Every NFA Engraving Requirement You Need to Know About
If you own an NFA item, like a suppressor or an SBR, that was made by a company, you no doubt noticed that it is engraved much like any other firearm with various markings such as the make, model, caliber, serial number, etc.
But what if you’re making your own silencer or SBR or SBS? The rules are still the same. Without exception, every NFA item has to be engraved with a specific set of markings as defined by the ATF. Not only does the ATF have requirements about what you have to put on the item, but they also have requirements as to where and how you mark that information.
To avoid running afoul of the law, we’ll go over what you need to include and how you’ll need to do it so that you can enjoy your new NFA item.
Steps to Get Your Weapons Engraved
Because the ATF has a strict set of guidelines and requirements on what needs to be marked on your NFA item, there’s also an order in which you should do things. Here’s what you need to do.
File NFA Form 1 to Become the “Manufacturer”
You may think of a manufacturer as a company that produces a product on a large scale, but in the eyes of the ATF, a manufacturer can be just one person making only one item. As such, you are a manufacturer.
Homemade NFA items have to be submitted to the ATF for approval on what is called a Form 1. It’s very similar to the Form 4 used for NFA items being purchased from a company or a dealer, so if you’ve ever filled out a Form 4 to buy a silencer, then completing a Form 1 to make a silencer or other NFA item will be very familiar to you.
If you’ve never filled out one of those forms before, don’t worry. A Form 1 is very easy to complete.
Use the Required Engraving Marks
Since you are making the NFA item yourself, you’ll have to create some of the required markings yourself, while others are already set for you. This information must be marked on one of the following places: the frame, receiver, barrel, or pistol slide (if applicable). Here’s what needs to be engraved.
- This will either be your name (“John Doe”) or the name of your trust (“The Doe Trust”).
- You don’t have to create a model, but if you create one and enter it on the Form 1 application, then it has to be included on the NFA item. The model name can be whatever you want it to be.
- Pretty self-explanatory: if you made a 9mm suppressor, then you put 9mm as the caliber.
- Serial Number
- You must create a serial number. It’s almost entirely up to you, but alpha characters, e.g., a name, will not be accepted as a serial number by themselves. If a name is to be used, there must be at least one numeric character in addition to the alpha characters. For example, “JOHNDOE” is not acceptable, but “JOHN DOE1” is acceptable.
- City and State
- The city and state in which you are physically making the NFA item also have to be included. You can choose to spell out the entire state or use the two-letter postal abbreviation.
The only time any of this information may vary would be if you’re taking an existing rifle or shotgun and turning it into an SBR or SBS. In that case, you’ll use the already existing make, model, caliber, and serial number on your Form 1 and you’ll only have to engrave your name or your trust and the city and state where the item was made.
Depth and Print Size of Markings
In addition to guidelines on what you have to mark on the NFA item, the ATF has also determined the minimum depth and size of the markings. They are as follows:
- Minimum depth of .003 of an inch
- No smaller than 1/16th of an inch
They chose these sizes to ensure that the information would not be susceptible to being readily obliterated, altered, or removed.
How Can a Weapon be Marked?
Thankfully, the government doesn’t expect you to run out and buy expensive commercial-grade machinery just to mark your NFA items. That’s why they give you a few choices. The exact method of marking is up to you, so long as it is one of the following three:
The popularity of laser engravers in recent years has made this method the go-to for most people. Some people own their own personal laser engraver, but if you don’t, a lot of gun shops have them and can do this for you for a nominal fee. The information can also be hand engraved with a Dremel, so long as the size and depth requirements are met. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it just has to meet the requirements!
If you’re truly making the item from scratch and you have the ability and wherewithal to do so, you can cast the required information directly into the NFA item. Most people won’t be delving this deep into the manufacturing side of things, but it’s nice to know that it is an option that’s out there should you choose to go that route.
You can get a set of letter and number hand stamping dies at most craft stores, and this is also an acceptable way of marking the NFA item. This option is an affordable way to have the tools necessary for marking future items at your disposal. As was mentioned with the engraving option, it doesn’t have to be pretty. The ATF only cares that the required information is there in the correct size and depth.
Make Your Weapon Uniquely Yours
While there’s no way around the government regulations and requirements for making your own NFA item, at least they leave some of the information up to you to create so that you can make the item uniquely yours.
We’ve seen a wide variety of interesting (and sometimes entertaining) models and serial numbers put on Form 1 items before, so feel free to be creative here. Pay homage to a loved one, a faithful furry friend, or have some fun and channel an internet meme or an inside joke. As long as you meet the legal requirements for the required information and mark it in the right size and depth, the rest is up to you.
Now, go forth and create your uniquely you NFA item!