How Simple is Buying a Silencer? Pretty Darn Simple it Turns Out.
That is what this article is about–documenting the simple process of submitting the paperwork to receive your suppressor legally, and how Silencer Shop simplified the process with innovation and technology.
Purchasing a Silencer is Easy —
A few years ago, I came across a silencer from OSS (company now known as Huxwrx) that was substantially price-reduced. At the time, I didn’t particularly need the silencer, and I wasn’t ready to start the ATF's process of applying for the tax stamp and approval. I just knew that I found a suppressor that was marked down considerably (likely making room for newer models to come out), and I wanted it.
I made the purchase online through a well-known site, and I completed the transaction by listing in the checkout process my local FFL dealer with SOT (Special Occupational Tax). The SOT is what is required for FFLs to conduct business with and transfer NFA-regulated (National Firearms Act) items.
Within about 3 business days, I received word from my dealer that my suppressor arrived. I was so excited, I immediately went over to check it out. Of course, purchasing a silencer is easy. Taking possession of it legally is a whole other story.
My Silencer Purchase Journey Continues —
He asked me about filing the paperwork for it, and I said that I wasn’t ready to do that yet. Mostly, I just wasn’t ready to pay $200 for the tax stamp, but I said I would go through the process soon.
My dealer learned that how ‘soon' someone does something is highly subjective.
Fast forward about three and a half years.
I completely forgot about the suppressor until my dealer called and suggested we get the process started. I went in to the gun store and used an online tool called Silencer Shop kiosk, which made the process super simple.
Who is Silencer Shop?
I recently had Silencer Shop CEO, Dave Matheny, on our Concealed Carry Podcast, and got to know more about him and his company.
Dave got started in the early 2000s helping other people navigate the confusing and lengthy process of submitting the various ATF forms required for obtaining NFA-regulated items. Using his background in technology, he developed custom software solutions which helped simplify and streamline the process. As consumer interest in silencer ownership grew, he realized the opportunity and in 2010, Silencer Shop was born in Austin, Texas.
The company has grown, with tens of thousands of customers using their website and dealer kiosks throughout the U.S., they are about to move into a new much larger headquarters facility with room to continue to grow.
SilencerShop.Com Has it all —
Anyone looking for a silencer who goes to SilencerShop.com will appreciate the ability to research, compare and purchase suppressors and other accessories from dozens of manufacturers. The website also has fantastic informational resources available on their blog.
What are NFA Trusts, and Why Get One?
Speaking of trusts… it's recommended you get one. Here's what they are and why it's important that you have one.
First, a trust is protection for if you die, lose the ability to make legal decisions or the right to own firearms. With a trust, the trust holds the silencer, with members (trustees) able to act as responsible parties of the trust. Therefore, the trust owns the silencer, not an individual. Without a trust, when you pass away, the process to transfer possession and ownership of your suppressor(s) to a family member or beneficiary listed in a will, for instance, is much more difficult, complicated, and time consuming.
Second, the ability to name multiple individuals to the trust means more people can actually have physical possession of the suppressors owned by that trust. Otherwise, only YOU would be able to physically possess the suppressor(s) legally. It’s important to realize that if you have a trust that owns a suppressor and your family member is not a trustee, they technically can't access the safe where you store your suppressor(s).
Setting up a Trust —
An attorney of your choice that specializes in such things can set up a traditional trust for you. For a very reasonable price, Silencer Shop can also set up a traditional NFA trust if you don't know an attorney. While this is a very robust trust solution and allows you to add as many silencers or NFA-regulated items to this one trust, there are also some limitations and hurdles to this type of trust:
- Adding additional trustees requires that they provide fingerprints, photo, and a notarized signature which are sent off to the ATF for approval before adding them to the trust.
- The trust, not the individual, applies for the NFA-regulated item. This type of application is not streamlined, like it is for individuals who apply.
The Single Shot Trust Option —
Silencer Shop came up with a revolutionary, economical, and simple solution to the idea of NFA trusts.
The Single Shot Trust is the most popular option available at Silencer Shop.
- A Single Shot Trust does not list a responsible party from the get-go. With the Single Shot Trust, you’ll register as a “trust” (just as you would with a traditional NFA gun trust).
- You may still add other trustees later, which is a simple process that Silencer Shop will assist you with. And the great thing is these members of the trust will not have to send fingerprints and a photograph to the ATF for approval.
The primary downside of a Single Shot Trust is that it requires a separate trust for each suppressor that is purchased. The price to buy the trust service individually is reasonable, but you can also purchase a lifetime of Single Shot Trusts for about the cost of five individual ones. This solution makes the most sense if you think you will make more silencer purchases in the future.
