View Full Version : NFA Handbook (from ATF.GOV)

Army Chief
15 April 2009, 09:39
http://www.atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5320-8/atf-p-5320-8-cover.gif (http://www.atf.gov/firearms/nfa/nfa_handbook/index.htm)

This information is public domain, and by no means unique to us, but for those who may be new to Title II firearms, the ATF web site hosts an excellent primer on NFA law and procedures in the form of the National Firearms Act Handbook. The current edition is dated April, 2009, and there is no charge for this publication.

The NFA Handbook covers the following topical areas (below), and can be viewed online by section (http://www.atf.gov/publications/firearms/nfa-handbook/), or downloaded in its entirely (http://www.atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5320-8/atf-p-5320-8.pdf) in Adobe Acrobat format (10.1 mb).

Chapter 1 - Introduction
Chapter 2 - What Are "Firearms" Under the NFA?
Chapter 3 - Registration of NFA Firearms
Chapter 4 - Taxes Imposed by the NFA
Chapter 5 - Qualifying to Do Business in NFA Firearms
Chapter 6 - Making NFA Firearms By Nonlicensees
Chapter 7 - Manufacturing NFA Firearms
Chapter 8 - Importing NFA Firearms
Chapter 9 - Transfers of NFA Firearms
Chapter 10 - Collectors of NFA Firearms
Chapter 11 - Exportation of NFA Firearms
Chapter 12 - Recordkeeping
Chapter 13 - Required Reports and Notifications to ATF
Chapter 14 - Going Out of Business
Chapter 15 - Penalties and Sanctions

Any member with an interest -- vested or otherwise -- in Title II firearms is highly advised to keep a copy on hand for reference purposes.


25 April 2009, 17:54
Thanks for this, Chief.

I have a couple of question regarding SBR, that I couldn't find in the Handbook. If they are somewhere in there, I must have missed it. If you, or anyone on here can answer them to the best of your knowledge, I will appreciate it much. I know the definitive answers will come come from the ATF, and I do plan on writing them and ask the same.

1. Can I make a Xerox of the tax stamp to keep with the SBR (for the purpose of transporting between home and range), and keep the original in a safe place?

2. Can I have more than one SBR upper for one registered lower?

Army Chief
25 April 2009, 23:28
A couple of quick answers, based upon what I know of the law (in other words, this will be reasonably well-informed -- but not necessarily authoritative -- commentary):

1. Yes, and this is common practice. While I am aware of no actual requirement to keep documentation with the weapon, I don't know a savvy NFA owner that would go even consider going without. The original Form 1/4 stays locked up at home, and a copy (at least one) should always ride with the weapon. This isn't about meeting a legal requirement; it is about having the ability to respond to questions, prove compliance, and deal with the self-appointed enforcers of the law out there who will inevitably challenge you on the range.* My rule of thumb? Always have a hardcopy answer accessible; especially when you're on the move with a Title 2 weapon.

2. Yes, but ... The answer here really has to do with what combination of components you have sitting around in your home. Some will surely argue the point, but this whole business of "constructive intent" is a valid concern in my view. The prudent man's perspective is that, so long as you have a legal, non-NFA length upper for every one of your non-NFA lowers, you're operating in good faith. If, on the other hand, you have one SBR, three or four NFA-length uppers, and several non-SBR lower receivers sitting around in various states of completion, then to all appearances you have "constructive intent" to readily-create one or more prohibited weapons.

Given the modularity of the weapon system, we know this is a bit silly, but one of the tenets of trouble-free NFA ownership is avoiding even the appearance of misconduct. Staying off of the radar and in ready compliance with the law is of the utmost importance, and in the case you mentioned, I would even be concerned if you hadn't submitted a letter to BATF indicating that your SBR was also being used with these alternate barrel configurations. That way, if anyone ever had a reason to ask, you could point to a record of compliance, and show clear intent that you went "above and beyond" to make sure that you were within the law and advising BATF of your actions. This is especially important because NFA law is one of the few legal areas in which ignorance carries absolutely no weight as an excuse.

The first step in SBR ownership, then, has nothing to do with buying or cutting a short barrel, but rather, becoming very well-acquainted with the federal and state laws which govern ownership in your part of the country. Once you're clear on what is (and is not) permissible, who can (and can not) use the weapon, and how it must be stored, secured, transported and, if applicable, sold, then you're ready to place that call and snap on the 10.5" firebreather that you've been dreaming about.


