The Ultimate Guide to Legally Owning a Machine Gun – 5 Things to Know

Firing a weapon at full capacity and letting it rip through rounds while your finger is actively engaging the trigger is a truly liberating and free feeling, and it is only available with weapons that are classified as machine guns under the National Firearms Act (NFA).

This means that they are legal to obtain, and which may be shocking even to the savviest of gun owners. Buying a machine gun from your local dealer will not be an available option anytime soon, though, because of outdated legislation

Many people think that machine guns are dangerous weapons that have a long history of unmitigated violence, but fully-automatic firing weapons covered by the NFA have not been used for a single mass shooting in the history of America. 

Buying a fully-automatic firing weapon is not easy and you will have to jump through a lot of hoops to obtain a specialized weapon such as a machine gun. There are many qualifications that you will have to meet, and a substantial amount of governmental paperwork that you will have to fill out. 

You will have to buy a model that is at least 35 years old, because registering a brand new machine gun was banned in 1986, under the Ronald Reagan Administration. 

Before you decide to consider owning a machine gun, read through this comprehensive guide that will educate you on the options that you have available to you. 

1. Blast from the Past: A Brief History of Gun Legislation

It’s time that you learned the restrictions and regulations that surround legally obtaining a machine gun, Strict gun legislature traced back to the early beginnings of the 20th century, and this legislation has seen some changes as it has been passed down from generation to generation. 

1934-1967 Gun Legislature Highlights

The first round of gun control legislation was initiated in 1934 as the National Firearms Act (NFA). This legislation was developed under the Presidential administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and much of this legislature defined gun control throughout the century. 

This administration was under fire to pay attention to gang violence, specifically the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, which was an organized crime event that lives in infamy. 

This legislation was a double-edged sword, because not only did they require dealers to obtain a federal firearms license, they also initiated a tax on the manufacturing, selling, and transporting of firearms that were on the list in the legislation. 

The tax to obtain such a weapon was $200, but luckily that price has not changed since that legislation, and inflation has caused that price to be friendly to potential gun owners. 

1967-Present Gun Legislature Highlights

The world was shaken by the assignation of former President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Civil rights activists were booming and flooding the streets with their optimism and determination.

The political atmosphere was tense at the end of the 1960s, and the Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration vowed to create a legislature against weapons that were seen as dangerous. 

The GCA made a repeal to replace the FFA, they updated Title II of the NFA to combat constitutional issues, added language to devices such as bombs, mines, and grenades by labeling them “destructive.”

The GCA also expanded the definition of “machine gun” which they were trying to ban from civilians. Machine guns were thus prohibited from dealers to sell to civilians in the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act.

This act was enabled to ensure that civilians will not be able to buy machine guns that were made past the year 1986, only government and police agents are able to buy new machine guns. 

In 1994, the presidential administration of Bill Clinton introduced a controversial gun bill called the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which had a subsection entitled the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, which temporarily banned assault rifles all-together. 

This bill only acted between the dates of 1994-2004 and multiple institutions that have tried to repeal this act have failed. 

These legislative articles give you enormous insight on buying a machine gun, and you can see now why trying to get your hands on a machine gun can be tricky and perhaps longer of a process than you are willing to put in. 

If you are a dedicated gun owner, we encourage you to live your life to the fullest and take full advantage of the opportunities to expand your hobby, and if you are interested in obtaining a fully automatic machine gun, you will receive a unique and rewarding firearm experience. 

2. The Process of Obtaining an NFA Registered and Approved Machine Gun

With all of this legislative talk, you may be wondering if it is possible or even worth it to try to obtain a machine gun. Well, we can assure you that obtaining a machine gun is very possible.

Now as for determining if the long process of obtaining a machine gun is worth the hassle, but we can leave that up to you when you fire your first fully-automatic machine gun. 

Buying a machine gun is not for everyone, but it can be a liberating process to legally obtain one for the few gun enthusiasts looking for a unique shooting experience. 

There are many requirements that you must fulfill when legally obtaining a machine gun, and they are listed below:

  • Be able to legally register and obtain a weapon
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Live in one of the 37 states in which obtaining a machine gun is legal
  • Buy from a Class 3 FFL dealer
  • Buy a machine gun on the ATF’s curio or relic (C&R) list

As you can see, there is a lot that can go into buying a machine gun, for you can not just stop at a Shot Show exhibition or your local dealer. You have to find a gun that is registered by ATF, and there will be extensive paperwork involved. 

Both parties involved in the purchase of a machine gun must have a C&R license, and you must buy a gun that is papered, which means it is certified and registered with proof of paperwork. Buying a gun of any type that is not effectively papered is a felony, so don’t do it!

The NFA tax stamp must follow the gun anywhere it goes so that you have proof of legal ownership, and this can make selling these guns much more difficult because you will need all the paperwork to sell to a Class III dealer. 

This means that anytime you bring the gun to the range, you must bring the NFA tax stamp with it. If you are traveling with the weapon, you must have the tax stamp in the car, and the gun must be safely transported. 

When registering for a machine gun, you have to send forms to the federal government, relinquish fingerprints, passport and other identification copies, and a $200 transfer tax for each weapon transaction. 

All of this is to say that the process is lengthy, expensive, and often not a viable option for most gun-owners, but with a little bit of a time and money investment is the only thing standing in the way of you owning a fully-automatic machine gun. 

With a little bit of patience and some money that you have been saving for something special and unique, legally obtaining a machine gun may not be as bad as you thought it was. 

3. The Cost of Obtaining an NFA Registered and Approved Machine Gun

When you have decided to take the plunge and fill out the paperwork to obtain an NFA certified and legally owned machine gun, do not be surprised when the factor of cost grows unexpectedly. 

