COMPLETE GUIDE TO BUYING A SOUND SUPPRESSOR - SILENCER
Congratulations on your decision to join the ranks of those who shoot the civilized way.
Buying a sound suppressor (or silencer) for your rifle or handgun is a much different process than buying an ordinary firearm. It isn’t particularly difficult, but the process can try your patience.
IS IT LEGAL TO OWN A SOUND SUPPRESSOR - ALSO KNOWN AS SILENCER?
*Cue the Star Spangled Banner* In the United States of America, Land of the free and home of the brave, 42 states allow you to purchase a suppressor for hunting and personal use.
The 8 which don't let you own one include: California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachussetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG TO BUY A SUPPRESSOR?
The 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) imposes a special tax on the transfer and manufacture of certain items, including silencers, machine guns, and various configurations of firearms such as short barreled rifles and short barreled shotguns.
Items controlled by the NFA are called Title II Weapons. Because of the NFA, buying them requires a special $200 federal tax and lengthy background check and approval process by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).
Although a sounds suppressor (silencer) is not a firearm, it is classified the same as NFA firearms under the Title II Weapons law and the path to getting one is the same.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS TO BUY A SUPPRESSOR?
|1||Must be 21 years of age at time of prchase from a dealer|
|2||Reside in one of the staes that allow civillian ownership|
|3||Be a resident of the United States|
|4||Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm and pass the FBI NICS background check|
|6||Pay the one-time-per-item $200 Transfer Tax|
Now that we know where you can own a suppressor, who can buy one and why it takes so long to get, we’re going to walk through buying one step by step; leaving no stone unturned. We will discuss the faster, easier electronic way of submitting your paperwork.
for a quick reference, this list is everything you need to send to the BATFE for them to process your paper request.
WHAT PAPERWORK YOU NEED TO BUY A SUPPRESSOR
Note: all these will be filled out in one stop at an electronic S.I.D Kiosk at your FFL dealer.
|1||A copy of your NFA trust if you are choosing to use one for the ownership of your NFA item|
|2||Two copies of completed Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration Form 4|
|3||Completed Responsible Person Questionnaire Form 5330.23 (for all members of the NFA Trust)|
|4||Complete Fingerprint cards (for all members of the NFA Trust)|
|5||Passport photos (for all members of the NFA Trust)|
|6||$200 check, for NFA tax stamp|
If you need to submit physical paperwork, you can get the forms you need at the FFL you chose to send your NFA item to.
An envelope containing all these items, can be sent to:
National Firearms Act Division
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
P.O. Box 530298
Atlanta, GA 30353-0298
THE PROCESS OF BUYING ONE
You’ve done a bunch of online research and you’ve found the exact silencer you want. You’re ready to rush over to the friendly neighborhood NFA dealer and melt down your credit card.
Before you purchase anything, the first step is to decide if you want to setup a Trust or purchase the sound suppressor as an individual.
HOW TO SET UP THE NFA TRUST
The most popular method of obtaining NFA items is through an NFA Trust, which is a legal document you’ll want to hire a lawyer to prepare for you.
Some people have had good luck copying the contents from NFA Trusts they found on the internet, but others have gone through nearly the entire NFA process and waited months only to have their applications denied due to technical problems with their NFA Trust document.
In our opinion, it doesn’t pay to take chances.
find an attorney familiar with the differences between NFA Trusts and other estate planning trusts. Typical costs are between $100 and $500. The money you will pay to get a correct NFA Trust drawn up is only a fraction of the total investment you are making in this purchase, and your NFA Trust can be used repeatedly as you purchase more NFA items in the future.
You will need to include a copy of the NFA Trust when submitting all your paperwork. Don’t send the original!
The NFA Trust is the legal entity that technically owns the sounds suppressor / silencer, and you possess the item as a Settlor or Trustee named in the Trust. The BATFE calls these individuals “Responsible Persons” because they are responsible for possession of this highly regulated item.
The upside to a trust is Multiple Responsible Persons can be named on the NFA Trust, so multiple people can share in the use of the NFA item; this is useful if the item is for home defense purposes so more than one person can use the item without you there!.
You can also use the NFA Trust to arrange for the NFA item to be passed on to others when you pass away. If you want your kids to have your suppressor some day when you are gone, the NFA Trust is the easiest way to go.
The main drawback for using a trust is, that you need to have all the paperwork for each person on the trust submitted and then all people on the trust have to go through the same approval process before you get your suppressor. This adds time.
On average, as of December 2019, once all the paperwork of all people is in, it can take between 12 and 14 months for approval.
