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NFA Rules/Guidelines

The National Firearms Act (“NFA”)

This law is an Act of Congress that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax (mainly $200.00 per item transferred – $5 for AOW) on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms.. This law mandates the registration of those firearms listed below. The NFA is also referred to as Title II of the Federal firearms laws. The Gun Control Act of 1968 (“GCA”) is Title I.  Essentially, all transfers of ownership of registered NFA type firearms must be done through the federal NFA registry at the BATF.  Regular guns are not registered, not are required to be registered, only items subject to this act and specified below.  The NFA also requires that transport of NFA firearms across state lines by the owner must be reported to the BATF.

NFA type firearms include the following:

Machine guns—this includes any firearm which can fire more than 1 cartridge per trigger pull. Both continuous fully automatic fire and “burst fire” (i.e., firearms with a 3-round burst feature) are considered machine gun features. The weapon’s receiver is by itself considered to be a regulated firearm.

Short-barreled rifles (SBRs)—this category includes any firearm with a buttstock and either a rifled barrel under 16″ long or an overall length under 26″. The overall length is measured with any folding or collapsing stocks in the extended position. The category also includes firearms which came from the factory with a buttstock that was later removed by a third party.

Short barreled shotguns (SBSs)—this category is defined similarly to SBRs, but the barrel must be at least 18″ instead of 16″, and the barrel must be a smoothbore. The minimum overall length limit remains 26″.

Suppressors—this includes any portable device designed to muffle or disguise the report of a portable firearm. This category does not include non-portable devices, such as sound traps used by gunsmiths in their shops which are large and usually bolted to the floor.

Destructive Devices (DDs)—there are two broad classes of destructive devices such as grenades, bombs, explosive missiles, poison gas weapons, etc. and any firearm with a bore over 0.50 except for shotguns or shotgun shells which have been found to be generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes. (Many firearms with bores over 0.50″, such as 12-gauge shotguns, are exempted from the law because they have been determined to have a “legitimate sporting use”.)

How can a regular person LEGALLY own NFA type items?

Many people think you need a “Class3″ license.  That is false.  In general, you must be 21 or older, be a US citizen, have a clean criminal history (or one that would not generally preclude you from owning a regular firearm).  Private owners wishing to purchase an NFA item must obtain approval from the BATF.  However, these are the Federal Guideline and your State may or may not have more strict laws with regard to possessing NFA items/firearms.  It is a good item to check with an Attorney in your State to be sure.

In general, providing your State is in agreement, allows NFA items can be purchased by the general public by one of three main ways.  The usual cost is $200 per transfer ($5 for AOWs), payable to the BATF for your “tax stamp.”

They are as follows:

Personal registration

One can obtain them personally which requires a signature from the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) who is the county sheriff or city or town chief of police (not necessarily permission) or a Judge, pass an extensive background check to include submitting a photograph and fingerprints and pay a tax; commonly called a “tax stamp.”

LLC or Corporate Transfers

NFA items may also be transferred to corporations (or other legal entities such as an LLC). The paperwork is initiated by an officer of a corporation.  Contrary to a personal registration, a signature from local law enforcement, thorough background check, fingerprint cards and photographs are not required for this ownership method.  If the corporation or LLC is ever dissolved, it must transfer its NFA firearms to the owners.  This would cause a new $200 transfer tax per item.  You still must get a “tax stamp” for each item you transfer from the seller to the corporation/LLC.

Gun Trust / Firearms Trust

See our detailed page – Gun Trust Attorney for more information.


 Disclaimer: Not intended to be legal advice or fully comprehensive of the subject matter.

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