Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF/BATFE), the regulatory watchdog in the United States is responsible for firearm-related approvals and licensing be it transfers, manufacturing or imports. If you want to sell/purchase (which is essentially a transfer of firearm), you would need approval from the ATF. If you want to start a firearms-related business, which may include the import of firearms or want to manufacture them locally, you would, as you must have guessed, need a respective approval and license from the ATF.
In today’s fast-paced internet age, sitting and filling forms manually can be intimidating, especially for firearms-related approvals that need a lot of information (and paperwork). ATF not only keeps a watch on the firearms (plus alcohol and tobacco, of course) related transactions and activities, it also strives to make sure that these transactions are easy to perform. The agency has been trying to improve the application and approval process for individual applicants as well as businesses.
ATF eForms can dramatically improve your speed of submission, data accuracy, turnaround time, and reduce rejections that take place due to data entry errors (representational). To ensure efficiency and speed and keep up with today’s digital age, the agency has recently introduced its revamped new ATF eForm system, which it claims to be more efficient and modernized.
ATF Forms (eForms) available for eFiling on the new ATF eForm System
There are different forms available for different types of applications. For example, if you want to purchase an NFA item such as a silencer/suppressor, you will need to fill out ATF Form 4. If collecting old guns is your hobby, you will be required to fill out an ATF form, but there is a different form for it. Similarly, there are different Forms for gun dealers, manufacturers, importers, etc. So it becomes important to know which form will be applicable for what type of approval.
ATF forms are available as paper forms and many of them are also available as an electronic version aka eForm. ATF eForms can be filled online by accessing the ATF eForms system on your computer’s web browser. It is a web-based system that just needs you to type in the URL without installing any software or application to access the system or fill out the forms. Unlike paper ATF forms, eForms are easy to fill, review and edit if required before the submission. They are faster as you do not have to mail them to the agency, they are submitted instantly to the ATF database.
Overall, ATF eForms makes it way more convenient to file your applications for ATF approvals for firearms transfers, manufacturing, and/or imports. Currently, ATF Form 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6A, 9, 10, and 5300.11 are available for eForms submission, which means they can be filled and submitted electronically. In the subsequent sections, we will be discussing each ATF Form that is currently available on ATF eForm system.
ATF eForm 1/Form 1 – Application to Make and Register a Firearm
ATF Form 1/eForm 1 is filed by an individual or entity to get approval to make and register an NFA firearm. For example, it can be used to submit a request for the approval of making your own suppressor or convert your firearm into an SBR (short barrel shotgun) or potentially an automatic firearm. However, automatic firearms requests get denied most of the time because the agency is more stringent about approvals of automatic firearms in general.
- Short Barrelled Shotgun (SBS) – According to the ATF definition of short Barreled Shotgun (SBS), they are the shotguns having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length.
- Suppressor (silencer) – According to the ATF definition of silencer, the term “Firearm Silencer” or “Firearm Muffler” means any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.
- Short Barreled Rifle (SBR) – As per the ATF definition rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.
- Any Other Weapons (AOWs) – According to the ATF, the term Any Other Weapons (AOW) means “Any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive, a pistol or revolver having a barrel with a smooth bore designed or redesigned to fire a fixed shotgun shell, weapons with combination shotgun and rifle barrels 12 inches or more, less than 18 inches in length, from which only a single discharge can be made from either barrel without manual reloading, and shall include any such weapon which may be readily restored to fire.”
Such term shall not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition.
ATF Form 1 is an application for permission to make and register a firearm, which means you would first need to get approval to make a firearm, then it can only be manufactured and registered, unlike ATF Form 2, which is used by FFLs to notify the ATF about the firearms made or imported.
ATF Form 1 is often confused with ATF Form 4 In terms of its applicability in different scenarios.ATF Form 4 is an “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm”, i.e. it is used for requesting the approval for transferring an NFA item to an individual. It is filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee to transfer to an individual or other entity (non-licensee). On the other hand, ATF Form 1 is applicable for an individual or a trust to be able to make their own firearm or to convert it again into a short barrel rifle or short barrel shotgun.
