At Cerberus we get asked a lot about the methods at acquiring suppressors and other NFA items. This is a spot for an overview of how to complete the process. This will be tailored to our store a little, but the general information is the same regardless of the shop.
1. Find a suppressor you want. The first step is the hardest. There are a lot of companies now in production of suppressors and they all say they are the best. Take the dB rating with a grain of salt, there is no standardized test for this, so every individual company sets their own standards. Narrow by platform, caliber, and mounting options. Some suppressors are designed to be used on a large swath of platforms, but are not optimized for specifics, others are best for one gun and left on dedicated. For a precision rifle, we recommend a direct thread or a ratcheting lock muzzle device. For sub guns, a lobed quick connect works well. Pistols need a booster and piston additionally for most to cycle. Do your research beforehand or talk to someone who already has because it is a long term investment.
2. Set up a NFA Trust. This step is optional but highly recommended. All NFA items get registered to a person or an entity. Changes in this registration cost $200 and a new form, basically the entire process needs to be repeated. Unless you can make changes to the entity itself. That is the great advantage to a trust. It is a one time charge for the legal setup and well worth the flexibility. For example, a husband owns a suppressor in his name and was out hunting coyotes, wife is having vehicle troubles and takes his truck with the suppressor, the wife has unknowingly become the possessor of a NFA item to which she isn't authorized to have. This is felonious, for the wife and can also be for the husband. If both are on a trust it is a non-issue. There are other benefits as well, like probate and next of kin, but mostly it allows some flexibility with the items. Downfalls are everyone in the trust gets checked, as they should be, and the wait is a little longer.
3. Buy your suppressor. Whether you buy online or at a store, suppressors are prepay. It isn't a lack for trust like at a gas pump, it is that the serial number of the can gets registered to you during the rest of the process and cannot be sold to anyone else. This item needs to be safely stored at a NFA dealer till ether approval or denial where you can be refunded or get to take it home after the long wait.
4. Fingerprinting and photos. 2 fingerprint cards for every responsible person and 1 passport photo. These are send to the FBI for filing and cross matching to check your background. If you didn't have a file at the FBI prior, don't worry, you'll have one now. It's not a bad thing. Lots of professions are mandated to have checks even, teachers, hazmat, FFL holders, and many more. You are not alone and they really don't care anything about you except the protection of the citizens of this country and the proper application of the current laws.
5. File your forms. Form 4 is for the transfer of a tax paid NFA item. These are for buying NFA items. If you have the recommended trust, then additionally a Responsible Person Questionnaire must be filled out for each authorized member of the trust. There is a $200 special tax that must be included with this form. This goes into the general fund and an approval stamp is issued by the IRS. Even if you buy multiple items at the same time they all are filed separately and have their own prints photos and fees.
6. Deliver documents to local law enforcement. This step is usually handled by where you bought the item but it is a requirement. All forms are in duplicate and a copy goes to chief law enforcement for the area of residence. Normally city police chief or county sheriff. These forms do not need approval locally. They are for filing purposes and informing the local law of who has NFA controlled items. Just like registering your concealed weapon permit, local law knows you could be potentially be in possession of a legal NFA item during a traffic stop. This is intended to stop them from noticing your NFA approved sawed off shotgun in the back seat and having the situation escalate unnecessarily. Suppressors are more common place and are not treated with the same stigma, but in the eyes of the law they are governed the same currently.
7. Wait. Wait time very and there isn't a set way to make them go faster. Your looking at 6 months to 12 months and most the time closer to that year wait. This is a good time to research your next NFA item. If you do a form every month then every month turns into Christmas the next year. Your $200 special tax will come out almost immediately and give you some hope, this isn't that they are working on it yet just that they received it. First thing they do is take your money, it is the government after all, but seriously they will not do the leg work if your check bounces or your credit card is rejected.
8. Sign for and receive your suppressor. Approval will go to your NFA dealer, so they are the ones to inform you to get your suppressor. You'll need to sign a 4473 just like for any firearm. You'll receive your approval stamp on your form 4 and get to take your suppressor home for the first time. Make copies of your stamp, take pictures and scans, it is to be provided upon authorized request immediately. Have copies in all vehicles e-mail, text, and gun cases. I have never heard of someone being prosecuted for not having it for immediate view but don't be that guy. Enjoy the sound of silence.