Silencer Laws
ATF Form 4 Silencer Purchase – Who is your CLEO?

ATF Form 4 Silencer Purchase – Who is your CLEO?

ATF Form 4 Silencer Purchase – Who is your CLEO?

You may frequently hear people in the NFA ownership community say that your NFA dealer needs to obtain the signature of your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) on the back of your Form 4, which is the form that is filled out containing all of your silencer’s information. However, that statement is outdated. In 2016, ATF Rule 41F removed the requirement that a CLEO sign off on your purchase. Instead, it is now only required that the CLEO be notified of your purchase. This makes things much easier, but it also means that knowing who the CLEO is is still important.

The CLEO Isn’t Necessarily the Sheriff

For customers who live within city limits, they may not have a sheriff. Instead, they’ve likely got a chief of police. Don’t worry about that; a chief of police is perfectly acceptable. The term CLEO refers to the officer who has authority over your jurisdiction, thus why your chief of police is applicable in this situation. A third option is for us to have your district attorney, county attorney, or a judge with the power of arrest be notified. Finally, we could have the head of your state police agency be notified as the CLEO.

In short, despite our frequent use of “sheriff” to replace the term “CLEO,” there are plenty of other options than just the sheriff for an acceptable person to notify of your NFA item purchase.


Rule 41F really streamlined the CLEO involvement side of things. Now that a signature is no longer required, the CLEO just needs to acknowledge the notification by speaking to someone back here at our office. As long as they communicate somehow that they have received the notification, then that portion of Rule 41F has been satisfied.


The purpose behind the old way (pre-2016) of doing things and obtaining this CLEO signature was that the ATF wanted to know if the CLEO in your jurisdiction knew of any reason that you would not be able to own an NFA item. The ATF does not know if local laws prohibit ownership, and the CLEO signature ensured that there were no local rulings against your ownership of an NFA item.

The wording on the Form 4 states, “I certify that I am the chief law enforcement officer of the organization named below having jurisdiction in the area of residence of (name of transferee). I have no information indicating that the transferee will use the firearm or device described on this application for other than lawful purposes. I have no information that the receipt or possession of the firearm or device described in item 4 would place the transferee in violation of State or local law.”

The purpose of CLEO notification still serves the same purpose, it just helps speed things up in the approval process by not requiring a signature.


There’s a common misconception that using an NFA gun trust exempts the trust members from completing a background check. This is absolutely 100% false. All trust members still have to complete a background check. As was mentioned earlier, this process changed in 2016 with ATF Rule 41F. The rule change now requires all trustees and responsible persons to undergo a background check with each NFA purchase – even when purchasing under a trust.


If you’re a South Dakota resident (which is where Silencer Central is based), you have the option to pick up your approved suppressor in person so long as you make arrangements with us ahead of time. However, you’ll still be required to fill out the appropriate paperwork and pass a background check.

If you live in one of the other 41 states where suppressors are legal to own, you’ll also have to pass a background check before your approved suppressor can be mailed right to your front door.


To sum it all up, after 2016, there’s no requirement for your CLEO to sign off on anything. Instead, they just need to be notified. Additionally, passing a background check is an essential part of owning an NFA item. There’s no way to get around it.

Dealing with the ATF and local police can sometimes be intimidating to people, and that’s OK. At Silencer Central, we completely understand this, and that’s why we handle the purchase process for you. Everything from completing the paperwork, dealing with your CLEO, and handling the background checks – it’s all taken care of on our end. All you’ve got to do is wait for us to mail you your new suppressor.

If you’ve still got questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re more than happy to answer any questions and address any concerns that you may have about this whole process.