ATF Form 4 Guide

ATF Form 4 – Everything You Need to Know


If you’re looking into buying an NFA Firearm, you’ve probably heard of the ATF Form 4, but you may not be sure exactly what it is, when to use it, or even how the Form 4 is used.

First, what are NFA Firearms?

NFA Firearms are a special class of highly regulated firearms. The category “NFA Firearms” includes:

  • Silencers
  • Full-auto/Machine Guns (yes, they’re legal to own)
  • Short Barrel Rifles
  • Short Barrel Shotguns
  • Any Other Weapons (AOWs), and
  • Destructive Devices (DD)

The transfer of these NFA Firearms for non-FFLs requires a tax be paid to the federal government, as well as an application and approval by the ATF…. this is the ATF Form 4.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the Form 4.

What is an ATF Form 4?

ATF Form 4

The ATF Form 4 is used to transfer an NFA Firearm to a non-FFL (individual or trust).

ATF’s “Form 4” is an “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm”. It is used whenever you are buying an NFA Firearm that already exists (not making one). According to the ATF, it’s “typically submitted for a transfer to an individual or legal entity, such as a trust.”

If you’re not an FFL, and you’ve purchased an NFA Firearm from a dealer or an individual, then you need this form to get approval and a tax stamp from the ATF. You’re probably anxious to buy it, so the good news is, you don’t have to wait! Bad news is, you can’t take possession of it until after the ATF approves your Form 4 application and issues the tax stamp. The firearm must stay with its owner while your application is processed.

Some ATF forms are notification forms, but the Form 4 is not. This form is an application, which means you’re requesting the ATF’s permission, and you have to wait for their approval. The approval process take months, sometimes even a year. If you’d prefer to get NFA firearms in days rather than months, you should look into getting an FFL.

When to Use an ATF Form 4

The Form 4 is used anytime an NFA Firearm is transferred to a non-FFL – it is used to pay the transfer tax as well as apply for permission to possess the NFA Firearm. When approved, it is returned from the ATF with a tax stamp.

Although there are a couple of options for transferring NFA Firearms, the ATF Form 4 is the most common form for regular NFA Firearm transactions. This form allows the transfer of all NFA Firearms: this includes machine guns, AOW’s (Any Other Weapons) as well as things like silencers, short-barreled rifles and shotguns.

Hopefully if you’ve inherited an NFA Firearm, the ATF Form 5 was used because it’ll save you money (no tax stamp fee). If it wasn’t, you’ll have to use the Form 4 and pay the tax.

If you’re applying for your ATF tax stamp through an NFA gun trust or corporation, you’ll also need to submit ATF Form 23 (5320.23), which is the NFA Responsible Person Questionnaire.

Remember, because Form 4 is an application to the ATF for permission, it must be approved BEFORE the NFA item can be transferred.

How to Fill Out an ATF Form 4

ATF Form 4 contains fillable fields for Adobe Acrobat, which makes things much easier because you’ll only have to fill out pages 1, 2 & 3. Acrobat will populate the information you’ve input on the first three pages, into the remainder of the form including ATF Copy 2 (pages 7, 8 & 9) and the CLEO Copy (pages 10, 11 & 12)

1. Type of Transfer: Every item is $200 unless it’s an AOW, and those are $5.

2a. Transferee’s name and address: This is the name of the individual or gun trust, as well as the address where the NFA firearm will be stored. Make sure to check the appropriate box at the bottom of 2a.

2b. County: This is NOT country. It’s the county, parish or borough where the NFA item will be stored.

*Sections 3 & 4 are typically completed by the SOT / Class 3 dealer.

3a/b/c. Transferor’s Name and Address: Name and address of the SOT / Class 3 dealer.

3d. Decedent’s Name, Address and Date of Death: Only to be completed if the item is being transferred to a gun trust because it was inherited by the customer as an heir.

4a. Manufacturer: The manufacturer of the NFA firearms name and address.

4b. Type of Firearm: Indicate which type of NFA firearm you want a tax stamp for which could be silencer, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, Any Other Weapon (AOW), destructive device or machine gun.

4c. Caliber or Gauge: List the caliber or gauge of the NFA firearm. You must list the proper term, such as .223 Cal or 5.56 MM. You may not use nicknames such as 300 Blackout. For machine guns, write “n/a”.

4d. Model: The model name of the NFA Firearm.

4e/f. (Length) Of barrel and (Length) Overall: List the length of the barrel itself and the overall length of the NFA firearm. For silencers, write “n/a” in box 4e and the length of the silencer itself in box 4f. If you don’t know, you may obtain this information from the silencer manufacturer.

4g. Serial Number: List the serial number which is engraved on the NFA firearm.

4h. Additional Description or Data Appearing on Firearm: Typically, this box remains blank. You can opt to add additional information or markings that appear on the NFA firearm.

