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How to buy a suppressor (and other NFA items)

Contrary to popular belief, it is legal purchase and own suppressors, short barreled shotguns (SBS), short barreled rifles (SBR) and machine guns (anything that has the ability to shoot full auto). These items are regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA). There are other laws that affect these items, but the NFA is the primary one. I am located in Wisconsin, so this article will be referring to the Wisconsin state laws. You should look into your state’s laws as they may be different, or NFA items may be prohibited all together. Looking at you Illinois.

Since you are reading this article, I assume that you have selected the item(s) you wish to purchase. The process of narrowing down the wide variety options in the suppressor world could be a whole article in itself. You can pay for the items right away, which will start the process of having it transferred to us. There are forms and processes for every time an NFA item moves, even from one dealer to the next. The dealer to dealer transfer is on a Form 3. At the time of this writing they are taking about 10 days or less.

The transfer of your NFA item requires the filing of a Form 4. These can be submitted electronically. While paper still remains as an option. I use Silencer Shop’s Full Auto Program to submit Form 4s. Silencer Shop will double check everything for accuracy before submitting to the feds, and make sure that all the forms go to the proper place. (One copy of your Form 4 gets forwarded to a Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO). In Wisconsin that can be the Attorney General, so that is where Silencer Shop sends it.)

The Form 4 application requires the submission of fingerprints and passport photos. This is where the Silencer Shop Kiosk comes in. Since we have a Kiosk this can be handled here. The Kiosk process can be shortened by going to Silencer Shop and starting an account there. Please use you full legal name and an email address that you would like to have your approved Form 4 sent to. You will be sent a email with your Kiosk code, in QR code format, from Silencer Shop. This code will be needed to “sign in” at the kiosk. I suggest that people start a folder for their NFA related emails. While it is possible to start at the Kiosk, the system is going send you a QR code email anyways.

Next make an appointment with us to come in and use the Kiosk. If you are using the Kiosk for items purchased through us there is no charge. There is a charge to use the Kiosk for items purchased from a different dealer. The process is pretty simple, if you have been fingerprinted before. Say for military or work purposes. This system captures the fingerprints electronically, so no ink is used. Sometimes it may take a few minutes for a person’s hands to moisturize enough for the scanner to pick up the fingerprint image. We have products here to help with that. The nice part about electronic fingerprints is that it only has to be done once. Silencer Shop will store them in their system for future use. You will have to “sign” your fingerprint cards. Then answer some questions on the “Responsible Person Questionnaire” part of the application. At the end of the process there will be a QR code for the Silencer Shop App. You will need the App to take your passport photo, or update it when necessary. We can help with this as well. Just ask.

The next part of the process is setting up an account with the ATF. This will allow your Form 4 to be submitted electronically. Go to eforms.atf.gov. Enter in the EXACT same information you used in your Silencer Shop account. The ATF will compare the two during the “Certify Process”. Any discrepancies will delay the certifying process until resolved. Do not use any nicknames or short cuts. For me it must be David, not Dave or Davey. Make sure to use the same email. This is where your approved Form 4, with stamp will be delivered. During the setup process, ATF will generate your username. Make a note of it, you WILL need it during the certify process. While setting up your account you will need to create a 4 digit PIN. Add this to your note about the username. This PIN will be used in the certify process. Your ATF account password is NOT used during certifying.

If you are interested in getting a suppressor in the future, the above steps can be done pre-emptively. The only cost would be for using the Kiosk. That could be refunded, or converted to store credit, upon purchasing a NFA item from us.

Speaking of purchasing from us, you are not limited to getting items just listed on Silencer Shop. We are able to order from several distributors and manufacturers. There are links to several suppressor manufacturers on our Suppressor Page. We can use the fingerprints and passport photo from the Kiosk to submit the Form 4 for these also. NFA items purchased from outside sources (Gun Broker, Brownells, etc.), and sent to us as a transfer are also eligible for using your Silencer Shop account. There is a charge for that service. Please contact us for the current price.

The Form 4 process can’t start until the item is physically here.

Your next decision is how to “Register” the suppressor. There are three ways to register, (1) Individual, (2) Trust, and (3) Corporation. They all have pro’s and con’s. We suggest researching all options before making a decision. If you change your mind in the future it will be considered another transfer and cost you another $200. Silencer Shop has really good resources for determining which is the correct choice for you.

Here’s a short description of them.

