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A surplus military firearm is defined as any firearm that belonged to a regular or irregular (e.g., militia) military force at any time. With limited exceptions, as discussed below, surplus military firearms and ammunition can only be imported by or for the official use of law enforcement or government entities. 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1).
Surplus Military Curio or Relic Firearms
A surplus military curio or relic (SMCR) firearm is any firearm that at any time belonged to a regular or irregular military, and one that also meets the definition of a curio or relic firearm. The regulations at 27 CFR § 478.11 define curio or relic firearms as:
Firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof;
Firearms which are certified by the curator of municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event. Proof of qualification of a particular firearms under this category may be established by evidence of present value and evidence that like firearms are not available except as collector's items, or that the value of like firearms available in ordinary commercial channels is substantially less.
ATF Ruling 80-8
The provisions of ATF Ruling 80-8 provide that an application for a permit to import a surplus military firearm or nonsporting firearm or ammunition may be approved by ATF if the application is supported by:
- An original purchase order from a law enforcement or government agency specifically describing the surplus military firearms or nonsporting firearms (manufacturer’s name and address, type, caliber or gauge, model designation, quantity, and serial numbers, if known) or nonsporting ammunition (manufacturer’s name and address, type, and caliber or gauge, quantity); and/or
- A letter prepared by an official of a bona fide law enforcement or government agency, on agency letterhead, signed by the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO), such as the chief of police, sheriff, commander, etc, or other officially designated employee having the authority to procure firearms or ammunition on behalf of the agency, stipulating that the firearms and/or ammunition are being purchased by the agency with agency funds for departmental inventory. The letter must specifically describing the surplus military firearms or nonsporting firearms (manufacturer’s name and address, type, caliber or gauge, model designation, quantity, and serial numbers, if known) or nonsporting ammunition (manufacturer’s name and address, type, and caliber or gauge, quantity)
Pursuant to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 925(e), a Type 08 or 11 FFL may import SMCR firearms into the United States pursuant to an approved ATF Form 6 import permit. When seeking a permit to import a SMCR firearm, a licensed importer must attach the following documentation to his or her ATF Form 6 application:
- Original documentation (such as warehouse receipts or other documents which provides the required history of storage) attesting to where the firearm has been located for the five-year period immediately preceding importation. The firearm cannot have been in a proscribed country or area at any time during that five-year period. 27 CFR § 447.52(e) (2). The importer should obtain this documentation from the foreign source (foreign seller, family member, etc.) of the firearm.
Example of Foreign Source Document Language:
“I (insert name of foreign source) attest that I have possessed the (insert the specific firearm by manufacturer’s name and address, type, caliber, model designation, and serial number if known) as described in items 8(a)-(k) on the completed ATF Form 6) in (insert the name of the country in which the firearm was stored) since (insert date acquired).”
- If the SMCR firearm to be imported was manufactured in a proscribed country or area, original documentation attesting that the firearm was manufactured in that country or area prior to date, as established by the Department of State, the country or area became proscribed. 27 CFR § 447.52(e) (1).
- A statement from you, the applicant, executed under the penalty of perjury, certifying that the Form 6 application, and all documents attached to it, are true, correct and complete.
Suggested Language of Importer’s Certification:
“I declare under the penalty of perjury that this application, and all documents attached thereto, have been examined by me and to the best of knowledge and belief, are true and correct.”
Surplus Military, U.S-Origin
In November 1998, the Department of State directed ATF in writing to deny all applications to import U.S.-origin, surplus military firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, and other defense articles identified by the Department of State as significant military equipment (SME) (e.g., aircraft, military vehicles, etc.) unless the applicant has attached to his or her application a copy of the written retransfer authorization, issued by the Department of State, authorizing the foreign supplier to transfer the articles to the applicant. However, should the applicant fail to attach a copy of the required written retransfer authorization to your application, by virtue of statutory language enacted in 2003, ATF cannot take any action to deny his or her application. As a result, applications for permits to import such articles of U.S-origin will be returned to the applicant without action unless a copy of the required retransfer authorization specific to the articles sought for importation is attached to the permit application.