What You Need To Know About ATF eForms in 2023
For years, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) teased us about an upcoming change that was guaranteed to shake up silencer sales: the ATF Form 4 would be moving to an online submission format. Well, that time is now – ATF Form 4 submissions became electronically available on December 23, 2021.
Previously, the Form 4 was a paper-based form that had to be snail-mailed to the ATF. Thankfully, electronic Form 4 submissions are now back and available for everyone to use.
Now that we’re more than a year into the new eForm process, we can take a look at some solid facts and figures that weren’t possible in the run-up to the launch.
WHAT IS THE NEW PIN NUMBER PROCESS AND HOW DO I SET IT UP?
The most important change that the ATF has made is the usage and creation of a PIN that will help submit your form digitally.
To create an eForms account, visit eforms.atf.gov to start the process. You will then receive your username from the ATF (they pick it, you do not) and choose a password and PIN (you pick it, they do not).
5 SIMPLE STEPS
- Fill out your personal information ( Name, E-mail, Address, and Phone Number)
- Set a security question
- Create a Password ( Must be 12 characters, a number, special character and upper/lowercase)
- Create a 4 digit pin
- Copy down the generated username at the top of the page and complete your registration!
If you already have an eForms account, you must change your password for the new updates to take effect. You can request a new password through the password reset option on the site. Once you’ve changed your password, the system will ask you to update your user profile information and create a security PIN.
For registration questions about your eForms account, please contact email@example.com. They’ve also got an FAQ section and an “Ask the Experts” help section if you have questions after your account has been created.
HOW WILL THE ELECTRONIC FORM 4 SPEED UP THE PROCESS?
The ATF’s new electronic version of the Form 4 will greatly expedite the time required to make these transfers. When a transfer applicant or dealer enters the data electronically, the data will now be transmitted digitally. This cuts out the repetitive need for data entry and validation.
Electronic Form 4 submissions should arrive at the ATF instantaneously, ready for the approval process. All of the time needed for data entry will be cut from the processing time.
HOW MUCH FASTER WILL THE ELECTRONIC FORM 4 BE?
When it comes to the government – and especially the ATF – one can never know for sure, but we do have some insight into the speed now that the system has been in place for more than a year.
At the time of launch, ATF stated that their goal was to get all electronically-filed Form 4s approved within 90 days. At first, things looked promising. One of the first eForm 4s that we submitted came back in just nine days!
Unfortunately, that kind of speed isn’t the norm. At first, ATF bumped approval times to 120 days; then 180 days; now, it currently sits at 270 days. While that may be three times longer than they initially stated, it’s still six weeks faster than the average current paper form wait of 315 days.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY CURRENT ORDER?
- If you have already started your application through the paper process, then you will need to stay on that path. It is not recommended to withdraw paper applications. Remember: you’re already in line, so why jump out and go to the back of a different one?
- ATF has stated, “any withdrawals of pending paper applications will result in a one-year delay.”
- Unless you specify otherwise, all current applications will be filed electronically.
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO FILE ELECTRONICALLY?
The paper version of the Form 4 will still be an option. If for any reason you decide you would rather submit on paper, you certainly can, and Silencer Central can still do that on your behalf as we have been doing for years.
WHAT MAKES PAPER-BASED FORM 4 TRANSFERS SO SLOW?
There are two logical answers to this question. The first is the time it takes for paperwork to make it through the mail, and with postal reliability these days, there’s no telling when your paperwork may actually arrive. Thankfully, that’s now a thing of the past!
The second reason is the amount of time devoted to data entry. When a silencer dealer or individual sends completed paperwork to the ATF to secure permission for a Form 4 transfer, employees at the ATF have to manually enter the data from the forms.
(Yes, that’s right: the ATF was taking your paper form and entering it into a computer instead of just having you enter it electronically in the first place.)
As you can imagine, this is a time-consuming process. The data must be entered, and then checked, and this process is typically taking upwards of ten months as of the time of writing.
WILL PAPER FORMS SPEED UP NOW THAT EFORMS ARE LIVE?
The short answer is yes, paper forms have sped up now that eForms are available. In the long run, however, we believe that the speed will simply balance out and be the same processing time for both paper and electronic forms. Currently, eForm times have increased since their launch and paper times have decreased. This is likely due to the surge of electronic applications, but again, we think the two will balance out as time goes on. We’re already seeing this as the two times get closer to one another.
Because paper forms will still have to be physically handled as mentioned above, that process will always be slower, but because eForms are faster, the hope is that it will free up ATF agent time to work on more paper forms.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN I’VE BEEN APPROVED?
Both you and your chosen dealer (such as Silencer Central, hint hint) will receive notification of approval via email. The dealer will be notified at their business email address and you will be notified at the email address that you used to register for the ATF’s website.
WHAT ABOUT SYSTEM OUTAGES?
When it comes to digital systems, they all have outages – planned and unplanned. Thankfully, the ATF seems to really want to make this work. Initially, the system was set to go live on December 21, 2021, but the ATF hit a snag and delayed the rollout until December 23, 2021. Two days really doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but what’s really important is that the ATF communicated about a system outage in preparation of the launch and then updated our community about the launch delay in a timely fashion – and then met that launch goal of December 23.
HOW TO BUY A SILENCER USING EFORMS
Thanks to the NFA of 1934 and the GCA of 1968, there are several steps required before you can own a silencer. These steps appear to be somewhat cumbersome, but they’re actually not. Like most things, once you understand what each step entails, the process is rather simple.
- Find out whether silencers are legal to own in your state
- Select the suppressor that’s right for you
- Decide how you’d like to register your silencer (trust, corporation, individual)
- Buy your silencer and tax stamp
- Let us handle the paperwork
- eZ-Pay for it while you wait
- Once approved, we will deliver right to your front door!
To begin with, you will need to buy a silencer. Silencer Central is there to help, both with our Banish line of suppressors and a full assortment from other manufacturers. In this case, buying a suppressor is like buying anything else in the 21st century. That is, you can do it from home in your underwear if you so choose!
The ATF, though, requires that silencer owners purchase a tax stamp for each suppressor. This tax requires a payment of $200. There’s no way around this. Period.
To transfer the silencer from the dealer to the new owner, the ATF uses what is known as the ATF Form 4. This is the form used to transfer regulated firearms like short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, any other weapons, and suppressors. This is like ATF 4473 – the form used to transfer firearms, except that it isn’t a same-day approval process.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
There’s no doubt that eForms have shook things up in the suppressor world. The real benefit for all of us – consumers and the ATF alike – will be the streamlined process. With eForms in place, buying a silencer is now even easier.
When the ATF began testing this new version of Form 4 completion, it sought input from Silencer Central. We took an active role in beta testing the new process on day one. We brought our collective insights from years of silencer sales and successful transfers to ensure that the new process is as efficient as possible. After months of testing and conversation, we’re now confident in our expertise in this new process, too.
This is the main takeaway: silencers are exceptionally versatile. Where suppressors are legal for hunting, hunters have a solid option for protecting their hearing, reducing recoil, and preserving the tranquility of the wilderness. Silencers provide an exceptional teaching tool for anyone on the range and make it much easier for mentors and students to communicate. And for anyone doing any kind of shooting – or for others on or near the range – silencers cut out the obnoxious report of the gunshot.
So really, with the reintroduction of eForm 4, the only question now is: why wait? Let us help you get started and set you up on a free NFA gun trust and you will be shooting suppressed before you know it!Let’s Get Started!