Good old ATF Form 23. For many people, even those who have ample experience with ATF paperwork, this form is a confusing exercise in red tape. In fact, it can be downright frustrating. However, it doesn’t have to be.
That’s where we come in. We are going to walk you through the process of filling out and filing ATF Form 23 so you can get through the application process unscathed. After you have studied and learned this guide to ATF Form 23, you will have the necessary skills to successfully and accurately complete this portion of your ATF application.
In this guide, you will learn, step-by-step, how to fill out ATF Form 23 and all of the required sections therein. This will be for those looking to complete a gun trust and trying to possess National Firearm Act weapons. If you’d like to set up a gun trust, get started at Gun Trust NFA.
With that being said, let’s jump right in. Below, we’ll break down the ATF Form 23 box by box.
First up is Box 1. This is the section of the application where you enter what this form is intended for. For example, if you are manufacturing a short barrel rifle or suppressor, you will need to check the box for ATF Form 1.
If you are buying a suppressor, short barrel rifle, or short barrel shotgun, you will need to check the box for Form 4. The box for ATF Form 5 is designated for the tax-exempt transfer of a suppressor, short barrel rifle, or short barrel shotgun. If this applies to you, check the box accordingly within ATF Form 23.
Box 2 is designated for the name and address of the transferee. When filing for a tax stamp, you will need to enter the name of the trust exactly how it appears on the cover sheet associated with your gun trust.
One of the most common mistakes that people make is entering their name instead of that of the trust. As such, it is important that you pay careful attention to each section, to make sure that you don’t enter in incorrect data.
Moving on, you will then need to provide the address where the firearm is currently housed. If you plan on keeping the firearm in different locations, you still must provide the address where you think it will be most of the time.
Note: The name of the transferee and the address must match Box 3b of Form 1 or Box 2b of Form 4 or Form 5.
Note: You can’t provide a P.O. Box number when entering an address. It must be the address of a physical location.
For Box 3a, it’s important to remember to always enter in your name. Once again, this is a section of the application that many people mistakenly enter the name of the trust.
You will need to make sure that you enter your complete legal name in this section. That means supplying both your first and middle names, as well as your last. For individuals who don’t have a middle name, simply enter “NMN” (No Middle Name) in the section that asks for your middle name.
This needs to be filled in to let the ATF know that you didn’t leave the middle name section blank by accident.
The ATF needs a good phone number to reach you at if they have any questions regarding your application. If you fail to provide a working phone number, this could cause considerable delays in the processing of your application.
This is one of the few sections of ATF Form 23 that can be left blank without any repercussions or delays. We advise that any sections that allow you to leave blank to be left blank. The more information you provide to the ATF, however good your intentions, the greater chance there is of an error occurring in the approval process.
We are aware of several issues that people have experienced due to providing incorrect data in an optional section of ATF Form 23. As such, it’s best to leave it blank and move on to the next required section.
This section includes maiden names and other names you go by. You want to be sure to include any other names you’ve used to ensure that there are fewer issues confirming your identity and approving your application.
Box 3a is the section of the application that requires you to attach a photograph of yourself. The guidelines for this photo state that it needs to be 2 x 2 inches and a frontal view. Basically, you don’t want there to be any issues in confirming your identity.
Furthermore, the photo that you submit must be less than a year old and needs to clearly show that it is a picture of you without question. Oddly positioned pictures or bad angles will only serve to delay your application, so make sure what you are submitting is within the required guidelines.
You don’t have to provide anything fancy. The easiest thing to do is to take a simple selfie from your smartphone and call it a day, but a Passport photograph will work well here, too.
Notes: Your 2 x 2-inch photo should only be attached to the ATF copy of Form 23, not the Chief Law Enforcement Officer copy.
The type of firearm entered into this section should be one of the following:
- Short barrel shotguns (SBS)
- Any other weapon (AOW)
- Suppressors (Silencers)
- Short barrel rifles (SBR)
- Destructive devices
- Machine guns
Note: The information entered into Box 4a of ATF Form 23 needs to match the information exactly as it is displayed within Box 4a of ATF Forms 1, 4, or 5.