Process costs may not be available for reimbursement if you run into issues somewhere down the process of obtaining a machine gun.

The system and paperwork are supposed to be tough, and our government wants to make sure each person who fills out an application to obtain a machine gun is a responsible and dutiful gun-owner, and for good reason.

Since coming in contact with a machine gun to buy can be an extensive process, you can be sure that if you take the right steps, not only will everyone around you feel secure because you are a responsible gun owner, but you can also rest assured knowing that you are interacting with a professional Class III dealer when buying the weapon.

When you find a gun for sale that meets your expectations and classification requirements, you will have to fill out ATF’s form 4 as a Transferor. Check out the latest form on ATF’s website to ensure that you are completing the most recent form adaptation.

You can either fill the document out online and print it, or print the document and use a pen to mark the required areas. There will need to be three copies to be distributed. 

Two of the copies will go directly to an NFA Branch, and the third copy will need to be mailed to your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO), in other words, your local police chief or sheriff. 

You used to have to get expressed permission from your CLEO, but recent legislation dictates that you just need to notify them that you are applying for the gun. 

Please do not register to apply for a machine gun if you are in a state where it is explicitly illegal, for the ATF will throw it out upon your registration. Even if you do hack the system, doing so is committing a felony, as mentioned earlier, so don’t do it!

4. Consider Buying with a Gun Trust 

Many gun fans have used a gun trust document that will allow a trustee to enable beneficiaries that may get the benefit of partial ownership. If you are not familiar with a gun trust, take heed of some of the advice and benefits that go into investing in a gun trust agreement. 

What is a gun trust?

A gun trust is a fiduciary agreement that allows a certain party, the trustee, to hold assets for one or more beneficiaries. A trust can be designed specifically to your needs and lay out all of the circumstances in which a beneficiary will have permission to obtain the machine gun. 

A settlor will file your trust into a separate private legal entity that binds the weapon to the trustee and beneficiaries. A gun trust is a unique legal document that addresses certain processes of legally obtaining specialized weapons.

Most gun trusts that you will find from responsible gun-owners across America are specially customized revocable living trust, which gives a trustee options to revise the gun’s ownership and handling transfers throughout his/her lifetime.

Many married couples invest in a gun trust to ensure the proper transfer of their machine gun if one of the partners becomes unfit to own the firearm or die while in possession of the machine gun.

Benefits in Acquiring a Gun Trust

There are many great reasons to acquire a gun trust when trying to obtain a legally owned machine gun. A gun trust makes things a lot easier in terms of legally handling the ownership and usage of your machine gun. 

Here is a list of some of the benefits of obtaining an NFA approved machine gun:

  • The machine gun can be used and owned by multiple parties
  • The settlor can adjust the beneficiary list as needed
  • Eases the process of a safe transfer to your beneficiaries when you die
  • Protection of the machine gun if the gun is subjugated to repossession. 
  • Beneficiaries can still obtain machine gun if trustee leadership is changed

One of the worst things about obtaining a machine gun as an individual as opposed to obtaining the weapon with a trust is that the gun can only be used and possessed by the individual with the stamps. 

If you choose to invest in a gun trust, multiple people will have access to fire the gun at the range, and it will be easier to pass down the weapon after you die. 

If the gun needs to be confiscated from the trustee in the gun trust, it can be held by a beneficiary until it needs to be transferred in your will. This will make the transfer of the weapon a lot easier in probate court. 

A gun trust is also a private document, which is as secure and binding as a will, and this is especially useful when you want to keep the ownership and beneficiaries confidential.

If you do decide to use a gun trust (which you definitely should), we recommend Gun Trust NFA. The entire process is quick, simple, and much more affordable than going in person to an attorney. All in all, it should take just a few minutes to complete!

5. Frequently Asked Questions

I constantly see people online demonstrating the use of certain machine guns, so how are they able to do this?

If you have already done some online research concerning machine guns, you may have seen some YouTubers demonstrating the incredible capabilities of a fully-automatic machine gun. These video makers are dealers, a friend of a dealer, selling on behalf of a brand, or have legally obtained the weapon through the ATF process. 

Are there any loopholes that will enable multiple people to use and transfer ownership of the machine gun bought by an individual?

If an individual goes through the process of obtaining a machine gun, the weapon can only be used by the individual who has the stamps. 

Obtaining a legal machine gun with a gun trust is not a loophole, and it allows for certain beneficiaries to be able to use and transfer the gun to different owners with proper documentation. You will also be able to transfer the weapon to a beneficiary after you die. 

I found a fully-automatic machine gun in my relative’s basement, how can I legally obtain it?

If you have an automatic weapon within your possession that once belonged to another family member or loved one, you are going to want to extensively look for the paperwork that binds the ownership of the said weapon. 

Without proper documentation, claiming ownership of that machine gun will become a federal crime if you do not fill out an estate transfer tax-free form 5. Because form 5 is tax-free, you will be able to sell the firearm for a great price or keep it for your needs. 

If you do not want to go this route, you can either try to sell the parts or donate the machine gun to a museum until the laws change. 

Get the Unique Firearm Experience You Have Been Waiting For

Now that you have educated yourself on what it will take for you to obtain a machine gun, only an investment time and money stand in your way of obtaining a machine gun of your own. 

Get your other gun fanatic friends or family involved in a gun trust to make sure that the investment is worth it, and the gun will be able to stay in the hands of people who appreciate its power and capabilities. 

So, what are you waiting for? Start researching the forms, check out the available options, and start building the expenses necessary to give you one of the most powerful and liberating gun options on the market!