Form Fit
Jeff W. Zimba

Considered a pet peeve by some and a non-issue by others, the terminology relating to the registration status of certain Title II firearms can be confusing. Questions are commonly asked relating to the form an NFA firearm was previously registered with or transferred on. Most of the time the person asking the question is simply looking for the registration status but things quickly get confused due to the use of terminologies.

The following is an example of a typical conversation often encountered between a Class III dealer and someone inquiring about a firearm in inventory:

Dealer: Hello, ABC Machine Guns.

Caller: Do you have any Uzis in stock?

Dealer: Yes, one Group Industries converted Model A.

Caller: What form is it on?

Dealer: Excuse me?

Caller: Is it on a Form 4?

Dealer: Well I would have to check to see how it transferred into our inventory but I can assure you it is a transferable machine gun. Would you like to put a deposit on this gun while we get the paperwork going?

Caller: Well, if it is on a Form 4 isn't there going to be another tax?

Dealer: It is not on any form at this time. It is simply in our inventory and is a transferable machine gun.

Caller: If it was on a Form 3 wouldn't I have to get it transferred to my dealer first?

Dealer: No. It isn't on any form at this time. If it is going to transfer out from our inventory to an individual, it would transfer out on a tax paid Form 4. If it is going to transfer out to another SOT it would transfer out of our inventory on a tax exempt Form 3. If it is going to go to a police department it would transfer out of our inventory on a tax exempt Form 5.

Caller: Why are you making this so difficult to understand? All I want to know is what form it is on.

Dealer: Click.

First and foremost (and contrary to popular belief), Title II firearms are not "On Forms" at all. They are all listed in the registry and only fall under the following categories;

• Transferable - A transferable Title II firearm would be any machine gun that was manufactured and registered prior to May 19, 1986. It could also include any machine gun or destructive device imported and registered prior to the 1968 amnesty. All other Title II firearms manufactured and registered today are transferable and they include domestically manufactured Short Barreled Rifles, Short Barreled Shotguns, Silencers, Destructive Devices and Any Other Weapons (AOW).

• Pre86 Dealer Sample - A Pre 86DS is a machine gun that was imported after the 1968 amnesty and registered before May 19, 1986. An individual can own these machine guns as long as they were acquired when the individual was a Class III Dealer. Unlike newly manufactured machine guns, dealers do not have to dispose of Pre 86DS machine guns when they surrender their federal firearms license. However, when they eventually sell the Pre 86DS, it is still a dealer sample and can be sold only to Title II Manufacturers, Class III Dealers, Police Departments and Government Entities.

• Post 86 Dealer Sample - All machine guns manufactured and registered after May 19, 1986. These guns can only be owned by Title II Manufacturers, Class III Dealers, Police Departments and Government Entities. Upon surrendering a federal firearms license any Post 86DS machine gun must be transferred to other qualified entities or destroyed.

When these firearms are manufactured and/or transferred, specific forms are used and the correct form is determined by the type of manufacture or transfer taking place. The type of form they were registered on and the form they were transferred on have absolutely no bearing on future transfers in most cases. The form that needs to be used for the transfer at hand is predetermined by the criteria of this new transfer.

• Form 1 - Application used by an individual to manufacture a Title II Firearm. Individuals can still manufacture Title II firearms (except machine guns). A description of the firearm being manufactured along with a "making tax" of $200 is submitted. Upon approval of this application, the individual can manufacture or assemble the firearm listed. (See SAR Vol. 1, No. 10, July 1998 for a complete article on using a BATF Form 1).

• Form 2 - Form used by Title II Manufacturers to register NFA firearms. After an NFA firearm is manufactured the manufacturer submits this form to BATFE so it can be added to the registry.

• Form 3 - Tax Exempt Transfer of an NFA Firearm from a Special Occupational Taxpayer to another Special Occupational Taxpayer. When a Class III dealer purchases an NFA firearm from another Class III Dealer (or Title II Manufacturer) the transfer is completed with the approval of this form.

• Form 4 - Application for Tax Paid Transfer of an NFA Firearm to an Individual. This is the form used when someone who is NOT a Class III dealer buys an NFA firearm. The transfer tax is $200 unless the item being purchased is an AOW. If it is an AOW, the transfer tax paid is only $5. With this form, it doesn't matter if the firearm is coming from or going to an individual. If an individual (non SOT) is involved in the transfer on either side, the Form 4 is used.

• Form 5 - Application for Tax Exempt Transfer of an NFA Firearm. This form is used for a number of purposes. One of the most popular uses for the Form 5 is when the transfer is temporary, such as a transfer of a firearm for repair or research. It is also the form used when transferring firearms to or from government entities or police departments. Another use for this form is in the case of an owner passing away and the NFA firearms are transferred to their lawful heir. This form is also used to transfer registered deactivated (DEWAT) machine guns. In all of these cases, there is no transfer tax, even though individuals (non SOT) may be involved.

• Form 10 - Application for Registration of Firearms Acquired by Certain Government Entities. This may be the saddest of all forms for the recreational shooters and collectors of the NFA community. This is the form used to register unregistered firearms acquired by police departments and sanctioned museums. The sad part is that once a firearm is registered on a Form 10 it can NEVER be transferred to anyone other than another police department, government entity or museum. They can not even be transferred to Class III dealers for use in instruction, research, and training or as a sales sample.

As can be seen, the form a firearm has previously transferred on, or was registered on, usually has little or nothing to do with future transfers. Having this information will help you communicate better with your Class III dealer or police department. Instead of talking in circles about previous (and mostly irrelevant) transfers, you can quickly find out the registration status of the gun you are interested in, and save lots of time and head scratching in the process. The proper question to ask is if the gun is fully transferable or a restricted dealer sample.

All of these forms are available in PDF format on the World Wide Web at This is an excellent site and it is provided at no cost. For those who want to help with the expenses, there is an area to support it with a small contribution and in return you will receive custom forms with your data saved for you, including electronic photographs on forms where necessary.