How to Request Variances, Exemptions, and Determinations

Variance Request Guidelines

Licensees or permittees who wish to use an alternate method or procedure, including alternate magazine construction standards, must submit a request for variance from the regulations. To avoid delays in processing, requests must include the reason(s) for necessitating the variance and a specific description of the proposed alternate construction, equipment, method or procedure. Per 27 CFR 555.22, each variance request must include sufficient detailed information for ATF to determine that the proposed variation(s):

  • Will afford security and protection that are substantially equivalent to those prescribed by Federal explosives law and regulations;

  • Will not hinder the effective administration of Federal explosives law and regulations nor result in an increase in cost to the Government; and

  • Will not be contrary to any provisions of law.

The following examples show the types of information which must be documented for common variance requests. These examples are not all inclusive but are provided as guides to demonstrate the type(s) of information which should be included in a request to ensure a timely ATF response. Licensees and permittees should review 27 CFR, Part 555, to determine what information should be provided in demonstrating how the requested variance would provide levels of safety and security substantially equivalent to the regulatory requirements.

Variations from the regulations may not be employed by the requestor until he or she has received a formal, written approval of the variance request, except when an emergency requires immediate action to correct a situation that threatens life or property. Corrective action may then be taken concurrent with the filing of the application to EIPB and notification of approval of the request via telephone.

Authorization of any alternate method or procedure may be withdrawn whenever the effective administration of Federal explosives law and regulations is hindered by the continuation of the authorization.

Requests for variances generally should be submitted to the Director of Industry Operations for the ATF Field Division where your business premises are located. However requests may be sent directly to the Explosives Industry Programs Branch which will coordinate with the local field office. Please provide the name and telephone number of the individual(s) who may be reached to answer any questions concerning the request.

ATF also issues Rulings regarding specific matters that are frequently requested by industry members. Rulings allow industry members to use an alternate method or procedure without the need for submitting a formal variance request. See our Rulings page to find out about specific rulings that may eliminate the need for a specific variance. Any licensee or permittee who requires an alternate method or procedures that is not specifically addressed in an ATF Ruling must submit a formal variance request, and obtain approval of the request, prior to using the alternate method or procedure.

Variance Examples

Example 1:

A variance request to use an alternate marking system on explosive products must include the following information:

  • The license or permit number of the requesting person(s);

  • A description of the explosive materials affected by the proposed marking system;

  • An explanation of the circumstances which prevent the use of the marking system specified under 27 CFR, Part 555, Subpart F;

  • A full description of the proposed marking system to show that these markings will not hinder the recordkeeping, inspection or explosives tracing process; and

  • Any other pertinent information.

Example 2:

A variance request for indoor storage of explosives in the attached garage portion of a residence or dwelling must be accompanied by a certification signed under penalty of perjury (see ATF Rulings 2002-3 and 2002-4). The certification must:

  • Identify the license or permit number of the requestor;

  • Certify that the proposed alternative storage method will comply with all applicable State and local laws;

  • Provide the name, title, address, and phone number of the authority having jurisdiction for fire safety of the locality in which the explosive materials are being stored;

  • Provide proof or copy of notification (of the proposed alternative storage) made to local fire safety officials;

  • Identify the explosive materials to be stored in such magazine; and

  • Pertinent information similar to that in Example 1.

Example 3:

A variance request to use alternate construction or equipment, e.g., magazines or locks should be accompanied by:

  • A full description of the requested variance;

  • A list of manufacturer’s specifications, if applicable.

  • Photographs illustrating alternate construction, locks, or other devices; and

  • Any other pertinent information.

Exemption Request Guidelines

Requests to exempt a specific product or device from the Federal explosives regulations contained at 27 CFR, Part 555, should be accompanied by a full description of the product or device and its intended use. Information should include the type and amount (Net Explosives Weight) of explosives contained in the completed device; photographs, diagrams and/or schematics of the completed device; Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) classification.

Requests for exemptions or determinations should be submitted to the Explosives Industry Programs Branch at the address listed below. Please provide the name and telephone number of a person(s) who may be contacted to answer any questions concerning the request.

Determination Request Guidelines

Industry members often require guidance from ATF as to the classification of a product or magazine, the exemption status of a particular explosive material, or whether a particular activity or recordkeeping method is in compliance with the regulations. Determination requests may also be submitted to receive clarification regarding an item or area not clearly addressed by the regulations. Requests should include the following information:

  • Requests for classification of explosive materials or items should include information on the chemical composition and intended use of the product, and any other information relevant to the identification of the explosive materials (e.g., Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), sensitivity and detonation/deflagration characteristics, etc.).

  • Requests concerning construction or equipment, e.g., magazines or locks, should be accompanied by a full description of the item(s), including photographs showing exposed angles, manufacturer’s specifications, designs or information, if available, and the item’s intended use.

Last Reviewed October 4, 2016