How to Complete the ATF Form 1 From Start to Finish

If you’re planning on using ATF Form 1, you’re going to need to know how it works and what it’s intended for. We’re going to make it easy for you by walking you through the application process and explaining the purpose of the form.

For example, let’s say you’ve got an existing AR lower receiver that you would like to transform into a short-barrel rifle (SBR). To legally do this, you’re going to need ATF Form 1. If you’re new to ATF forms or you’re not sure where to start, stick around to learn everything you need to know about ATF Form 1.

What ATF Form 1 Does

With an approved Form 1, you are allowed to buy a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches long. You may also use a Form 1 to buy a complete, separate upper receiver. Furthermore, an ATF Form 1 may be used to let you create either a suppressor (silencer), short barrel shotgun (SBS), or any other weapon (AOW) as defined by the National Firearms Act (NFA).

Before we move on, let’s take a closer look at the ATF Form 1 and how it applies to each of the aforementioned NFA items.

Short-Barrel Rifles (SBR)

As we mentioned in the opening, the SBR option on an ATF Form 1 allows a firearm owner to legally alter an existing AR lower receiver. An SBR is a firearm that has a rifled barrel measuring less than 16 inches in length. 

Short barrel rifles are a popular option for gun owners largely because of their incredible versatility and manageable weight. The manageability of the associated components also makes it very easy to assemble, especially on an AR-15 platform.

As such, this platform makes an excellent starting place on which to build. This goes a long way in providing gun owners with tangible weight and size benefits. For lots of gun owners, this allows them to have a rifle and a suppressor that still adheres to the 16-inch rule.

Think about it: you’ve got the 10-inch barrel on the AR-15, a roughly-6-inch suppressor, and less weight. You’ve essentially got yourself a complete suppressed firearm that is no longer or bigger than a traditional AR. 

What’s more, you’re going to have one slick gun to show off to all of your friends. With that being said, you’re going to need to adhere to ATF regulations that state that “pistols” that are equipped with a shoulder stock will have to be shot from your shoulder. 

This means that pistols equipped with a permanent shoulder stock and with a barrel measuring less than 16 inches are going to be classified as a short barrel rifle (as long as the total length remains under 26 inches long).

Short-Barrel Shotguns (SBS)

Moving on, short barrel shotguns are the next order of business for a Form 1. Following the same principles as short barrel rifles, a short barrel shotgun must measure less than 18 inches long, and that includes the stock.

In keeping with ATF regulations, you’re going to have to shoot your SBS from your shoulder. If you’re planning on modifying your SBS, you’re going to need approval from the ATF before commencing with any changes. This is where Form 1 comes in handy.

Suppressors (Silencers)

ATF Form 1 is also necessary when creating your own suppressor. It doesn’t matter if you’re building it professionally or just tinkering around in your garage. You are going to be required to provide a serial number (engraved), the total length of the silencer, and so on. 

All of the required details must be provided before you even begin with your creation. If you’ve never heard of building your own silencer, you might be thinking that this sounds a bit strange. But ask anyone who has done it and you’re bound to get positive feedback from the experience. 

Sure, you can easily buy your own suppressor, but for many gun owners, the custom creation process is where the fun is.

Any Other Weapons (AOW)

When discussing AOWs, we’re talking about a category that covers firearms that are improvised and firearms that are disguised. Bottom line, if you are planning to create a weapon that doesn’t fit in any of the above categories, the ATF is going to categorize it as an AOW. As such, it needs to be submitted with an ATF Form 1 accordingly. 

Moreover, any pistol that is equipped with a vertical foregrip or is one of the many styles of short-barrel shotguns without a stock is going to be classified as an AOW.

One of the best parts of AOWs is the fact that they only require a $5 tax stamp, whereas all other ATF categories require a $200 tax stamp.

A Word of Caution

If you’re planning on personally creating your own NFA items, it is always best to play it safe and register your custom builds with the ATF using the Form 1. 