ATF Form 1 application may take 60 days to up to 5 months to process, depending on how you are going to apply. With a paper-based manual submission, expect wait time to be as long as 5 months, while with electronic submission (eFiling) the wait time reduces to 10 days. You do have some variability in that just because of the FBI background check system.
Approval obtained with ATF Form 1 enables you to legally make your own firearms, i.e. Short-Barreled Shotgun (SBS), Suppressor (silencer), Short Barreled Rifle (SBR), or Any Other Weapons (AOWs). You do not have to have a Federal-Firearm Licence to make your firearm if you get your approval with ATF Form/eForm 1.
ATF eForm 2/Form 2 – Notice of Firearms Manufactured or Imported
ATF eForm 2/Form 2 is another ATF form that has its electronic counterpart available for eFiling on the ATF’s eForm system. This form is to be filed by a qualified manufacturer or importer to register NFA firearms manufactured or imported.
The ATF Form 2 is used by FFL manufacturers, is a notification form – it is not an application for permission and is sent in by the FFL after the NFA item has been manufactured, reactivated, or imported, in order to have it registered.
All NFA firearms manufactured by the company must be registered on Form 2 within 24 hours of production.
Following are the easy steps to tap into eForm 2 for your suppressor SBR, or other NFA item. You will need to register your ATF eForms account to initiate. All you need to do is visit eForms.atf.gov to create your ATF eForms account.
The manufacturer shall file a separate notice for firearms manufactured or firearms reactivated during a single day by the close of the next business day. On the other hand, the importer shall file a separate notice for each permit on which firearms are imported during a single day no later than 15 days from the date the firearm was released from Customs custody.
Importers and manufacturers who have registered to use ATF’s eForms system may file Form 2 electronically via the eForms system. ATF Form 2 can also be submitted by Mail. The notice shall be filed with the National Firearms Act Division, Bureau of ATF, 244 Needy Road, Martinsburg, WV 25405. It can also be submitted for approval to the ATF via Fax (Facsimile Transmission) on (304) 616-4501, provided that the licensee has filed an affidavit with the NFA Division in accordance with ATF Industry Circular 89-6.
ATF eForm 3/Form 3 – Application for Tax-Exempt Transfer of Firearm and Registration to Special Occupational Taxpayer
ATF eForm 3 is used for applying for tax-exempt transfer of firearms and registration to special (Occupational) Taxpayer (National Firearms Act). It is filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee to transfer to another qualified federal firearms licensee. The form is used for inter-dealer transfer among FFLs.
For example, if an FFL wants in Florida wants to transfer an NFA firearm to another FFL located in Texas, ATF eForm 3/Form 3 can be used for the purpose. The transfer process from one FFL to another FFL is tax-free, i.e. there is no tax involved in the process. Since this form is used in dealer-to-dealer transactions (transfers) of NFA items, it is not as frequently used as ATF Form 1 or Form 4.
ATF Form 3 is available in paper as well as in electronic form, ready to be eFiled. ATF Form 3 wait times, however, may vary dramatically depending on which form type you use – electronic or paper. If you choose to submit with a paper form, wait times can be annoyingly long – up to six months! This ATF Form 3 wait time is extraordinary considering the wait time dramatically reduces to less than a week when you fill the form electronically.
You can always check your ATF Form 3 status by calling ATF or an NFA branch. ATF can be reached directly at 304-616-4500. You would be asked about the basic information such as your name or the name of the legal entity used in the form (such as a trust or corporation), the name of the entity transferring the item, and the serial number of your NFA item. With the information, ATF can fetch the status of your Form 2, i.e. at what stage in the system it currently is, and provide you an approximate time by which it should be processed.
ATF Form 3s are processed all manually, which means someone at the ATF will individually go through the information provided in the form to check its validity, which can be a time-consuming affair. At your end, all you can do is fill out the electronic version of the ATF Form 3, which can surprise you with quick processing time.
ATF eForm 4/Form 4 – Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm
ATF Form 4 is an “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm”, i.e. it is used for requesting the approval for transferring an NFA item to an individual or trust. ATF Form 4 applies to machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short barrel shotguns, silencers, suppressors, Any Other Weapons (AOWs), and Destructive Devices (DDs).