I think once you have one, you’ll likely purchase more suppressors soon after!
The ATF eForms System —
In the past, you did everything related to buying a silencer via paper forms. Most notably, Form 4, the form that is used for individuals applying for suppressors. In recent history, filing the paper Form 4 as an individual took about a year for processing and issuance of the tax stamp.
My very first Form 4 suppressor tax stamp and approval took just over 12 months to be completed.
Several years ago, with buy-in from companies like Silencer Shop, the ATF instituted an electronic version of that process to streamline and expedite the process. Unfortunately, once the system launched, it became quickly overwhelmed and crashed epically. So back to paper Form 4s we went.
Then just last December, the ATF relaunched the eForms system for Form 4s. This was done with the promise that they would process applications within a 90-day window. Of course, the industry and silencer-buying public welcomed the change.
At first, hitting that 90-day goal seemed achievable. But then the government did what the government does, and wait times started creeping back up.
Right now, the turnaround isn't close to the ATF's 90-day goal, probably closer to 7 months as of the publishing of this article. On a positive note, 7 months is still substantially quicker than the paper process for Form 4s. For example, an acquaintance of mine just recently had their paper filing completed after 14 months of waiting.
Submitting an electronic Form 4, and getting it returned in half of that time, is huge.
It is a letdown to buy a suppressor, pay a $200 tax stamp, and then wait 7 months before finally holding it in your hands. But I can tell you the wait is WORTH it!
My advice is to make sure you talk to your dealer to see if they can accommodate allowing you to handle or even use your suppressor—while under their supervision, of course. Most dealers have no problem allowing you to come in and see your item occasionally, and some, particularly those that have their own range attached to their operations, may allow you to send some lead downrange with it.
In this way, you can enjoy your precious hearing preservation device while it sits in “jail” awaiting the ATF’s blessing.
The Suppressor Purchase and Transfer Process Step-by-step —
Before I wrap up this article, I’d like to walk you through the process from start-to-finish so that it is fresh in your mind as you determine your next move.
- First, head on over to SilencerShop.com and browse their enormous selection of suppressors from all the major brands. Select the one you want and add it to your cart for purchase. You’ll choose a dealer that is local to you. Many of them have Silencer Shop kiosks onsite. I recommend choosing one of these dealers as it makes the paperwork process a breeze.
- Add a Single Shot Trust (or a standard NFA trust) to your cart and the $200 tax stamp fee. Watch for promotions that Silencer Shop frequently runs with sales and even “Buy One, Get a Free Tax Stamp” deals. They run these periodically. You buy the suppressor, and they’ll cover the tax stamp on your behalf! Complete the checkout process by making the purchase with your preferred credit or debit card.
- Silencer Shop HQ automatically ships your silencer to the dealer you've selected. It will often arrive within just a few days. Typically, your dealer should contact you, letting you know the item has arrived and that you can come in and check it out.
- As part of purchasing a trust and tax stamp through Silencer Shop's online portal, you'll set up an account profile. You use this for account management throughout the process, and when you use the Silencer Shop kiosk at your dealer.
- Pay a visit to your dealer and they will assist you with taking and uploading your fingerprint scans and other demographic information using the Silencer Shop kiosk. The kiosks have electronic fingerprint scanners, so the process is easy and only takes a few minutes.
- After this you need to upload your photo to your Silencer Shop profile. You'll do this using their app or via the computer through the online portal. You don't need to spend money on a professional photo, you can use a cell phone photo. Just keep in mind that it needs to be like a passport photo–primarily of your head from the shoulders up and against a white background with decent lighting of your face, no smiling and no hats or accessories on your head or face.
- Shortly after this, Silencer Shop emails you some documents to sign electronically via Docusign. Follow the instructions and complete your electronic signature.
- Now you create an ATF eForms account, password and PIN. This is simple to do and is free. Make sure you keep this information.
- Be patient, and shortly you will receive an email from Silencer Shop stating that you are “Ready to Certify.” Once you see this, contact your dealer to set an appointment to complete the submission of your application to the ATF. You can do this remotely over the phone with your dealer. You both login to the ATF eForms system and certify the application.
- That’s it! Now it’s just a game of patience waiting on the ATF to approve your application!
Hopefully, in as little as 90 days (but again, it could be longer than that) you will get a call from your dealer who will have received your approved application along with the actual tax stamp. You are now free to go into your dealer and pick up your new silencer!
The process isn’t without its challenges, but as you can see with technology and great help from Silencer Shop, it’s really quite easy and stress-free to buy and get your first suppressor.