NFA Firearms, Form 1s, Engraving and Cartoon Chickens

FORM53201-APPROVED (1).pdf

Late last week an article was posted on a popular website, dedicated to firearms news, about the engraving of firearms that had approved Form 1s. The author describes how easy it is for one to submit a Form 1, with the advent of eForms, to register your firearm as a Short Barrel Rifle (“SBR”) but laments the marking requirement. He accurately describes ATF’s response to any number of questions you could ask them by stating “Ask three people whether you need to engrave your information on your newly registered NFA device and you’ll get three different answers.”

The author then prefaces the remainder of the article with “In an effort to sort out the confusion I asked the ATF directly…”. Oddly enough, the author seems to forget his previous statement, a mere sentence prior, that if you ask three people at ATF whether you need to engrave your information that you would receive three different answers.

The article states that if you do not plan on selling your SBR, there is no requirement to engrave the firearm. The author also claims that if you remove the firearm from the registry in order to sell it, at that point you’ll need to engrave your information on the firearm.

Perhaps the most concerning part of the post is that nowhere does the author state who he spoke to, cite to any statutes or regulations, or produce a letter from ATF confirming his statements.


Confused yet? Let’s attempt to remove the dog from the hen house.

In an effort to make things simple to follow, a few terms need to be defined. We will examine both the National Firearms Act and its regulations.

26 U.S.C. 5845 is where one can find the definitions for the National Firearms Act.

(i) Make

The term “make”, and the various derivatives of such word, shall include manufacturing (other than by one qualified to engage in such business under this chapter), putting together, altering, any combination of these, or otherwise producing a firearm.

(m) Manufacturer

The term “manufacturer” means any person who is engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms.

It is important to differentiate between the preceding two terms. The term “manufacturer” applies to those who are engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms, while the other is in reference to individuals or entities not engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms.

26 U.S.C. 5842 regulates the identification of firearms.

(a) Identification of firearms other than destructive devices

Each manufacturer and importer and anyone making a firearm shall identify each firearm, other than a destructive device, manufactured, imported, or made by a serial number which may not be readily removed, obliterated, or altered, the name of the manufacturer, importer, or maker, and such other identification as the Secretary may by regulations prescribe.

27 C.F.R. 479 et seq. is where one can find regulations pertaining to the National Firearms Act.

Make. This term and the various derivatives thereof shall include manufacturing (other than by one qualified to engage in such business under this part), putting together, altering, any combination of these, or otherwise producing a firearm.

Manufacturer. Any person who is engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms.

Again, the distinction between maker and manufacturer is seen.

27 C.F.R. 479.102 regulates how firearms must be identified. In the pertinent part:

(a) You, as a manufacturer, importer, or maker of a firearm, must legibly identify the firearm as follows:
(2) By engraving, casting, stamping (impressing), or otherwise conspicuously placing or causing to be engraved, cast, stamped (impressed), or placed on the frame, receiver, or barrel thereof certain additional information. This information must be placed in a manner not susceptible of being readily obliterated, altered or removed. For firearms manufactured, imported, or made on and after January 30, 2002, the engraving, casting, or stamping (impressing) of this information must be to a minimum depth of .003 inch. The additional information includes:
(i) The model, if such designation has been made;
(ii) The caliber or gauge;
(iii) Your name (or recognized abbreviation) and also, when applicable, the name of the foreign manufacturer or maker;
(iv) In the case of a domestically made firearm, the city and State (or recognized abbreviation thereof) where you as the manufacturer maintain your place of business, or where you, as the maker, made the firearm; and

The regulations pertaining to identifying NFA firearms unequivocally state that the maker of the firearm must engrave, cast, stamp, or otherwise conspicuously place their name and the city and state where the maker made the firearm.

Now, I will admit, the regulation does not speak to the “remanufacture” of a firearm. But the term “remanufacture” is not defined in the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, 27 C.F.R. 478.11, or 27 C.F.R. 749.11.



But we need not explore this non sequitur any further because the statue and regulation clearly state that if you are putting together, altering, or any combination thereof, you are manufacturing a firearm. And if you are manufacturing the firearm, you are required to identify it with certain information.

With regard to the serial number, caliber/gauge and model, ATF has published ruling 2013-3 which states that licensed manufacturers and licensed importers of firearms, and makers, may adopt the serial number, caliber/gauge and model on the firearm without a marking variance provided a number of conditions are met. You can view that ruling here.


29 thoughts on “NFA Firearms, Form 1s, Engraving and Cartoon Chickens

  1. Since we’re trying to clarify, imagine I’m converting an off-the-shelf AR-15 to an SBR. I can adopt the existing serial number, caliber/gauge, and model thus making the addition of just my name/trust name, city, and state required?


      1. Just to be clear , I am not an FFL , if I make a store bought 16″ Ar into a sbr. Do I need to engrave “anything” into the receiver ?


      2. Incorrect. Per the ruling you yourself linked:

        The manufacturer, importer, or maker must legibly and conspicuously place on the
        frame, receiver, barrel, or pistol slide (if applicable) his/her own name (or
        recognized abbreviation) and location (city and State, or recognized abbreviation of
        the State) as specified under his/her Federal firearms license (if a licensee);

        This only applies to licensees, not unlicensed individuals.

        The ruling specifically addressed this, but you seemingly missed the point. The author delineated several times in the ruling between licensed and unlicensed individuals.


