Let’s begin with the obvious disclaimer. I’m not an attorney, or a firearms professional. Please research your own local laws, and last but not least, DO NOT BREAK or CIRCUMVENT NFA LAWS. I don’t even joke about NFA laws. The system is not set up to help gun owners, and mistakes can be costly. Having said that, acquiring a silencer, and using it is a relatively simple process, outside of the annoying wait. Let’s explore the steps necessary to get your own silencer LEGALLY.
Silencers are regulated federally by the National Firearms Act, and locally by state laws. First, you must live in a state that allows possession of a silencer. The 42 states allow the ownership of silencers, and 40 states allow you to hunt with a silencer. The following map shows which states allow what (make sure to check your local laws to be safe).
If you reside in a state where communist politicians have not taken over, you have the right to legally purchase or build your own suppressor. In order to do so, you must first get the King’s permission via a tax stamp. These tax stamps can be acquired by submitting an ATF (Alcohol Tobacco Firearms) Form 1 to build your own silencer as a “maker” , or a Form 4 which allows you to purchase, also referred to as “transfer”, the silencer from a dealer or individual. After filling out the appropriate forms, you or your dealer (Class 3 FFL), will submit your form along with your pictures, finger prints, and $200 dollar check or money order to the ATF. From then on you wait anywhere from 3 to 12 months to receive your tax stamp from the ATF.
I suggest you choose a dealer who has a kiosk which allows you to complete everything at the gun shop. A good dealer will make sure everything is in order, and send off the form for you. When you receive the tax stamp back, take it to your dealer, pay for your silencer and you are good to go. To build your own silencer, follow the same process except submit the Form 1, instead of Form 4.
You can choose to file your forms as an individual or under a Firearms Trust. Firearms Trusts are basically the same as any other trusts in principle, but you should create a Firearms Trust just for your NFA items ,if you choose to do so. This video shows the advantages of both individual and trust methods. It really just depends on what you want accomplished.
***If you are building your own silencer, I suggest you do not buy the components to put it together until you get your tax stamp back.*** Constructive Intent is a broad legal term, and takes on whatever meaning a judge, prosecutor, and jury wants it to be. Basically, as it refers to this discussion, having the components to put together a silencer can be interpreted as having the intent to do so, or actual possession of the item. Without a stamp, you could be convicted of possession even though the silencer is not put together. It’s hard to prove, but you still have to spend the money to defend it. It’s best just to get your stamp first, before you get the components.
A poster had previously asked me to address Solvent Traps, and the ATF ruling regarding these items. For those of you not familiar with these items, a Solvent Trap is basically a silencer without a hole drilled out at the end for the bullet to exit. It was designed to be used as a cleaning aid. Screw it on the end of your gun, pour in the cleaning solution from the breech end (the opening where the bullet goes in the barrel) and the cleaning liquid and foul material drip into the solvent trap. Unscrew the solvent trap and dump the wastes without creating a mess. That’s what it was intended to do. Car oil filters can do the same thing. Here are some samples.
Somewhere along the way, inventive preppers and garage mechanics, decided that the NFA is unconstitutional. They didn’t want to wait for the stamp, or pay the tax. So they found a threaded barrel could easily be matched to a Solvent Trap with a cheap and available adapter. Since it’s not illegal to have a Solvent Trap or an adapter, people were storing them as prep items. It was ok as long as you didn’t drill an exit hole for the bullet. Soon enough videos started showing up on YouTube with people doing this without a stamp and shooting through it , which is ILLEGAL. (Videos like this, except they didn’t have a tax stamp for the item they built. This guy at least says he has the stamp.)
The ATF caught on, and as of 2017, they have shut down many manufacturers of these items. But as with all ATF “rulings”, the ATF can change their minds at any time. My opinion is, until the ATF has a clear “ruling letter”, stay away from Solvent Traps. Or file a Form 1, get your stamp, then do what you want with the oil filter or solvent trap. You can still buy these things off EBay,Amazon, and gun shows (gun shows are a haven ATF sting operations). I strongly suggest you don’t, just my opinion. Here is a case lost on appeal. The defendant apparently shot through his solvent trap adapter and a fake suppressor, and left gun powder residue. This was enough to convict him.
So as you can see, you can make this process as easy or as tough as you want to. Fill out the form, pictures, finger prints, $200 check or money order. Use a good NFA dealer and they will do it all for you on site. 3-12 months later, pay for your silencer, go home with it. If you can pass a background check for a gun, you will pass the background check for a silencer. Your dealer can fill you in on the legalities of ownership. Basically, don’t lend it to someone (unless they are on your NFA Trust) , and don’t take it out of state without the proper paperwork.
Now you know how to acquire a silencer, the next discussion will center on the budget, build your own, to the latest and greatest money can buy.