ATF

Sample Block


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Firearms

    Guidebook Title

                       Table of Contents

Previous Page Download this Section Download the Guidebook Next Page

General Information

Sales and / or Sales Samples of Certain Firearms, Ammunition and Firearm Barrels
Sales to Law Enforcement and Government Agencies

Note: Law enforcement and government entities are authorized to import and/or receive firearms, firearm barrels and ammunition classified as:

  • Nonsporting firearms and NFA Firearms such as machineguns, silencers, short-barreled shotguns and rifles, destructive devices and firearms identified as any other weapons
     
  • Surplus military firearms (other than those classified as curios or relics)
     
  • Barrels for surplus military firearms and nonimportable firearms
     
  • Tracer or incendiary ammunition
     
  • Ammunition for destructive devices
     
  • Armor piercing ammunition

Generally, importers are prohibited from importing the articles listed above for placement into his or her general warehouse or normal place(s) of storage unless the importer has attached to his or her ATF F 5330.3A (Form 6) import permit application specific documentation demonstrating that the articles are entering into the commerce of the United States for an authorized purpose. 18 U.S.C. § 921(d)(3), 922(o), and 26 U.S.C. § 5844. Importers desiring to store any of these articles at a location within the United States who cannot attach such documentation to their Form 6 application may, however, submit an ATF Form 6 import permit application seeking authorization to place the articles into a qualified Customs Bonded Warehouse (CBW) or Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). The importers must clearly state in Item 10 of their Form 6 application that the listed articles are to be entered into a CBW or FTZ by referencing its identity/number and address of the CBW or FTZ into which the articles will be placed. If the articles sought for importation are surplus military firearms surplus military ammunition, or firearm or ammunition components of U.S. origin, importers must attach to their Form 6 application written retransfer authorization from the U.S. Department of State. If any of these articles were provided to a foreign government under a Military Assistance Program, the written retransfer authorization must be issued by the Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfer Policy (RSAT) within the Department of State. If any of these articles were provided to a foreign government under a Foreign Military Sales program, the written retransfer authorization must be issued by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) within the Department of State. If the required written retransfer authorization is not attached to such a Form 6 application, the Forms 6 will be returned to the applicants without action. You may contact the RSAT office at (202) 647-9750, or DDTC at (202) 663-1282.

After their placement into a CBW or FTZ, an importer desiring to subsequently withdraw these articles for entry into the United States must submit a second ATF Form 6 seeking authorization to withdrawal for entry into the United States. The importer must, in Item 10 of the Form 6, reference the permit number of the approved Form 6 under which the articles were placed into the CBW or FTZ, and the specific purpose of importation.

Nonsporting and NFA Firearms

Importers seeking to withdraw nonsporting or NFA firearms from a CBW or FTZ must indicate in Item 10 of the Form 6 that the firearms sought for importation are to be removed from the CBW or FTZ:

  • for sale to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers seeking to withdraw nonsporting or NFA firearms from a CBW or FTZ must attach to the Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, or a copy of a government contract, referencing the firearms sought for importation
     
  • for use as a sales sample by a licensed special (occupational) taxpayer (NFA firearms only). See “Sales Samples (NFA Firearms Only)” below for documentation requirements
     
  • for scientific testing or research purposes (machineguns may not be imported for scientific testing research purposes). Importers must attach to the Form 6 a detailed written description of the scientific testing or research to be performed.
Surplus Military Firearms

Surplus military firearms which have not been classified as curios or relics may be imported only for sale to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers seeking to withdraw surplus military firearms from a CBW or FTZ must attach to the Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, a copy of a government contract, referencing the firearm sought for importation.

Barrels for Surplus Military Firearms and Nonimportable Firearms

Barrels of all surplus military firearms, including barrels for surplus military NFA firearms, may only be imported for sale or other disposition to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers seeking to withdraw barrels of surplus military firearms from a CBW or FTZ must attach to the Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, or a copy of a government contract, referencing the barrels sought for importation.