ATF Form 4 is filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee to transfer to an individual or other entity (non-licensee). So if you are not a dealer, and you have purchased a machine gun, a short-barreled weapon, silencer, etc. ATF Form 4 gets filled out and you need to pay $200 to get your tax stamp.
Being one of the frequently used ATF forms, form 4 has recently received the electronic treatment, i.e. its electronic version has been made available on the new ATF eForm system, ready to be eFiled and submit fingerprint electronically. The electronic version of eForm 4 was introduced in December 2021 and before that ATF Form 4 submissions had been taking place all manually, i.e. sending hand-filled forms to the ATF. Before the eFiling process, form 4 was to be processed with all manual paper-based formalities and fingerprints were to be captured using FD-258 fingerprint cards. Then you would submit that paperwork to the ATF.
However, since the inception of the new eForm 4 – eFiling process, you can do everything digitally. You can file with the eForm system and it gets submitted to the FBI for the background check. And then all you have to do is send in your fingerprints to them and then everything is sent back to you electronically.
Before the newly launched eForm system, eForm 4 processing time used to be about six to nine months, however, this is expected to reduce significantly with the new system. ATF wants to have a form for transfer times down to 90 days by the end of 2023, and eventually, they want to have transfer times down to 30 days.
ATF eForm 5/Form 5 – Application for Tax-Exempt Transfer of Firearms and Registration of Firearm
An ATF Form 5 is filed by a current registrant when a firearm is being transferred to or from a government entity. Any person seeking to transfer a firearm exempt from payment of tax must apply through Form 5. A separate form should be filled out for each firearm to be transferred.
- The firearm is unserviceable, i.e. the firearms that cannot discharge a shot with the explosive mechanism (as takes place with bullets) and cannot be restored to do so.
- The firearm is being transferred to or from the United States, or any department, independent establishment, or agency thereof.
- It is being transferred to or from any state or possession of the United States or any of its political subdivision, or any official police organization of such government entity.
- Or it is being transferred to a beneficiary of an estate.
To summarize, Form 5 is used to apply the tax-exempt transfer of an unserviceable (welded) firearm to anyone other than a federal firearms licensee who has paid the required special (Occupational) tax to deal in National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms and to or from government agencies.
ATF Form 5 is processed by the NFA division and the current wait time is 2 months when you apply with a paper form. However, if you apply with the electronic version of Form 5, the wait time will be reduced to 10 days, according to the ATF.
ATF eForm 9/Form 9 – Application and Permit for Permanent Exportation of Firearms
ATF Form 9, aka “Application and Permit for Permanent Exportation of Firearms” is filed by a qualified federal firearms licensee for the exportation of NFA firearms. This form is also used to request an exemption from transfer tax and permission to export firearms as regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA).
The currently available and effective version of ATF Form 9 was released by the ATF on June 1, 2021. NFA firearm exporters need to keep in mind that they need have an export license in order to be able to export firearms as issued by the Department of State or Commerce. However, in case no license is required for the export to take place, exporters need to attach a statement to that effect.
An applicant can also transfer the firearm tax-free to another person who will export the firearm. In that case, the exporter (i.e. the applicant) must submit the documentation along with ATF Form 9 that the transfer is a part of the exportation process.
ATF urges applicants to complete Form 9 using a typewriter or pen and ink. Applicants should avoid using a pencil to fill the form as it will turn the form unacceptable. The applicant should put his/her signature in ink on all four copies as a photostatic, carbon copy or facsimile signatures are not accepted. ATF Form 9 is available in a fillable format on the ATF website and can be downloaded and printed from that website.
ATF Form 9 is also available to eFile electronically via ATF’s eForms system by a person who registers and is qualified to do so. When your “Application and Permit for Permanent Exportation of Firearms” is approved, it means you are allowed to export firearms described in the application.
ATF Form 9 wait time may vary from 10 days to 1 month, depending on how you file the application. In manual paper-based submission, wait time is 1 month while electronic filing will cut the time by 1/3rd, resulting in 10 days processing time. Form 9 is one of the ATF applications that have the fastest processing time. Please note that when you submit manually via mail, your 1 month wait time starts from the moment ATF receives and starts processing your application.