* One of the most clever responses I think I've heard to these types goes something like this: when they say "hey, your barrel is too short. Is that thing registered?" is to respond "I'm guessing you came here today by automobile, correct? Is that thing (your car) registered?" ;)

26 December 2009, 07:00
Chief, thanks for this info.

I'm wanting to build a select-fire lower reciever(ar-15)
Couple of questions.

1: On the ATF form 1, box 4b, Type of Firearm to be made, do I just put "Machinegun" ?

2: If I intend to also build a SBR upper at a later date, do I need a seperate tax stamp for it? ( I'm assumeing I do if I don't list the barrel length as less than 16" on the app for the lower reciever)

3: If I list the barrel length as 14.5 or less on the form 1 for the lower reciever and mount a 16" barrel on the approved select-fire lower, am I in violation of anything?

Edit: I may have found the answers to 2 & 3 in another post.


Army Chief
26 December 2009, 08:08
I'm wanting to build a select-fire lower reciever(ar-15)

Unfortunately, we have to stop the conversation right there, as there are no legal means by which this can be done by a non-Title 2 manufacturer -- and new machineguns manufactured by Title 2 manufacturers are not transferable to civilians.

This is a consequence of the McClure-Volkmer/FOPA provisions that went into effect on 19 May, 1986. Prior to that, what you're proposing was entirely possible; today, the closest you can get would be to purchase a previously-registered Lightning Link to drop into your existing non-NFA receiver -- which is a very expensive way to get a very temporary (in relative terms, anyway) solution to the problem.

What you can still do, of course, is to purchase a select-fire AR-15 or M-16 that was registered with ATF prior to the 1986 cut-off. These are still transferable under the law, but because there is a finite supply, prices have steadily risen over the years. If you don't have $10,000, $15, 000 or more to spend on a rifle, then select-fire is probably not going to be a realistic possibility here.

1: On the ATF form 1, box 4b, Type of Firearm to be made, do I just put "Machinegun" ?

Again, if we were having this conversation prior to 1986, the answer would be "yes," and once approved, you could then have the lower drilled for installation of the full-auto sear. Today there are simply no such possibilities under the law.

2: If I intend to also build a SBR upper at a later date, do I need a seperate tax stamp for it? ( I'm assuming I do if I don't list the barrel length as less than 16" on the app for the lower reciever)

We've established that you cannot manufacture a machinegun under the current provisions of the law, though it is still possible to manufacture a Short Barreled Rifle. There are significant differences between the two when it comes to barrel lengths.

- On a registered machinegun, the barrel length is irrelevant, and can be whatever you wish for it to be.

- On a SBR, the barrel length must be clearly stated on your Form 1, and if you intend to use other (shorter) barrels, then you are well-advised to send a note to ATF advising them of the changes. This does not change the classification of the weapon, but technically, they will tell you that the weapon needs to remain in the approved configuration. It is always good business to let them know if/when you're changing the original recipe.

3: If I list the barrel length as 14.5 or less on the form 1 for the lower reciever and mount a 16" barrel on the approved select-fire lower, am I in violation of anything?

For legal purposes, the registered lower receiver is the SBR, so you can install both NFA-length (<16") and non-NFA length (>16") uppers with no problems. If, however, you place your 14.5" upper on one of your other (non-SBR) lowers, then you are creating an illegal weapon. This might sound silly, but it is a very serious issue from a legal standpoint.

Depending upon who you talk to, it is also a good idea to keep the "constructive intent" issue in mind before you begin collecting multiple NFA-length uppers while owning only a single SBR lower. I wouldn't lose a great deal of sleep over this, but where NFA weapons are concerned, a prudent man would be careful to avoid even the appearance of skirting the law. Experience has shown that the less you leave open to interpretation, the better off you'll be if/when you ever have occasion to be dealing with an Examiner.


Army Chief
26 December 2009, 08:09
Your edits caught me while I was still replying to the initial post, but hopefully things will still make sense for the most part. =]


26 December 2009, 08:30
Thanks for the reply.
I knew the part about pre-1986, but for some reason I thought it had been changed. Guess I will stick with using my agency issued autos and just build a SBR for now.