Barrels of nonimportable firearms that are not surplus military firearms may be imported for sale or other disposition to a to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers must attach to the Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, or a copy of a government contract, referencing the barrels sought for importation. Further, such barrels that may be used in the assembly of importable and nonimportable firearms may also be imported:

  • for use in the assembly of importable firearms. The importer must specify in Item 10 of the Form 6 the specific model designation(s) of the importable firearms the barrels will be used to assemble
     
  • for resale to third parties. The importer must state in Item 10 of the Form 6 that the purchaser has or will be advised that the barrels may only be used in the assembly of importable firearms and must list the models for which the barrels will be sold
Tracer or Incendiary Ammunition

Tracer or incendiary ammunition may be imported:

  • for sale or other distribution to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers seeking to withdraw tracer or incendiary ammunition must attach to the Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, or a copy of a government contract, referencing the ammunition sought for importation
     
  • for scientific testing or research purposes. Importers must attach to the Form 6 a detailed written description of the scientific testing or research to be performed)
Ammunition for Destructive Devices

Ammunition for destructive devices may be imported by a Type 11 FFL:

  • for sale or other distribution to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers seeking to import ammunition for destructive devices must attach to their Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, or a copy of a government contract, referencing the ammunition sought for importation
     
  • for scientific testing or research purposes. Importers must attach to the Form 6 a detailed written description of the scientific testing or research to be performed.
Armor Piercing Ammunition

Armor piercing ammunition may be imported by a Type 11 FFL:

  • for sale or other distribution to a law enforcement or government agency. Importers seeking to import armor piercing ammunition must attach to their Form 6 a purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency, or a copy of a government contract, referencing the ammunition sought for importation
     
  • for scientific testing or research purposes. Pursuant to 27 CFR § 478.149, an importer may sell or otherwise distribute armor piercing ammunition to any person intending to use armor piercing ammunition for scientific testing or research purposes when that person has provided the importer with a copy of their written approval from ATF authorizing them to procure the armor piercing ammunition for such purposes. The importer must attach a copy of ATF’s approval to his Form 6 application.
National Firearms Act Sales Samples

Licensed firearms importers who have paid special (occupational) tax (SOT) may import NFA firearms themselves and for sale or distribution to licensed firearms dealers who have paid SOT, for use as sales samples pursuant to the provisions of 27 CFR §§ 479.105(d) and 479.112(d), and ATF Rulings 85-2 and 2002-5.

Dealer Sales Samples of Machineguns

27 CFR § 479.105(d)

Applications to transfer and register a machinegun manufactured or imported on or after May 19, 1986, to dealers qualified under this part will be approved if it is established by specific information the expected governmental customers who would require a demonstration of the weapon, information as to the availability of the machinegun to fill subsequent orders, and letters from governmental entities expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular weapon. Applications to transfer more than one machine gun of a particular model to a dealer must also establish the dealer’s need for the quantity of samples sought to be transferred.

Pursuant to the above section of regulations, applications to transfer and register machineguns manufactured or imported on or after May 19, 1986, to qualified firearms dealers will be approved if:

  • Letterhead documentation signed by the law enforcement or government agency official having jurisdiction over the particular area and current, expressing an interest in seeing a demonstration of the particular firearm is attached to the Form 6. The required documentation must specifically identify the firearm by type, caliber, model designation, if any, and serial number, if known,
     
  • Information that additional quantities of the specific firearm are available to fill future orders is attached to the Form 6,
     
  • The firearm sought for use as a sales sample is not presently in the requestor’s inventory,
     
  • Documentation clearly establishing the need for more than one of a particular type, caliber, or model firearm as a sales sample is attached to the Form 6. See ATF Ruling 2002-5 reprinted below for more information and guidance, and/or
     
  • A copy of the special (occupational) tax stamp of the dealer attempting to acquire the sales sample is attached to the Form 6.
Registration of Imported Firearms

27 CFR § 479.112(d)

An application, Form 6, to import a firearm by an importer or dealer qualified under this part, for use as a sample in connection with sales of such firearms to Federal, State or local governmental entities, will be approved if it is established by specific information attached to the application that the firearm is particularly suitable for use by such entities. Such information must show why a sales sample of a particular firearm is suitable for such use and the expected governmental customers who would require a demonstration of the firearm. Information as to the availability of the firearm to fill subsequent orders and letters from governmental entities expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular firearm would establish suitability for governmental use. Applications to import more than one firearm of a particular model for use as a sample by an importer or dealer must also establish the importer’s or dealer’s need for the quantity of samples sought to be imported.

