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Posted By FFL Dealer Network on 07/26/2018 in FFL Business

The NFA and Owning NFA Items

The NFA and Owning NFA Items

The National Firearms Act and later amendments spell out who can own the regulated items and to some dress spell out what the one can do with them. 

"Firearms subject to the 1934 Act included shotguns and rifles having barrels less than 18 inches in length, certain firearms described as ‘any other weapons,’ machineguns, and firearm mufflers and silencers," says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF). BATF is the federal agency that oversees federal firearms licenses that cover gun manufacturing and importing and ammo manufacturing and importing. 

National Firearms Act Updates

The two major updates to the federal laws are: 

1) The 1968 Gun Control Act. This set age limits on who could buy guns and ammo. It also created the a Federal Firearms License registry among other things. 

2) The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act banned the manufacture of full-auto firearms for the civilian market. Only full-auto guns made and registered before this date may be owned by civilians. The National Firearms Act items are sometimes called Class III items because of the special permit needed to sell such things. 

People can still buy and used other the other items that are made today. They are 

  • Short barreled rifles (SBRs). 
  • Short barreled shotguns (SBSs). 
  • Suppressors. 
  • Any Other Weapon (AOWs). 
  • Destructive devices.

Short Barrels

Wikihow has a article on measuring barrel length with illustrations. This is how the BATF measures the barrels. BATF defines a short-barreled firearm as a shoulder-mounted rifle with a barrel of less than 16 inches. An SBS has a barrel length of less than 18 inches. Guns with forearm brace are generally not considered a short-barreled firearm.


A suppressor, also called can or a silencer, is a device that attaches to the end of the barrel. It reduces, but does not eliminate, the noise made by firing a round. They work best with subsonic rounds.


The AOW is a catchall term for the BATF. Weapons that have no "sporting use" but do not fall into the other categories are lumped in here. BATF''s website has examples of AOWs.

Destructive Device

The BATF recently updated its definition of Destructive Device. In general, the BATF says a destructive device has a bore bigger than a half-inch and serves no sporting purpose. Guns with a larger bore that are "sporting use" are excepted from the Destructive Device category. The 12 gauge and 10 gauge shotgun bores are bigger than a half-inch. Some dangerous game firearms like the .577 Tyrannosaur are also exempt. 


Owning a Class III item means filling out the appropriate BATF form and paying the requisite tax stamp. AOWs transfer for $5. Everything else in the Class III line transfers with a $200 stamp. 

Keeping a copy of the Class III paperwork with the item is a good idea. Some people say the ATF must provide a reasonable amount of time to provide the paperwork. Better to be safe than sorry. “The approved application received from ATF serves as evidence of registration of the NFA firearm. This document must be made available upon request of any ATF officer. It is suggested that a photocopy of the approved application be carried by the possessor when the weapon is being transported,” says the BATF. Some firing ranges will not allow these items unless the carrier has a copy of the paperwork. 

Letting other people use a restricted item is illegal, unless those people are listed in a restricted items trust for the item. “The NFA restricts transfers of weapons. Normally we would not think of loaning a firearms or placing it in the hands of another person as a transfer, but under a more complete analysis, letting someone else use your silencer or other (Class III) firearm, is in fact a transfer and a violation of the National Firearms Act,” says David Goldman, with Gun Trust Lawyer.

An individual who wants to own a Class III item has to be 18-years-old for shotguns, rifles and some destructive devices. For handguns, the minimum age is 21. 

National Gun Trust has a step-by-step walk-through of the permitting process for an individual. The webpage even has samples already filled out to help guide the process. 

"As of July 2016, there is no more requirement for a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) to sign off for any entity or individual. There is a CLEO notification. This is accomplished by requiring the CLEO name and address to be written on Form 4 and Form 1. BATFE mails a copy of your Form 1 or 4 and the Responsible Person Questionnaire(s) to the CLEO," says Roy Baker, a restricted item trust attorney

According to the BATF the CLEO can block the transfer by sending a letter to BATF outlining reasons why the buyer should not have a the requested item. 


When a Class III item is placed into a trust, more than one person can be listed as the “owner.” 

ATF Form 5320.23 [the] Responsible Person Questionnaire) “including [a] photograph, and submit two properly completed FD-258 fingerprint cards. Each Responsible Person must provide a copy of their completed 5320.23 to their respective CLEO for notification purposes. There is no action required on the part of the CLEO, unless he or she has information that may disqualify any individual from acquiring or possessing a firearm.” 

Unless the chief law enforcement officer objects, in writing to the BATF, the federal agency assumes the request to have the restricted item is acceptable. 


The rules for a corporation owning a restricted item changed in 2016. In short, a Class III item can still be “sold” to a corporation, but BATF now requires the same information as if an individual was buying the item. “Each responsible person is required to complete ATF Form 5320.23 [the] Responsible Person Questionnaire), and submit photographs and fingerprints each time the trust or legal entity files an application to make a [restricted] firearm or is listed as the transferee on an application to transfer a [restricted] firearm." 

Disadvantages to the restricted item being “owned” by a corporation are the corporate fees and paperwork. These must be kept up-to-date in the state where the corporation was formed. When owned by a trust or an individual, it is a one-and-done operation. 


Carrying a Class III item across state lines is complicated. Some states have more restrictions on Class III items than the federal government. 3G Tactical has a state-by-state chart showing what is legal and not in every state. This is important. Even with a BATF tax stamp, carrying a Class III item into a state where it is prohibited may result in the owner's arrest and loss of the NFA item. 

Permission to cross a state line with a restricted item must be obtained. “Unless the registered possessor is a qualified dealer, manufacturer or importer, or a licensed collector transporting only curios or relics. Prior approval must be obtained, even if the move is temporary,” says the BATF. “This requirement does not apply to the lawful interstate transportation of silencers. Possession of the firearms also must comply with all State and local laws.” Fill out this form to cross state lines with Class III items. 

If a person with a Class III item moves to a state where that item is not allowed, the item must stay behind or be transferred to someone legally allowed to own it. Restricted “firearms may be left in a safe deposit box in his or her former State of residence. Also, the firearm could be left or stored in the former State of residence at the house of a friend or relative in a locked room or container to which only the registered owner has a key. The friend or relative should be supplied with a copy of the registration forms and a letter from the owner authorizing storage of the firearm at that location,” says the BATF.

  1. How to Get an FFL
  2. FFL Application Process and Procedures
  3. Your FFL Transfer Fee
  4. Gun Wholesalers for FFL Dealers
  5. What Can You Do With an FFL?
  6. The FFL eZ Check System
  7. The NFA and Owning NFA Items
  8. Offline Firearms Marketing and Your FFL Business Plan
  9. Online Firearms Marketing and Your FFL Business Plan
  10. Pawn Shops and the Type 02 FFL
  11. FFL Responsibilities and Regulations
  12. BATF Will Approve Home Based FFLs
  13. Customer Service in Your FFL Business

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