The Ultimate Guide To The ATF Form 4

Atf form 4 FFL123

If you’ve wanted to know all about the ATF Form 4, you’ve come to the right place. The ATF Form 4 or “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm” is an ATF form for handling the registration and transfer of NFA items under certain circumstances.

If you are filling out the ATF Form 4, it means you are purchasing an already made NFA item like a silencer, SBR or AOW. In fact any NFA registered item can be, and has to be transferred on an ATF Form 4 if it is being transferred to anyone but a dealer or government agency as part of a retail transaction.

This isn’t the same as using an ATF Form 1, which is for making an NFA item, and is commonly done for personal use. So let’s take a closer look at the Form 4, what you can and can’t do with it, when you should use it, and why we are stuck with it.

Filling out your ATF Form 4 

Let’s assume you’ve found that perfect silencer. Or maybe you live in a state where pre May 1986 machine guns are transferable. Or heck, you found that perfect WWI field artillery piece with an intact breechblock,and are ready to buy. Whatever the reason, you are ready to enter the strange and arcane world of buying NFA items.

Like all government forms the ATF Form 4 is an exercise in sterile, non intuitive paperwork. Rumor is that it was written by a disgruntled Federal employee who enjoyed watching people be miserable. Either way, you’ll need to provide some basic information on this form.

First off, you’ll be indicating if you are paying the $5 tax for Any Other Weapons (AOW’s) like certain kinds of short pistol grip shotguns or the like, or the more painful $200 tax for everything else, including that WWI cannon you’ve convinced your wife will look nice in the front yard surrounded by poppies.

Next is pretty rote; put down your name (or the name of your trust, corporation or the like), if transferring from an estate, the descendant’s name, address and date of death (although there are easier ways to deal with NFA transfers from estates) and then provide information about the person you are buying the NFA item from, as well as information about the NFA item. You’ll then have to answer a series of questions much like on a regular 4473 that you’d use on any gun purchase, provide fingerprint and other identifying information, and then hurry up and wait for the ATF to get around to begrudgingly accepting your civil rights.

Broadly speaking then, you’ll do all this to fill out an ATF Form 4:

  • Choose the correct tax to be paid ($5 for AOW, $200 for everything else).
  • Provide your name or the name of your trust or corporation and address.
  • If transferring from an estate, information about the descendant.
  • Answer qualifying questions.
  • Provide identifying information including your fingerprints.
  • Provide information about the person or FFL you are buying the NFA item from.
  • Provide information about the NFA item (what it is, serial number, etc…)
  • Wait for your tax stamp to be approved (up to 1 year).

Pretty exciting stuff huh?

What Can I Do (Or Not Do) With an ATF Form 4?

 As we mentioned, the ATF Form 4 is for retail or similar transfers of NFA items.

Here is what you can’t do with a Form 4, and then we can talk about when to use it.

  • You can’t make a new NFA item with a Form 4.
  • You can’t export an NFA item with a Form 4.
  • You can’t import an NFA item with a Form 4.
  • You can’t use a Form 4 to transfer from FFL to FFL.

There are a few other oddball things you can’t do with a Form 4, but those are the important highlights.

So just what can you do with an ATF Form 4?

Well, you can buy an NFA item that has been already built. So again, if you plan to turn your AR pistol into a SBR, you can’t use a Form 4. But if you found the SBR of your dreams in a local gun shop, then you use a Form 4.

If somebody is selling an NFA item, then you take it to your friendly local FFL with an appropriate SOT  and fill out a Form 4. In other words, you are always using an ATF Form 4 to buy an NFA item from a dealer or private party. The ATF has dreamed up every possible scenario for NFA transfers, ranging from dealer to dealer, to law enforcement officer to dealer and anything else you might think of. And they churned out a form and procedure for each and every one of them.

The Form 4 is your “I’m buying an NFA item today from a dealer or another person” form and that’s it. Nothing more, and nothing less.

So Why The ATF Form 4?

Because long, long ago back in 1934, the government decided safety devices like silencers, rarely used weapons like machine guns, and handguns and things that could substitute for handguns were terrible, scary and only suitable for use in crime (or by government agents, but isn’t that really the same thing most of the time?) And while handguns were dropped by the NFA, we are stuck with a registration and regulation scheme that is quite literally racist in origin.

And while we aren’t freaking out about swarthy European immigrants with Tommy guns and Hollywood quiet suppressed pistols, the legal framework of the NFA still forces us to deal with all manner of perfectly normal and useful firearms and devices like silencers in a way that would make our Founding Fathers cringe.

Form 4 exists to facilitate most common NFA transfers between people and an FFL to an individual and for better or worse, we are stuck with it for the long haul.

eFile Form 4?

Sadly, the ATF seems incapable of making the Form 4 useable with their eFile program. What would be a simple process for anyone in private industry has been dragging out for ages with the ATF. It’s almost as if they are an agency with no accountability or reason to improve their performance or something. Hopefully they won’t come and shoot our dog now.

Form 4 Tips and Tricks

NFA wait times are a terrible burden, and lead to some unprintable words and thoughts at times. However, there are ways to make the Form 4 process a bit less burdensome.

  • Do file as a trust. Trusts are processed faster by the ATF. Why, nobody knows. Probably has to do with space aliens or something. Use a trust if you’ve got one. If you don’t, you should get one anyway.
  • Do fill out your form clearly and make sure you made no errors. The ATF goblins don’t like errors and it sends them into a screaming rage, after which they’ll send your Form 4 back smelling like sulfur and brimstone. Then you have to fix the errors and wait longer to get your NFA item.
  • Do be patient. With wait times of around one year for NFA transfers, after you file a Form 4, take up another hobby. Like watching paint dry or the grass grow. It’s that exciting.

Honestly, the most important thing is a clearly and correctly filled out Form 4 in the name of a trust. Many dealers electronically prefill their Form 4’s and print them out using software that ensures an absolutely error free Form 4. If you have to fill out by hand, follow the instructions at the end of the Form 4 carefully and if needful, check with you FFL on how to best fill out the form.

If you are looking at a Form 4 right now or planning too soon, congratulations on your NFA item purchase, and we hope you’ll enjoy it for many yeas to come!

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