We’ve got some great news for our industry… NFA paperwork processing times from the ATF are dropping.
We have even better news for you if you already have your FFL. This is likely to encourage more customers to buy NFA firearms (like silencers, short barreled rifles, and more) from you! Considering that you can make a few hundred dollars per NFA sale, this is awesome.
Don’t have your FFL yet? What are you waiting for? Stop reading, stop waiting, and sign up for your Get Your FFL course right now! If you also become an SOT, then these month-long transfer times for NFA firearms, turn into just a couple of days!
If you don’t already know, NFATracker is an awesome resource for our community. These guys collect transfer-time information for NFA firearms from the ATF, and they display the info in a searchable NFA wait-time database with graphs.
I’m including some information from their website here, but you really should go check them out on your own. While you’re there, you might notice that they recommend the same A&D Boundbook software that we do!
On their site, you can see data on paperwork processing times for NFA purchases by non-FFLs (customers using an ATF Form 4) and also ATF processing times for Form 1 paperwork (making NFA firearms by a non-FFL).
The information can be broken down into the following categories for both paper and e-file submissions to the ATF:
Form 4 by an individual
Form 4 by an entity (trust or company/corporation)
Form 1 by an individual
Form 1 by an entity (trust or company/corporation)
Here’s a screenshot of a graph which shows the number of days until approval of NFA paperwork from when the check is cashed. The trend towards faster ATF processing of paperwork is clear…it has dropped from around 320 days for checks cashed in September 2016 to 120 days for checks cashed in July 2017!
Unfortunately, this isn’t all good news.
Yes, it looks like the ATF is getting faster, but the faster processing time is VERY likely also due to the ATF receiving less NFA paperwork. This is in large part because of the push for the Hearing Protection Act (HPA), a move to lessen regulations on NFA firearms.
That may be counterintuitive to some, but when silencer manufacturers were pushing for this legislation, it was clear to many of us in the industry that this would only hurt silencer sales until it passed. After all, who was going to purchase a silencer, pay a $200 tax, and wait months for the silencer when the HPA might make the transfer tax-free and fast? Yes, the HPA included a provision to refund the taxes paid while the legislation was pending, but I still thought it would discourage sales. This is one of the cases in which I don’t like being right.
This is still good news for FFLs today (and those who hurry up and start their FFL process soon). The HPA appears to be dead, and customers now know that there’s no reason to wait. This means that there’s a large chunk of people that have been wanting a silencer and holding off – let’s hope that turns into a rush to buy silencers now! Together with these reduced wait-times from the ATF, it’s a potential perfect-storm for a big boom in silencer sales!
How to Take Advantage of a Coming Silencer Sales Boom
Again, if you don’t have your FFL yet and/or you haven’t registered as an SOT…..stop reading and Get Your FFL!
Current FFL/SOTs can order silencers from a distributor, and have it shipped directly to them in a few weeks, via a Form 3.
Now, if you’d like to take advantage of sales even while you’re waiting for your inventory, you should seriously consider selling a gift-certificate for the cost of the silencer while you’re waiting for the silencer to arrive.
This way, you get the sale now and you don’t have a risk of inventory later! Also, gift certificates for firearms are a great way to handle holiday gift purchases without the potential to have legal troubles with gifting/paying.
When the silencer is transferred to your FFL, you can then have the customer come in to use their gift-certificate to purchase the silencer and start their Form 4. If you hurry, you might be able to take advantage of the fast ATF processing times!
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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