View Full Version : How Complicated Is Owning An NFA Weapon?

September 25, 2002, 10:00 PM
I live in Arizona where compliance to Class III regulations is limited to federal compliance (unlike many other states that require a pound of flesh) and I've seen short barrel weapons (like a Browning HP with a shoulder stock as well as full auto ARs) for sale as NFA only items. I have no doubt that I'll qualify for ownership.

For NFA owners, what are the practical aspects of ownership and is there any downside (besides buying enough ammo to fire it more than once a year:))?

Is the tax stamp a one time fee, or are there annual fees and other hidden costs besides the initial tax you only find out once you're past the financial point of no return? What kind of "security" does ATF demand, just a gun safe or something more elaborate with buzzers and bells?

I would like to eventually get an NFA MP-5 or 9mm CAR-15 for the joy of shooting periodically (the MP5 is so much fun to shoot, it's no wonder it's illegal!). I would appreciate the experience of NFA owners to put this on a practical level. Who knows, it might be like buying a boat where the two happiest days are the day you buy it and the day you sell it? Or once the ATF issues your tax stamp, does the NFA weapon just become another AR in the gun safe collecting dust between outings to the range? And when you go to fire it at a range, do you have any document besides a fragile paper receipt of payment of the tax crumpled in your wallet to show a police officer who might be drawn to the sound of an MP5 at an outdoor range? Is the NFA proof of compliance at least laminated for some durablitiy?

As I understand it, you sign permission for the ATF to enter your storage area (home) to inspect 24/7/365, whether you're at home or not. Maybe I'm misinterpreting the regulations I read on the ATF web site, my eyes glazed over after reading through the first dozen or so pages. Is an attorney needed to understand how to comply with all of the rules or is the ATF very eager to help you understand your complete responsibilities - before you make any unwitting infraction of the rules?

To me, NFA has always meant "Not For Anyone" and now that I live somewhere that I can own one, I'm seriously considering it. But is ownership worth it when there are shooting ranges in AZ & NV that offer them as supervised range rentals, however worn and torn they may be because it's such a big personal liability? A BHP or Glock with a shoulder stock is very intriguing as a 100 yard target pistol and might be my first experience going through the NFA application process if it's just filing and paying a tax, rather than being an ongoing liability.

Finally, can an NFA registred Glock with a shoulder stock ever be "unregistered" (i.e., the stock is discarded and the pistol alone resold as a non-NFA firearm)? Or is it once NFA, always NFA?

Thanks for your opinion!

September 25, 2002, 10:38 PM
One of the best ways to get answers to NFA questions is to subscribe to Small Arms Review. They have a legal column that takes up issues like some that you raise.

I live in a C&R state so my experience may not transfer directly. IMO however the inspection fears are overrated. Dealers get compliance inspections, sometimes regularly, sometimes (I've heard) not so regularly.

The MP5 is fun, but don't knock other simpler subguns either. For more on this subject look for other threads on NFA basics. I have posted on several of them.

September 26, 2002, 02:48 AM
You fill out the paperwork at the start of the process, which is 2 Form 4s, fingerprint cards, 2 passport type photos and the CLEO autograph. You send all of this with the check to AFT. For machineguns, SBRs and suppressors, it's $200. For AOWs it's $5. That is a one time fee. If you sell it, the next guy pays his fee.

When the paperwork clears, you get the gun and one Form 4. Make a copy of the Form 4 to carry when you take the gun out shooting and store the original somewhere safe.

ATF cannot demand to see your NFA weapon, much less when they want. All the can do is, during reasonable hours, ask to see your Form 4.

If taking your NFA across state lines, for other than suppressors, you must get prior approval before the trip.

That's about it. No other restrictions I am aware of on the federal level. Some ranges don't like full auto weapons, which can suck. Sometimes you merely give them a little education and even let them shoot it, and they'll come around.

September 26, 2002, 08:08 AM
Like HK said, once past the initial Form 4 it is fairly painless.

Pick a Class III item, fill out paper work, have it signed off by a LEO, send it in with the $$ for the stamp, wait 90 - xXX days for return of paperwork and then go an pick up item.

