As an attorney specializing in ATF compliance for FFLs, this is a fairly common question I receive. Unfortunately, the simplest answer I have is a common answer from attorneys: “It depends.” The duration for each ATF record that you need to keep as a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) depends on which type of FFL License you have and the specific ATF-required record.
We’re going to cover the basics of the ATF’s record-retention requirements for FFLs here, but I’ve included the NSSF guide I created to make it easier for you.
Just click on the image of the guide to view and/or download it for future reference. This is just one example of the great resources the NSSF provides for the industry. If you’re an FFL, you should seriously consider joining the NSSF. They protect our industry like the NRA protects gun owners.
The two most important records for standard dealer FFLs (FFL License Types 1 and 2) are their Acquisition and Disposition (A&D) Records and their Form 4473 transaction records.
As we cover in our online course for getting your own FFL, the ATF is primarily concerned with their ability to trace a gun – these are the main two records that help them!
Dealer’s Acquisition and Disposition Record
Firearms Transaction Record, Form 4473 – Transfers
Firearms Transaction Record, Form 4473 – Background Check without Transfer
Multiple Handgun Sales Report, Form 3310.4
FFL Theft/Loss Report
Manufacturer FFL Records
If you use your manufacturer’s FFL (FFL License Types 7 and 10) to conduct transfers to customers (non-FFLs) via 4473s, then you need to reference the information for dealer FFLs above.
Manufacturer’s Acquisition Record
Manufacturer’s Disposition Record
Importer FFL Records
Importer’s Disposition Record
Application and Permit to Import, Form 6 & 6A
* Note: For all the records above that need to be kept for 20 years, they can all be legally discarded/destroyed after 20 years has passed. However, the ATF prefers that you maintain these records for the life of your FFL. If you’d like to get rid of them after 20 years, you can turn them in to the ATF at the same location where you must send your records after you decide to stop being an FFL, the ATF’s Out of Business Records Center.
If you’d like to get your FFL, make sure and check out our online course for getting your own FFL.
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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