Generally, importers of NFA firearms must:

  • Complete ATF 5330.3C (Form 6A) in duplicate, with Section 1 completed, presenting the original copy to CBP at the time of release; complete Section III of the duplicate copy and send it to ATF within 15 days of release from CBP custody
     
  • Ensure the firearms are marked in accordance with the provisions of 27 CFR § 478.92 and 27 CFR § 479.102 within 15 of their release form CBP custody
     
  • Prepare and submit ATF F 5320.2 (Form 2) the National Firearms Act Branch within 15 days of release from CBP custody
     
  • Enter the firearms into the records prescribed in Subpart H of 27 CFR Part 478.
Curio or Relic Sales Samples

Generally, importers seeking to import NFA firearms that are curios or relics as sales samples must clearly establish that the curio or relic NFA firearms sought for importation are particularly suitable for use as a law enforcement weapon. See ATF Ruling 85-2 below for more information and guidance.

Import permit applications cannot be approved unless accompanied by:

  • Documentation signed by you, the importer, providing additional information, such as the expected customers who would require a demonstration of the NFA firearm, and the availability of additional firearms to fill future orders
     
  • Letterhead documentation signed by the law enforcement or government agency official having jurisdiction over the particular area, expressing an interest in seeing a demonstration of the particular firearm. The required documentation must specifically identify the firearm by type, caliber, model designation, if any, and serial number, if known. Such documentation must also establish by detailed and specific information as to why the particular firearm is particularly suitable for use as a law enforcement weapon.

Note: ATF reserves the right to determine whether documentation submitted with the import permit application is acceptable, and to require the submission of additional documentation when deemed necessary. Personnel from the Firearms and Explosives Imports Branch may contact the law enforcement or government agency signatory to confirm the authority of the official, the validity of the official’s signature, and/or the validity of the supporting documentation.

ATF Ruling 85-2

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has approved a number of applications to import National Firearms Act (NFA) firearms for the use of registered importers to generate orders for such firearms from law enforcement agencies.

A review of the characteristics of NFA firearms approved for importation as sales samples indicates that some of the firearms are not being imported for the purpose comtemplated by the statute. Some of the NFA firearms imported are, in fact, curios and relics and are more suitable for use as collector’s items than law enforcement weapons.

Importations of NFA firearms are permitted by 26 U.S.C. § 5844, which provides in pertinent part:

No firearms shall be imported or brought into the United States or any territory under its control or jurisdiction unless the importer establishes under the regulations as may be prescribed by the Secretary, that the firearm to be imported or brought in is:

  1.  being imported or brought in for the use of the United States or any department, independant establishment, or agency thereof or any State or possession or any political subdivision thereof, or

  2. ***

  3. being imported or brought in solely for use as a sample by a registered importer or registered dealier;

  4. except that, the Secretary may permit the conditional importation or bringing in of a firearm for examination and testing in connection with classifying the firearm.

The sole purpose of the statute permitting the importation of NFA firearms as sales samples is to permit registered importers to generate orders for firearms from government entities, primarily law enforcement agencies on the basis of the sample.

The implementation of regulation, 27 CFR Section 179.111 [a], provides that the person importing or bringing in a firearm into the United States or any territory under its control or jurisdiction has the burden of proof to affirmatively establish that the firearm is being imported or brought in for one of the authorized purposes. In addition, a detailed explanation of why the importation falls within one of the authorized purposes must be attached to the application to import. The mere statement that an NFA firearm is being imported as a sales sample for demonstration to law enforcement agencies does not meet the required burden of proof and is not a detailed explanation of why the importation falls within the import standards.

