to treat an attachment like a machinegun. and a can saves your hearing while allowing you to hear everything around you.

  18. I went to a “suppressor fest” last year. I found it absolutely hilarious that all these “Tactical Timmys” , who all are the Molon Labe types, would willingly identify themselves as “firearms extremists” to a potentially oppressive future government.

    Yes, if you have a concealed carry permit, you’re identified as a gun owner. But if you have a suppressor or an SBR, guess who gets the attention first?

    I’m not going through all that trouble and expense just to purchase an item that can be banned through an administrative decision in the near future.

  19. First post on TTAG…lurking almost 10 years LOL! Only reason now posting is that as a silencer owner, I can see both sides of the arguments. Life and toys are expensive, you pay for what you think the merchandise is worth at that time. A quieter gun is an expense I’m willing to accept in exchange for cash and patience. As far as future bans, that would SUCK, but what if you can never buy a new one but others are grandfathered..sort of like machineguns! How many full auto lowers would you have bought back in the day to sell now? Who knows the future? They are expensive, yes, regulation is one problem and I’m not going into the taxes. However cans are cheap elsewhere because they arent all built to be lifetime cans. We have to wait long periods and pay extra money, we want them to last forever. The manufacturers know this is a selling point and it costs money to test and develop tough cans that are the lightest and quietest and still keep up with new age ideas.

    But i can also see where someone would say they arent worth it. Supersonics are still pretty loud suppressed, and even under 140db several shots over short periods of time can cause damage to some degree. Subsonics are kinda unique, much quieter than supers! But ammo plays a huge part in subs (as well as platform) and the difference is more pronounced with different subsonics…like staple gun vs. nail gun. So it depends alot on application as to whether a can is worth it.

    Only downsides i see to silencers is length, weight and burns. As far as Cost…well thats a downside to everything!

    • Agreed 100%. Buy it or don’t, depending on whether it’s worth it to you. My main reason for putting up with the BS is to keep it on an AR Pistol for home defense. I don’t want to flash-bang myself with the first round, effectively taking me out of the fight.

      Another thought, if you want them legal, increase demand. Why did prohibition fail? People kept demand high and eventually the scumbag politicians who bow to nothing BUT money had to get on board.

      And for those on here who tried the “they have no legal jurisdiction” argument, have you paid the IRS lately? The BATF has more/better creds than the IRS and I pay them a lot every year so they don’t stick me in jail. Is it right? Nope. It’s extortion. But ask Wesley Snipes if he’s paying his taxes now.


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