In this section, you will need to enter both the name and address of the manufacturer that made your NFA firearms or item.
The information entered into Box 4a of ATF Form 23 needs to match the information exactly as it is displayed within Box 4a of ATF Forms 1, 4, or 5.
Most of the time, a simple Google search will lead you to the information that you need for the firearm or suppressor. However, this isn’t always a sure-fire thing. You may need to reach out directly to the manufacturer to obtain the data that Box 4b is requesting.
Failure to ensure that you have the exact information needed can cause all kinds of snafus and problems with your application. We advise you to do all of the necessary research to ensure that what you have is factual and correct.
A simple mistake can delay your application, so be diligent in double-checking everything. The ATF doesn’t overlook mistakes of any kind. As a government agency, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will go over everything with a fine-tooth comb.
In other words, they are thorough and they don’t allow for any errors. What’s more, you’re likely going to be waiting a good while to get your application processed. The last thing you want is for your ATF Form 23 to finally reach the desk of the examiner, only to be rejected due to a simple error on your part.
This will only serve to delay your application even longer. In some cases, you could be waiting over a year for your application to get approved. While that is totally unnecessary, that’s the ATF for you.
However, you can do your part to ensure a speedy approval process when the time comes by making sure you didn’t miss anything or provide inaccurate data anywhere on ATF Form 23.
The information entered into Box 4c of ATF Form 23 needs to match the information exactly as it is displayed within Box 4d of ATF Forms 1, 4, or 5. This box is the model of your NFA item.
The information entered into Box 4d of ATF Form 23 needs to match the information exactly as it is displayed within Box 4c of ATF Forms 1, 4, or 5. This box is the caliber or gauge of your NFA item.
Every NFA item within ATF Form 23 has to have an appropriate serial number. You will need to enter the complete serial numbers in this field. This includes any dots or dashes as they appear on your NFA item. The information entered into Box 4e of ATF Form 23 needs to match the information exactly as it is displayed within Box 4g of ATF Forms 1, 4, or 5.
Note: If you are going to be creating a short barrel rifle using an 80% complete lower receiver, you will need to assign a serial number to the lower receiver. You will also be required to engrave the serial number on the lower receiver.
If you are building a suppressor from the ground up, you will also need to assign a serial number to that suppressor. Furthermore, you will need to engrave the serial number to the tube of the suppressor.
To ensure that you are following the proper guidelines for suppressor serial number engraving, we have included a direct excerpt from the Federal Regulations on Firearms Identification. Be sure to read through the following section carefully so that you fully understand the protocol for suppressor engraving as it relates to ATF Form 23.
“§ 479.102 How must firearms be identified?
a.You, as a manufacturer, importer, or maker of a firearm, must legibly identify the firearm as follows:
1.By engraving, casting, stamping (impressing), or otherwise conspicuously placing or causing to be engraved, cast, stamped (impressed), or placed on the frame or receiver thereof an individual serial number.
The serial number must be placed in a manner not susceptible of being readily obliterated, altered, or removed, and must not duplicate any serial number placed by you on any other firearm.
For firearms manufactured, imported, or made on and after January 30, 2002, the engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) of the serial number must be to a minimum depth of .003 inch and in a print size no smaller than 1/16 inch; and
2.By engraving, casting, stamping (impressing), or otherwise conspicuously placing or causing to be engraved, cast, stamped (impressed), or placed on the frame, receiver, or barrel thereof certain additional information.