Held, an application to import a National Firearms Act firearm as a sample in connection with sales of such firearms to law enforcement agencies will not be approved if the firearm is determined to be a curio or relic unless it is established by specific information that the firearm is particularly suitable for use as a law enforcement weapon. For example, the importer must provide detailed information as to why a sales sample of a particular weapon is suitable for law enforcement purposes and the expected customers who would require a demonstration of the weapon. Information as to the availability of firearms to fill subsequent orders would help meet the burden of establishing use as a sales sample. Also, letters from law enforcement agencies expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular firearm would be relevant.

ATF Ruling 2002-5

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has received inquiries from dealers in machineguns concerning the justification necessary to obtain more than one machinegun of a particular model as dealer sales samples. Specifically, the inquiries are from machinegun dealers who demonstrate machineguns to large police departments and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, which requires the firing of thousands of rounds of ammunition during a single demonstration. Section 922(o) of Title 18, United States Code, makes it unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun, except a transfer to or by or under the authority of the United States or any department or agency thereof or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of; or any lawful transfer or lawful possession of a machinegun lawfully possessed before May 19, 1986.

The regulations in 27 CFR 179.105(d) [a] provide that applications to register and transfer a machinegun manufactured or imported on or after May 19, 1986, to dealers registered under the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53, will be approved if three conditions are met. The conditions required to be established include (1) a showing of the expected government customers who would require a demonstration of the weapon; (2) information as to the availability of the machinegun to fill subsequent orders; and (3) letters from government entities expressing a need for a particular model or interest in seeing a demonstration of a particular weapon. The regulation further provides that applications to transfer more than one machinegun of a particular model must also establish the dealer’s need for the quantity of samples sought to be transferred.

The dealer sales sample regulation in section 179.105(d) [a] is a narrow exception to the general prohibition on possession of post-1986 machineguns imposed by section 922(o). It requires that dealers submit letters of interest from law enforcement agencies to ensure that dealers possess post-1986 machineguns only for the purposes permitted by law, i.e., for sale or potential sale to government agencies.

Qualified dealers in machineguns often demonstrate weapons to all officers of the department, requiring the machinegun to fire thousands of rounds of ammunition during a single demonstration. In the case of new model machineguns, a department may wish to have thousands of rounds fired from the weapon before they are fully satisfied of its reliability. ATF is aware that after firing hundreds of rounds a machinegun often gets too hot to safely handle, resulting in the dealer’s inability to demonstrate the weapon until it cools. In addition, it is not uncommon for machineguns to jam or misfeed ammunition after a large quantity of ammunition has been fired. Accordingly, dealers who demonstrate machineguns to departments with a large number of officers have asked that ATF approve the transfer of two (2) machineguns of each model as dealer sales samples.

The purpose of the dealer sales sample provision is to permit properly qualified dealers to demonstrate and sell machineguns to law enforcement agencies. Neither the law nor the implementing regulations were intended to impose unnecessary obstacles to police departments and other law enforcement agencies in obtaining the weapons they need to carry out their duties. Accordingly, if a dealer can provide documentation that the dealer needs to demonstrate a particular model of machinegun to an entire police department or SWAT team, ATF will approve the transfer of two (2) machineguns of that model to the dealer as sales samples.

This ruling should not be interpreted to imply that under no circumstances may a Federal firearms licensee (FFL) receive more than two (2) machineguns as sales samples. Consistent with past practice, an FFL who can show a bona fide reason as to why they need more than two (2) machineguns, may be able to receive more than two (2) if the request is accompanied by specific documentation.

Held, applications to transfer two (2) machineguns of a particular model to a Federal firearms licensee as sales samples will be approved if the dealer provides documentation that the dealer needs to demonstrate the machinegun to all the officers of a police department or the department’s SWAT team or special operations team. An FFL who offers other bona fide reasons for their need for two (2) or more machineguns may get more than two (2) with specific documentation.

Date signed: September 6, 2002

  • Current regulation is in Part 479, not 179.
 
 

  Go to top of page