ATF Form 1 Guide [Updated for 2021]

ATF form 1 Guide

You’ve probably heard people talking about an ATF Form 1. But what is an ATF Form 1, what does it do, and how can you use it? Well, the short answer is that an ATF Form 1 is what you file when you want to register and make an NFA device at home. Yes! You can make your own NFA devices as long as you can own them where you live as long as you fill out some paperwork.

But as with anything that awesome, reality tends to make things a big convoluted. And of course we all know the government doesn’t operate within the realm of reality. So let’s dig in and take a closer look at the world of the ATF Form 1 and how you too can make your own NFA devices legally.

What is The ATF Form 1?

Properly speaking, the ATF Form 1 is called “Form 1 Application to Make and Register a Firearm (ATF Form 5320.1)” and it can be downloaded here.  Now this is a mouthful, even for the government, so it is more commonly called a Form 1 to differentiate it from several other variants of the 5320 form. But since we aren’t looking at them, we’ll move on.

The ATF Form 1 is what you file as a private party to make any legal to own NFA item. Note, you cannot make machine guns on a form 1 as the registry has been closed on them since 1986. You have to have an 03 SOT if you are making machine guns and the process to get that license and make machine guns is entirely different.

So basically Form 1 is what you file if you want to make your own NFA item. So let’s look at what you can make with one.

What Can I Make With an ATF Form 1?

A long time ago, most people could really only make a short barrel rifle or shotgun at home by cutting down a barrel, or perhaps make some other sorts of NFA items like some destructive devices. Form 1’s weren’t very commonly used, and life went on.

But today, with a plethora of highly modular firearms on the market, and even easy access to computerized machining tools, making your own NFA items is an easy and viable option to buying one ready made. Many guns are sold as pistols with the understanding you can Form 1 them into SBR’s, and AR-15 pistol owners already know you can swap a few parts in a couple minutes and build a semi-custom SBR.

There are a lot of so-called “solvent traps” on the market too that are readily converted into suppressors when using a Form 1, and many people choose to make silencers from common legal to purchase items as well.

There are a few very popular things to make on a Form 1 though, and these are some of them:

  • Short barrel rifles. With so many different modular firearms on the market today, making an SBR has never been eaiser.
  • Short barrel shotguns. The same thing. One can often buy ready made short barrels to install, or of course quickly cut one down to the desired length.
  • Destructive Devices. This is a catchall for guns with bores over half an inch that never had a shoulder stock and a few other things. It can include some kinds of pistol grip shotguns with short barrels, or even things like cannons, grenade launchers or even explosive munitions.
  • Another very popular item to make on an ATF Form 1 are silencers. Because a great many “do it yourself” kits that skirt the limits of legality exist if you have a steady hand with a drillpress, or even a home CNC machine you too can quickly make a silencer at home. Many other people choose to build one from scratch. Of course we’d prefer you popped over to Silencer Central and bought a silencer there, but it’s good to know there are choices if you want to make one yourself!

The point is, as long as it is an NFA item you can legally own in your state, be it an SBR or a hand grenade, you can make it with a Form 1. Now let’s look at how you file your Form 1 and what it costs.

Filing an ATF Form 1 eFile vs Mail In

Let’s say you’ve decided to make that AR-15 SBR you’ve always wanted. You just need the tax stamp, so you get a Form 1 and start filling it out. There are several choices you have to make here first. One is if you are filing as an individual, corporation or trust. We’ll talk about that next because it is important. The next one is if you are filing electronically or the old fashioned by mail way.

Right now, the fastest way to process an ATF Form 1 is electronically as a trust. Right now, Form 1’s filed electronically as a trust take about 1 month to process. Sometimes it can be even faster. That’s darn near instant in the world of NFA items.

Form 1 wait times can be as few as a couple weeks in rare cases when filed electronically as a trust. Most Form 1 wait times are about 30 days, again when filed electronically. But these times can vary wildly depending on how efficient the ATF is.

Paper filing can take much longer, and is rarely done these days. Using the ATF eForms is simply the best, fastest and easiest way to go.

Trust vs Individual Filing

NFA gun trusts are wildly popular. They make it easy to add family, friends and business associates to an NFA item’s paperwork and permits those people to possess the item without your presence. Think of it as a form of co-ownership, except you control who is on (or taken off) the trust. It is also an invaluable tool for estate planning, as it makes transferring NFA items to your heirs insanely easy.

Registering as an individual is rarely done these days as it is the most inflexible option, and unless you absolutely refuse to take the minor effort to get an NFA gun trust, there is no reason to file as an individual.

Can I Use ATF Form 1 To Make A Machine Gun?

Full auto guns, or machine guns are sort of the holy grail of private firearms ownership. Unfortunately, no new full auto guns have been available for private registration since 1986.

That still leaves people wondering if they can somehow make and register a new machine gun using an ATF form 1. Sadly, the answer is a flat out no. Period. Full stop. There is no way for a private individual to make and register a new machine gun for private ownership. Sad, but true.