ATF eForm 10/Form 10 – Application for Registration of Firearms Acquired by Certain Governmental Entities
ATF Form 10 is filed by state or local government agencies to register unregistered NFA firearms they acquire and want to use for official purposes. This form is used to properly identify the registrant and the firearms to be registered. The form, when approved, registers the firearm to the law enforcement agency.
The furnishing of this information is mandatory as per 26 U.S.C. 5853a. Only one firearm can be enlisted when filling this form, so if you want to register multiple firearms, you can use an attachment listing, and note the serial number field to reflect the attachment.
If a firearm is registered to the person from whom you obtained it, that person may submit ATF Form 5 for the tax-exempt transfer of the firearm to you, in lieu of your submission of ATF Form 10. If the transfer is approved, the restriction on further transfer of the firearm which applies to firearms registered on ATF Form 10 would not apply.
Law provides that government agencies such as law enforcement or similar governmental entity engaged in criminal investigations which acquires firearms for official use can register such firearm with the Director by filing ATF Form 10, i.e. “Application for Registration of Firearms Acquired by Certain Governmental Entities”.
ATF Form 10 wait time may vary from 10 days to 1 month, depending on how you file the application. In manual paper-based submission, the wait time is 1 month while electronic filing will cut short the wait time to 10 days. Form 10 is also one of the ATF applications that have the fastest processing time. Please note that when you submit manually i.e. send your application via mail, your 1 month wait time starts from the point ATF receives and starts processing your application.
ATF eForm 6/Form 6 (for imports) – Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition, and Defense Articles
As the title of the form suggests, ATF Form 6 is filed in order to request permission to import a firearm, ammunition, or defense article. This form is also known as ATF Form 5330.3A.To obtain approval of submitted applications, the items to be imported must be correctly and completely identified on this form. Only FFLs are allowed to import firearms in the United States, it cannot be done by any individual or organization without a valid Federal Firearms license.
However ATF Form 6 can not be used, as per the National Firearm Act (NFA), firearms as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845, which include such firearms as machineguns, machinegun receivers, silencers, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, destructive devices, smoothbore pistols, and certain other firearms (including certain unserviceable weapons) as they are restricted for importation. You may also not be allowed to import firearms from certain countries, the list of countries, from which importation of firearms is not allowed, can be found on the ATF website.
ATF Form 6 can also be used in importing new or uncommon firearms. In case of such new or uncommon firearms, photographs and drawings of all markings should be submitted with the permit. It is strongly recommended that persons wishing to import firearms, ammunition, and defense articles first determine if the items are importable and then obtain an approved ATF Form 6 before acquiring the items abroad or attempting to bring them into the United States.
ATF Form 6 wait time may vary from 13 days to 6 weeks, depending on how you file the application. In manual paper-based submission, wait time can be as long as 6 weeks while electronic filing will cut short the wait time to 13 days. Please note that when you submit manually i.e. send your application via mail, your 1 month wait time starts from the point ATF receives and starts processing your application.
ATF eForm 6/Form 6A (for imports) – Release and Receipt of Imported Firearms, Ammunition, and Defense Articles
ATF Form 6A is filed by a federally licensed importer subsequent to an approved Form 6 permit and presentation to CBP for the release and verification of the release of the items (such as firearms, firearms parts, ammunition, and other defense articles from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s custody.
When you get ATF Form 6 approval, which is basically a permit for the import of firearms, ammunition, and defense articles, you also get two blank ATF Form 6As along with your permit. For each incoming shipment, the importer is required to fully complete Section I of the ATF Form 6A.
In addition to the ATF Forms 6 and 6A to obtain the release of firearms, firearms parts, or ammunition, you must also present to CBP officials a copy of the export license authorizing the export of the articles from the country of export. If the exporting country does not require the issuance of an export license, you instead must present a certification, signed under penalties of perjury, attesting to that effect.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency may conduct a physical examination in order to ensure that the imported items match with the description provided in the approved Form 6 and completed Form 6A.
