What is an FFL Transfer? [2021]

What is an FFL Transfer?

If you’ve ever thought about buying a gun from an online sales site, or live in a state where private party sales are prohibited, you’ve probably wondered how to transfer a gun that isn’t already owned by a gunshop. Well the process is actually pretty simple, and is known most commonly as an FFL transfer, or just in “a transfer.”

However, knowing what it is called and how to do it are two different things. How do you do an FFL transfer? How do you know what FFL is best transfer with? What are the procedures for an FFL transfer? Well, we’ll walk you through all that so you can be ready when you want to buy a gun out of state, or from a private party in your state.

What is an FFL Transfer?

Generally, Federal law allows for private parties to engage in non commercial gun sales to other private parties in their own state. This means if you have a gun sitting around you don’t want anymore, you usually can just sell it to another person face to face as long as that person isn’t prohibited from owning a gun.

Some states have laws that prevent that, and you can’t sell guns across state lines without using a dealer, or a handgun to an out of state resident. Sometimes there are other limitations, but these are the broad aspects of it.

But if you bought a gun from an online source, or out of state, or your state doesn’t allow private sales, you need to do an FFL transfer. This means getting an FFL dealer to run a background check on you, and any other state requirements just like if they were the ones selling you the gun in the first place.

How Do You Do an FFL Transfer?

So you’ve bought that gun. Great! But you need to transfer it. What’s next?

Well you’ll need to find an FFL Dealer close to you. If you are a regular at a favorite gun store, you are halfway there. You might want to call around your area and ask who has the lowest price for a transfer. Usually they run about $20-30, but higher prices are not unheard of, and multiple guns may come with different price structures.

If you are doing a local private party transfer, you can usually just walk in during business hours, unless the store advertises otherwise. But if you are getting a gun shipped to you, you’ll need to do a few different things both out of good manners and to make things easier all around.

What Are the Procedures For an FFL Transfer?

When having a gun sent to an FFL for transfer DO the following:

  • Arrange it with the FFL ahead of time. Nobody likes a mysterious gun showing up unexpectedly to their store.
  • Get a copy of their FFL to send to the person you are buying from. If a private party, they usually don’t need to see it. If a dealer, they’ll need to see a copy. Often your FFL dealer can fax or email that to the other party.
  • Wait for the gun to show up AND for the FFL dealer to log it into their inventory. This might take a couple days depending on how busy they are.
  • Come in when your FFL dealer is ready for you and do the background check paperwork like you would any other gun purchase.
  • Pay the transfer fee and any applicable state fees or taxes.

Pretty simple isn’t it?

What About NFA Items?

If you are buying a silencer, short barrel rifle or shotgun, or other NFA item, you’ll need to usually transfer through an FFL licensed to handle NFA items. However, if you buy a silencer from Silencer Central it is possible to have that silencer mailed directly to after all Federal registration paperwork is approved. Most other silencer purchases from other dealers will still require an FFL to handle transfers.

Transferring NFA items is trickier because of the extra levels of Federal paperwork involved not only on your end but with the dealers. Talk to your favorite Class 03 dealer to find out what they’ll need from you for the type of gun or item you are transferring. Recent ATF regulations have streamlined this process though, so it’s faster than ever.

FFL Transfers For Online Orders

A lot of guns are now sold online. Of course it is illegal to send those guns directly to consumers in most cases. (There are exceptions for in state person to person sales where legal, and certain antique or black powder guns in most states.)

That means if you buy a gun online through a distributor or a dealer or even from another person you need to arrange an FFL transfer.

Auction sites like http://www.gunbroker.com/ will help connect you with a local FFL who can receive your purchase. Or of course if you have a favorite local FFL, just talk to them. If you are buying a brand new gun, some distributors will ship directly to a local FFL of your choice.

If you are doing an FFL transfer for an online order, be sure to coordinate it with the receiving FFL before arranging shipping. Nobody likes an unexpected gun showing up, and it will simplify the whole process for you and your FFL.

