Buying an NFA item — a silencer, short barreled rifle/shotgun, machine gun, “any other weapon,” or destructive device — involves jumping through a series of .gov hoops, including paying a special tax and submitting a registration form. Perhaps the most complicated part for first-time buyers is deciding whether to register as an individual, as a trust, or as a corporation, and this decision must be made right off the bat.

The simplest and, in my opinion, the best option? A Single Shot Trust from Silencer Shop.

Registering with a Single Shot Trust

Silencer Shop creates an NFA trust (also often called a “gun trust” / “silencer trust” / “suppressor trust”) that is tied to one NFA item and one NFA item only, and is named for that item (e.g. “SilencerModel SN:1234 Trust”). Hence the “Single Shot” moniker. Purchase a suppressor, add the $24.95 Single Shot Trust product and a tax stamp, and Silencer Shop does the rest.

ATF will register your shiny new NFA item to the trust, meaning the trust is the legal owner of said item. You’re listed on the trust as the only trustee (for now).

As with every other way to register, you’ll need a passport-style photograph and fingerprints to accompany the ATF Form 4. Silencer Shop makes this easy by allowing you to upload your photo to your Silencer Shop account (literally take a cell phone selfie in front of a white wall and upload it).

For fingerprinting, use a Silencer Shop S.I.D. Kiosk (they’re at hundreds of dealers around the country) for an easy process that’s automatically synced to your account, get digital fingerprinting done at some other place local to you, or use a paper fingerprinting packet if necessary. Once these things are in your Silencer Shop account, they’ll be included automatically with any future NFA registrations you do through Silencer Shop so you don’t have to worry about it again.

Fast forward a few months and your trust has been issued a cancelled tax stamp as proof of your paid NFA tax, which is stuck to your approved ATF registration “Form 4.” Now what?

Well, right now you’re effectively in the same boat as having registered as an individual. But, unlike with an individual registration, you aren’t stuck in this boat:

  • Add (and remove) trustees as you please. Silencer Shop provides free addendum forms for this purpose. Trustees added after approval do not have to submit a photo or fingerprints. Y’all just fill out and sign the addendum and it’s done. Trustees have all possession and use rights for the NFA item on your Silencer Shop trust.
    • Example: add your spouse so she/he isn’t legally in felonious possession of an NFA item should you be out of the house (if anyone else in your home has the code to the safe or if the NFA item isn’t locked up, they’re “in possession” of it) or if you leave it in your range bag in the trunk of the car and the wife borrows it.
    • Example: add your hunting buddy so he can hunt suppressed on his big trip, then remove him afterwards (if you so choose).

This sort of simplicity and flexibility is worth so much more than the $24.95 cost of the Single Shot Trust.

Of course, if you plan to eventually buy 5+ NFA items (you do), Silencer Shop also offers a Single Shot Unlimited Trust for $129.95. As the name implies, this all-you-can-eat plan means you get unlimited Single Shot Trusts after that one-time payment. Either option you choose allows you more control over who can handle which NFA item, with far less hassle and expense.

Registering as an Individual

No. Don’t do this.

Well, okay, if you’re positive you’re going to live alone forever and you have no children, other inheritance considerations, or even a friend and you’re certain you’ll never want to sell your suppressor (or other NFA firearm) then, sure, register as an individual.

It’ll save you $25 over paying for a Single Shot Trust but that’s the only upside in a sea full of kneecapping yourself worse than Plaxico:

  • The NFA item will be yours and yours only; in your name and nobody else’s.
    • the wife is a felon in the examples mentioned in the Single Shot Trust section above.
    • there’s no adding other people, so nobody else can be in legal possession of your suppressors without you being physically present.
    • if you were to sell your silencer, any buyer would have to go through the entire process just like buying a brand new one. The tax, the wait, the .gov hoops…all of it. That’s a hard sell.
    • our friends at BATFE allow NFA items to pass down with your estate without the tax having to be re-paid, but I believe the inheritor still has to go through the long registration process.

Registering with a standard NFA Gun Trust

Prior to Silencer Shop coming up with the Single Shot Trust idea, the best NFA-buying option was usually going with a traditional gun trust.

It’s a very similar process to the Single Shot with the exception of requiring a notary public to notarize your physical trust document (Single Shot requires just an e-signature via DocuSign), but after ATF rule 41F went into effect these sorts of trusts became awfully cumbersome. Here’s the deal:

  • A standard NFA trust is designed to own all of your NFA items, present and future. It can still be a good choice, and Silencer Shop still provides these types of trusts, but there are some downsides as compared to the Single Shot:
    • all trustees have access to everything listed on the trust.
    • every time you add a new NFA item every single trustee or responsible party on the trust must submit their fingerprints and photograph and will be included in the ATF/FBI background check process during the registration of that new NFA item. Good luck getting your wife, kids, brother in a different state, and pool boy to do this in a timely fashion. Furthermore, a written notification to each person’s county sheriff must also go out. Even after you get that together and file your Form 4, approval is likely to take additional time while ATF/FBI does background investigations on every individual on your trust instead of just you.
    • these trusts range in cost from $100 to $1,000 depending on complexity and your lawyer’s hourly rate. A Single Shot Trust or Single Shot Unlimited Trust is a better deal. Spend your money on NFA toys, not attorney’s fees.