Section 478.129(d) requires licensed importers to maintain permanent records of the importation or other acquisition of firearms, including Forms 6 or 6A. To satisfy this requirement, in view of the current instructions to prepare the Form 6A in duplicate, ATF recommends that importers either retain a photocopy of the second Form 6A in their records or prepare the Form 6A in triplicate and retain the third copy in their records.
Importers of NFA firearms must complete ATF Form 6A in duplicate, with Section 1 completed, presenting the original copy to CBP at the time of release; complete Section III of the duplicate copy and send it to ATF within 15 days of release from CBP custody.
ATF eForm 5500.11/Form 5300.11 (AFMER) – Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report under 18 U.S.C Chapter 44, Firearms
Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report (AFMER aka ATF Form 5300.11) must be submitted annually for all Type 07 (manufacturer of firearms), and Type 10 (manufacturer of destructive devices) Federal Firearms Licenses. The ATF requires the AFMER form to be filled out even if no firearms were exported or distributed into commerce. AFMER form is supposed to be submitted by April 1st each year.
According to the ATF “distributed into commerce” means – “A purchase or sale, business deal or transaction, within or between any of the following: a State of the United States; District of Columbia; U.S. Territory or possession.”
Separate frames or receivers, actions or barreled actions, are considered firearms and are to be included in this report when they are exported or distributed into commerce to someone other than a licensed manufacturer. Enter “0” (zero) in each category in which NO firearms were exported or sold/distributed into commerce for the reporting year. GCA to NFA conversions on previously owned firearms should also be reported.
The AFMER is intended for manufacturers to report only the number of firearms distributed into commerce or exported during the reported calendar year regardless of when they were manufactured; not the total number of firearms you manufactured. It is important to understand that AFMER is not a tax form – it is used for statistical purposes.
- Manufacturers are only required to report firearms distributed into commerce or exported, which means if the firearms have been manufactured but are still in your possession, you do not have to report them.
- Firearms are distributed to other licensed FFLs (such as FFL Type 07 or Type 10) for further manufacturing (including if you are contracted by another manufacturer by approved marking variance, and after completion return the firearm back to the original manufacturer). Those firearms will be reported by the Type 07 or Type 10 FFL who finally distributes the firearms into commerce, or exports them.
- Firearms are received solely for the purpose of the manufacturer to act as a Dealer, thus only receiving for purposes of transferring. Those firearms should be reported by the type 07 or Type 10 FFL who distributes the firearms to the Dealer;
- Firearms remanufactured or customized that were previously in the possession of a non-manufacturer.
- Firearms incorporating frames or receivers of foreign manufacture.
- Firearms produced solely for the official use of the Armed Forces of the United States.
- Destructive devices as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(4) and 26 U.S.C. § 5845(f).
- Antique firearms as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a)(16).
- Firearms were exported temporarily under an approved DSP-73 application.
You can file AFMER using the paper form as well as using ATF eForms. It is also possible to make corrections to an already submitted AFMER if there was an error, however, there is no ability to eFile an amended AFMER using the eForms system and you will have to submit a paper copy of the revised AFMER form. On the revised submission, you need to mention “AMENDED” on the top of the form and mail it to the ATF.
Since ATF does not provide a receipt for paper-based submissions, what you can do is send it with a certified return receipt, so when someone receives your mail at ATF, they will sign the return receipt and you have proof that you submitted amended AFMER in case you need it at some point in the future.
Applications or submissions made to ATF for different purposes such as licensure, approvals, reporting, etc. require a lot of paperwork and filling information, which is not only cumbersome but also prone to errors when done using paper forms.
That is not all when it comes to ATF-related applications; paper forms have a bad reputation in terms of turnaround time. Most submissions will take more than a month when done using paper forms. The good news is most frequently used ATF forms have their electronic versions available on the ATF eForm systems (including the eForm 4), and they are only a few clicks away.
eForms offer faster submissions, speed, higher accuracy, editing ability, and above all, shorter turnaround times. ATF too encourages eForms because of all these factors and is hard at work to improve the system. The revamp of ATF’s new eForm system is the most recent example, of how ATF is pushing eForms to make them more efficient, easy, and accessible. It is not only the consumers or the businesses that benefit from ATF eFiling, but the ATF itself can serve its users better with electronic submissions.