Army Chief
26 December 2009, 08:46
It can definitely be confusing, especially when you start talking about agency sales and how they may or may not overlap with individual officer sales, etc.

We can carry our agency-issued weapons, of course, but unfortunately, there are no exceptions made for military/LEO personnel when it comes to private ownership. Either we buy a transferable (pre-'86) weapon like any other citizen, or we look at becoming a SOT manufacturer/dealer.


26 December 2009, 08:52
Either we buy a transferable (pre-'86) weapon like any other citizen, or we look at becoming a SOT manufacturer/dealer.


Or ,we stick with a semi-auto and save money on ammo [:)]

Thanks for the clarifications Chief.

I guess now I can slow down my reloading of 5.56 abit .

31 January 2010, 08:15
Having read through this post and various others online, I have yet to find an answer to the question Im about to pose.

I work offshore in the merchant fleet, and am more often than not out of the country for 6+ months a year. The home address which I use for all legal matters (license, registrations, etc.) is not the address I generally live at while Im home, though it is in the same state.

Im in the process of gathering parts for a suppressed SBR build, and would like to use my "home" address for the tax stamps and associated paperwork. Will I have any issue using my "home" address for the stamps where Im generally not there, and when the rifle will likely be at my other address while Im home?

A few local shops who are fluent (more so than I) in NFA law have stated that it should not be an issue, as my "home" address is a legal address.

Thanks in advance,


Army Chief
31 January 2010, 09:26
Your legal address is the more relevant of the two for NFA purposes, and as long as they are both in the same state, you're unlikely to run into too much overt trouble, notwithstanding the government's reasonable expectation that the weapon will be stored at the address listed on your Form 1/4. (In your stead, if this were a more or less permanent arrangement, I would likely submit a letter updating BATF on the weapon's physical location.)

It is this storage issue that is by far the most relevant for you as a merchant seaman. You've an obligation to take some very deliberate steps in this case to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access to the weapon in your absence; especially if you opted for an individual transfer (vice a trust or corporate registration). This means that you should make arrangements to store the rifle in a gun cabinet or safe to which only you have the keys and/or combination.

If anything were to ever happen (God forbid) and the government could prove that (a) the weapon was permanently kept at a location other than that for which it was approved, and (b) you, as the transferee, took inadequate steps to secure it, then you could well find yourself in hot water -- though I suspect more for the latter, than the former.

Bottom line? Keep it in the same state and make sure it is very well secured.


31 January 2010, 09:58
Thanks for the reply Army Chief, I appreciate it.

It will be very securely stored - as with all my other firearms, though extra precautions will be taken with this as to ensure I am the only one with access.

My current situation will be permanent at least for the next few years, at least until I finish what I plan on being my long term home. At that point, a change of address (legal) and the associated paperwork will be executed.

Army Chief
1 February 2010, 04:11
I'd say your current line of thought is a sound one. Good luck with your project!


Army Chief
1 February 2010, 04:22
For those who may be monitoring this thread, please be advised that the NFA handbook was both revised (April 2009) and moved on the ATF's server in recent months. The opening post (and associated links) have been correspondingly updated.


14 February 2010, 16:12
I have a registered Sound Supressor. I filled out all the paperwork pretty easily for it. My check was made out to The Department of Justice...now, I want an SBR...and I noticed that the adress for the form is different from the Can and the payable part (name to place on check) says "The Department of the Justice" ....can someone one help me?

Also; I am going to purchase the sbr upper from Noveske. And they are sending me a stripped lower for free...I know the lower is the "sbr" so am I going to be the "manafacturer" of it? and if so does that mean I have to engrave "SBR" on it myself? thanks

Army Chief
15 February 2010, 05:00
Without knowing the specifics of your situation, it sounds as if you might be getting the cart a bit ahead of the horse. Do you have another lower on hand that is already registered as an SBR? If not, taking delivery of the NFA-length upper is risky business from a legal perspective.

We've discussed these matters before, of course, but if your intent is to SBR the lower that NRW is sending you, then a prudent man might ask them to hold on to the upper until you are able to complete the Form 1 process. Better yet, we tend not to advertise this fact, but NRW is generally willing to register the lower as an SBR for you, provided they have built it up to a relatively advanced state of completion (i.e. 80%+) when it is reentered in their books.