Registering as a Corporation

In every way but one, having your corporation own the NFA items is identical to having a traditional NFA trust own them. The exception: all corporate officers and only corporate officers have access to the NFA toys. All officers must submit all of the same info as trustees do on a standard gun trust, but there is no option to add or remove people without adding or removing them as officers of the corporation.

All NFA items are assets of the company. Should ownership change through sale, liquidation, etc., the NFA items go with it or would need to be transferred out (subjecting each item to another $200 registration tax).

So there you have it. I can only assume that the Texas Rangers inspired Texas-based Silencer Shop to invent the “one silencer, one trust” Single Shot Trust. Regardless, it’s the simplest, best, most flexible way to purchase and register NFA items.

“Silencer ownership simplified.”

 

18 COMMENTS

  1. “Trustees added after approval do not have to submit a photo or fingerprints.”

    Is this correct?

    I thought all trustees has to submit fingerprints and photos (and on a regular basis?)

    • This is correct. Any trustees you add before approval must go through that process, but any trustees you add after approval do not.

      The “on a regular basis” thing you mentioned applies to a traditional NFA trust, where every time you add a new NFA item to the trust everyone who’s on the trust has to go through the process again. That’s why it’s so much more efficient to simply create another Single Shot Trust for future purchases instead of adding those purchases to an old school trust.

    • I may be mistaken, but Silencer Shop’s original trust (circa 2014) was also presented this way, that additional trustee were not required to undergo the fingerprint process. Each additional item has been processed using that original trust and an addendum page successfully.

      • Yes, I believe you can add trustees to an existing trust in the same way (though in some cases amending a standard trust to add a trustee may require a notary). The big difference is that every single time you add another NFA item to a standard trust every single trustee/responsible party on that trust has to do the entire fingerprint/photograph/background check process again.

        …some of this stuff changed in 2016, BTW, with rule 41F. The fingerprinting and background check requirements for all trustees for every new item was added at that time…

  2. “Fast forward a few months…” I don’t think you know what the word few means. My Form 4 single shot trust was approved one week shy of a year. I did a Form 1 for my SBR & SBS and got my stamps back in about a month. If you’re wanting a suppressor quickly I would use the Form 1 route. I will say the experience with Silencer Shop was great. They handle the paperwork and guide you through the process in a timely and professional manner. Just as a reminder, once you shoot suppressed you will become addicted and may become a stamp collector.

    • Yeah, Form 4 (transfer of an existing NFA item) takes 4 to 10 months for approval. A Form 1 (application to manufacture your own NFA item) takes just 3 to 6 weeks if you e-file it.

      …A Form 1 so you can slap a shoulder stock on a large format pistol and turn it into a short barreled rifle is a lot easier than making a suppressor. Though JK Armament sells some really nice solvent traps that can be fairly simply manufactured into a functional suppressor, you still end up paying as much or more as you’d pay for a quality Form 4 suppressor.

  3. I’m not sure I’m clear on this. Is this a new type of Trust? SSs original trust was supposed to make things simpler until the ATF said everyone on the Trust had to submit fingerprints instead of just the person who created the Trust. What’s to keep the ATF from doing the same with this type of Trust?

    • Nothing…That is the purpose of non-elected Bureaucrats. The Bureaucracy answers only to itself. It is in place to backdoor regulations that would otherwise be politically distasteful to enact with Legislation. There by allowing Politicians to advance their agenda without using political clout and facing angry constituents directly. Its all part of the Game Plan for eventual Tyrannical Control. Allow It at your Peril. Keep Your Powder Dry.

  4. So how does this simplify selling a suppressor? I get it’s a PITA if it’s individually registered, but does the SST fundamentally change that?

    • As I understand it..
      Since the Trust owns the silencer (not any individual trustee, or group of trustees), what you would do is add the person you want to “sell” the silencer to, to the Single Shot Trust, then remove yourself from the Trust. This effectively “sells” the silencer, even though in reality/”legality”, the silencer remains the property of the Trust, which now has only one trustee again.

      • Don’t do that.
        I read that part of the article and cringed, hoping someone would question it in the comments. @Jeremy S. is giving some potentially pain-ridden advice there.

        Adding someone to a trust in order to effect an ownership transfer is asking for a future tax-evasion judgement and confiscation.

        One potential(ly gray area) benefit of a sale through a Trust is that you could add the new owner as Trustee, and they could take possession WHILE WAITING FOR THE NEXT F4 APPROVAL.

        While the letter of trust law does provide an avenue for future tax-free transfers, it’s not worth the peril of future prosecution under tax code. If you’re really selling the can to someone else, let them pay for the tax stamp. If you’re comfortable with letting them hold it as trustee, so be it, but make them pay the tax and protect both parties.

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