However, there is a way to make and buy machine guns without the hassle of private ownership!

With an 07 manufacturing FFL and 02 or 03 SOT  you can legally build machine guns or purchase post 1986 machine guns without a law enforcement demo letter! That’s right, there is still a way to acquire and manufacture machine guns fully within the bounds of the law.

There are of course some issues that come with this. You can only possess these machine guns as long as you maintain your FFL and SOT. You cannot build them for personal use, and you have to be actively engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms. However, that covers an awful lot of ground. You can build machine guns for demo, rental, experimentation, or any other legal commercial use when you have the right FFL and SOT. And it is perfectly acceptable for you to enjoy yourself and what you build or buy in the process. Just make sure that you are placing commercial profit first and personal fun a distant second.

NFA Form 1 Price

You’ve probably wondered how much it costs to file an NFA Form 1. After all, when purchasing NFA items, there are two tax stamp prices.

  • Any Other Weapons or AOW’s have a simple $5 tax stamp when purchasing.
  • All other NFA items like silencers, short barrel rifles or shotguns, etc… have a $200 tax stamp when purchasing.

So it only seems logical that the Form 1 price for an AOW would also be $5, right? Sadly that is not the case. No matter what you are making, you have to pay a $200 tax to the ATF. That seems pretty unfair, since AOW’s transfer on a $5 tax normally, but there is a dark and slightly evil past at play here.

You see, the NFA was all about regulating guns thought “undesirable” and by undesirable, we mean guns used by unpopular immigrant and minority groups. Originally handguns were going to be subject to the NFA but they got pulled out at the last minute. AOW’s though, were seen as “less dangerous” than other classes of newly regulated guns. A $200 tax stamp was prohibitive to most Americans at the time, while $5 for a AOW was somewhat more attainable. But that was for manufactured guns.

If you actually had the audacity to want to MAKE a gun under the purview of the NFA, the Feds wanted their $200 no matter what. So even today, almost 100 years later, we still are stuck with a convoluted system that sets the same NFA Form 1 price for any gun you want to make, even AOW’s. Fortunately, $200 doesn’t represent a large portion of a working person’s annual income anymore, so this is more of an inconvenience than a serious burden.

ATF Form 1 Filing Cost

The cost to file an ATF Form 1 is always $200 per gun or device, regardless of what it is. You can pay with check, money order or credit/debit card. Naturally plastic processes faster than a personal check.

$200 might seem steep, but that is the tax you’d have to pay on any NFA item other than AOW. For some reason they transfer with a $5 tax, but still have the $200 making tax. On the other hand, getting approval in a month instead of nearly a year is worth $195 isn’t it?

Alternatives to the ATF Form 1

Are there alternatives to using the Form 1 to make an NFA item? Well sure. Of course you don’t want to do anything illegal, but Form 1’s are expensive and irritating to file.

One of the easiest ways around filing a Form 1 for many popular firearm concepts is to build a gun in a way that legally does not require registration. For many people, there is little reason to SBR an AR-15 when a pistol equipped with various legal accessories offers identical to nearly identical performance. The proliferation of guns like the Mossberg Shockwave which give you a 14” pistol grip shotgun without any sort of NFA paperwork have made filing a Form 1 for many shotguns pointless.

In fact there are all manner of faux SBR and SBS rifles built under the guidelines of the NFA which permit all  manner of short barrel configurations as long as the weapon falls within the guidelines for a “firearm.” These are popular ways to avoid filing an ATF Form 1.

Unfortunately there are no legal workarounds for silencers, so if you want to make your own you have to Form 1 it no matter what.

How To Make Your Own Silencers, SBR’s, and Even Machine Guns When You Want!

We’ve learned the ATF Form 1 is for making and registering an NFA device or firearm for personal use. We also know that the NFA registry has been closed to new privately owned machine guns since 1986. However, if you are a bit business minded and love NFA items, there is another path you can take…

When you get an 03 SOT and an 07 manufacturing FFL, you too can make NFA items as long as you follow ATF procedures for building them. Yes, that even means machine guns! Of course you have to be in the active business of selling these things to keep your licenses, but that’s not a big deal. The market for NFA items is huge, and even machine guns find a brisk trade with law enforcement or even as demo rentals at ranges.

Do you want to enter the exciting and lucrative world of NFA manufacturing and sales? Do you want to be able to build that cool idea you’ve always had and sell it? Do you want to make your own full-auto guns for resale, experimentation and demo? Are you ready to take that next step now, and make 2020 the year of your new NFA manufacturing business?

Then click here, and FFL123 will help you with everything from submitting your license paperwork, to industry contacts, business best practices, and support with getting your business started! What are you waiting for?

  1. Guest

    How many SBR’s can I apply for in a year? Is there a rule that limits how many I can build in a period of time?
    Thank you

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