This will require you to have the lower (and as a practical matter, the upper) sent to a SOT/Class III Dealer, rather than to you directly, but since you will be transferring a factory SBR, there will be no attendant engraving or Form 1 requirements later on. Once the transfer application clears BATF, you go to the dealer and take the rig home. Period.

Again, to be clear, there is some added expense in going this route, because NRW must complete the lower (more or less) in order to put it on the NFA registry as an SBR item; that said, this is something you're going to have to do anyway, and in the end, it is much less complex to have it done by the manufacturer. This will also have the side benefit of eliminating your paperwork woes, since the dealer will effectively handle those questions (and most of the process) on your behalf.


15 February 2010, 09:47
Thanks Chief, I do have an SBR lower already. (failed to mention) Since NRW is giving away a stripped lower already I was trying to go that route as previously mentioned. My main question is who does my check go to? And do I need to engrave anything? I was confused on the whole Department of and the department of the...thing.

thanks again.

Jerry R
17 April 2010, 18:18
So if a Class III dealer has a complete SBR from a manufacturer such as LWRC, that unit is already registered and engraved - correct? In that case, all I need to do is fill out the paper-work, pay the fee, pay for the firearm, and wait for a positive response?

BTW - this is a very informative thread, thanks.

Army Chief
18 April 2010, 01:42

You're entirely correct. A factory SBR is placed on the NFA registry by the original manufacturer, and as the company's information is already present on the receiver, there are no additional engraving requirements. My own preference for factory SBRs is based on the fact that they somewhat simpler to register, they eliminate the headaches associated with having personal information permanently etched into the weapon, and (theoretically at least) they retain a higher resale value. I've gone the factory route with Noveske in the past with very good results, and will likely do so again in the near future.


18 April 2010, 17:35
I believe I know the answer to this but want to be clear before buying a barrel.

I have a stripped (virgin) Mega lower (purchased as such) that I plan on making an SBR. I did the trust route and am sending out the Form 1 and having the lower engraved with my info while I wait. I will probably get the receiver back before my tax stamp and I want to test the weapon while I wait. Im under the assumption I can put a pistol buffer tube on the lower and use it in a pistol configuration until my paperwork comes back, which I will then attach a stock.

Is my thinking correct?


Army Chief
19 April 2010, 01:46
An AR pistol must be deliberately manufactured and registered as such, and while it it would seem to defy a certain logic, the actual configuration of the weapon is of secondary importance. In this case, I have to presume that the Mega lower is, in the eyes of the law, a standard rifle/carbine receiver, subject to all of the usual barrel and overall length requirements. Although we know "in good faith" that the receiver will soon reenter the books as a Short-Barreled Rifle, at the moment it is neither a pistol, nor an SBR.

We've done our fair share of hair-splitting in this thread, and this situation would seem to be an almost absurd application of the finer points of NFA law. Are you really likely to encounter a problem while your carbine is in this transitional state? A reasonable man would have to say no. Even so, the fact that it might look like -- and be configured exactly like -- an AR pistol does not make it a pistol, and from the BATF perspective, you will have created (however temporarily) an unlawful SBR. The fact that it is a largely useless one without a stock is a technicality that is of little interest to the government.

Were this to ever become an issue, I suppose that you could try to argue that you had actually created an unregistered pistol, vice an unregistered SBR, but is that really a distinction worth making? More to the point, would it likely gain any traction with the courts? Given that a tenuous "maybe" is about as good an answer as we could possibly hope for, I have to would strongly recommend against rolling the dice with a premature range test.

Remember: operator intent and (in this case) weapon configuration carry zero weight under NFA law. Either you have met the requirements, or you haven't. Naturally, all of this used to feel like a much higher-stakes game when we were registering and manufacturing machineguns/conversions, but in legal terms, your soon-to-be-SBR is no different. Do it right, wait for the paperwork to clear, and enjoy your new blaster!


19 April 2010, 09:22
Thanks Chief I will do just that.

13 March 2011, 12:20
In section 6.3 Submission of form 1, the handbook says "Payment of the making tax is to be in the form of a check or money order payable to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives". But on the form 1 it states "Submit with your application a check or money order for $200 mad payable to The Department of the Justice".
-Which is correct?

14 March 2011, 10:13
I just submitted mine and my Class 3 dealer made it very clear that the check was made payable to "Bureau of Alchol, Tabacco, Firearms, and Explosives" There is to be NO abbreviations.