Have you ever tried to send or receive a firearm but weren’t sure how to do it?
Maybe you just bought a firearm online, or you need to ship a gun, and you’re wondering how to transfer it. You might have looked into transferring the gun and you learned that transfers can involve navigating many rules and requirements around firearm transfer laws and shipping.
Worry not! Transferring a firearm is easy…. once you know the firearm transfer rules, you’ll be set.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What a firearm transfer is
- When a transfer is needed (and when it’s not)
- Firearm transfer rules
- How to find the right FFL
- How to ship a firearm
- Tips and tricks for a smooth transfer
A firearm transfer, simply speaking, is the change in possession of a firearm from an FFL to another FFL or a person/customer (non-FFL).
Technically, any changing of possession of any item is transferring the item, however, the term “transfer,” when used with firearms, almost always means processing the gun through an FFL.
Since the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), firearms that travel interstate (across state lines) must be transferred using a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). This means that firearm transactions (gift, loan, sale, etc.) that happen within the same state don’t require an FFL.
NOTE: This is only under federal law – your state may require that all transactions go through an FFL.
So, if you want to loan/gift/sell a firearm to your friend while you are both residents of the same state (and while you’re both in that state), you don’t need to use an FFL under federal law. This is true even if you’re shipping the firearm within the same state! However, see our guide on shipping firearms to see how it can still be problematic.
|Personally-owned firearm||FFL transfer NOT required*||FFL transfer|
|FFL-owned firearm||FFL transfer||FFL transfer|
*no requirement under FEDERAL law – your state may require all transfers to go through an FFL
When an FFL is used to transfer a firearm, the FFL will acquire (receive) the firearm onto the FFL’s records from an individual (seller) or another FFL (manufacturer or another dealer). Then, the FFL will dispose (give) the firearm to another FFL or to an individual. That entire transaction is a “firearm transfer.”
There’s a bit of paperwork and rules to follow…
Firearm Transfer Rules
The FFL needs to know where the firearm is coming from to properly log it into the FFL’s records. The ATF requires that FFLs maintain a book with all acquisitions and dispositions in a book called the, you guessed it, Acquisition and Disposition Book (A&D).
If you are an individual sending a firearm to an FFL to be transferred, then you should include a copy of your driver’s license in with the firearm so that the FFL can record your name and address. You may not like it, but it’s a requirement that the FFL knows this information.
You should also contact the FFL prior to sending the firearm. After all, the FFL will need to know what to do with the firearm once they receive it. Often, FFLs will just ask you to write the name and contact information of who it is supposed to go to but sometimes they’ll have a form for you to print and fill-in.
If the FFL is transferring the firearm to an individual (either the person buying your gun or you if the transfer is for your gun), then a ATF Form 4473 and background check (with some exceptions) must be completed. This form is the paperwork you fill out whenever you buy a gun from an FFL – it includes your information and answers to questions confirming that you aren’t a prohibited person.
For long-guns (rifles and shotguns), the FFL can transfer the firearm to a resident of any state as long as it’s legal in both states. Handguns, however, can only be transferred to residents of the state where the FFL is located.
Because you can only ship a firearm across state lines to an FFL, you should ALWAYS get a copy of the recipient FFL before you ship the firearm! Once you get a copy, I highly recommend that you use the ATF’s FFL E-Z Check system. It’s not a requirement but it ensures that you didn’t get a fraudulent copy, a fake address, or a surrendered FFL (after it was copied).
I’m obviously biased, but this is one of the reasons I recommend getting your own FFL (even from your home). With an FFL, guns can be shipped straight to you – no transfer through another FFL needed!
Finding an FFL for a Transfer
How you do this will depend on whether you are the person shipping/giving-up the firearm or the person receiving it.
If you’re shipping the firearm to someone else, you should have them pick the FFL they want to use and have that FFL send you instructions and a copy of their FFL.
If you’re receiving the firearm, find a nearby FFL that you like working with and let them know that you’re expecting a transfer – include the description of the firearm and the sender’s information so that they can call you when your firearm arrives.
Here’s a slick resource for finding an FFL: FFLGunDealers.net
Shipping firearms can be tricky. It is perfectly legal for individuals to ship firearms through FedEx or UPS and long-guns (no handguns) through USPS.
However, FedEx and UPS’s rules state that you must have an FFL involved in the transaction (which means they’ll need to see the copy – don’t tape your box up just yet!). And, it is hit-or-miss on which UPS and FedEx locations know their own rules on whether a firearm can be shipped by an individual. Be prepared for some weird looks.
If you’re an FFL it’s a LOT easier. You can have a shipping account and it raises a lot less questions. Also, as an FFL I walk right into a Post Office (despite the “no guns” signs) to ship firearms (including handguns) because I’m an FFL. If you’re interested in becoming an FFL, we offer a step-by-step course on getting an FFL.
An easy way to ship a firearm is to hire a local FFL to do it for you. You transfer the gun to them, they charge a fee, and then they transfer it to the other FFL.
Try not to include any marks on the outside packaging that indicate that it contains a firearm – a lot of firearm theft happens during shipments.
And, ALWAYS ship with insurance and tracking information with adult-signature required.
So, there you have it, transferring a firearm isn’t that hard,