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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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The “Frankengun.”

This is an AR pistol that a customer picked up at a gun show. He brought it to me to look over and address any issues that it may have. While it may look fine at first glance, I would not be doing this article if it was.

The first thing that I noticed was that the castle nut was not staked. While it is not absolutely necessary to stake the castle nut, it costs nothing and doesn’t take long to do. If the person doing the assembly doesn’t care to take the time to do this simple step what else did they skip?

Well apparently using a proper 3/4″ inch wrench to attach the flash hider was just too much. Not exactly sure what they used. Pliers of some sort is my guess. Channel locks or locking pliers most likely.

For those of you not familiar with this platform, the gas tube should NOT go down towards the barrel.

No clearance for the gas tube. Not a problem for the person doing the initial assembly, just use a rabid beaver to chew a hole in the handguard.

What goes down must go up……………….eventually. There are supposed to some bends in a gas tube. This is NOT one of them.

These are what I was able to find by just doing a quick inspection on the outside. It didn’t get any better once I opened it up.

By the looks of the buffer, that beaver was not full after chewing on the handguard. These marks are the result of the buffer hitting the retainer during firing. The buffer should only touch the retainer when the upper and bolt carrier are not in place. The bolt carrier should push the buffer off of the retainer when closed. There are a couple of ways to check for that this. With both the takedown and pivot pin pulled out the upper should be pushed away from the lower by the buffer. Another way is to remove the charging handle, replace the bolt carrier, close the upper and you should be able to see the buffer move. I tried both of these tests and it passed. So here is another short cut taken by the builder. They took a chewed up buffer that they didn’t want and put it in a gun that they were getting rid of. Are you starting to notice a trend that started with the lack of staking on the castle nut.

This is the back of the bolt carrier. There doesn’t appear to be any obvious burrs or deformations that would cause the marks seen on the buffer.

Staying with the bolt carrier, I checked the screws holding the gas key on using the reverse torque test. Proper forward torque should be approximately 55 in-lbs. The reverse test starts at 25 in-lbs. One of the screws came loose at that range. The next step is 35 in-lbs. The other one failed here. The staking here was also almost nonexistent. If your gun shows signs of being undergassed, and you see carbon built up at the front edge of the gas key then have it checked out.

You can see by the shiny spots that this gas key was starting to move on the carrier. There’s a little carbon built up around the gas port but it has not made it to the sides of the key, so there were no outward signs that this was coming lose. This issue was caught before it became a real problem. Lose screws have a way of becoming broken screws.

Results of the first few passes on a diamond plate to “deck” the gas key. If I had just simply tightened the screws back down it may have still leaked in the future.

Finished “decking” the gas key. We are limited to fixing only this piece because of the way the carrier is machined. I use a bearing retaining compound to fill in any remaining imperfections in the mating surfaces.

These pictures show the retaining compound squishing out, and the new “OCKS” used to secure the gas key. (Optimized Carrier Key Screw from Michiguns Ltd. http://www.m-guns.com)

Using a MOACKS Plain also from Michiguns Ltd. to properly stake the gas key screws.

(Mother Of All Carrier Key Stakers)

The OCKS give a place for the metal that is displaced by the staking a place to go and keep the screws secure. The burrs that caught the fibers from the rag were eventually removed.

Original extractor spring and insert. Since there were other suspect parts in this gun it just made sense from a reliability standpoint to replace it.

In the image to the right the original extractor spring and insert is on the right, the Sprinco 4-Coil spring and insert are on the left. https://www.sprinco.com/

Next I checked the gas rings, they seemed fine and were reinstalled

This is the ejector after polishing. Didn’t take a before picture, but it had a pronounced projection from the machining. It would have eventually scraped brass from the bottom of the case. That could have ended up down the bore that the ejector is in causing poor performance or even a malfunction if the case is not pushed clear of port fast enough.

Original ejector spring on the right, new on the left. The original may have been fine, but for few dollars a new one cost, it was better to replace it. With the ejector and spring out I checked the headspace and it passed.

The next check I performed was to see if it actually has a 5.56 NATO chamber and throat. This gauge from Michiguns Ltd.checks for that.

To start I “Sharpied” the end, to show if there was any interference.

The gauge is then pushed lightly into the chamber. It should fall out if the throat is the proper size. Go figure it got stuck in this one.

