The ATF Form 4 – Your Ultimate Guide

If you have been researching how to set up an NFA gun trust, there’s a good chance that you have heard about ATF Form 4. However, you may still be a bit confused as to why exactly ATF Form 4 is used.

But fear not, we’re going to shed some light on the matter so you know how and when to use ATF Form 4. Before we get to that, though, let’s briefly discuss what an NFA gun trust is for anyone who is new to the subject so that we’re all on the same page.

What Is an NFA Trust?

Before you learn how to use ATF Form 4, you need to know what an NFA trust actually is. An NFA trust is a legal agreement that is designed to let an individual, known as a “trustee”, buy and possess a Title II firearm. In other words, a gun that is regulated under the National Firearms Act.

To fully understand how to use ATF Form 4, we first need to establish what each NFA item is and why it’s on the list. These items consist of the following:

Short Barrel Shotguns (SBS)

A shotgun is simply a smooth-bore weapon with a stock that is designed to fire a ballistics round. In the United States, the barrel of shotguns must be at least 18 inches long. A shotgun that has a barrel shorter than 18 inches is considered a short barrel shotgun.

Any Other Weapon (AOW)

AOWs are any kind of firearm that doesn’t fit within the parameters of the other entries. These include 12-gauge firearms that are less than 26 inches long, and novelty firearms.

Suppressors (Silencers)

Suppressors are considered NFA arms, as well. It might sound strange to some people but silencing firearms could give someone the advantage in a gun battle. Therefore, they need to be regulated.

Short Barrel Rifles (SBR)

These arms are any rifle that has a barrel shorter than 16 inches in length. A rifle, by definition, is a firearm that projects a ballistic round through a barrel of a certain length. 

Destructive Devices

Destructive devices must be more than .50 caliber. With that said, this doesn’t include most shotguns. What it does include, however, are weapons that project mortars, poison gas, explosives, missiles, grenades, and other like ballistics.

Machine Guns

If a firearm is capable of delivering more than a single round with the pull of the trigger, it is defined as a machine gun. This includes weaponry with burst-fire capabilities and any special devices that are designed to convert existing weaponry into fully-automatic firearms.

Taking a moment to think about each of these items should give you a pretty good idea as to why they are regulated. What’s more, you’ll have to go through different channels if you want to acquire them.

This is where ATF Form 4 comes into play. As long as you don’t have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) – which would give you the ability to manufacture and import NFA items – ATF Form 4 allows you to legally transfer said items to a gun trust.

You will have to get approval by the ATF to transfer NFA items and you’ll have to pay a tax, as well. All of these things are covered by ATF Form 4 and are needed to transfer NFA items to an individual or trust.

There are many reasons why you should invest in an NFA gun trust. Let’s take a minute to observe its benefits over simply transferring NFA items to your name.

First of all, an NFA trust lets you list trustees who can legally possess and carry your regulated NFA items. And since your weaponry is in a trust, they are protected in the event that you are no longer capable of caring for your NFA items.

Whether you become incapacitated or pass away, an NFA trust ensures that those whom you entrust will be able to seamlessly take over control and ownership of your protected arsenal. From suppressors to machine guns, your NFA trust makes sure that your property doesn’t get taken away from your estate.

Additionally, one of the most appreciated benefits of an NFA gun trust is that they typically see much faster processing times for your NFA items.

The ATF Form 4

OK, you’ve found a sweet NFA firearm, let’s say it’s a Short-Barrel Rifle (SBR), and you’re ready to make it yours. For this, you will need to fill out ATF Form 4.

The ATF lists this document as an “Application for tax paid transfer and registration of firearms used to request approval to transfer a National Firearms Act (NFA) firearm subject to transfer tax liability. Typically submitted for a transfer to an individual or legal entity such as a trust.”

Remember, you’re going to need both the approval and pay a tax stamp on your new NFA item, which ATF Form 4 takes care of. For most NFA items, the cost of the tax stamp is $200. However, there is one NFA category from above that costs just $5 for the tax stamp, and that is AOW.

As long as you aren’t an FFL carrier and you got your NFA item from a private seller or dealer, that item must be approved by the ATF. You are likely excited to get your hands on your new purchase. Unfortunately, you have to have the approved ATF Form 4 before you can legally possess the NFA item.

