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Over the last few days, several prospective clients have asked whether they will need to engrave all firearms assigned to or bought by their NFA gun trust. Apparently, one or more uninformed persons using aliases who lurk in gun-related forums on the Internet have been confusing readers into believing that a supposed engraving requirement is one of the big disadvantages of NFA gun trusts. This is completely false. Only manufacturers, importers (into the U.S.), and maker of firearms are required to engrave firearms. See 27 C.F.R. § 479.102. Buyers of already-manufactured firearms, regardless of whether they are individuals or entities (such as NFA gun trusts), transferred to the buyers are not required to engrave firearms.
Pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFRs”), manufacturers, importers, and makers of firearms must engrave, cast, stamp (impress), or otherwise conspicuously place or cause to be engraved, cast, stamped (impressed), or placed certain information onto each firearm. Specifically, the frame or receiver of a firearm must be marked with an individual serial number. For firearms, manufactured, imported, or made on and after January 30, 2002, the engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) of the serial number must be to a minimum depth of 0.003 inch and in a print size no smaller than 1/16 inch. See 27 C.F.R. § 479.102(a)(1). Certain additional information must be engraved, cast, stamped (engraved), or placed on the frame, receiver, or barrel. For firearms, manufactured, imported, or made on and after January 30, 2002, the engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) of the serial number must be to a minimum depth of 0.003 inch, but the CFRs do not specify a minimum print size. See 27 C.F.R. § 479.102(a)(2). This additional information includes: (1) the model number, if any; (2) the caliber or gauge; and (3) in the case of a domestically manufactured firearm, (a) the manufacturer’s name, and (b) the city and state where the firearm was made; or (4) in the case of an imported firearm, (a) the importer’s name, (b) the city and state of the importer’s place of business, (c) the foreign manufacturer’s name, and (d) the country in which the firearm was manufactured. Id.
In the typical case, an individual or an NFA gun trust wants to build a short-barreled rifle (“SBR”). First, the individual or NFA gun trust must file an Application to Make and Register a Firearm (ATF Form 1) and receive permission from the ATF to make the SBR. This permission is the approved ATF Form 1 (“ATF tax stamp”). See 27 C.F.R. § 479.64 (“The maker of the firearm shall not, under any circumstances, make the firearm until the application, satisfactorily executed, has been forwarded to the Director and has been approved and returned by the Director with the National Firearms Act stamp affixed.”). The tax stamp includes the make, model, and serial number of the lower receiver, which has already been engraved by the manufacturer. See 27 C.F.R. § 479.62. The ATF tax stamp also includes the barrel length (without detachable flash hider) of the SBR, the total length of the SBR (adjustable stock fully-extended), and the caliber or gauge of the SBR (only one may be selected). See id. To comply with the CFRs, the SBR must be marked conspicuously on the frame, receiver, or barrel with the name of the trust and the city and state (two-letter postal abbreviation acceptable) where the SBR is made. See 27 C.F.R. § 479.102(a)(2). For purposes of the marking requirement, there is no difference whether the maker is an individual or an NFA gun trust—the maker’s name is required to be marked on the SBR. Id.
If you are still confused regarding whether you need to engrave the firearm, ask yourself whether you are the manufacturer, importer (into the U.S.), or maker of the firearm. If the answer is “no,” then the firearm does not need to be engraved. If the answer is “yes,” then the firearm needs to be engraved. If you are not sure, then look at your ATF tax stamp. If you are holding an Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm (labeled on the top right of the form), or ATF Form 4 (labeled on the bottom right of the form), then you are not a manufacturer, importer (into the U.S.), or maker of the firearm, thus there is no engraving requirement. If you are holding an Application to Make and Register a Firearm (labeled on the top right of the form), or ATF Form 1 (labeled on the bottom right of the form), then you are either a manufacturer or maker of a firearm, thus there is an engraving requirement.
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