FFL Transfer Fees

One thing that factors into an FFL transfer is the FFL transfer fees. This of course is the fee the FFL charges to cover their time, paperwork and labor. It can be an important part of some FFL’s revenue flow, especially since every transfer represents a lost gun sale and corresponding profit.

With that in mind, FFL’s take different approaches to FFL transfer fees. Some don’t handle transfers at all, others charge fees based on market demand, what competitors charge, or what they feel their cost of handling a transfer is.

Customers of course want the cheapest FFL transfer fees, but cheapest is often somewhat subjective.

What is a Cheap FFL Transfer?

For some people looking for an FFL transfer, a cheap FFL transfer is simply one based on the lowest possible price point. And that is usually a good way to judge it. Some FFL’s may charge as little as $20 for a fairly painless and smooth transfer of a gun purchased online. But not all gun transfers are painless and smooth, and that means transfers take longer and cost more FFL time.

Some states burden gun buyers with additional paperwork. NFA purchases are always burdensome and take extreme amounts of time. All this is factored into what an FFL must charge for a transfer. So a cheap transfer is also one that covers all the hassle an FFL has to go through. That’s why guns that come with extra state paperwork (usually handguns and in some places certain or even all semiautomatic rifles) may have. That means an FFL transfer for some guns can cost more than others.

A cheap FFL transfer really is the lowest price an FFL can offer a transfer without expecting to lose money in the long run on their labor. That’s why they can vary so much, even in the same area.

Cheapest FFL Transfer Fees

If you want to find (or if you are an FFL to offer) the cheapest FFL transfer fees, you have to put in some effort.

For some FFL’s, transfers are a way to get people into their store where they will hopefully buy other stuff. That means the transfer fees are quite low, but there may be some high pressure sales tactics involved with the transfer.

Here’s how to find the cheapest FFL transfer fees:

  • Shop around. Call local FFL’s and check their websites.
  • Choose a simple transfer. Some FFL’s partner with major distributors to arrange the shipment of a new gun directly to them as part of an affiliate sales program. In such cases you might not even have to pay a transfer fee, as it is all baked into the original purchase price. Expect that if you are buying a gun that requires extra paperwork to pay a higher transfer fee.
  • Transfer on slow business days. Every FFL has a “slow time” during the week. They often will encourage transfers on those days.

Finding the cheapest FFL transfer fee isn’t a real mystery, but it can take some doing!

Myths About FFL Transfers

FFL transfers can be confusing because of a strange mix of anti-gun propaganda and media misinformation about how to buy and acquire guns from an FFL.

FFL transfers are an important part of the gun sales process. There are limited exceptions, but for the most part, you simply can’t legally buy a gun online without having an FFL involved.

An FFL transfer is not a “gun registration.” Outside of NFA weapons, the US government does not register firearms. If you live in a state that requires registration of firearms, this would have to happen regardless of performing an FFL transfer. In other words, an ATF form 4473 is not a registration document.

Another common myth about FFL transfers is that they are not profitable for the FFL. This isn’t true! Many small home based FFL’s derive a major part of their income from FFL transfers. They are also a great time to sell accessories and ammo, which can turn a $25 transaction into a much larger one!


An FFL transfer is pretty easy if you do a few simple things first. Find an FFL you want to do business with, arrange with them ahead of time to have the gun shipped to them, or for private sales, come in during their advertised hours for handling that kind of work. Pay a modest fee for the FFL dealer’s time and labor, and do the background check just like any other gun purchase.

If you are an FFL dealer, you’ll find transfers are a nice source of extra income that don’t require you keep and purchase inventory. In fact many small and home based FFL’s make a large part of their income just doing transfers. FFL123 can help you enter that business and get you the perfect FFL for your needs.

