firearms license

How To Get a Class 3 Firearms License [2022]

You probably heard of the Class 3 Firearms License. But what exactly is it and is it truly necessary?

If you enjoy shooting and collecting firearms, you’re probably aware that the vast majority of civilians in the United States can own and shoot a wide range of firearms legally without obtaining a federal-level license.

In this article, you will learn everything about this license, why the law requires it, and who should obtain it. But first, let’s go over some background information so that you can understand this topic better. 

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There is a firearm licensing scheme in place for specific categories of gun owners and individuals, with the Class 3 firearms license being one of the most favored. To purchase items covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), interested parties must first obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and then complete another document related to the occupational tax. 

Photo source: Time.com

What Is the NFA? 

The NFA requires the federal government to register fully automatic firearms ― termed “machine guns” ― rifles and shotguns with an overall length under 26 inches. Rifles with a barrel under 16 inches, shotguns with a barrel  18 inches or shorter, and firearm sound suppressors ― also known as  “silencers.”

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) included “destructive devices,” primarily explosives and the like, but also firearms larger than .50 caliber ― except for most shotguns ― in the provisions of the NFA. In 1994, the Treasury Department added revolving-cylinder shotguns and one semi-automatic shotgun to the NFA. 

The GCA 

The GCA prohibited the private importation of fully automatic firearms. A 1986 amendment to the Act prohibited the domestic manufacture of fully automatic firearms for private use. Meanwhile, short-barreled rifles and shotguns have grown in popularity for home defense and defensive skills-based marksmanship training and competitions. The sound suppressors have grown in popularity for marksmanship training and competitions as well as hunting.

The Federal Firearms Act (FFA) of 1938 mandated the acquisition of an FFL by gun manufacturers, importers, and dealers. It also defined a group of people who couldn’t buy guns, including convicted felons and required gun sellers to keep customer records. The FFA was repealed by the Gun Control Act (GCA) in 1968, although many of its provisions were reenacted.

What Is SOT?

SOT stands for the special occupational taxpayer and, when combined with the proper FFL, allows for the sale of NFA items. A federal firearms licensee is someone who pays a special annual tax to deal with a subset of firearms known as NFA Firearms. 

SOTs are sometimes incorrectly referred to as having a Class 3 License or even a SOT License. There are three types of SOTs: Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3.

  • Class 1 SOT – Importer of NFA firearms: This is only permitted for research and development purposes or sale to government clients. As a result, you aren’t permitted to import NFA items for resale to private parties. FFL 08 and 11 are used in conjunction with the Class 1 SOT. Class 2 SOT is an NFA item manufacturer.
  • Class 2 SOT – Manufacturer of NFA firearms: This means that you can construct NFA items subject to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) oversight and policy, including machine guns! The Class 2 SOT is used in conjunction with the 07 and 10 FFL. A person with a Class 2 SOT can sell NFA items when used with the 07 FFL.
  • Class 3 SOT – Dealer of NFA firearms: It is the most common type of SOT and the only type that many people are aware of because this is the Class of SOT that your dealer is from whom you’re purchasing an NFA firearm.

NFA Activity per Class of SOT

NFA Firearm ActivitySOT ClassFFL Type
Selling NFA Firearms3Type 1, 2, or 9 FFL
Making and Selling2Type 7 or 10 FFL
Importing and Selling1Type 8 or 11 FFL

How To Get a Class 3 License?

To obtain a Class 3 license, you must first obtain a 01 or 02 FFL. The 01 FFL is used for firearms and gunsmithing. Therefore, get a 01 FFL if all you want to do is sell or repair firearms. It’s ineligible for use in manufacturing. The 02 FFL is for pawnbrokers, so general retail sales of firearms aren’t permitted.

This is why the Class 3 License, or more accurately, the Class 3 SOT, is paired with these two FFLs. It’s the one that, when combined with a retail FFL, allows for the retail sale of NFA devices. Once you’ve completed that form and submitted it along with the annual $500 fee, the ATF will usually approve it in a reasonable amount of time.  

Class 3 Firearm License Cost

One of the frequently asked questions is, what is the cost of a Class 3 License? The answer is that it costs between $500 and $1,000 per year. Depending on how much you sell and the type of business you operate and have an FFL for. 

FFL License Type, SOT Class, and SOT Cost

FFL TypeSOT ClassUnder $500k CostOver $500k Cost
Type 1 FFL3$500$500
Type 2 FFL3$500$500
Type 3 FFLN/AN/AN/A
Type 6N/AN/AN/A
Type 7 FFL2$500$1,000
Type 8 FFL1$500$1,000
Type 9 FFL3$500$1,000
Type 10 FFL2$500$1,000
Type 11 FFL1$500$1,000

What are the Requirements for an FFL License?

Bullets on paperwork
Photo source: Ammunitiontogo

The license requirements for getting an FFL are similar to those for owning a gun in the first place. Even if you can own a gun, there are a few other requirements you must meet.

To get an FFL first you must meet these conditions:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Not be under indictment for a felony or crime that could imprison you for over one year
  • Not have been convicted of a felony or crime that could have imprisoned you for over one year
  • Not be a fugitive from justice
  • Not ever have been committed to a mental institution or adjudicated mentally defective
  • Never have been dishonorably discharged from the military
  • Not be an documented immigrant
  • Not be subject to a restraining order against an intimate partner or children
  • Not have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
  • So basically, be a law-abiding person who can legally own a gun, and you meet the baseline standards for getting an FFL

Every FFL is required to meet specific requirements for their business location. Because some FFLs handle explosive materials, there may be extra requirements to meet. Each FFL application is distinctive. 

So, if you want to get a license, make sure you meet your location requirements before you apply. You must also show that you have all the necessary local licenses and permits for your business and that you’re actively engaged in business to facilitate your application.

Do You Need a Federal Firearms License To Buy a Silencer?

Different types of suppressors
   Photo source: Arms Merchant LLC

You don’t need an FFL to purchase a silencer. This is a common misconception and myth. This could be due to a misunderstanding of how an FFL/SOT combination works. When NFA items are registered, people with little or no firearms experience assume that a license is required. Some people believe that all guns are registered, but this is also a myth. 

What Are NFA Firearms?

How To Get a Class 3 Firearms License A Gun Arsenal
Photo source: The Armory Life

NFA Firearms are guns ― silencers are legally considered firearms governed by the 1934 National Firearms Act.

NFA Firearms is also known as Title II Firearms because the National Firearms Act is considered Title II of federal gun laws ― the Gun Control Act of 1968 is Title I, despite the fact that it was implemented later. As a result, an NFA item is also known as a Title II Firearm.

NFA Firearms are:

  • Silencer or suppressor
  • Full-auto machine gun
  • Short-barreled rfle (SBR): Rifles with a barrel less than 16 inches or an overall length less than 26 inches
  • Short-barreled shotgun (SBS): Shotguns with a barrel less than 18 inches or an overall length less than 26 inches
  • Destructive device: Grenades and certain types of ammunition
  • Any other weapon (AOW): Pen guns, certain special handguns, and others

A federal tax must be paid and approval from the ATF is required for a normal citizen to own NFA firearms. The tax is $200 per NFA firearm transfer ― $5 for AOW ― and the recipient must have an ATF Form 4 approved. ATF Form 4s can take up to ten months to process.

Final Thoughts

This topic is riddled with myths and misunderstandings. But, as we learn more about this subject, we can see that the concept of a Class 3 firearms license or SOT isn’t all that complicated. Hopefully, you’ll get the right license for you. Enjoy and keep yourself safe out there.

Make sure to share your experience with us in the comment section.

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