How to Put A Suppressor Under The Tree In Time For **Next Christmas.
By Dan Kidder
I just returned from a trip to Finland to visit the Sako rifle factory. While there, we got to do some hunting in the Turku Archipelago on Nagu Island. One thing that really surprised me, being an American, is that nearly every one of the hunters in the Nagu Hunting Club had a suppressor on their rifle.
In talking with them, they explained that in Finland, a suppressor is as easy to purchase as a rifle sling or scabbard. They are suggested by authorities as they protect your hearing; minimize felt recoil, which reduces flinch and results in fewer wounded animals; and protects your night vision in low light from muzzle flash. The neighbors also appreciate not hearing rifle shots early in the morning.
In the USA, we have a different view of suppressors. Perhaps informed by the super assassins of Hollywood movies, our lawmakers have seen fit to require a special background check, hefty tax and a very long wait for your paperwork to be processed, followed by another background check when your tax stamp finally arrives and you are able to pick up your suppressor.
The long wait and complicated process, so I thought, kept me from trying to purchase a suppressor for many years. After talking with the folks at SilencerCo at the industry’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades (SHOT) Show last year, I was armed with the information I needed to begin the process of purchasing my first suppressor.
The first step is to locate the suppressor you want. Most people don’t realize that Sportsman’s Warehouse has a wide selection of suppressors. They are only available in seven of their stores and you must show up in person to file your paperwork and pick up your suppressor. They can’t be transferred to another Sportsman’s Warehouse store. The stores where you can purchase a suppressor are Meridian, ID; Midvale, UT; Anchorage, AK; Albuquerque, NM; Tucson, AZ; Missoula, MT; and Sheridan, CO. Each store has a variety of manufacturers and calibers to choose from. For me, the nearest store to my home in Cedar City, UT is the Midvale store, three and a half hours to my north. All that remained was to drive there, choose my suppressor, file my paperwork, submit my photo and fingerprints, and pay my money. While the process seems complicated, it is actually quite simple and the helpful folks at the gun counter are able to help walk you through the process.
The first step before making a long drive is to download the Form 4 from the ATF website. Fill it out as much as you can. The dealer will add your suppressor information, caliber, manufacturer and serial number. Go to your local police department or sheriff’s office and get two copies of fingerprints on a blue card. Then head to your local full-service chain drug store with photo processing and get a couple of passport photos. Make sure you bring two forms of government issued photo identification with you to the gun shop. With these items in hand, it is time to go shopping.
The next step is to select the suppressor you wish to purchase. Remember, the longer they are, the quieter they are. They are also usable on a wider range of firearms. I chose to go with the Omega 9K from SilencerCo and while it is great and very quiet on my Glock 17, its short stature didn’t make it quite as quiet as I would have liked on my .300 Blackout pistol. This particular suppressor is designed for use on a compact handgun, so it is no fault of the suppressor, just a matter of trying to make something do what it isn’t designed for. Don’t get me wrong. It is still much quieter than a non-suppressed .300 AAC coming out of a 7.5-inch barrel. Make sure you get the suppressor that is a good fit for the caliber and type of gun you primarily want to use it on.
On my Glock 9mm, that Omega is scary quiet. Also, keep in mind that you may need to either swap barrels, as I did for my Glock and purchase the appropriate piston or connector to attach it to your new barrel or you may need to get a rifle barrel threaded so you can attach it to your gun of choice. You may also need to alter or replace sights to see over the larger diameter suppressor on the end of your gun.
Suppressors are caliber specific and while you can fire a .22 through a .30 caliber can, it won’t be as quiet as firing it through a .22 caliber can. You can always shoot a smaller bullet through a larger can, but never, under any circumstance should you fire a larger bullet through a smaller suppressor. You could be seriously injured and you will ultimately destroy the suppressor.
Make sure you do some research on the different manufacturers, warranties, and read reviews written on forums and in magazines from those who have used the products before you make your buying decision. It is the same research you would do before any major purchase like a gun or high-end optic, with the exception that it will be much more difficult to sell if you find you made the wrong decision or change your mind. It is doable, but more complicated.
The previous process used to require you to get the paperwork signed off by your chief law enforcement officer, but that requirement has been eliminated and you no longer need permission. Instead, you simply drop off a copy of the application with them after you submit it to the BATFE. It can also be mailed, so if they are far away from home, bring their mailing address with you to the dealer so their copy can be mailed at the same time the dealer sends it to the BATFE. In most states, you may enter “Any Lawful Purpose” in box 13 as the reason for possessing the suppressor. In North Carolina, you must reference the section of state law governing suppressors. Your dealer should know the correct terminology.
With your application, fingerprint cards and photos, you need to pay the BATFE a $200 tax. This can be in the form of a personal check, money order or by credit card. This tax magically transforms a device far too dangerous to be possessed by regular people into something as harmless as a puppy. Payment of the tax is due when the application is submitted and will not be refunded if you fail the background check.
If you are purchasing the suppressor as part of a trust, rather than as an individual, you will need to first establish the trust. There are multiple services that will help you with the legal establishment of the trust and I suggest using them to avoid making a mistake that can delay your purchase even further or result in jail time and fines if you really mess up.
After the trust has been established, you will need to provide fingerprints and photos for all responsible parties listed on the trust at the time you submit the application.
While it is simpler for an individual to purchase a suppressor, a trust gives you more flexibility to allow anyone listed on the trust to use it and also makes it easier to deal with in case of death as part of the estate. Anyone listed on the trust is able to dispose of it, sell it, use it, or transfer it. Once the trust is set up and the establishment fees are paid, that step is done and does not need to be repeated for future purchases of more National Firearms Act (NFA) items. The choice is yours.
Once the paperwork is submitted with your payment, it is just a waiting game. I waited 10 months for approval of my suppressor. President Trump has issued instructions to every agency to increase efficiency and decrease costs and delays. This has resulted in some people reporting approval and return of their tax stamp in as little as six months.
When you are approved, the BATFE send a copy of your Form 4 to your dealer with a nice bluish-green fancy stamp attached. A copy of this form must accompany the suppressor at all times, even when you are out using it.
After the tax stamp is back to the dealer, they will call you to come in and pick up your suppressor. You must fill out the same Form 4473 that you use when purchasing a firearm and they will call in a background check with the state agency responsible for firearms background checks. At Sportsman’s Warehouse, this is done electronically on an iPad and just takes a few minutes.
Once the background check is returned, that is all that remains to be done. You may now take your suppressor home with you.
As you read this, please take away a few things. First, the process sounds far more complicated than it actually is. Second, the wait times are getting shorter. Third, if you let your sales associate walk you through the process and read the form carefully, it is not that difficult.
Many people have been waiting to purchase a suppressor in hopes that Congress would pass the Hearing Protection Act (HPA). This legislation would have removed suppressors from the NFA and made their purchase the same as buying a gun. Based on the midterm elections last month, I think it is a safe bet that this isn’t going to happen anytime soon and the process may even become more difficult. If you have been waiting, I suggest you act soon. Even if the HPA did pass and you have submitted your $200 tax, a provision of the HPA allows you to claim that as a tax credit on your income taxes.
Now that I have my suppressor and have seen how easy it really is, I am already looking at my next suppressor. It is easy to become a “stamp collector” once you have gone through the process. The hardest part is waiting for your stamp to come back. But, if you get started now, you can have your suppressor in plenty of time to be under the Christmas tree - next year.