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A Federal Firearms License (FFL) is a license that enables an individual or a company to engage in a business pertaining to the manufacture of firearms and ammunition or the interstate and intrastate sale of firearms. Holding an FFL to engage in certain such activities has been a legal requirement within the United States of America since the enactment of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Type Usage
Type 1 Title 1 dealer or gunsmith other than destructive devices. Can also deal in Title II NFA firearms with class 3 tax stamp.
Type 2 Title 1 dealer doing business as a pawnbroker.
Type 3 Licensed collector of Curio & Relic (C&R) firearms.
Type 6 Licensed manufacturer of ammunition and reloading components other than ammunition for destructive devices and armor piercing ammunition.
Type 7 Title 1 manufacturer of firearms and ammunition, who may also act as dealer; may not manufacture or deal in destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, or armor piercing ammunition. Can also manufacture & deal in Title II NFA firearms with class 2 tax stamp.
Type 8 Importer of Title 1 firearms and ammunition. Can also import Title II NFA firearms with class 1 tax stamp.
Type 9 Dealer in firearms, including destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition. Requires payment as an SOT Class 1 (can act as an NFA Dealer). To deal/broker any DD with an explosives content (e.g. flash-bangs) requires an additional Federal Explosives License[1] as a Dealer of High Explosives.
Type 10 Manufacturer of firearms, ammunition and ammunition components, manufacturer of destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition; may also deal in all of the aforementioned items. Requires payment as an SOT Class 2 (can act as an NFA Dealer). To manufacture any DD with an explosives content (e.g. flash-bangs) requires an additional FEL[2] as a Type 20 Manufacturer of High Explosives.
Type 11 Importer of firearms, ammunition, destructive devices, ammunition for destructive devices, and armor piercing ammunition; may also deal in all the aforementioned items. Requires payment as an SOT Class 1. To import any DD with an explosives content (e.g. flash-bangs), requires an additional FEL[3] as an Importer of High Explosives.

History of Federal Firearms Licenses

The Federal Firearms License was established to implement the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. The FFA required all manufacturers and dealers of firearms who ship or receive firearms or ammunition in interstate or foreign commerce to have a license, and forbade them from transferring any firearm or most ammunition to any person interstate unless certain conditions were met.[4] As a practical matter, this did not affect the interstate commerce in firearms or ammunition. It was with the adoption of the Gun Control Act in 1968, which repealed most of the FFA, that the lawful interstate trade of firearms was limited almost entirely to persons holding a Federal Firearms License.

Special Occupational Tax Classes

Class Usage
Class 1 importer of NFA firearms
Class 2 manufacturer & dealer of NFA firearms
Class 3 Dealer of NFA firearms
Class 1 SOT status requires an importer FFL, either Type 8 or 11.
Class 2 SOT status requires a manufacturer FFL, either Type 7 or 10.
Class 3 SOT status requires a dealer or manufacturer FFL, either Type 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11.

Collectors of Curio and Relic (C&R) Firearms

C&R firearms are defined in Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 478.11 as those "...of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons." To be recognized by ATF as a C&R firearm, a firearm must fall into at least one of the following three categories:

  1. Firearms manufactured more than 50 years prior to the current date, not including replicas
  2. Firearms certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum that exhibits firearms as curios or relics of museum interest
  3. Any other firearms that derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event. Proof of qualification of a particular firearm under this category requires evidence of present value and evidence that like firearms are not available except as collector's items, or that the value of like firearms available in ordinary commercial channels is substantially less.

C&R firearms include most manually operated and semi-automatic firearms used by a military force prior to 1972. This includes most firearms used by the warring nations in World War I and World War II. However, the firearm must normally also be in its original configuration to retain the C&R designation. So, for example, an unaltered Mauser Karabiner 98k rifle used by the German Army in World War II is a C&R firearm – but the same rifle "sporterized" with a new stock and finish is generally not considered a C&R firearm. There is an ambiguous point in how the license is currently administered, in that some firearms altered by the militaries that issued them have been confirmed by the BATFE to retain C&R status, though whether this applies to all such conversions (the examples given by the BATFE were the Spanish M1916 Guardia Civil, FR-7, and FR-8 Mausers) also remains ambiguous. However, as long as the receiver (the part of the firearm that is regulated by the BATFE) is over 50 years old (was manufactured before 1972) the firearm qualifies as a Curio & Relic – the BATFE states explicitly that, in addition to newer firearms it individually approves, firearms automatically achieve C&R status upon turning 50. Certain automatic weapons have been designated as C&R firearms, and a C&R may be used to acquire these as well.

Collectors may acquire C&R firearms in interstate commerce, e.g., via mail or phone order or the Internet, or in person. (This is especially important for collectors of pistols and revolvers since they may not otherwise be acquired outside a collector's state of residence.) Collectors are not considered to be FFL dealers and have no special privileges concerning non-C&R firearms, nor may they "engage in the business" of regularly selling C&R firearms to persons who do not have an FFL. Selling of a C&R firearms does not require an FFL transfer across state lines, only if the firearm has a collectable status. The purpose of the C&R license is to enable a collector to acquire C&R firearms for his/her personal collection and not to become a firearms dealer.

