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silverado113 08-16-2012 04:22 PM

FFL Process
This is not an all-encompassing “How To” on getting your 01 FFL, but rather some things that I noted that may help you along the way. This is intended to point you in the right direction and give a little guidance, but please check your local and state laws and requirements for anything mentioned in this post. One of the biggest scams out there IMO are those, “How to get your FFL packages”. So don’t waste your time or money on those because you can complete the whole process yourself with a little bit of time and some patience.

Who can get a license as listed on the ATF website:

The ATF will approve the application if the applicant:
• Is 21 years of age or older;
• Is not prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition;
• Has not willfully violated the GCA or its regulations;
• Has not willfully failed to disclose material information or willfully made false statements concerning material facts in connection with his application;
• Has premises for conducting business or collecting; and
• The applicant certifies that:
1. The business to be conducted under the license is not prohibited by State or local law in the place where the licensed premises is located;
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 is located notifying the officer that the applicant intends to apply for a license; and
5. Secure gun storage or safety devices will be available at any place in which firearms are sold under the license to persons who are not licensees (“secure gun storage or safety device” is defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(34)).

First and foremost to become a FFL means you must “actively engage in the business”. What that means to the ATF, who knows. There is not a magic number of firearms you have to sell or transfer according to an IOI, but you have to try and make a living from your FFL. Now if you sell one firearm to your buddy and have 20 transferred to you in a year’s time, you may run into an issue with the ATF according to my IOI, but it is different with each Industry Operations Investigator (IOI) hence the no magic number statement. Also, you have to sell in a variety of other ways and cannot just sell strictly at gun shows according to the ATF; otherwise you will not be approved.

So once you have decided that you will actively engage in the business and you are ready to fill out the paperwork. Before you rush to fill out your paperwork and send the ATF your hard earned money, a quick check with your local zoning office, zoning board or whatever your city or county may call it, can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration. The ATF WILL NOT approve your application if you do not meet local zoning requirements. This means if you want to be a home based FFL and your city does not allow a business in a residential area, you will have to fight to change the zoning (good luck) or find a commercial place to do business (better option, IMO). Some cities or counties may allow home based businesses unless you are in the firearms industry and then the rules change for some strange reason. So please do your homework because there would be nothing worse than sending in all your required paperwork, the $200 fee, and the finding out your city will not allow it.

FFL Application:
Filling out the application that is found on the ATF website is fairly simple, but make sure you send in all the required items (application, (1) set of fingerprints, (2) passport photos, certificate of compliance, and $200 fee) at one time to avoid further delays. The photo needed for the application is the passport type and fingerprint cards can be ordered from the ATF’s distribution center (linked below) but most sheriff departments have them on hand. One copy goes to ATF; one goes to your local chief of police (other FFLs recommend a cover letter introducing yourself and business to the CLEO, but that is up to you), and one copy for your records. The fee is taken out almost immediately, but the application can take up to 60 days and often does (if not longer in some cases). I do recommend putting the FFL in the name of your company on your application so you can ensure that you keep your personal assets and business assets separated in case of a lawsuit, etc. (Incorporating is discussed below).
• ATF F 5310.12 (Form 7) — Application for Federal Firearm License (FFL)
• ATF F 5330.20 — Certification of Compliance
• FD–258 (Fingerprint Card) Instructions and Example - ATF Distribution Center


Establishing Your Business Design:
There are several types of businesses and each has their own pros and cons, the link covers the differences: Becoming a LLC, S-Corp, etc, varies by state and can be done on your own, through the Secretary of State’s office if desired or through companies like LegalZoom for a nominal fee. Please consult a lawyer if you are unsure. Part of becoming a business is taxes. State, Local, Federal taxes, etc all apply to running a legitimate business. You can apply for your Federal Employee Identification Number here:,,id=102767,00.html and even if you do not have employees, this number will be needed later on. Please consult a tax professional if you are unsure. In addition to the aforementioned requirements you may have state, county, and city business licenses that may/will be needed. If you are unsure that you will be approved for the FFL you can obtain a letter from your city stating that they will issue your business a license provided that you meet XYZ requirements to provide to the ATF at the time of your interview. Each situation is different and unique so as mentioned seek information locally. You have 30 days as mentioned above to become compliant with local licenses so there is no need to rush out and spend the money on licenses if you are unsure about your FFL being approved.

The ATF Interview:
The interview sounds a lot scarier than it really is. The main purpose of the interview is to inform you of the paperwork procedures, rules, regulations, etc, and go over how to fill the pounds of paperwork out as well as recording keeping requirements. Allow for about 2 hours for the interview, although it may take a little less or longer depending on your IOI. From my experience the IOI I interviewed was very friendly, knowledgeable and seemed like a good guy (YMMV). Write down any questions you may have prior to the meeting and barring something really crazy on your part, when you are done with the interview the license is sent to your place of business within a month (according to the IOIs) but it usually takes about 10 days or so.

Receiving Your License:
Once your license arrives in the mail DO NOT SIGN IT! Make copies of your license and sign the copy not the original, keep the original in a safe place. I also recommend having a “FILE COPY ONLY” stamp for all copies or scanning a signed copy and adding “FILE COPY ONLY” on it via Microsoft paint or another similar program. All distributors and manufacturers will want a signed copy which normally can be faxed or emailed to them. Some may ask for you to send the signed copy to them via snail mail after you have faxed or emailed it in which is why you don’t sign the original.

