Sshhhh! I’ve gone all silent recently. Yes, I’ve been bitten by the suppressor bug. You know what they say, once you go suppressed, you never go back.
Anytime I bring a pile of suppressors to the range, I get a lot of questions.
Are those legal?
Are you law enforcement?
Can anyone buy one of those?
The short answers are yes, no, and yes, for the most part.
As I write this, 39 of the 57 states allow us regular civilian citizens to purchase and use suppressors. The confusion stems from the fact that silencers are restricted under the National Firearms Act. That means that you can’t just walk into a store and buy one, you have to go through a few extra steps. The process may sound complicated, but once you wrap your brain around the basic concept, it’s fairly easy. The good news is that your local silencer dealer knows the process inside out and will walk you through it. By the way, the process is mostly identical for other NFA items like short-barrel rifles.
Let’s take a look at the legal requirements, then we’ll drill down into the two basic ways you can legally buy your own suppressors. I’ve pulled the legal ownership requirements from information at the American Suppressor Association. They’re your go-to resource for the latest info on silencer ownership. There you’ll also find current information about which states offer legal ownership.
- Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a suppressor from a dealer.
- Be at least 18 years of age to purchase a suppressor from an individual on a Form 4 to Form 4 transfer (contingent on state laws).
- Be at least 18 years of age to possess a suppressor as a beneficiary of a trust or as a member of a corporation (contingent on state laws).
- Be a resident of the United States.
- Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
- Pass a BATFE background check.
- Pay a one-time $200 Transfer Tax.
- Reside in one of the 39 states that currently allows civilian ownership of suppressors.
Assuming you meet the federal legal requirements, and live in one of the eligible 39 states, there are two approaches to buying silencers. You can purchase them as an individual or, you can form a legal entity called a trust, and have the trust purchase the suppressor for you and other trust members.
The advantage to buying as an individual is that you don’t have to complete any legal shenanigans before placing your order. You walk into a store and start the process, which we’ll detail in a minute. The downside is that you, and only you, can possess and use the silencer. If you “transfer” it to someone else, the other party has to go through the same paperwork rigamarole that you did to acquire it in the first place. The law is a bit gray as to the legality of going to the range with a friend or family member and allowing them to use the device in your presence. Technically, this could be considered a transfer, but to my knowledge, the ATF is not looking to prosecute this type of use case. But don’t take my word for it, they can do what they want.
Here are the steps to buying as an individual: