Class 3 Firearms License: The Complete Guide
There is a lot of confusion and even outright misinformation about what is often known as a “Class 3 Firearms License” or “Class 3 License.” Usually when people speak of a Class 3 license they are referring to a special form of licensing that allows for the sale of NFA items like silencers or even machine guns. Because there is so much mystery and confusion, we are going to break the whole thing down and by the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll have a much better understanding of what a Class 3 license actually is. Let’s get started!
Want to skip ahead in the guide? Use the links below:
- What is a Class 3 License?
- Do You Need a Federal Firearms License to Buy a Silencer?
- How to Get a Class 3 License
- FFL License Requirements
- Class 3 License for Personal Use
- How Much Does an FFL Cost?
- Frequently Asked Questions about Class 3 Licenses
- FFL Locator
What is a Class 3 License?
The proper name for a Class 3 license is Class 3 SOT. SOT stands for Special Occupational Taxpayer and when combined with the proper FFL, allows for the sale of NFA items. While there are three different SOT’s, we are only concerned with the Class 3 SOT. Class 1 and Class 2 involve various import and export or manufacturing of NFA items.
If you have a 01 FFL, you’ll get a Class 3 SOT. This allows the retail sale of NFA items like silencers. If you want to both make and sell NFA items, you’ll need a 07 FFL and a Class 2 SOT. But here we are only focusing on the Class 3 License or SOT.
The Class 3 SOT should NOT be confused with the Type 03 FFL which is for collectors to acquire curio and relics items. Remember, FFL’s or Federal Firearms Licenses have TYPES, while SOTS have CLASSES. So a Class 3 license is different from a Type 3 license. That’s why people usually say “FFL” or “SOT” when talking about these sorts of things.
Federal Firearms Licenses exist for the purpose of facilitating various commercial (or in the case of the 03 FFL, collector) activities related to the sale, manufacturing, import or export of firearms and ammunition.
FFL’s date back to the 1930’s and have been refined since then. We mostly care about the fact that (1) FFL’s exist, and (2) you need one before you can get your Class 3 SOT. To learn more about FFL’s and how to get them, click here.
Class 3 SOT
There are three classes of Special Occupation Taxpayer or SOT that FFL holders can get. These are logically enough Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 SOT.
Each type of SOT pairs with a different type of FFL in order to allow the license holder to do different things with NFA devices. Read about the types of FFL’s so you can understand which FFL is paired with which SOT and why.
- Class 1 is used in conjunction with an 08 or 11 FFL and is for importing NFA items.
- Class 2 is used with 07 or 10 FFL and is for manufacturing and when paired with the 07 FFL, also resale of NFA items. An 07 FFL with a Class 2 SOT is popular for people who want to be able to make machine guns for demonstration, sale to government agencies and other lawful purposes.
- Class 3 is used with an 01 or 02 FFL and permits the retail sale of NFA devices like silencers.
Do You Need a Federal Firearms License to Buy a Silencer?
No, you do not need a Federal Firearms License to buy a silencer. This is a common misunderstanding and myth. Perhaps this comes from a misunderstanding of how an FFL/SOT combination works. More likely, this myth comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of an NFA tax stamp and registration.
Because NFA items are registered, people with little or no firearms experience assume that a license is required to get that registration. Some even think all guns are registered but that’s also a myth. So, a tax stamp becomes in some people’s minds something that requires a license, and because they hear the term “Class 3 dealer” they assume that a “Class 3 license” to purchase a silencer or other NFA item must somehow exist.
It doesn’t, of course. Just put down your money and follow the instructions to register your NFA item using an ATF Form 4 and that’s it. No license needed to buy a silencer!
How to Get a Class 3 License
In order to get a Class 3 license you first have to have the appropriate 01 or 02 FFL.
The 01 FFL is for dealing in firearms and gunsmithing. So if you just want to sell or repair guns, you get an 01 FFL. It cannot be used for manufacturing. The 02 FFL is for pawnbrokers, so again just general retail sales of firearms.
That’s why the Class 3 License or really Class 3 SOT is paired with these two FFL’s. It’s the one that permits retail sale of NFA devices when combined with a retail FFL.
So, assuming you have the correct FFL, you have to file a special form with the ATF and pay a tax. The form is pretty straightforward and mostly wants information about your existing FFL and revenue information to determine if you qualify for a reduced rate.
Once you fill that out and submit it with the annual $500 fee, then the ATF will usually approve it in a reasonable length of time.
FFL License Requirements
The license requirements to get an FFL are much like those to own a gun in the first place. However, there are a few other requirements you have to meet even if you can own a gun. And if you can’t, you really should just stop there.