Curio & Relic Compliance Inspections

"(D) At the election of a licensed collector, the annual inspection of records and inventory permitted under this paragraph shall be performed at the office of the Attorney General designed for such inspections which is located in closest proximity to the premises where the inventory and records of such licensed collector are maintained." ATF 2005 Regulations page 18. (ATF Publication 5300.4) Licensed collectors may also elect to have the inspection conducted at their homes. While C&R compliance used to consist of just bringing the bound book to the appropriate office, Inspectors are now (2009) often requiring that collectors bring their inventory (collection) to their office if they can not inspect them in the home.[citation needed]

Conversion of C&R firearms

Any firearm sold as a C&R weapon once changed out of its original configuration cannot be resold as a C&R weapon. In regard to conversions; certain pistols have been approved for sale with added safety conversions (i.e. Polish and Romanian Tokarev pistols, to which a manual safety was added to meet import requirements). Certain other modifications, such as period sporterisations, are arguably C&R qualified as they represent the gun culture of the period. An example would be a Lee-Enfield or 98K Mauser military rifle that had been converted into a continental style sporter before World War II. These common conversions occurred more than 50 years ago, and represent a sub-type of special interest to collectors.

Antique guns

Federal law defines guns manufactured before 1899 as "antique," and they are generally unregulated in federal law. They may be bought and sold across state lines without a FFL. The only exceptions are short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and machinegun, which are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934. Unlike C&R guns, antique guns can be re-arsenalized, sporterized, re-barreled, or re-chambered, yet they will still retain their Federally exempt status. Even if every part except the receiver is replaced, a pre-1899 firearm still qualifies as an antique. [citation needed] FFL holders have been directed not to enter Pre-1899 guns into their Bound Books.

Record keeping

FFL holders are required to keep a registry of firearms sales in an ATF-approved Bound Book, or a computerized equivalent using ATF-approved software. Licensed dealers must also maintain file copies of Form 4473 or eForm 4473 "Firearms Transaction Record" documents, for a period of not less than 20 years after the date of sale or disposition. When retiring or otherwise relinquishing a license, these records are sent to the BATFE's Out-of-Business Records Center. Licensed collectors are not required to send their records to the BATFE when relinquishing their license. The ATF is allowed to inspect, as well as request a copy of the Form 4473 from the dealer during the course of a criminal investigation. In addition, the sale of two or more handguns to a person in a five business day period must be reported to ATF on Form 3310.4.

Conditions of application

ATF will approve the application if the applicant:

  • Is 21 years or older.
  • Is not prohibited from handling or possessing firearms or ammunition
  • Has not violated the Gun Control Act or its regulations
  • Has not failed to disclose information or facts in connection with his application
  • Has premises for conducting business or collecting

The applicant must also certify that:

  1. The business to be conducted under the license is not prohibited by State or local law in the place where the licensed premise is located including Local (City & County) Zoning Ordinances and not prohibited by the Home Owners Association (HOA) if any.
  2. Within 30 days after the application is approved the business will comply with the requirements of State and local law applicable to the conduct of the business
  3. The business will not be conducted under the license until the requirements of State and local law applicable to the business have been met
  4. The applicant has sent or delivered a form to the chief law enforcement officer where the premises are located notifying the officer that the applicant intends to apply for a license.
  5. Secure gun storage and safety devices will be available at any place in which firearms are sold under the license to persons who are not licensees

Application fees


Non-destructive devices

Licensee Application fee Renewal fee
Manufacturer $150 for 3 years $150 every 3 years
Importer $150 for 3 years $150 every 3 years
Pawnbroker $200 for 3 years $90 every 3 years
Dealer $200 for 3 years $90 every 3 years
Collector $30 for 3 years $30 every 3 years

Destructive Device

Licensee Application fee Renewal fee
Manufacturer $3,000 $3,000
Importer $3,000 $3,000
Dealer $3,000 $3,000


Licensee Application fee Renewal fee
Manufacturer $30 for three years $30 every three years

Importers and manufacturers of machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and destructive devices must also pay a special occupational tax of $500 per year if gross revenues do not exceed $500,000, and $1,000 if revenues exceed $500,000.

International Traffic in Arms Regulations Registration

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is a set of United States government regulations that control the manufacture, export, import, or transfer of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML), which includes most all firearms components.

In general, the Department of State's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), which interprets and enforces ITAR, requires anyone engaged in such activities, including holders of a Federal Firearms License, to register annually and submit a fee (no less than $2,250 as of 2013).[5][6] Registration exemptions exist for, among other things, work on unclassified intellectual property, and work or fabrication of an experimental or scientific nature including research and development.[7]


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