Silencer Laws
ATF Form 4: Understanding NFA Transfers

ATF Form 4: Understanding NFA Transfers

ATF Form 4: Understanding NFA Transfers

The ATF Form 4 is one of the most common forms that NFA firearms and silencer buyers will encounter. It’s the form that has to be filled out to transfer an NFA item from the owner to the buyer. Oftentimes, this will be a dealer selling to a customer. Or, the silencer might be transferring from an estate to the person inheriting it, who is still required to pay the NFA tax. We’ll talk more about that later.

The ATF Form 4 allows the transfer of both Any Other Weapons (AOWs) on a $5 tax and other things like silencers, short barrel rifles, and shotguns on the $200 tax.

Here’s everything we’re going to cover:


If you are buying an NFA item that already exists (as opposed to making one), then you’ll have to fill out an ATF Form 4. The ATF says a Form 4 is “Typically submitted for a transfer to an individual or legal entity such as a trust.”

When you use the ATF Form 4, it is because you have purchased an NFA item from a dealer or individual, and are applying for the tax stamp and notifying the ATF of the purchase and transfer. While you buy the NFA item before you submit the Form 4, you cannot take possession of the item until the ATF approves the application and issues the tax stamp. During the application process, the NFA item will remain in the possession of the original owner.

NFA Tax Stamp


Yes, the process is a bit longer and has some extra steps, but if you’ve ever filled out an ATF Form 4473 to buy a firearm, then you can handle filling out an ATF Form 4 to buy a silencer.

Thanks to eForms, the entire process can be done online, and it all starts with a visit to to create and register your account by inputting your basic personal information.

If you have any questions at any point during the ATF Form 4 completion process, the compliance experts at Silencer Central will be there to help you.

From there, you’ll work with Silencer Central to get all of your suppressor-specific information (make, model, caliber, serial number, etc) input into the system. We can even help you handle the fingerprinting process and photograph submission.

Once all of your information is compiled, it will be submitted digitally to the ATF. Then, you just sit back and wait for approval so that we can mail your suppressor right to your front door!


There are two kinds of tax stamps you can apply for with an ATF Form 4:

You’ll indicate which one you are applying for on the form and enter the description and serial number of the weapon. Each NFA item requires a separate form. So if you are buying (or inheriting) multiple NFA items, you’ll become familiar with ATF Form 4 pretty fast!


Once you’ve bought your NFA item and submitted a Form 4, the approval process should be pretty quick, right? Well, no. The ATF is notoriously slow at processing Form 4s and when people check their NFA status, they find that it often takes the better part of a year to process!

Thankfully, this is starting to change since the ATF reintroduced the option to eFile a Form 4. By allowing people to submit all of the necessary paperwork digitally, this cuts down on time that ATF employees have to spend entering the information submitted on paper into a computer. The ATF’s stated goal is to get approval times down to just 90 days, but they aren’t there yet.


The current state of ATF Form 4 wait times is kind of depressing. However, eFiled Form 4s process the fastest, and that’s what we do at Silencer Central to get your silencer to you as quickly as possible. At the time of writing, eFiled Form 4s are processing about 2.5 months faster than those who paper-filed their Form 4, with the average eFile Form 4 wait time being 232 days and the average paper Form 4 wait time being 312 days.

Currently, the ATF is hiring more people and working to clear through the backlog that built up during the COVID-19 pandemic, so all of us in the NFA community are hoping for and expecting faster processing times as the backlog clears and more staff comes onboard. Plus, as more people use the eFile option instead of the paper option, it will free up more staff time to work on eFile Form 4s, which are inherently faster to complete by the ATF than paper Form 4s.


Most NFA firearms and silencer owners choose to register the device in the name of a trust to make shared ownership, estate planning, and temporary transfers to close friends and family easier. Well over 90 percent of Silencer Central customers opt to use our free NFA gun trusts for those reasons.

Estate Planning and Gun Trusts

Sooner or later we all have to face our mortality and think about estate planning. If you own NFA items, this is very important, as the choices you make will impact how easy it is for your heirs to take ownership of your NFA items. By adding them to a trust, they can transfer on an ATF Form 5 which allows heirs to simply take ownership without paying the $5 or $200 tax per item.

However, if the estate is not set up to smoothly transfer on a Form 5, then the ATF Form 4 is used. There is a special section on Form 4 for use by people inheriting NFA items. They will have to pay the tax, though. So if you have NFA items, make sure your estate is properly set up to ensure a smooth and tax-free transfer, otherwise, you’ll need to use an ATF Form 4 – and nobody likes paying taxes.


Just because it takes longer to buy an NFA item like a silencer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one. Many companies selling NFA items understand both the higher cost of an NFA firearm or silencer, as well as the long wait times, and offer handy layaway programs to make purchasing easier and take advantage of the wait time.

At Silencer Central, we offer a 90-day eZ Pay payment plan that gives you 90 days to pay off the silencer you want. After all, the ATF is making us sit on it for a few months, you might as well take some of that time to pay it off the “eZ” way!

No matter if you are buying a silencer or an AOW, the ATF Form 4 is something you’ll be encountering. With any luck, the wait times will drop, but meanwhile, patience is both a virtue and a requirement for buying any sort of NFA item. However, the utility and pleasure that comes from owning an NFA item are surely well worth the wait.