The white line in the ink is where the gauge made contact with the throat. This barrel did pass the “plunk” test with some factory ammunition so I didn’t try to fix this.

If you look at the feed ramps in these photos you will see that the center locking lug protrudes into the feed ramps cut into the upper receiver. This can cause malfunctions by catching either the bullet tip or the edge of the case as it’s trying to feed into the chamber. There are also some machining marks still visible.

The major work on the right side is done, and the left is almost done.

Here the ramps are all finished. Nothing to snag on.

Judging by the carbon ring it appears that the gas block was slightly misaligned.

The barrel is not dimpled so there was no place for the set screws to index in.

Using a jig I added a dimple. The picture is before I reblued the surface.

New gas block and tube installed.

New gas tube on top. Original on the bottom. Muzzle end would be on the left.

Closer look at the chewed up flash suppressor. In this image you can see that the crush washer has been installed backwards. The muzzle device was not tightened to specs either.

This is why I couldn’t see the crush washer with the handguard installed. Speaking of the handguard. The following images may be disturbing, if you care about how your firearm is assembled.

This is the bottom of the handguard. Not really sure why they went after this area. Probably the mildest definition of a mistake. It gets worse from here.

You were warned.

After looking at this closer. It appears that this handguard is for a blowback operated platform since it doesn’t have channel for a gas tube. That didn’t deter someone from making one. Not sure how long it took to make this disaster, but it had to go. Now that the upper and barrel are fully disassembled it is time to start bring this thing back to life.

The gas block was previously installed. Here is the new Midwest Industries Pistol Blast Diverter.

https://www.midwestindustriesinc.com/MI-AR-15-Blast-Diverter-5-56-2-23-p/mi-pbd.htm

Installing the new handguard. A Midwest Industries 10.5″ Slim Line Handguard.

https://www.midwestindustriesinc.com/MI-SLH10-5-p/mi-slh10.5.htm

Back up Iron sights reinstalled.

Completed upper with Holosun Red Dot installed. This is much better.

Next was to address the lower receiver. For the most part there were no major issues found. Just the buffer and the non-staked castle nut.

The roll pin for the trigger guard was a little above the surface of the ears. That was a quick fix.

The hammer and trigger springs were okay, so they were reinstalled.

Added a set screw for the take down pin retaining spring and detent. This will keep the spring from coming out unexpectedly, should the endplate be removed.

Torqueing the castle nut to 40 ft=lbs.

Castle nut staked in 2 places, as per the manual.

Here’s the completed rifle getting a final cleaning before being returned.

Added a Blue Force Gear Sling and Midwest Industries Swivels.

Business end of the Blast Diverter.

Streamlight Pro-Tac Rail Mount HL-X with Laser. 1000 Lumen light with built in laser.

https://www.streamlight.com/products/detail/index/protac-rail-mount-hl-x-laser

The finished product. Short, light, reliable, what else could you ask for.

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First Customer Build: The Upper

Back for the second half of the build.

The stripped upper on a bench block preparing to install the forward assist.

Completed upper with the tags for the parts used. The customer is left handed and may run the charging handle from the right side. In that case the use of the FCD Low Drag Forward Assist means less chance of scraped knuckles during a malfunction clearance drill.

A view showing how minimalist this forward assist is.

Before and after of the feed ramps on the Criterion Barrel.

Initial dry fit of the barrel to the receiver. Went back and opened up the right edge of the right ramp. The left ramp was okay. Don’t really want to take the anodizing off the ramps in the receiver as that makes them prone to being damaged.

Prepping the bolt to check headspace. This fixture makes it easy to remove the pin holding in the ejector. The ejector can give a false feel during the headspace check.

Stipped bolt ready to check headspace.

My headspace gauges are on the bottom of the picture. Since this picture I have added a proper 5.56mm headspace gauge. The barrel did pass the .223 Remington GO gauge. It also passed by not closing on the 5.56mm max gauge.

Nicely dimpled by Criterion

SLR Jig to add a second dimple. Why? Because your gas block can’t be too secure.

After the jig.

Cold blued he spot for appearance and corrosion protection.

Used Loctite 620 Bearing Retainer to bed the barrel to the receiver. The bearing retainer will swell slightly, filling any excess space, and lock the the two together improving the rifles consistancy.

