Request a marking variance for firearms

Find out how to apply for a marking variance as a federal firearms licensee. There are different processes for other firearms variances and explosives variances.

Federal firearms licensees are required to mark manufactured or imported firearms with specific identifying information, including a serial number. This is set forth in 18 U.S.C. §923(i), 26 U.S.C. §5842, 27 CFR §478.92 and §479.102.

However, licensed manufacturers and importers can ask ATF to authorize other means of identification (also known as a marking variance) by showing that the marking variance is reasonable and will not hinder the effective administration of the law.

ATF’s Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) is responsible for analyzing and responding to marking variance requests. If you have any questions about this process, please contact FATD by email at or by phone at (304) 616-4300

Prepare your request

The easiest way to request a marking variance is to fill out ATF Form 3311.4 - Application for Alternate Means of Identification of Firearm(s) (Marking Variance). This form outlines all the required information for a successful marking variance application.

Download Form 3311.4 (PDF)

You can choose to write a letter application instead of filling out Form 3311.4. If you do, make sure that your letter application includes all of the required information listed below.

Responsible person

Your marking variance request must either be signed by a responsible person from each manufacturer/importer listed on the application, or else include a separate letter signed by a responsible person stating that an employee is authorized to make the request on behalf of the company.

Manufacturer/importer marking the firearm

First, identify the licensed manufacturer or importer who will be physically marking the firearm. Make sure this information is exactly the same as what’s printed on their federal firearms license (FFL):

  • Name of licensee
  • Full 15-digit FFL number
  • Business address
  • Contact information (phone number and email address)

Manufacturer/importer identified on the firearm

Next, identify the licensed manufacturer or importer whose marks of identification will be placed on the firearm. Again, this information must be the same as what’s printed on their FFL:

  • Name of licensee
  • Recognized abbreviation or trade name (for more information, see the May 2012 FFL Newsletter)
  • Full 15-digit FFL number
  • Contact information (phone number and email address)

Manufacturing/importation process

Describe the manufacturing and/or importation process of the firearms (including shipping or transportation) for each licensee listed on the application.

After the initial manufacture/importation and marking of a firearm, the original licensee(s) may contract other licensed manufacturers to perform additional manufacturing processes on their behalf. According to ATF Ruling 2009-5, these secondary licensed manufacturers do not need to re-mark the firearms as long as they send ATF certain information required by the ruling. This is called a non-marking variance.

In some cases, these secondary manufacturing activities are contracted out to a licensed dealer-gunsmith instead of a licensed manufacturer. Since dealer-gunsmiths do not need to comply with the regulations on manufacturers, the original manufacturer/importer must mark its firearms, frames or receivers with serial numbers and other required information before shipping them to the dealer-gunsmith. This ensures that the frames and receivers can be traced by ATF if they are lost or stolen during manufacturing or transportation process. ATF Ruling 2010-10 provides detailed guidance for licensees on this topic.

Marks of identification

List the details of each proposed alternative mark of identification:

  • Name or recognized abbreviation of manufacturer/importer (as listed on FFL)
  • Model, if any (or write “none”)
  • Caliber or gauge, if any (or write “none”)
  • City and state
  • Range of serial numbers to be used if request is approved

The serial numbers cannot duplicate existing serial numbers appearing on any other firearms produced at any location by or for the manufacturer/importer marked on the firearm.


Include copies of the following documents if applicable:

  • Previously approved marking variance
  • Power of Attorney, if applicant is not an employee of a manufacturer/importer identified on the application
  • Special (Occupational) Tax Stamp for each manufacturer/importer of NFA weapons
  • Government contract or letter from a government agency indicating a future need for machineguns

ATF does not need any firearms schematics or copies of federal firearms licenses as part of your request.

Submit your request

You can submit your Form 3311.4 or letter application by email to, by fax to (304) 616-4301, or by physical mail to the following address:

Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division
244 Needy Road, Suite 1600
Martinsburg, WV 25405

Check the status of your request

Most marking variance requests take at least 3 months to process. To check the status of your application after 90 days have passed, please contact FATD by email at or by phone at (304) 616-4300

Last Reviewed January 16, 2020