HOW TO TRANSFER AS AN INDIVIDUAL
You can avoid the extra cost of setting up the NFA Trust, and go straight to your FFL to do the electronic forms, by applying to transfer your NFA item as an individual. This saves you a bit of money, but it will be illegal for anyone else to use your NFA item, unless you are present with them at the time. This includes home defense purposes.
For example, a husband is approved as an individual to possess a sound suppressor, which he mounts on a rifle. While he is at work, his wife uses the suppressed rifle in a home defense situation. Technically both husband and wife will be in violation of NFA regulations, and the supressor itself is subject to being confiscated.
Upon your death, the NFA item has no legal owner and can be destroyed by law enforcement when found. The only way around this is if a beneficiary of your estate files a BATFE Form 5 to transfer possession to themselves before your estate’s probate is closed, so include a directive and instructions on how to do that in your estate planning!
Warning: Changing your mind about which path to take can get very expensive. If you originally transferred your NFA items as an individual and decide to add them to an NFA Trust later, you must transfer possession from one legal entity to another.
That means another round of paperwork and another $200 check for every NFA item you want to move to the NFA Trust.
The main rason to choose purchasing as an individual instead of as a trust is time. The average wait time for purchasing as an individual is between 6 and 9 months.
eForms Buying Suppressors Online
Whether you are purchasing as an individual or with a trust, the guaranteed easiest and fastest way to get your silencer, is to fill out your form 4, do your fingerprints, submit your photo, cross all the t's and dot all the i's; is to buy your suppressor online and have it transferred to an FFL that uses a S.I.D kiosk for electronic form submission.
In finalizing your purchase, at checkout you’ll be prompted to locate a dealer to receive it, you can use Silencer shops nifty kiosk locator to find a local shop that uses S.I.D kiosk's.
Since Primary Arm's is partnered with Silencer shop, you can use our Kiosk for free when you purchase from our site.
Once you finish your online purchase, you'll be emailed your serial number(s), registration code, and a QR code within 48 hours to use at the kiosk.
Head over to the Primary Arms storefront, or your chosen FFL, and enter your registration code into the kiosk. If you lost that code, don’t worry. You can request another at the kiosk.
You’ll be able to create your fingerprints at the S.I.D. kiosk, enter your personal data, sign your fingerprint card and sign all the forms. You can take and submit your photo using the silencer shop mobile app or website.
At this point, you’ve reached the end of the process and submitted all of your necessary information. After you finish at the kiosk, we will prepare your paperwork and send it to 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.
After the BATFE receives your paperwork, they will run an extensive background check on you. The FBI and BATFE will run your fingerprints and check their databases.
This process is lengthy; on average it is currently taking between 6-16 months before you can take possession of your NFA item from the dealer. Silencer shop has a great tool to check the current wait time for both trusts and individual purchases. Check it out here
If there are mistakes on your forms or problems with your other documents, the BATFE will mail you and your NFA dealer a letter explaining what to do to fix your application.
If you have any questions you can call BATFE and they will help you figure out what they are looking for, but it is wise to be polite and get your corrections right the first time.
If your application is denied your paperwork will be sent back to you along with a brief explanation, and your $200 refunded.
If approval is granted, a copy of your Form 4 is sent back to you with a physical tax stamp affixed to it. Keep it safe! It is wise to print off a copy of your approved Form 4 with tax stamp to show to curious onlookers and local law enforcement officers, but the original should be kept in a secure location.
Because your Form 4 is a federal tax document, only a Federal tax agent (like a BATFE agent) has the right to demand to see it, but that won’t stop others from getting up in your business.
If someone asks to see your paperwork, it’s easiest just to show a copy to them, ask them if they have a silencer yet, and explain to them that it wasn’t really all that difficult after all!
WELCOME TO THE ADDICTION
To make your NFA dreams come true takes organization, planning, and some extra funds. But anyone who has gone through the NFA approval process will tell you that Tom Petty was right when he sang “the waiting is the hardest part.”
Paying a lot of money up front for that silencer you want and then coming home with nothing can be really irritating. There are no updates from BATFE, no push notifications, no progress bars.
At some undetermined point in the future your NFA dealer will contact you with really good news about your purchase, and you can come pick it up. But the best things in life are worth waiting for, aren’t they? You can do it!
So let's get started on your journey to silence. The team here at Primary Arms is happy to help with all your questions.
If you ever have any questions about your barrel or any other AR parts and accessories, don’t hesitate to call. Our world-class customer service team and firearms product specialists are standing by to help.
Thanks for choosing Primary Arms, your one-stop-shop online gun store, and we’ll see you on the range.
**Several photos credit to Silencer Shop.