As such, the item can’t be transferred to your ownership until the approval process is completed by the ATF. If you have dealt with notification forms from the ATF in the past, you may be wondering what the holdup is. 

Well, unlike those forms, ATF Form 4 is an actual application, meaning that you are trying to get permission from your dear friends at the ATF. That is where the wait comes in. And if you’ve ever waited for permission from the ATF, then you likely know how long this process can sometimes take.

If this is your first time seeking approval from the ATF, you’re in for a surprise and not one you are likely to be particularly fond of. NFA wait times can take months to process. In some cases, you may even have to wait up to a year to get your NFA item.

Consider a Federal Firearms License

If you don’t have time to wait (and who does?) and you need your NFA item(s) sooner, you should seriously consider getting your FFL. A Federal Firearms License enables you to manufacture and import NFA items, which in turn gives you faster processing times from the ATF.

And if you have an FFL, you won’t need to use ATF Form 4 because it is reserved for non-FFL holders. But for now, ATF Form 4 will be needed to legally transfer NFA items and to pay your tax stamp on them.

There are a couple of different transfer options available to you when you’re dealing in NFA items, but most people will need to use ATF Form 4 for the majority of NFA transactions. 

Bottom line; if you are buying NFA items, whether they are short-barreled shotguns (SBS), any other weapon (AOW), suppressors (Silencers), short-barreled rifles (SBR), destructive devices, or machine guns, you will have to use ATF Form 4.

If, however, you inherited your NFA item or items, you can use ATF Form 5, instead. This is preferable, as it doesn’t require that you pay a tax stamp, thereby potentially saving you hundreds of dollars in the process.

But for all other transactions, ATF Form 4 will be needed and you will have to pay for the tax stamp (either $5 or $200).

Now, if you are going to be applying for your tax stamp by way of an NFA trust or through a corporation, you will need to fill out the Responsible Person Questionnaire (ATF Form 23)

Properly Filling Out ATF Form 4

One of the best parts about ATF Form 4 – and by extension, technology – is that you may simply download the form and fill it out via Adobe Acrobat. It’s quick, easy, and best of all, clean. It’s a lot harder to make mistakes filling it out this way, which is important when dealing with any ATF forms.

The slightest error can cause even longer delays in the approval of your application. And when you’re dealing with the ATF, the last thing you want is more delays. 

Once you have the form downloaded to your computer, you can start filling it out right away. Let’s walk through the process together so you know what each line is asking of you.

1. Type of Transfer: Remember, all NFA items are $200 except for AOWs, which are $5.

2a. Transferee’s Full Legal Name and Address: This is the name of the individual or gun trust as well as the address where the NFA firearm will be stored.  Make sure to check the appropriate box at the bottom of 2a.

2b. County/Parish: Not to be confused with “country”.  It’s the county where the NFA item will be permanently stored.

*Sections 3 & 4 are usually going to be completed by the (Special Occupational Taxpayer) SOT / Class 3 dealer.

3a/b/c. Transferor’s Name and Address: SOT / Class 3 dealer’s name and address 

3d. Decedent’s Name, Address, and Date of Death: This only needs to be completed in the event that the NFA item is going to be transferred to a trust as an inheritance.

4a. Manufacturer: The name and address of the NFA items’ manufacturer.

4b. Type of Firearm: The type of NFA that needs the tax stamp. This will be either:

  • Short barreled shotguns (SBS)
  • Any other weapon (AOW)
  • Suppressors (Silencers)
  • Short barrel rifles (SBR)
  • Destructive devices 
  • Machine guns

4c. Caliber or Gauge: List the proper caliber/gauge of the NFA item. This area needs to be written out as something like .50 Cal or 9 MM. Nicknames cannot be used. If you’re getting a machine gun, simply write or type “N/A”.

4d. Model: The actual model name of the NFA item.

4e/f. Barrel Length and Overall Length: Fill in the barrel length and the overall length of the NFA item. If it’s a suppressor, write “N/A” in box 4e. In box 4f, write the length of the suppressor. If you don’t have this information, you will need to contact the manufacturer and get it from them before proceeding.

