An Overview of ATF Form Types
Confused about the different types of ATF forms? This quick overview will help you understand each form at a glance. If you want to learn more about any of these forms, be sure to read our in-depth guides covering ATF Form 1, ATF Form 3, and ATF Form 4.
Choosing the Right ATF Form
Before we dive in, let’s get practical. It’s actually pretty simple to choose the right ATF form. Here are a few rules of thumb to help you remember which form to use in various situations:
Use ATF Form 1 if you want to make your own NFA item.
Use ATF Form 3 if you’re an FFL dealer transferring your NFA item to another FFL or government agency.
Use ATF Form 4 if you’re a private citizen taking ownership of an NFA item in the form of an individual registration, gun trust, or corporation.
ATF Form 1: Application to Make and Register a Firearm
ATF Form 1 is for making and registering an NFA item. These are typically used by private citizens who wish to make their own NFA items. They are increasingly popular and thanks to modular firearms designs like the AR-15, access to inexpensive computer-controlled machining tools, and various types of parts kits, a person can make a short barrel rifle or even a silencer in fairly short order.
Hobbyist machinists love the ATF Form 1, as they’re comfortable with cutting down barrels or machining silencer baffles and can enjoy their hobby to the fullest by making their own NFA items.
The fact that ATF Form 1’s process in just a few weeks when e-filed as a trust makes the entire process more appealing. Currently, this is the fastest way to get an NFA item. However, the Form 1 does have some tradeoffs. It’s one thing to simply put an AR-15 pistol upper on a registered lower and make an SBR, but few homemade silencers are as effective as commercial ones, and many of the kits and parts are of questionable legality.
But for many people, using ATF Form 1 is a fast way to the SBR, SBS, silencer or destructive device they want now.
ATF Form 3: Application for Dealer-to-Dealer Transfers
ATF Form 3 is a pretty boring form to most people. It’s for tax-exempt transfers of NFA items from one FFL dealer to another or from an FFL dealer to a government agency.
When having an NFA item shipped to you, the ATF Form 3 can add to the wait time, but when filed electronically it takes less than a week. Paper form 3’s, on the other hand, take about six months to process!
ATF Form 3 must be approved before an NFA item can be shipped to another FFL, so if the shipping FFL isn’t on the ball, their buyer can be unfairly delayed. If you’re an FFL holder dealing in NFA items, e-file your Form 3’s as quickly as you can!
ATF Form 4: Application for Dealer-to-End User Transfers
ATF Form 4 is where your wallet has to suffer the cost of a $200 federal tax stamp (or only $5 when transferring an Any Other Weapon) for that silencer, SBS or short barrel rifle. Your dealer will have you fill this out and you’ll need to provide fingerprints, your name and address, and information about your gun trust or corporation if you aren’t registering as an individual.
Most people choose to put their NFA items in the name of an NFA gun trust to simplify estate planning and allow close family and friends access to their NFA items.
Every owner of an NFA item will use ATF Form 4 at some point in the purchase or transfer process unless they made their own item using Form 1.