  • Individual” is registering to you, and only you!!! Where the item goes so do you. No “borrowing” it to someone. With this method it is harder to pass down any NFA items to future generations.
  • Trust” is registering to a legal entity. Anyone who is a member of the “Trust” may have possession of the item or items. There are two types of trusts, Traditional NFA Trust and Single Shot Trust.
  1. Traditional NFA Trusts” can contain several items with several people as “responsible persons”. When a new item is added, all of the responsible persons will have to go through the background check process. That means all members must submit fingerprints and passport photos. This can be made easier if all members have Silencer Shop accounts that are up to date. If you have an existing NFA trust, it can be uploaded to: trust@silencershop.com. Otherwise you can purchase one from Silencer Shop directly.
  2. Single Shot Trust” has only one item and one responsible person to be checked. After the form 4 is approved, other people can be added with some simple paperwork and signatures. No fingerprints or photos. One downside is that some states do not recognize “Single Shot’s”. There is the option to get an “Unlimited Single Shot Trust“. Essentially buying the first five “Single Shots” up front, and not getting charged for any subsequent trusts. With either version a copy of the trust and the stamp should be with the NFA item.
  • Corporation” is not very common way of registering. The item is owned by the company and “Officers” of the company may be in possession. In some ways it is similar to the Traditional Trust, but the company has to fulfill it’s legal obligations and remain active.

The above is NOT legal advise !!! For detailed explanations check with Silencer Shop. Consult a lawyer if you have any questions as to what option best fits your circumstance.

Now the hard work is done. You have determined an appropriate registration type, the necessary accounts have been setup, and your fingerprints and passport photos are on file. The NFA item is purchased and on it’s way here.

Now you will need a tax stamp. They may purchased either at Silencer Shop or paid for through us. You may notice that it’s $205.00 instead of $200.00. That’s because ATF is going to charge a $5.00 service fee for transferring the money electronically. You can buy tax stamps to have in your account. A tax stamp is necessary for every individual NFA item you purchase.

Once your item gets here a few things will need to happen. Your item may need to be added to Silencer Shop’s inventory that way it can be assigned to your account. I may ask what email you used since that is your username. The item should show up in “orders” on your dashboard. Then I prepare the Form 4. Silencer Shop will send you a Docusign email with a preliminary version of the Form 4. Check it carefully for any errors and sign it. Once the Docusign is completed the Form 4 is considered prepared. Watch for an email letting you know that it’s ready to certify. The certify process can be done remotely, so please contact us to setup a time. The certification process is best done when you can be at a computer that has access to your email. The whole process should take approximately 15 minutes.

When the time comes to certify I will call you. The “session” should already be started. Join the session by signing into your Silencer Shop account, then going to your orders. There should be a “Join session” button next to the item we are going to certify. I will know that you have successfully joined when the cursor moves on my screen. Once we are on the same page I will talk you through the process. It’s just clicking a few boxes and putting in your Eforms username and PIN. You did make a note of it somewhere right? At this point the system should auto populate the form 4 and transfer the money for the tax stamp. You will be sent emails confirming that both of those operations have taken place. The emails come from eforms.notifications@atf.gov. Make sure these do not go to “spam”. This is where your approved Form 4, with a stamp on it, will come from. One will have a copy of your submitted Form 4 application with a “control number”. You will need the control number, if you call the ATF to check on the status of your application. Some manufacturers run promotions that require the submission of completed Form 4s. The copy you receive from Eforms is the one to use.

Once the application is certified and the tax paid, your “clock” starts. As of this writing ATF is claiming 8+ months until approval. Silencer Shop has a link to the updated times here. There’s nothing else left to do but be patient, and figure out what to get next.

While waiting, we can help you get any accessories necessary to maximize the use of your new suppressor. Extra muzzle devices, mirage covers, and different mounting options are all available. We can mount your muzzle device, using Accu-Washers and Rocksett and check the whole system for alignment. Better to find any problems while you are waiting, and use that time get any issues fixed, versus waiting until you are approved, finding a problem, and having to wait again.

Then, after what will seem like eternity, an email will show up from ATF. A copy will also show up here. When it does, contact us to make an appointment to come and pick up your suppressor. You will have to fill out a Form 4473, like getting any other firearm. Since I will be checking the box that says a background check was done during the NFA process, you just fill it out and sign it. This is only for inventory control purposes.

You are now free to go enjoy your new suppressor.

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