Remember that before you actually start building anything, the Form 1 has to be approved first. So with that, let’s move on to details about the Form 1 so you have a better understanding of its inner workings.

All About the ATF Form 1

An ATF Form 1 is technically known as ATF Form 5320.1. The “.1” is where Form 1 gets its name. In fact, every single one of the ATF Forms is a part of Form 5320. They simply have a different number following 5320.  

So for ATF Form 2, its technical designation is 5320.2. Extra credit if you can guess what Forms 3 and 4 are. OK, back to it.

ATF Form 1 is, for all intents and purposes, a legal application that allows you to either register or create a firearm. As we mentioned above, Form 1 is the form you will need to use if you are planning on building your own suppressor or modifying existing hardware to create a new weapon that falls under a short barrel rifle or short barrel shotgun. 

If you are wondering about creating machine guns, they are a big no-no. This is because after 1986, it is only lawful for manufacturers with a Federal Firearm License to create machine guns. 

Since Form 1 is a type of application, you are submitting information requesting approval from the ATF. Conversely, ATF Form 2 is used as a means of notifying the ATF of your intentions, and there is no requesting taking place.

When to Use ATF Form 1

It’s important to remember that you must get approval from the ATF prior to starting work on your custom-made ATF item. Failure to do so will be in violation of the rules and regulations that pertain to the ATF.

If, however, you are a Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT) and you have a Federal Firearm License, you can legally go ahead and create your firearm or suppressor without having to get permission from the ATF.

The FFL and SOT allow you to simply notify the ATF after the fact, bypassing the Form 1 portion of the process. In this instance, you would make use of Form 2, which, if you recall, is designed to notify, not request.

If you’re non-FFL, you will need to use Form 1 to request approval/permission and include a check or money order for the tax stamp associated with the firearm or suppressor you plan on building. In this case, $200 or $5, respectively.

Now, while it’s true that you can legally create your own weaponry in the confines of your own home, you must first always make doubly sure that your state allows you to do so. There are certain states that prohibit you from doing this, superseding the Form 1 and any federal regulations set forth by the ATF.

It’s certainly possible that your state’s laws may override the ATF’s federal mandates. As such, it pays to know your local laws before potentially wasting your time and money. If you are approved to create your own masterpieces at home, know that it could take several months before you hear anything back on your Form 1 request.

If you’re like most people and don’t want to be subject to waiting for the ATF to get back with you, it would behoove you to consider getting your own FFL. As we mentioned, this will allow you to bypass the long wait times of the Form 1. Plus, it’s pretty cool!

With your own FFL, you will be able to simply use the ATF Form 2 to notify the ATF of your intentions and be done with it. No waiting, no hassles. Just make what you want (within reason) and let the ATF know.

Filling Out a Form 1 Paper Application

  • Begin by choosing your tax status. If you’re making a firearm for yourself, you’ll need to select “a. Tax Paid.”
  • Next comes the section where you choose between an individual and the representative of a company or gun trust. We’ve said it before, but we highly recommend establishing a gun trust for peace of mind.
  • You will also need to provide a physical address. You can enter a P.O. Box, but you’re still going to need to show where you live so that the ATF can come to inspect your gun or suppressor if they so desire. 
  • Next, the ATF with a clear description of the item. Remember, unless you have a Federal Firearm License, you can’t lawfully start building your firearm or suppressor. 

You can provide possible measurements and the type of item you are creating, but that’s as far as you can go with it. Never attempt assembling anything, even if it is to get measurements. Furthermore, you shouldn’t have parts to assemble anything yet, either.

Bottom line, stay away from any production until you are cleared by the ATF to start working on your firearm or suppressor. Believe it or not, the ATF looks at unassembled gun parts and assembled guns as one and the same. 

Silly? Perhaps, but it’s the rules we have to follow. If you do have parts in your home, it’s best to take them to your local FFL until after you have been approved by the ATF. This will absolve you from any liability and potential trouble.