To get an FFL first you must meet these conditions:
- Not be under indictment for a felony or crime that could imprison you for over one year.
- Not have been convicted of a felony or crime that could have imprisoned you for over one year.
- Not be a fugitive from justice.
- Not ever have been committed to a mental institution or adjudicated mentally defective.
- Never have been dishonorably discharged from the military.
- Not be an illegal alien.
- Not be subject to a restraining order against an intimate partner or children.
- Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
So basically, be a law abiding person who can legally own a gun, and you meet the baseline standards for getting an FFL.
However, you also have to demonstrate that you have all appropriate local licenses and permits for your business, are actively engaged in business, are appropriately zoned in your location for your type of business, and understand relevant local, state and federal laws as apply to you.
Class 3 License for Personal Use
Because a Class 3 license is for commercial use only, it is not legal to get one for personal use. However, that doesn’t mean that if you have a Class 3 SOT that you cannot acquire NFA items for personal use with it. Personal use of a Class 3 license has to be incidental to your regular commercial activities.
What does that mean? It means that if you appear to be using your license to just get NFA items for yourself and family members, you are going to lose your license about as quickly as the ATF figures that out from looking over your books.
Remember too, it is a fallacy that you need a Class 3 license to buy or possess NFA items. You only need it to sell them commercially. Private citizens require no special license to purchase a silencer or other NFA item. They just have to pay the tax. The one vague exception to this is that a small handful of states only allow ownership of NFA items if they are on the ATF’s Curio and Relics list and the buyer holds an 03 FFL.
So in short, don’t go through all the hoops of getting an FFL and SOT just to use it primarily for personal use. If you plan to acquire a lot of NFA items for yourself, consider keeping them in the name of your business or putting your business on your trust, and designating them as demo, or test, or rental items for your customers.
How Much Does an FFL Cost?
An 01 FFL is $200 for the first 3 years, and only $90 every three years after that. You’ll be paying an annual $500 tax for your Class 3 SOT, so to have your FFL and SOT can be fairly affordable – as little as $530 per year.
Frequently Asked Questions about Class 3 Licenses
Can an FFL buy a gun anywhere?
Yes. An FFL can buy a gun anywhere as long as they have the appropriate licenses. For instance, on 01 FFL just can’t buy an NFA device unless they also have their Class 3 license.
Also, and this is very important, even with a Class 3 license, you can’t rush out and buy a machine gun. You need to have a demo letter from a government agency before you can buy what is termed a “dealer sample.” So, as long as all your paperwork is in order and the right conditions are met, you can buy any gun anywhere within the limits of your license.
What does an FFL allow you to do?
An 01 FFL allows you to buy and sell non NFA guns as well as engage in non-manufacturing gunsmithing activities. That means that while you can’t build a gun, you can modify or repair one within reason. The ATF keeps changing what they mean by manufacturing, so be sure to check with them before you make a business of doing complex gunsmithing.
With a Class 3 SOT, you can also engage in the retail sale of NFA devices, including silencers and short barrel rifles, as well as machine guns and AOW’s.
Can you get an FFL without a business?
There are a couple ways to answer this one.
The first one is “absolutely not!” FFL’s (with the exception of the 03 Curio and Relics license) are for the explicit purpose of operating a business. If you aren’t running a business, no FFL for you!
However, if you mean “can I get an FFL without a traditional storefront” then yes, you can. The ATF only requires that you operate in an area zoned for your type of business. Many locations permit light retail – including gun sales out of residential areas.
Can you get a home-based FFL?
Absolutely! As long as you live in an area that doesn’t ban home-based FFL’s and your zoning permits the kind of business activity you are planning, you can get a home based-FFL.
While you might go looking for an FFL online or in the phonebook, there is a quicker way! Our handy FFL locator helps you find the closest NFA dealer with a Class 3 license to your home. This is probably the fastest way to find a Class 3 dealer near you.
Remember, Silencer Central is not only licensed to sell in all 42 silencer legal states, but we can also conduct the entire transaction – including shipping your silencer directly to you! No other suppressor dealer is legally allowed to do this. Incredible, isn’t it?
Over and Out
As you can see, the idea of a Class 3 license or SOT isn’t that complicated. Once you strip away the internet forum rumors and misunderstandings and get down to the heart of the matter, you’re left with a few key takeaways:
- You don’t need a Class 3 license to buy a silencer
- Anyone with the right FFL can get a Class 3 license, and that
- They are for retail use
- Private parties don’t need one to get NFA items
Pretty cool, huh?
And remember, if you want to get an FFL or SOT and aren’t sure where to start, FFL123 has helped tens of thousands of Americans just like you get their FFL and SOT. Just click here to get started!