To get started with distributors and manufacturers for home based FFLs and commercial based FFLs see the linked thread below. There may be other distributors, but this should give you a decent start. Some distributors and manufacturers may require a minimum first order, but most do not. Good luck on your new endeavor.

Distributors for Home Based FFLs

Additional Distributors for Storefront FFLs:
Acusport, Jerry’s Sports Center, Camfour, Lew Horton, Bill Hicks, Ellet Brothers, Sports South.

danf_fl 08-16-2012 05:13 PM

An unlicensed individual can assemble an AR for Personal Use Only and not for resale.

According to the BATF Website:

Q: Is it legal to assemble a firearm from commercially available parts kits that can be purchased via internet or shotgun news?
For your information, per provisions of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, an unlicensed individual may make a “firearm” as defined in the GCA for his own personal use, but not for sale or distribution.

The GCA, 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3), defines the term “firearm” to include the following:

… (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive: (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.
In addition, the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. 5845(b), defines the term “machinegun” as:

… any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. This term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
Finally, the GCA, 18 U.S.C. 922(r), specifically states the following:

It shall be unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under the…[GCA]…Section 925(d)(3).as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes ….
Also, 27 C.F.R. 478.39 states:

(a) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes ….
(b) The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
(1) The assembly of such rifle or shotgun for sale or distribution by a licensed manufacturer to the United States or any department or agency thereof or to any State or any department, agency, or political subdivision thereof; or (2) The assembly of such rifle or shotgun for the purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the Director under the provisions of [478.151(formerly 178.151)]; or (3) The repair of any rifle or shotgun which had been imported into or assembled in the United States prior to November 30, 1990, or the replacement of any part of such firearm.
(c) For purposes of this section, the term imported parts [tabulated below] are:
(1) Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings, or castings.
(2) Barrels.
(3) Barrel extensions.
(4) Mounting blocks (trunnions).
(5) Muzzle attachments.
(6) Bolts.
(7) Bolt carriers.
(8) Operating rods.
(9) Gas pistons.
(10) Trigger housings.
(11) Triggers.
(12) Hammers.
(13) Sears.
(14) Disconnectors.
(15) Buttstocks.
(16) Pistol grips.
(17) Forearms, handguards.
(18) Magazine bodies.
(19) Followers.
(20) Floor plates.

As a result of a 1989 study by the U.S. Treasury Department regarding the importability of certain firearms, an import ban was placed on military-style firearms. This ban included not only military-type firearms, but also extended to firearms with certain features that were considered to be “nonsporting.”

Among such nonsporting features were the ability to accept a detachable magazine; folding/telescoping stocks; separate pistol grips; and the ability to accept a bayonet, flash suppressors, bipods, grenade launchers, and night sights.

Please note that the foreign parts kits that are sold through commercial means are usually cut up machineguns, such as Russian AK-47 types, British Sten types, etc. Generally, an acceptable semiautomatic copy of a machinegun is one that has been significantly redesigned. The receiver must be incapable of accepting the original fire-control components that are designed to permit full automatic fire. The method of operation should employ a closed-bolt firing design that incorporates an inertia-type firing pin within the bolt assembly.

Further, an acceptably redesigned semiautomatic copy of nonsporting firearm must be limited to using less than 10 of the imported parts listed in 27 CFR 478.39(c). Otherwise, it is considered to be assembled into a nonsporting configuration per the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 925(d)(3) and is thus a violation of 922(r).

Individuals manufacturing sporting-type firearms for their own use need not hold Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). However, we suggest that the manufacturer at least identify the firearm with a serial number as a safeguard in the event that the firearm is lost or stolen. Also, the firearm should be identified as required in 27 CFR 478.92 if it is sold or otherwise lawfully transferred in the future.

silverado113 08-16-2012 05:21 PM

Thanks Dan, probably should have said resale. Good call, anything else you see that I should include? The same questions kept coming up so I figured I would address them and future ones.

danf_fl 08-16-2012 05:43 PM

I thought I might add that as clarification (I could almost hear the questions being asked.)

To our members: We are not lawyers or BATF agents. What we are posting is from our experience.

c3shooter 08-16-2012 08:00 PM

Two very good posts. Nominate for Sticky status.

joeb65 12-28-2015 05:42 PM

Links broken of invalid
Just read this, and the links posted are useless. Tried it with and without firewall, so likely there is an issue with links unless the ATF site is down.

nightwolf47 01-03-2016 06:41 PM

do i need a business licence to get a home base ffl if im just doing online buying and selling

c3shooter 01-03-2016 11:04 PM

Yes, you need a business license. You also need a "premises" with stated business hours.

SSGN_Doc 01-03-2016 11:35 PM


Originally Posted by nightwolf47 (Post 1764936)
do i need a business licence to get a home base ffl if im just doing online buying and selling

There is a place near me where the owner runs a FFL out of his home. He has hours of operation but they are by appointment only between those hours for placing orders and picking up firearms or ammo. This keeps his overhead down and reduces "floor stock" on the premises as well as keeps traffic down for the neighbors.

c3shooter 01-04-2016 12:51 PM

Doc- I know and do business with several home based FFLS- including a really good gunsmith- but ATF will require hours other than "by appointment only". Hours can be 9am to 10 am on Tuesdays, but must be some stated hours "open for business".

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