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So you want to buy a suppressor?

Firearm suppressors are pretty awesome. Not only because of the reduced noise, but also because they’re just plain cool. Many people think they’re one of three things: illegal, impossible for civilians to get, or just plain too expensive. Well, they might not be cheap, but they’re far from impossible (or illegal) to get.

Bottom line up front: it’s going to take a while. Like, almost a year. The approving authority is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BAFTE) and they are not known for their timely turnarounds.

Where do you get one?

Multiple suppressors

This is the piece that will vary for every individual looking to buy. There are two parts to this step: the dealer (remote or local) and the transferring entity (likely a local dealer). You can find a local store with them in stock and skip the coordination between the online dealer and the transferring entity, but it’s likely going to cost you a lot extra. You will get the best deals by shopping around online first and having them ship to a local dealer for the transfer.

Let’s start with the various vendors. SilencerCo, OSS Suppressors, SilencerShop, Gemtech, Liberty Suppressors, and a long list of others make what you’re looking for. There are a number of factors to consider (length, decibel reduction, serviceability, multi-caliber support, etc.), but that’s another article’s worth of details.

Who can be a local dealer? You don’t need to worry about the specifics, but the answer here is any entity that has a Federal Firearms License (FFL) AND has been issued a Class 3 or higher Special Occupational Tax (SOT). Any [legal] gun store will have an FFL, and if they can sell firearms or firearm attachments that fall under the National Firearm Act (NFA), then they will also have a SOT. Suppressors, short barreled rifles, and other fun stuff fall under the NFA — just so we’re all on the same page.

Put simply;

  1. Find a local dealer that has the authority to deal with NFA items. A couple of handy resources for this step are Silencer Shop’s map and FFL123’s listing by state.
  2. Coordinate shipment between the online dealer and the local dealer. This boils down to having the local dealer send copies of their FFL and SOT documentation to the online dealer (skip this if buying locally).
  3. Start gathering your paperwork. Any NFA dealer worth their salt will help walk you through this process, but you’re going to need a minimum of the following;
    1. TWO completed fingerprint cards — on federal standard (blue line) fingerprint cards — from local PD or other fingerprinting service
    2. TWO recent passport photos
    3. Completed BAFTE Form 4. There will essentially be two copies — one for BAFTE and the other for your county law enforcement office.
    4. A $200 check (or credit card information) for the tax payment.

What will it cost?

Alright, this is going to be the painful part. If you are buying as an individual (and not assigning to a trust, for example), here is a list of what you can expect to shell out. When choosing the suppressor itself, please remember that many of the manufacturers provide significant military/security/law enforcement discounts; it’s not uncommon to get 30% or more off of the list price.

  1. ~$600-$1000 for the suppressor itself — sure, you can find cheaper or more expensive, but this is the average range for quality suppressors
  2. $200 tax to the BAFTE
  3. ~$75 transfer fee (will vary depending on the company doing the storage while pending approval and transfer)
  4. ~$20 for two fingerprint cards (cost will vary)
  5. ~$15 for passport-sized photos (cost will vary)

That’s a total of between $910 and $1,310, on average. But wait, there’s more!

How are you planning on attaching it? If it’s a pistol suppressor, you’ll need a piston to support the extra power needed to rack the slide (+$60). Is your barrel threaded? If yes, you can do a direct thread attachment and stop here. If not, you need a muzzle device (let’s add another $60).

Alright, now we’re up to between $970 and $1,430. But hey, it will look pretty awesome in the end.

Why does it take so long?

I think the best way to explain this is to go over the full BATFE process. Here’s pretty much what happens.

  1. You buy the suppressor.
  2. Your designated FFL receives the suppressor.
  3. You, with or without assistance from your FFL, collect and submit all of the necessary paperwork (fingerprints, photos, signed forms, and the check covering your tax).
  4. The BATFE receives your envelope of paperwork, turns it upside down, shakes it until the check falls out, cashes the check, and then puts your application on the bottom of the pile.
  5. The understaffed NFA approval team works through the stack, resources permitting.
  6. Assuming that you don’t have a criminal conviction or make any mistakes on the documentation, you’ll then receive your “stamp” — which is simply the approved form.

Now what?

Once you have submitted all of the paperwork for your suppressor, forget about it. Seriously. As mentioned above, it is going to take the better part of a year to get your approval back and you’re going to rip your hair out checking it on a weekly basis. You can check the unofficial average approval timeframes on SilencerShop’s site to get a better idea of what you’re dealing with. Once you can verify your status as “pending,” you can go take out your pending frustration with your standard ear pro.

So, get started! You’ll be waiting a bit longer than normal, however. I promise you that the BAFTE isn’t bothering to process these forms during the government shutdown.

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Miche
Member
Miche

HAHA: “The BATFE receives your envelope of paperwork, turns it upside down, shakes it until the check falls out, cashes the check, and then puts your application on the bottom of the pile.” That sounds about right….and I’ve never even been through the process.

I never considered myself a suppressor kind of girl. But I really like my hearing. A fact I’m more cognizant of with a (non-permanent) reverse block muffling all sound the past week or so. This sounds doable. Long, as bureaucratic processes go, but less frustrating when I start out knowing that it’s going to be long.

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

Dear Congress, please pass H.R. 367 Hearing Protection Act. It’s been in committee since Feb 2017. The NFA process is really ridiculous. A suppressor should be like any other accessory like adding sights. It shouldn’t require a special process. But I realize much of the audience for this issue thinks like Hillary that a suppressor “silences” the gun. Hahaha…ask all the people at the gun range how that’s working for them. If they can hear you over their tinnitus. In some places a suppressor is just considered civilized. I firmly agree. In the meantime, put your patience pants on.

Recon 6
Guest

Joni… as always your comments are common sensical…something that eludes Congress on all issues with the exception of spending our $$$…best…6

homanj1
Member

Alex-Here’s a couple tricks. Buy the suppressor or do your 4473 at your range. They can’t let you leave with the suppressor until you have your tax stamp. But you can have conjugal visits while at the range. As long as you give it back when you leave the property. This allows you to be the cool suppressor cat at the range for the 9-12 months it takes for the stamp. Prices are negotiable. My experience is that if you ask for a price match at a gun store or range you do local business with, they will try to… Read more »

Miche
Member
Miche

Conjugal visits, hahahahaha <3

homanj1
Member

Hey-Your suppressor is in jail until you have the stamp. Haha. I have five guns I shoot suppressed. It is an act of love…..

Mason
Member
Mason

Ahhh, nice!

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

I love work arounds. Conjugal visits with your suppressor. Hahaha.. I like it. I need to hit the range soon. It’s been too long. Though right now it’s too cold for me. I’ll have to wait till a little warmer day. 30’s is a no go. I’m a cold weather weeny. Yes, I am aware that 30’s is not really that cold, but it is when you live in Texas.

Mason
Member
Mason

Thanks for this article Alex, it has practical application for me. Much appreciated. The cost and timing are a bit out of my league right now, but fore armed is better than a blank slate.

homanj1
Member

Big sale at SilencerCo. Just got an email saying 25% of everything online during SHOT show. If anyone is interested. Then buy some subsonic ammo and give your ears and your neighbor at the range a break…..

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