4g. Serial Number: All NFA weapons should have an engraved serial number. Locate it and fill it in box 4g.

4h. Additional Description or Data Appearing on Firearm: This box usually remains blank. However, you may choose to add any additional markings or data that appear on the NFA item.

5. Transferee’s Federal Firearms License: Gun trusts will leave this box blank, while individuals will enter their FFL information.

6a/b. Transferee’s Special Tax Status: The individual’s social security number or federal EIN. If a gun trust, simply leave this box blank.

7. Transferor’s Federal Firearms License: This box is for the seller’s FFL data and should be completed by them. If transferring an NFA firearm that is already in your trust, leave box 7 blank. If the NFA item is with an FFL dealer, fill it out accordingly.

8a/b. Transferee’s Special Tax Status: This is the dealer’s social security number or Federal EIN. You will need to get this data from your dealer.

9. Signature of Transferor: This box is signed by the dealer from whom you purchased your NFA item.

10. Name and Title of Authorized Official: This box will need to be filled out by the dealer.

11. Date: This box will need to be filled out by the dealer, as well.

12. Law Enforcement Notification: You will need the following information about the agency:

  • Agency official’s name, title, and address. 
  • Agency name

The CLEO copy of ATF Form 4 will go to the address of the agency official. A CLEO is your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer.

13. Transferee Necessity Statement: The name and title of either the individual or settlor of the trust needs to go in this box. 

ATF Form 4 will then state “have a reasonable necessity to possess the machine gun, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, or destructive device described on this application for the following reason(s) _____________ and my possession of the device or weapon would be consistent with public safety (18 U.S.C. § 922(b) (4) and 27 CFR § 478.98).”

For your reason, you want to write either “Any Lawful Purpose” or “Investment for All Other Lawful Purposes”.

14 19. Transferee Questions: This box is completed only when an individual is purchasing a gun trust. Not to be confused with purchases through a gun trust. The individual will need to affix their passport photo here, as well. Simply use tape on the back of the photo, as stapling is not allowed. 

“CERTIFICATION”: For individuals, sign and date this section with your name as it is written in box 2a.  

For gun trusts, you will need to include both your signature, title and the date. The title would be “trustee”, for example.

20. This box is for if you’ve been issued a Unique Personal Identification Number. Chances are that you haven’t, and if you had, you’d know it. Probably skip this.

21. Number of Responsible Persons: List how many Responsible Persons there are in the trust or legal entity. This includes the settlor and any co-trustees. Remember, beneficiaries and successors are not Responsible Persons.

22. Responsible Person Name(s): You can list as many as 8 persons here. If you have more than 8 Responsible Persons, simply attach a separate sheet of paper with their names.

*For each Responsible Person listed, ATF Form 23 (5320.23) must be submitted, as well.

23. Method of Payment: How you’re going to be paying. If it’s a debit or credit card, fill in the appropriate information.

*All signatures on ATF Form 4 must be signed using either black or blue ink.

Once you have everything filled out and complete, you want to send your paperwork to the following address:

National Firearms Act Division
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
P.O. Box 5015
Portland, OR 97208-5015

Wrap Up

In total, the ATF will need to be sent the following:

  • Check for NFA firearms ($200) or AOWs ($5)
  • 2 Fingerprint Cards (FBI Form FD-258)
  • ATF Form 23 (if applicable)
  • 2 passport photos
  • ATF Form 4

We hope this helps you better understand the intricacies of ATF Form 4. Remember, you should expect a wait time of several months to get your approval from the ATF. Some people have had to wait a year or more to hear back, so don’t worry if it takes a while. 

You can always use an NFA Tracker if you want to know the general status of your application and to ensure that everything is moving along properly.

As another reminder, we highly recommend establishing a gun trust (also known as an NFA trust) when acquiring NFA weapons. This ensures the safety of your NFA weapon if you should pass, as well as allows other trustees to possess your NFA weapons when needed. You never know when you’ll be in a situation when you’d want this. Gun Trust NFA allows you to create a gun trust online, in minutes. Once you are done, just get it notarized, and you’ll be good to go. 

Good luck completing your ATF Form 4. As always, stay safe, stay vigilant, and enjoy your NFA weapons!