It’s no secret among gun owners that it takes some tedious waiting time to get back your approval on background checks. NFA wait times from the ATF continue to be a source of contention for some folks. Be that as it may, it’s a necessary part of the normal procedure for getting approved to buy or sell National Firearms Act items.
Yes, it’s possible for buyers and sellers to have incredibly long NFA wait times for approval. In some instances, you might have to wait as long as a year for approval! In fact, it’s become somewhat of a cruel inside joke for many that NFA wait times are just going to be agonizingly slow.
Still, it begs the question, why? Why are NFA wait times so long to get your hands on an NFA gun or item? Isn’t there anything that can be done to expedite the process and make it easier for everyone involved?
Will the ATF ever improve their ways? After all, the digital age that we live in makes it possible to send and receive information at a moment’s notice. There must be an underlying reason as to why the ATF takes so long to approve things, right?
To better understand the ins and outs of NFA wait times, let’s look at some history pertaining to current NFA wait times and see if there’s anything in there that might explain the holdup.
About NFA Wait Times
We certainly can’t predict the future, but we can observe current trends to get a better idea of NFA wait times and what the ATF is approving at the moment. To get a clearer understanding of current NFA wait times, we looked at several forms filed for various reasons. What did we find out?
On average, Form 4 applications take anywhere from 250 to 370 days to complete their approval process. Compare that to the NFA wait times for Form 1s that are e-filed. Amazingly, the wait times translated to about 1 month.
As of this writing, an individual Form 4 is typically transferred about 2 months earlier compared to that of gun trusts. This is more than likely due to the smaller workloads of the ATF examiners than anything else.
You also have to take into account that the Form 1 items consisted of the likes of requests for manufacturing an existing item into an SBR (Short Barrel Rifle), whereas the Form 4 was simply a purchased item going from a dealer to an individual.
Conversely, Form 3s filed electronically were approved in about 9 days while Form 3s that were filed by paper came back approved the very same day.
Why Are NFA Wait Times So Long?
It’s certainly an easy enough question, but the answer to NFA wait times is anything but. You see, different forms equate to different needs. Forms 1, 3, and 4 – which are the majority of the forms used – each serve unique purposes and therefore have different outcomes pertaining to those purposes.
Form 1 is needed when you want to manufacture your own firearm. Form 3 is needed when there is a transfer between the dealer and manufacturer. And lastly, Form 4 is needed when transferring a gun or item from a dealer to a buyer.
It doesn’t end there. To add further confusion to the process, you can opt to file digitally or by paper. How you choose to file in conjunction with the Form you used will each have different ATF processes and approval speeds. One would be forgiven for thinking that it’s almost like it’s designed to slow things down.
Let’s look at Form 1, used for a gun trust. Those named within the application will need to be verified, including any criminal background. However, this is expedited whenever you submit it digitally because there is simple communication between databases.
As a manufactured firearm (Form 1), there is no additional existing firearm information that needs to be entered and verified. As such, this process is typically faster than others.
At the other end of the spectrum are paper forms filed manually. This can be quite a laborious process for those waiting. The age of the firearm can easily cause delays due to a lack of current information available.
If extensive research needs to be conducted to get accurate data on a dated firearm, you can expect to wait even longer for approval.
Current NFA Wait Times
At present, a Form 4 carries an average wait time of about 1 year. And that’s regardless of whether it’s going to an individual or a trust. A Form 1 that is filed electronically typically has NFA wait times of just 1 month.
So, in short, a Form 4 carries the longest wait time due to its in-depth processing time. A Form 1, however, carries the fastest turnaround when filed electronically. In both instances, the wait times are reliant on how quickly the ATF can verify that all information entered is correct and accurate while processing background checks.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do other than wait. After you have submitted your application, you are at the mercy of the ATF and their verification process.
NFA Wait Times – E-file or Paper File?
By and large, filing electronically is the faster option of the two. If you think about it, this makes logical sense. Since e-filing doesn’t require data to be entered into a system, there isn’t the added turnaround time like you get when submitting a paper form.
On the other end, paper forms need to be manually inputted line for line and word for word. Understandably, and as slow as it is, it’s going to take some time for any ATF employee to ensure that all data entered is accurate and correct.
And speaking of accuracy, that’s a big part of why paper forms take as long as they do. To be frank, not everyone prints like a professional calligrapher. There are bound to be errors or illegible entries that further delay the application process.
You simply don’t have this issue with electronic filing. What is entered is immediately recognizable by the system in which it is submitted. There are very few, if any, errors that would cause an electronic form to be kicked out by the system.
Only if a mandatory line of information is left blank will you run into any issues. As such, it’s clear that anyone who is wanting speedy results (and who isn’t?) should opt for e-filing their NFA data.
This will typically ensure the shortest NFA wait times and a faster approval. We recommend that you take advantage of ATF eForms for all of your needs. If you don’t have a computer, we recommend that you go to your public library or use a friend’s computer.
The difference that this will make in your NFA wait times is well worth making the switch. Not familiar with computers? Have a child or grandchild help you. You will be happy that you did.
Trust and Individual Registration
Whenever you transfer or set up an NFA item, you can file either as an individual, corporation, or as a trust. We’ve done a lot of research on the differences in NFA wait times when filing with each and have determined that nearly everyone benefits from filing as a trust.