5. Transferee’s Federal Firearms License: For individual buyers, list their FFL information. For gun trusts, leave the box blank.

6 a/b. Transferee’s Special Tax Status: The individual buyers federal EIN or social-security number. For gun trusts, leave the box blank.

7. Transferor’s Federal Firearms License:This is the seller’s FFL information and should be completed by the dealer. If transferring an already owned NFA firearm into your gun trust, leave this box blank, unless the item is located at an FFL dealer.

8 a/b. Transferee’s Special Tax Status: This is the dealer’s Federal EIN or social-security number, which you’ll get from your dealer.

9. Signature of Transferor: The dealer you are purchasing the NFA firearm from will sign this box.

10. Name and Title of Authorized Official: This is filled out by the dealer.

11. Date: This is filled out by the dealer.

12. Law Enforcement Notification: List the agency name, the agency official’s name, and his or her title and address. This location is where you will forward the CLEO copy of this form. As defined in Section 2d, the CLEO is “The chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) is considered to be the Chief of Police; the Sheriff; the Head of the State Police; or a State or local district attorney or prosecutor [of your county].”

13. Transferee Necessity Statement: This will be the name and title of the individual or settler of the trust. For the reason, you may list either “Investment and All Other Lawful Purposes” or “Any Lawful Purpose” or “Investment and All Other Lawful Purposes”.

14 – 17. Transferee Questions: This section is only to be completed by individuals purchasing, not purchases through gun trusts. For individuals, answer the questions truthfully and affix your passport photo.

“CERTIFICATION”: For individuals, sign and date with your name, as shown in box 2a. For gun trusts, include your signature, as well as your title (ex. Trustee), and the date.

*18 & 19 are only applicable for gun trust transfers. Individuals do not complete these.

18. Number of Responsible Persons: List the number of responsible persons in the gun trust or legal entity, including the settlor and co-trustees. Successor trustees and beneficiaries are not responsible persons.

19. Responsible Person Name(s): You may list up to 8 persons on this form. If there are more than 8 responsible persons, list them on a separate sheet and include it with your application.

*For each responsible person listed, a completed Form 5320.23 must also be submitted.

20. Method of Payment: Choose which payment method you will use and fill out the credit/debit card information if applicable. If your application is denied, the money will be refunded.

*All signatures must be signed in blue or black ink.

Submit the following to:
National Firearms Act Division
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
P.O. Box 5015
Portland, OR 97208-5015

  • ATF Form 4 (ATF Copy: Pages 1-3 & Registrant Copy: Pages 7-9)
  • ATF Form 5320.23 for all Responsible Persons (if applicable)
  • Two Passport Photos. (Only needed for individuals. Photos must have been taken within 1 year prior to the application date. On back of photograph print full name, last four digits of your social-security number and the business address if any. Tape or paperclip the photos to ATF Copy 1 & Registrant Copy 2.)
  • Two Fingerprint Cards on FBI Form FD-258:
  • Only for individual transferees – not manufacturers, importers or dealers.
  • Extra information for “Yes” answers to Section 14 A-H (if applicable)
  • Check for $200 for all NFA firearms except AOWs which are $5
  • Gun Trusts Only: a photocopy of your NFA Gun Trust Documentation including a copy of all amendments, if applicable.

Submit the following to your CLEO:

  • ATF Form 4 (CLEO Copy: Pages 10-12)
  • ATF Form 5320.23 for all Responsible Persons (if applicable)

ATF Form 4 Wait Times

The wait times for the ATF Form 4 vary depending on ATF’s backlog. Typically, you’re looking at a 10-12 month waiting period, but you can monitor current wait times with the NFA Tracker.

You can also call the ATF for a status update – 304.616.4500. You’ll need to provide your name, as well as the name of the transferor and the serial number.

You should consider getting an FFL, and becoming an SOT, if you’d prefer to make all of this much quicker and easier.  If you’d like my assistance in guiding you through each of those processes from start to finish, sign up for my Get Your FFL and/or Become an SOT courses.

I hope this helps you understand the ATF Form 4. If you have questions, shoot us an email!

ATF Form 4 FAQ

ATF Form 4 FAQ

What is the Form 4 Used For?

The ATF Form 4 is used to transfer NFA Firearms to non-FFLs, including gun trusts.

The ATF Form 4 is sent to National Firearms Act Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, P.O. Box 5015, Portland, OR 97208-5015 and your CLEO.

NFA Firearms are a special class of highly regulated firearms such as silencers, machine guns, short barreled rifles, and more.

Currently, the eForm system is not available for the Form 4. That should change however, and you can check the status on the ATF’s eForm site.

The current ATF approval process wait time is 10 months.

Ryan Cleckner is a former special operations sniper and current attorney specializing in firearms law/ATF compliance and is a firearms industry executive (former govt. relations manager for NSSF, Vice President of Remington Outdoor Company, and a SAAMI voting board member).

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