      3. Adam, reread the ruling and the definition of the term “make”. It absolutely applies to non licensees. The difference is that they are not engaged in the business and only licensed manufacturers can adopt the original manufacturers manufacturer’s name and place of business. A non licensee would be required to add their own.


      4. Adam,

        You need to reread the key condition outlined in the ruling:

        ” . . . as specified under his/her Federal firearms license (if a licensee);”

        It does not include conditions for:

        ” . . . as specified under his/her Driver’s license”
        ” . . . as specified under his/her Trust documents”

        FFLs, and the firearms they make, are under specific guidelines by this ruling.

        If you do not have an FFL, you do not have to mark, unless you sell the firearm, at which point you are engaged in the business of selling the firearm.


      5. adam,

        The explicitly clear language in 26 U.S.C. 5842 and 27 C.F.R. 479.102 that Attorney Kraut has specified above mandates that anyone making (e.g. non-FFL holder) an NFA firearm must engrave it. This is also confirmed by the definition of “make” that is included in the ATF Form 1 instructions – “Make. The term “make”, and the various derivatives of such word, shall include manufacturing (other than by one qualified to engage in such business under the NFA), putting together, altering, any combination of these, or otherwise producing a firearm.”


  2. Funny as this may sound, all one has to do is flip over the form one and READ THE DIRECTIONS !!!!!!
    It states that no re-markings are required if making an NFA-SBR from an EXISTING (Already manufactured) firearm !!! Only if starting from SCRATCH does the marking come in to play !
    I successfully registered MY SBR to my trust in record time without ANY grief from BATFE, starting with an already made, lower bought on a 4473.


      1. Justin, refer to Section 2(j)(7) on the instructions:

        Markings: The maker is required to mark the firearm with his name, city and state. All markings are to be in compliance with 27 CFR 478.92 and 479.102.

        I’m not sure where Christopher believes he is not required to mark the firearm. It appears he is misinterpreting the instructions with regard to the completion of the form.


  3. Excellent clarification! However there is still one area in which I am confused. When must the engraving occur? When Form1 is filed or when the form is approved or when the firearm is assembled?

    Thanks for the great article!


    1. Prior to the assembly of the firearm. You become the maker when you put together or alter the firearm. Generally most people have the receiver engraved while they wait for the approved form so they can put it together or alter the firearm once the form is approved.


      1. Great article. It looks like I can have that info engraved onto the barrel instead of the receiver if I choose. Am I reading that correctly?


  4. Just TRY submitting a Form 1 without a serial number for the making of a firearm from scratch. Make one up.Section (4)(g)
    I did for my suppressor.


  5. 6.2.1 Description of firearm. If an existing firearm or firearm receiver is being used, the name and
    location of the original manufacturer of the weapon should be entered in Block 4(a). If the applicant is
    making a completely new firearm, the applicant’s name and location should be entered in Block 4(a).
    The type of firearm being made, i.e., short barrel rifle, short barrel shotgun, any other weapon, silencer
    or destructive device, is to be entered in Block 4(b). The caliber or gauge of the firearm is to be entered
    in Block 4(c). If a model designation has been assigned to the firearm, that designation is to be placed in
    Block 4(d). If the weapon has no model designation, enter “none” in Block 4(d). The length of the
    barrel is to be entered, in inches, in Block 4(e) and the overall length of the firearm is to be entered, in
    inches, in Block 4(f).

    All NFA firearms must be identified by a serial number and other specified markings. If an existing
    firearm is being used in the making of the NFA weapon, and that firearm is serialized, the existing serial
    number should be used (unless it duplicates a serial number already used by the maker on Form 1) and
    entered in Block 4(g). If the weapon is of new manufacture, the applicant must assign a unique serial
    number and enter it in Block 4(g). For example, a unique serial number could be composed of at least 4
    digits preceded by the initials of the maker. NOTE: alpha characters, e.g., a name, will not be accepted
    as a serial number. If a name is to be used, there must be at least one numeric character in addition to
    the alpha characters.

    I guess the ATF’s own website and instructions don’t jive with your sound legal advice.


    1. I agree Mr. Pop and have several similar Form 1’s where Re-Man’d Firearms were not required to be engraved.

      I have several Re-Man’d SBR’s. Per ATF they accepted the original stamped info on the Firearm’s receiver submitted on the Form 1 and approved it, (I always submit photos so that ATF is clear on the condition, of the SBR (i.e. NFA required markings)and they cannot say they didn’t know at tiume of approval. ATF then takes then Form 1 info (original markings from the firearms receiver) and enters it into the NFA Registry and subsequently approves a Form 1 with a Tax Stamp.

      Like it has been discussed ad-nauseaum, ask 3 ATF Employees a Question and you’ll get 6 different answers, (as each employee gve an initial answer, but when you ask them to clarify, they will put you on hold and ask their Supervisor, (who will then likely provide a separate answer).

      I gotta make a life long dream of a ATF Board Game entitled;

      NFA Scrabble……..Where ANY answer is Correct, but not set in Stone, and you need not be a Licensee to Play.


  6. My apologies if this question was covered in another blog post, but are there any requirements for the font used to engrave the roman lettering and arabic numerals? There are some pretty artistic fonts out there that look great and are (to me) difficult but not impossible to read. There are also some crazy fonts (wing dings?) that are still a reflection of roman letters and arabic numerals, but that most people would need to look up in order to be able to read it. Is there anything from ATF that limits engraving to specific fonts?


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