Make copies of the Form 4 w/stamp. Keep one copy with the item (I keep the copy of my Form 4 for my suppressor in the buttstock of the AR it is on). Put the original in a very secure place. If you lose it you have to contact the ATF so they can pull theirs and make you another. Now, if for some unknow reason, they are unable to locate their copy (don't think this could ever happen as the ATF is an extreamly well run, efficient, organized Governmental organization :rolleyes: ) you would then be in possession of an un-registered NFA Item (big no no). I'm not sure, if this happened, how the ATF would view a photo copy of your paperwork as proof it is legal and all the paperwork was submitted but I will say that it would probably be a PITA.

After you have your weapon (and paper work) that is about it. You have complete "run" of your State of Residence with the item. If it is a Full Auto and you want to take it out of State (either to move or on a trip) you have to notify the ATF of such movement. Do this approxitmately 3 - 4 weeks prior to the move. Notification is not necessary for a Suppressor unless it is a permanent move out of State (i.e. you don't need to notify ATF if it is a Temporary more and will be returned to record address).

Now, as for added hidden costs... well the only one really is the cost of the ammo your going to burn up with a full auto.... them there sucker ear ammo faster then Rosie goes through Hagen Das.

September 26, 2002, 08:22 AM

You're right in that losing the paperwork would be a PITA, but even if you lost all over your paperwork and ATF lost all of their paperwork, there is still some hope. You would be listed in the dealer's bound book and the dealers I have dealt with kept a copy of the Form 4 for their records. When I go down to get the CLEO signature, they also keep a copy of the Form 4. You would also have the cancelled check used to pay the $200 tax (I always put the gun's serial number on the check).

September 26, 2002, 05:05 PM
Wow, that doesn't sound bad at all. It's too bad the weapons are overly-priced. I'm gonna do it one day.

September 26, 2002, 09:37 PM
Wow, that doesn't sound bad at all. It's too bad the weapons are overly-priced. I'm gonna do it one day.

With the limited number of pre-86 weapons, and the law of supply and demand, prices aren't going to get any lower. Just something to think about.

September 27, 2002, 10:58 AM
You have done all of the proper things to get your wonderful toy, you are enjoying taking it to the range and shooting it. The house you live in is wired for a security system to detect a break in and call the police or whomever. Your pride and joy is stored in a very expensive safe. (By now you know what I an leading to.) One night you come home and find that your house has been broken into and not only are your valuables gone, but your pride and joy is missing as the safe has been broken into. Let's not consider how they got into the safe, but they did. I heard that the BATF takes a dim view of a happening like this and holds you responsibe, no matter what. Does anyone have a better understanding, hopefully not by experience, of what happens?

I am not trying to rain on anyones having a NFA weapon. Just curious. If I did not live in Kansas I would really attempt to have a Thompson.

September 27, 2002, 07:31 PM
It's not your fault that someone commited a crime against you. All federal law requires is:

ยง 179.141 Stolen or lost firearms.

Whenever any registered firearm is stolen or lost, the person losing possession thereof will, immediately upon discovery of such theft or loss, make a report to the Director showing the following:

(a) Name and address of the person in whose name the firearm is registered, (b) kind of firearm,(c) serial number, (d) model, (e) caliber, (f) manufacturer of the firearm, (g) date and place of theft or loss, and (h) complete statement of facts and circumstances surrounding such theft or loss.

September 27, 2002, 07:46 PM
Sorry, but that wouldn't keep me from buying one.

James K
September 29, 2002, 09:45 PM
FWIW, I have never known (with one exception, below) of any NFA weapons owner whose home was entered or inspected by BATF or anyone else, and you sign no paper allowing them to do so. BATF has no rules regarding storage or security arrangements. You can let your M1921 Thompson with the 100 round drum just lay on your coffee table.

Of course, you really might want to be more careful with $25 grand or so, but nothing at the federal level requires it.

The only circumstance that might involve a BATF (or local police) visit, other than theft or some action on your part, would be a crime committed in the area with a gun of the type you have registered. I know of one case where this happened with no result other than making sure the gun was still in the possession of the registered owner. Oddly, no one asked to fire the gun for an identification check; they just assumed that the owner of a registered machinegun was innocent of the crime. He was.