This information must be placed in a manner not susceptible to being readily obliterated, altered, or removed. For firearms manufactured, imported, or made on and after January 30, 2002, the engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) of this information must be to a minimum depth of .003 inch. The additional information includes:
i.The model, if such designation has been made;
ii. The caliber or gauge;
iii. Your name (or recognized abbreviation) and also, when applicable, the name of the foreign manufacturer or maker;
iv. In the case of a domestically made firearm, the city and State (or recognized abbreviation thereof) where you as the manufacturer maintain your place of business, or where you, as the maker, made the firearm; and
v. In the case of an imported firearm, the name of the country in which it was manufactured and the city and State (or recognized abbreviation thereof) where you as the importer maintain your place of business. For additional requirements relating to imported firearms, see Customs regulations at 19 CFR part 134.
b. The depth of all markings required by this section will be measured from the flat surface of the metal and not the peaks or ridges. The height of serial numbers required by paragraph (a)(1) of this section will be measured as the distance between the latitudinal ends of the character impression bottoms (bases).
c. The Director may authorize other means of identification upon receipt of a letter application from you, submitted in duplicate, showing that such other identification is reasonable and will not hinder the effective administration of this part.
d. In the case of a destructive device, the Director may authorize other means of identifying that weapon upon receipt of a letter application from you, submitted in duplicate, showing that engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) such a weapon would be dangerous or impracticable.
e. A firearm frame or receiver that is not a component part of a complete weapon at the time it is sold, shipped, or otherwise disposed of by you must be identified as required by this section.
f.1. Any part defined as a machine gun, muffler, or silencer for the purposes of this part that is not a component part of a complete firearm at the time it is sold, shipped, or otherwise disposed of by you must be identified as required by this section.
2. The Director may authorize other means of identification of parts defined as machine guns other than frames or receivers and parts defined as mufflers or silencers upon receipt of a letter application from you, submitted in duplicate, showing that such other identification is reasonable and will not hinder the effective administration of this part.”
This box is straightforward – you’ll need to just enter your social security number.
Box 6a and 6b
These questions are all around ethnicity and race. Simply fill out what is needed for you.
Since 41F was implemented, you are required to send in a copy of the Form 23 Questionnaire to your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer.
On ATF Form 23, you will need to enter in your Chief Law Enforcement Officer’s contact information into Box 7. You don’t need their signature, but you will need to send the Chief Law Enforcement Officer a copy of ATF Form 23.
Box 7 also needs three items of information.
1. The name of your Chief Law Enforcement Officer’s Agency.
2. The name and title of your Chief Law Enforcement Officer.
3. The address of your Chief Law Enforcement Officer.
Note: All Responsible Persons are required to send the Chief Law Enforcement Officer a copy of pages 3 and 4 from ATF Form 23. This is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the jurisdiction where that Responsible Person lives.
When filling out the sections for the Responsible Person, the only acceptable answers are either “yes” or “no”. Remember, the answers to the questionnaire apply to the individual and not the trust. Box 8 is mostly asking situational questions – so just answer honestly.
These boxes ask questions around your place of birth and citizenship. Simply answer them as instructed.
Box 10 and 11
These are special boxes. Box 10 asks for your U.S. Issued Alien or Admission number if you are not a U.S. citizen. Box 11 asks you to provide your Unique Personal Identification Number (UPIN) if you have one. If you do, you’ll know it.
Putting It All Together
ATF Form 23 provides you with two pages consisting of directions, two copies of the two-page form, bringing the total page count to six.
One copy goes to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer while the other needs to be sent out to the ATF for approval. What’s great about ATF Form 23 is that its two copies are virtually identical to one another.
As such, you may enter the appropriate information one time. When you do this, all of the corresponding fields within the second copy of ATF Form 23 are automatically filled in. If you create your gun trust with Gun Trust NFA, we’ll even pre-populate some of this data on all the forms for you.
There are some missing items that aren’t present on the Chief Law Enforcement Officer copy of ATF Form 23, but you won’t have to worry about them as they aren’t applicable to what you’re sending.
Wrapping up ATF Form 23
We hope this guide helped clear up any confusion you may have when filling out and filing ATF Form 23. Be sure to refer back to this guide anytime you need a refresher on the ATF Form 23 so that you don’t accidentally leave an important field blank or enter incorrect information.
Always make sure that you double-check everything before submitting so that there aren’t any unnecessary delays in the processing and approval of your application. This is a long process once submitted, so definitely check it over twice for accuracy!