A Primer on the Ownership of Title II Weapons, or:

You Bought a WHAT??

When non-shooters - and for that matter, many "you don't need an AK to hunt deer" gun owners - hear about a submachine gun or silencer, they immediately think criminal/gang banger/assassin/terrorist. Because everybody "knows" those kinds of weapons are illegal, right?


Though heavily regulated on the federal level by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, as well as by state laws, Title II weapons (machine guns, silencers, short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, destructive devices and "any other weapons") of one variety or other are legal to own in every state in the Union. Indiana is quite liberal in this regard, prohibiting only the ownership of short-barreled shotguns and explosive devices (ie grenades, bombs). Otherwise, if you're a US citizen at least 21 years of age and can legally own any firearm in the State of Indiana, you can legally own a SMG, silencer, short-barreled rifle, large-caliber destructive device (ie "Street Sweeper" shotgun), or AOW.

How much does a machine gun cost?
New manufacture of machine guns for non-government use was banned by the ironically named Firearm Owners' Protection Act of 1986. Machine guns built prior to the ban are known as "transferables," and can still be bought, sold and owned by individuals. Machine guns manufactured AFTER the '86 ban are known as "post-86 dealer samples" and can only be possessed by Class III dealers or government agencies. Because the '86 ban fixed the supply of transferable machine guns, prices have soared over the years as demand continues to rise and the pool of transferables shrinks (collectors buy them and do not sell, they are destroyed in fires or stolen in break-ins, etc). This trend shows no signs of letting up. Presently, the least expensive machine guns (such as MACs, Stens, Ruger AC-556s and UZIs) generally run a couple to several thousand dollars, while the more popular models (MP-5s, M-16s, AK-47s, etc) can easily reach the $10-12,000 range. Belt-fed machine guns start at the price of a luxury car, with the more exotic varieties approaching the price of a house! As many in the machine gun community like to say, "these are the good old days". If you've been thinking about buying a machine gun, DO IT NOW. They won't be getting any cheaper!

I've decided to make the leap. How do I go about getting a machine gun?
First thing you need to do is locate the weapon you want. Title II weapons can be purchased from an in-state individual as a private-party sale, or they can be purchased through a Class III dealer. If the weapon you want is located out of state (ie Internet sale, etc), it must be transferred to a Class III dealer in your state prior to being transferred to you. I recommend going through a dealer, especially for your first NFA purchase. The dealer can walk you through the process and make things much easier. Once the gun has been located, you pay the dealer for it. Often, the dealer will allow you to put half down at the time of purchase, and pay the balance once the paperwork goes through. Ask! Then you must complete a BATF Form 4 ("Application for Tax-Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm") in duplicate, get them signed by the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in your jurisdiction (in my case, it's the County Sheriff), and have two FBI fingerprint cards completed. Then you send the signed Form 4s, the print cards, two passport-sized photos of yourself and a Citizenship Verification form to the BATF, along with a check for $200. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. Then call the BATF to get a status report. Then wait some more. :-P Finally, your approved Form 4 is returned to your dealer with a $200.00 tax stamp affixed. Dealer calls you with the good news, you go see him, pay the balance on the gun (if applicable), fill out a 4473 (same yellow form that accompanies every over-the-counter firearm purchase in the USA) and take your new purchase home. Processing time for a Form 4 can vary widely. It generally takes about 30 days to "go pending", which is when the form enters the BATF computer system and is assigned to an examiner. From there, it's a crap shoot. 90 days after pending is the standard timeframe, but extremes either way are not unheard of. My first Form 4 came back 87 days after pending, while my second took 100 days (both including the travel time back to my dealer after approval). Purchase procedure is generally the same for any NFA weapon, be it a machine gun, silencer, SBR, etc.

It is also possible to make an NFA weapon (except a machine gun). For instance, if you have machining skills, you can build your own silencer. Or you can take an existing Title I weapon such as an AR-15, and register it as a Short-Barreled Rifle, which would allow you to have a barrel length less than 16". You must register the item prior to its construction, using a BATF Form 1 ("Application to Make and Register Firearm"). Procedure is much the same as for a Form 4 (ie CLEO sign-off, prints, mug shots, $200 check to BATF, then wait).

For More Information
NFA restrictions by state
BATF NFA Branch examiners & contact info
The Good Guy List - Tom Bowers' list of reputable Class III dealers, by state
Subguns.com - discussion & ad board

Acme Sports
800 E Tipton St.
Seymour, IN 47274
(812) 522-4008
Applied Ballistics Systems
3461 Union St.
Lafayette, IN 47905
(765) 426-4937
Beech Grove Firearms
207 Main St.
Beech Grove, IN 46107
(317) 791-2725

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