Thursday, May 19, 2022
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ATF eForm 4’s Mean More People Buying More Suppressors and Getting Them Much Faster


You can’t watch a video like the one above from SilencerCo and not want a can. Put a suppressor on a rimfire pistol or rifle and you have endless hours of hearing-safe shooty fun in your future. That’s something pretty much anyone can get behind. What far fewer people are willing to get behind is a nine- to twelve-month wait to get an NFA permission slip from our dear friends at the ATF.

The .gov has been too big, dumb, and wonderfully inefficient over the last 88 years to alter the $200 price of the tax stamp (shhhh…don’t tell them) mandated by the National Firearms Act. Two Benjamins isn’t nothing, but what was prohibitively expensive in 1934 — and intended to be so — is far more fiscally doable in 2022 thanks to inflation. Lots of gun owners can and are willing to jump that hurdle.

What they haven’t been so willing to do, though, is lay out their hard-earned cash for a can and then…wait nine to twelve months for the ATF’s drones to process the paperwork. That’s the reason I’ve never taken the NFA leap. There’s no doubt the same thing has kept tens of thousands (at least) of gun owners from going quiet. The idea of waiting that long to take possession of something you’ve bought and paid for is simply too infuriating.

That’s why plenty of people built their own cans and eForm 1’d them (see Jeremy’s post here). The ATF rolled out electronic Form 1s about three years ago. That meant you could buy a, uh, solvent trap, file your Form 1 electronically, pay your $200 and get approval in a matter of weeks. If you were new to the process, people like SilencerShop made it totally perspiration-free, processing everything for you. You could go from nuthin’ to shooting suppressed in less than a couple of months.

That was all well and good, but lots of people can’t or don’t want to build their own suppressor. That meant they’d have to pay the $200 tax and then wait almost a year. As our friends at Open Source Defense noted last year, that was the real tax…time. The $200 is now almost de minimus. The really painful part was the wait.

But all that began to change in January when the ATF rolled out (once again) electronic From 4s, bringing processing times way down. The ATF is working toward getting the process as fast as people have seen with electronic From 1s.

From Open Source Defense (back in December). . .

[A] lot more people would be willing to wait a few weeks. That’s the promise of making this electronic. Waits will probably be substantial for the initial flood of applications, but should subside over time. And this is all just a first step. The final stop will be to do away with the NFA registry altogether. But the key to that is normalization, and that means getting silencers into millions of people’s hands. And that is what eForm 4’s are going to help do.

Wait times now run somewhere between 30 to (more often) around 90 days. Our own Jeremy S. (an FFL with an SOT) who keeps tabs on these things says that while most people are getting through the process in about three months, some have seen their approvals turned around in as little as about 30 days already. And averaging thirty days is the goal the ATF says they’re working toward achieving by the end of the year.

What does that mean for suppressor makers? You have to think it means a hell of a lot more people willing to take the leap and finally buy that first can they’ve always wanted. A rimfire suppressor like the SilencerCo Sparrow in the video above is only about $300.

In many cases, that first one will act like a gateway drug. Once you have a can for your .22 pistols and rifles and get used to shooting without ear pro, you’re gonna want a suppressor you can use with your 9mm and your AR. That means more people buying and shooting with more suppressors more often. And when that happens — the more other shooters see them at the range and in the field — the more that cans will be “normalized,” as OSD predicts.

tax stamp detail
Woody for TTAG

No, suppressors shouldn’t be regulated under the NFA. The $200 tax stamp is an idiotic anachronism that has no place in a 21st century world. Yes, “silencers” are nothing more than common sense safety equipment that should be sold over the counter and through the mail, just as they currently are in other far less-gun-friendly nations. But those are points and discussions for another time and another post.

For now, just know that there’s no reason any more for you to wait almost a year for regulatory permission to get your can out of NFA jail. If you file electronically — and why wouldn’t you? — you can now get your suppressor faster, sometimes in just a matter of weeks. That will mean more people buying and shooting with cans. And more people seeing them out in the world and wanting one of their own.

That, as someone named Martha Stewart used to say, is a very good thing.

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