The advantages of doing so far outweigh any benefits of filing as an individual or corporation. Not familiar with what a trust can do for you? Let’s take a moment to look into it so you’ll have a better understanding of its benefits.
Benefits of a Trust
If you invest in an NFA trust for the intention of buying a regulated NFA weapon, the trust will allow you to buy and possess the title of that firearm. There are many benefits to going this. You can share your NFA firearm and add a specific trustee to the trust who can then legally care for your firearms if something were to happen to you.
Let’s go into a little more detail about what these services mean to you as an NFA gun owner.
Giving another trusted individual the ability to carry and possess your regulated firearm is a big deal. This is a perk that you don’t get with unregulated weapons. You never know what kind of situation might arise that would require you to entrust your NFA weapon to another person.
With an unregulated firearm, you are the only person allowed to legally carry that weapon. If someone else gets caught with, regardless of whether they had your blessing, it’s going to bring a lot of legal headaches your way.
Let’s play out a purely hypothetical situation so you get a better idea as to why having a trustee is important. Imagine you are going on a hunting trip with friends and realize you forgot your short barrel shotgun at home. Not likely to happen, but we’re using this as an example.
One of your friends who is a trustee is also joining you on the hunting trip, but they haven’t left yet. Instead of you driving all the way back home to get your SBS, you could simply have your friend stop by your house and pick up the gun for you on his way out.
Similar things could occur at any time and having a trustee who you know will take excellent care of your NFA weapons can come in mighty handy.
As long as that individual is legally added to your gun trust, you can rest easy knowing you are covered in the event that you let them use your NFA weapon.
Life happens on its own terms and there isn’t anything you can do to cheat death. If you unexpectedly pass away – as unfortunate as it would be and as unpleasant it is to talk about – it’s best to have a contingency plan in place for your firearms.
A trust lets you name someone to take over possession of your NFA firearms if you were to die. What’s more, this would effectively bypass those awful NFA wait times since that individual will be named as the new owner of your arsenal.
You can rest easy knowing that your weapons will go to a person of your choosing and not be stuck in legal limbo. This will not only give you the peace of mind that your collection is safe, but it also will save your family a lot of legal issues after your passing.
This ensures that nothing outside of our wishes takes place after you are gone. Sadly, this kind of thing happens far too often. But with a little planning, you can prevent this from becoming an issue later in life. Cover your bases now and you won’t have this potentiality hanging over your head. You name the trustee, and they will be the one who assumes the responsibility for your NFA weapons.
Depending on the state you live in, an NFA trust can actually last for generations, sometimes forever. A solid, well-drafted trust will make sure that your NFA firearm and other firearms go to the party of your choosing.
We highly recommend that you take advantage of putting a trust in place online. In a matter of minutes, you can be well on your way to having the protection your weapons need to lawfully transfer ownership or let someone else handle your NFA firearms.
Paying a lawyer to handle a trust for you can quickly become expensive. Why pay hundreds of dollars when you can jump on a website like Gun Trust NFA and establish a trust for just $99?
Make sure your family and your firearms are covered in the event that something happens to you. Whether due to death or you become incapacitated, a trust is an essential part of owning a gun and needs to be taken advantage of at all costs. Regardless of how you go about it, what matters the most is that your firearms are legally protected.
As we mentioned earlier, there are simply far too many reasons to get a trust compared to other filing options. We have spoken with several gun owners who swear by trusts. For that reason alone, you can count on a trust to keep you legally covered.
What’s more, we spoke with lots of gun owners who filed under another option besides a trust, and just about everyone wishes they had just filed as a trust to begin with. This speaks volumes as to the benefits of trusts and how important they are to gun owners.
Having a trust in place that you can rely on to protect your property is worth its weight in gold. This peace of mind is invaluable to many gun owners and needs to be taken advantage of at all costs.
Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. We know a few people who have unfortunately not gotten a trust and the hassle that follows simply isn’t necessary when you have affordable online gun trusts at your disposal.
When you think of the value of your NFA weapons and the value of protecting your family, $99 is more than reasonable to legally protect your firearms. Thanks to the ease of filing, it just makes too much sense to invest in a trust.
Now that you know the importance of a trust, let’s finish up by looking into how you can check the status of your projected NFA wait times.
Checking the Status of Your NFA Item
OK, so you want to check the status of your NFA item so you’ll have a better idea of your NFA wait times. How do you go about it? It’s actually really straightforward. Simply contact the NFA Branch and provide them with some information.
You will need to have ready any appropriate serial numbers, the name of the transferor, and your personal information. Once you have supplied the NFA Branch with the proper data, they will be able to give you a rough time frame of when you can expect approval.
It’s important to keep in mind that exact dates of approval can’t be supplied to you. They only know rough estimates. But at least you won’t be in the dark anymore and can look forward to getting the approval you need.
It’s important to remember to be patient when dealing with NFA wait times. Yes, it can be a trying and tedious process to go through, but as it stands right now, NFA wait times are often long.
Getting frustrated and impatient will only serve to make matters worse. Your approval will come through eventually, so just know that your NFA wait times are no worse than most people’s. Unless you have an error on the form that you submitted, the ATF should get to your request as soon as they can and get you approved in a reasonable fashion.
Don’t forget to contact the NFA Branch so you’ll have a better idea of when you can expect to get your approval and your NFA wait times look like. You can always email or call them for more information regarding your submitted form. With that all being said, we wish you good luck and a speedy turnaround on your NFA wait time!