  • In the lines that ask about your FFL and SOT, you are more than likely going to write in N/A (not applicable). You are, after all, filling out a Form 1 and probably don’t have either.
  • Sign the form.
  • Below your signature, you will need to print your name 

If you are filling out Form 1 for a company or trust, you will also need to write in the corresponding title. Write in the date of the application.

Remember, you’re going to have to contact your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer. You don’t need their approval, but you do have to let them know what you’re doing. After you have done so, you will need to provide on the form the name of the officer, their agency, and their address.

For Individuals Only

  • As an individual filling out the form, you will need to attach an additional sheet of paper that provides any further details requested from Form 1.
  • A passport-quality photograph of yourself will need to be provided with the form, as well. This needs to be clear and easy to tell it is you.
  • Answer any other questions pertaining to you and provide the ATF with any numbers requested on the form. If anything doesn’t apply to you, simply enter N/A.
  • Next, you will need to add any Responsible Person you wish to be on your application. If any are added, each person will have to fill out a questionnaire (ATF Form 5320.23). This is submitted along with the application for approval.
  • The same is true for an entity. All responsible persons will need to provide a corresponding questionnaire with the Form 1 application.
  • And lastly, you will need to enter the method in which you are paying. We advise paying by check, as this method allows you to track the progress of your application by seeing when your check was cashed.

After everything is properly filled out, you may submit it to the following address:

National Firearms Act Division
P.O. Box 5015
Portland, OR

Review of Items to Include With Your Submission

  • Additional paper with applicable information for all sections that require a “yes” answer.
  • $200 check for any NFA firearms ($5 check for any AOW transfers).
  • Responsible Person Questionnaire (ATF Form 5320.23).
  • 2 copies of the completed ATF Form 1.
  • Fingerprint cards (FBI Form FD-258).
  • Passport photograph.

Remember, you will also need to send a copy of ATF Form 1 to your local law enforcement agency.

ATF Form 1 eFile

This is hands-down the fastest and easiest way to submit an application to the ATF for approval. Simply use the ATF’s online eForm system and you should get a response in a matter of days instead of the several months it takes filing a paper application.

Before you can use the eForm system, though, you will need to register an online account through the ATF. Once your account is set up and active, you can submit your Form 1 in just a few minutes. If you’re looking to save time and are familiar with computers, there’s no reason to use the now-archaic paper application.

ATF Form 1 Summary

Let’s finish up with a quick refresher on everything you just learned. Refer back to this when you need to find an answer quickly and be sure to read over the above information when you have a moment to keep you up to speed on all things ATF Form 1.

What Is ATF Form 1?

The ATF Form 1 is the application for citizens who want to legally manufacture their very own NFA arms.

When Do I File an ATF Form 1?

You should file Form 1 prior to starting work on making your own custom SBS, SBR, or suppressor. You will need to submit your request for approval well ahead of time to ensure that you get a response around the time you plan on making your item.

How Long Does It Usually Take to Get Approval on an ATF Form 1?

The approval time can vary depending on a few factors. For example, if you file via paper form, it may take a few months to get approval to start building your item or firearm. However, filing electronically may take only a few days to get approval from the ATF.

How Is an ATF Form 1 Filed Electronically?

Known as an “eFile”, you may file your Form 1 electronically using the ATF’s online eForm.

How Is An ATF Form 1 Filed Using a Paper Application?

The latest ATF Form 1 should be sent via traditional mail to: 

National Firearms Act Division
P.O. Box 5015
Portland, OR

Once you have mailed your Form 1 to the ATF, it can take months before you get approval. Remember, though, you can always get an idea of the status of your application by monitoring the status of the check you submitted along with your Form 1 application.

We hope this article will help you as you dig into the world of creating your own NFA arms. While there is a bit of process involved, it is truly an enjoyable experience, similar to any DIY operation. The blood, sweat, and tears that you pour into the project end up making it all the sweeter in the end.