Barrel and receiver hand tight. Waiting for the bearing retainer to set up.

Gas Block

Installing the Sionics Mid-Length gas tube.

Just enough of a second dimple for the set screw to dig into.

Original set screw.

The knurled set screw I actually used. In addition to the knurling I also used VC-3 to insure the screws don’t loosen.

Torquing the barrel nut on the Midwest Industries Slim Line Combat Rail to 40 foot-pounds. This is the 15 inch version. I really like that the barrel nut for this line of handguards doesn’t need to be timed to the gas tube.

Torquing gas block set screws to 30 inch-pounds.

Fully assembled gas system.

Testing that the BCG not impeded by the gas tube. It passed with no interference from the gas tube. This will maximize gas tube and gas key life.

Customers choice for a muzzle device.

Hand tight to the crush washer.

Tightened till the marks aligned.

Almost finished. Most of the hard stuff is on.

Even though its probably not needed. I still used the rail alignment fixture to make sure the rails are straight.

Torque tab installed. Keeps the handguard from coming off and prevents over-tightening of the screws.

Setting the torque.

Following instructions.

Assembly complete. only a few more parts to add.

Starting top see what the final product will look like.

This is one of the last parts.

First assembly. Hope the customer likes it. Just have to add a few accessories.

Its not loaded. Just waiting on BUIS from Midwest Industries.

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First Customer Build: The Lower.

This is how a build starts, with just a stripped receiver. For this build I will be using a receiver with my company engraved on it.

Started with the Low profile Magazine Catch from Forward Controls Design (FCD).

Paired it with a Enhanced Magazine Release also from FCD.

More FCD parts. This time their Augmented Bolt Catch/Release. The pads are a little bit bigger and slightly angled to manipulation more positive.

Next up were the take down and pivot pins. These pins from FCD are .040 longer than normal and made of better steel. It may not seem like much, but that extra length is appreciated when all you have are your knuckles to knock those pins through.

Here you can see the set screw used to capture the spring for the take down pin and the VC-3 from Vibratite. The screw keeps the spring from getting launched into the great beyond, should the customer chose to change the end plate and not realize there is a spring there. The VC-3 is used to keep the receiver extension from possibly rotating during castle nut torquing, or during hard use. It’s not as “rigid” a connection as Locktite type products would be, in that you can still adjust the parts after it has set up.

The receiver extension ready to be installed. I used a castle nut from FCD, which has more and deeper notches allowing for more secure staking. Grease is used in order to get the proper torque value and to prevent galling between the dissimilar metals. The end plate is from Midwest Industries and has a QD socket in it. I like to include this version in my builds so that the option to attach a sling at the rear of the receiver is already there.

Just waiting for the VC-3 to set up overnight, and the packaging for the parts.

Receiver Extension fixture used to torque the castle nut.

Mark from spring loaded center punch.

First stake finished.

Start of the second stake.

Second stake finished, as per the manual. Don’t have to worry if this will come apart under hard use.

Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) Trigger Guard. The button head screw for the front is an idea I got from a builder page on Facebook. I think it looks good enough to make it a standard for polymer trigger guards.

Checking the springs on the ALG Defense QMS Trigger.

Trigger and disconnector installed. The grease is on the sear surface. You may also notice how the bolt catch tilts away from the receiver a bit more than normal.

A lot of work since the last picture. Forgot to take pictures a long the way. The hammer has been installed and being tested against the block. For parts longevity avoid dropping the hammer without some sort of cushion. If you let the hammer fall full force against the receiver wall or the bolt catch it can damage them over time. You can use your thumb, foam ear plug, or a purpose built block like I have here, just slow the hammer down some how. This only applies when bolt carrier group is not there to take the blow. Such as this picture when both halves are not attached or when the receivers are “shotguned”. Most AR rifles should not be damaged by dry firing in an assembled condition, like used for reinforcing marksmanship fundamentals.

The pistol grip is also from BCM it is the MOD 0 version since the end user has small hands. This will manipulating the controls a little easier.

The safety you see here is not the permanent one its just a place holder until the ambidextrous one comes in.

After the addition of the Magpul CTR stock the lower is finished. I will cover the build up of the upper receiver in another post.