  1. Guest

    Does ATF dictate that the gun has to be shipped to your FFL address when doing a transfer? My business is small and part time so no one is home to sign for shipments during the day can I have them sent to my work address where I am available? I’ve gotten some opposing answers on this question. The transaction will still take place at my FFL address I just want to receipt the gun at a different location.

  2. Guest

    I need to ship a pistol to an FFL in Texas because I am selling the pistol to a friend there. I live in MN. Does MN require I ship through a MN-based FFL, or can I ship to a TX-based FFL myself? This can be bewildering!

  3. Guest

    I would like to give by Beretta Silver Pidgeion shotgun to my stepson as a present who lives in another state. What is the best way to accomplish this task.

  4. Guest

    My son is currently serving on active duty in the Army in Alaska. He shipped me a shot gun to Academy Sports. I went in to the store as instructed completed all of the paperwork and paid the $40 FFL fee. I returned to the weapons section of the store and completed another form, they entered my information and told me that it could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 weeks to get the grren light for them to give me the gun. I am a Army Veteran and also a government employee. So its safe to assume that I should have passed this test with flying colors. However, that is incorrect it’s been 2 weeks and I have heard nothing from Academy. The last call I placed to them I was told that the response is still in pending. Is this normal?

  5. Guest

    I want to do transfer’s, but I work full time and can not receive shipments. My girlfriend owns a hair salon where shipments can be received. Can she sign for them, and or does she have to be on my FFL

  6. Guest

    I am a Colorado resident and I have 2 shotguns and 2 rifles with my family members in British Columbia Canada that I would like to have shipped to me here in Colorado or bring with me air cargo during a visit. How can I accomplish this? What documents would I need to fill out? Can an FFL dealer handle this transfer? Thanks.

  7. Guest

    If an FFL I had guns shipped to will not release firearms to me because I wanted to transfer/ gift a firearm to my Mother through a FFL in another state. Can I demand he send the firearms to another FFL in my state for my pickup? Learned a lesson though. Gift Certificates are no problem. This FFL thinks I will just give firearm and not use FFL in other state.

  8. Guest

    According,to the ATF my zoning (R-1) won’t allow customers in and out of my home. I can only sell online if i get an ffl. In your opinion could this be very successful?

  9. Guest

    This all was helpful. Can you clarify something. Can an FFL holder do
    transfers at a banquet or dinner, where the attendees may win or get a
    firearm by auction? I’ve been told in one instance the FFL cannot, but in
    another witnessed it being done by an FFL. So I am confused about what can be done.

  10. Guest

    Dear Sir 2 questions,
    1. Which states require FFL to FFL dealer transfers on both ends for long guns, rifles & shotguns? 2. And which states require FFL to FFL transfers on both ends for pistols? There seems to be a lot of FFLs that attempt to force a transfer from a FFL even if it is NOT required by law. I have had other FFLs in the same state that allowed the transactions. Some of the FFLs that hand wrote a note on their license stating “we only accept transfers from FFL holders”, but even those FFLs accepted a transfer from me & I am NOT an FFL holder.

    1. Author

      Federal law allow private sales within the same state, each state may vary, ie think gunshows where non-FFL holders can sell personal firearms. An FFL holder does not want to create risk for themselves on a private sell, thus smart to require a NICS check if they are involved.

  11. Guest

    How many single tranfers are we allowed per week ? Example I get a shotgun transfer on Tuesday an then on Saturday I get a pistol transfer. Is that allowed ? How many per week ?

  12. Guest

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  13. Guest

    They have various levels of “action”; select the ones that adjust much better to your guests. Bluffing is a huge component of being successful when playing poker. Stud requires more attention and card-playing prowess.

  14. Guest

    I live in MS on the AL state line and called a AL gun store (30 minutes away) about transferring handguns to a friend in their city in AL. They advised I could bring the handguns in to them in person (not shipped from MS FFL to them AL FFL) and do the paperwork and they would transfer to the new owner which I did. My question is was this process correct?

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