Hey, what’s an NFA item?

It’s an item covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934. These include any select fire firearm (think burst fire or full auto, like a machine gun), suppressors/silencers, shotguns with short barrels (less than the legal limit), destructive devices (grenades are one example), ‘any other weapon’ (which is a diary all by itself) and rifles with short barrels. I might be missing one or two, but I’m not going talk about most of these, so don’t considered this an exhaustive list.

Let’s talk about suppressors/silencers instead. I use the terms interchangeable since Maxim invented the things and he used silencer. Today, it seems the preferred term is suppressors.

First, think of Europe. They’re extremely lax when it comes to firearm laws, right?


Strangely enough, silencers are usually less regulated over there than they currently are here. Finland, for example, just requires that you have a firearm ownership permit. Norway, they can be purchased by anyone. Yes, there are certain countries where they are outright banned. These are the minority. According to a couple of friends (one LEO who took training from HK), shooting without a silencer in certain circles is like wearing a tux t-shirt to a wedding. *Uncouth* fits well.

So, what do you need to do in the US to buy a muffler for your firearm? Well, let’s start at the beginning and I also want to point out that you shouldn’t follow my directions all by themselves. Find a knowledgeable class III FFL who has done this before. They’re pretty good at filling this stuff out and getting it done correctly.

First buy the silencer.

Wait, what?

Yeah, that’s kinda weird. Yes, you buy the silencer. Or you trade something for it. I found a III FFL with the suppressor I wanted and ended up trading him some firearms, ammo, and miscellaneous other stuff for the suppressor and a bunch of cash.

Once you buy the silencer, the fun begins. You see, you own that suppressor but you don’t get to take it home with you. It sits on the shelf in the dealer’s safe until your tax stamp comes in.

What’s a tax stamp?

We’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, there’s a bunch of paper to fill out. Here’s one piece, right here. That’s the Form 4, straight from the BATFE website. Don’t use it though; your dealer should have a paper copy that you’ll use instead. Incidentally, there’s also an open letter from the BATFE that should help ya out if you’re looking to purchase something that requires a form 4.

So, you fill out a bunch of identifying information and affix a passport photo to the form. If memory serves, you do this twice actually. (I filled out my forms and sent them in months ago.)

So, the paperwork is done. Maybe. Go get a check for $200 and make it out to BATFE. This is the tax stamp that you NEED to own an NFA item (AOWs are a bit different; $5). Give everything to your dealer and have him check it over. Once he’s checked it over and filled out everything he needs to, he’ll mail it in.

And then the wait begins.

After calling the number the BATFE give out for form 4 status updates, I was told it takes two months from the date of the check being cashed for the forms to go pending. Two months doesn’t sound bad right? Pending means they’re almost there!

Not really. There’s a 9 month wait time from the time it goes pending until the time you get your stamp. IF everything’s done correctly. If there’s an error, expect more time. That’s *11 months* for those who are currently keeping track. When you get your tax stamp, you can pick up your suppressor from the dealer.

Read the owner manual. Bring it to the range. Enjoy the sounds of quiet (think .22LR with a can) or the sounds of NOT AS LOUD if you’re suppressing a .50BMG or a .44 Mag or any centerfire rifle round really.

Ok, so what’s the draw of a suppressor? I muffle my Jeep. It’s not loud. I have baffles on the motorcycle to keep the noise down. Spending a day on the range (ya know, to keep up my proficiency so I hit what I’m aiming for) can be very wearing, even with quality ear plugs. I purchased a set of custom molded earplugs that are touted at -29db reduction. It still gets to you.

I could spend a lot more time and energy describing the differences in how the movies portray silencers versus how they actually sound or the prevailing viewpoint here in the US that they are assassin tools! But this seems good for now.

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