NFA Gun Trusts & Filing ATF Form 1 (ATF F 5320.1)
August 17, 2013
Last year I setup a NFA Gun Trust to simplify my life when it comes to acquiring and owning NFA items (suppressors, short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, etc.). Now that I had the trust, it was time for me to file my first Form 1 (Application to Make and Register a Firearm) so that legally I would have a lower receiver that is capable of being used on a Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) platform. This article compiles my research along with an example of exactly how I filled out the Form 1 (AFT F 5320.1). This article should not be considered as legal advice, nor will filling out the form the same way I did guarantee that your Form 1 will be approved. As you read the details below, you will see that there are differences in opinion on how to fill out certain blocks on the form. I have tried to discuss these differences, and in the end, you should make your own decision on what to put on your Form 1.
Keep in mind that the steps listed below are tailored for the average person with a NFA Gun Trust. You should read the entire form carefully to make sure that other aspects of the form don't apply to you. One more time... there is no guarantee that following these steps will ensure your application is approved. Instead these steps are just my understanding based on my research and represent what I did when filing my Form 1. Also, you should make sure you follow your state or local laws relating to ownership of any NFA items.
Step 1 - Download and Save Form
Download Form ATF F 5320.1 from the BATFE website at this link. I chose not to link the actual form in the event the BATFE updates the form in the future. This way you should be able to see the most current form at that web page. The version of the form used as an example in this review can be identified by the header and footer information on the form (see below). It appears the latest form at the AFT website was Revised September 2007.
Save the form to your computer so you can input your data and save it for the future. Fortunately, the ATF provides the form in a save-able PDF format so you can save your information within the form. By doing this, you are making a template that has all your basic information already in the form. In the future, all you will need to do is change the firearm specific information the next time you send the form in for a new NFA item. The form downloads as 4 pages, but the first two pages are the ones you will fill out. The form has highlighted areas in light blue and these areas allow input. Just because a field doesn't have any blue, doesn't mean something is not needed (ex. signature). If your form doesn't show the blue areas, most likely you have an old version of Adobe Reader or you have the highlighting feature in Adobe Reader turned off.
Step 2 - Filling Out the Form Section by Section
Section 1 - If you are reading this review, in most cases you would check box "a" as shown below. I doubt the average person with an NFA Gun Trust is going to be making firearms for a government organization.
Section 2 - This section identifies the type of application that is being made; Individual or Entity. Your NFA Gun Trust falls in the "Other Business Entity" category since it is a trust, so check the box as shown.
Section 3 - This section identifies the actual person or entity applying for registration of the item. It is fairly self explanatory, but since you checked "Corporation or Other Business Entity in Section 2, you will need to put your NFA Gun Trust name and address in Section 3b. If for some reason the name of your trust is really "The Doe Family Gun Trust", then you must put the "The" in the front of the trust name on the form. Speaking from experience, I have had applications sent back with an error letter because I didn't have the "The" in front of my trust name.
Section 4 Description of Firearm - Parts of this section are the most controversial data blocks on the form. After reading many forums, there are clear differences in opinion on what to put in each of these blocks. The controversy is primarily around how to register a lower receiver to allow the use of other calibers and barrel lengths. If you only plan for a single caliber and barrel length, then you don't have too much to worry about.
Honestly, for those wanting alternate configurations, I'm not sure if there is a best way to fill out every block because it seems that different people have done different things and have had their Form 1 approved. In my case, I tried the second method (multi caliber and barrel length on a single form) and received an error letter. Therefore the information shown below represents my corrected form for a single caliber and barrel length.
I have included a couple of photos of the Spike's Tactical Lower Receiver being registered so you can follow the details of how I filled out the form.
Below shows exactly what was on the Form 1 that I submitted. If you can't read the text, you can click on the photo to bring up a higher resolution photo.
Step 3 - Filing The Form
Step 4 - Waiting
Once you mail in your paperwork, the next steps are waiting to receive your returned paperwork. Below lists the dates related to registration of my lower receiver which is shown in this article.
Step 5 - Engraving
While you are waiting on your return paperwork, you can go ahead and get your lower receiver engraved with the correct information. Some people will suggest to get your engraving done before you send in the paperwork. This way if you ship your lower receiver off for engraving and it is lost in the mail, you will not be out the cost of getting it registered. The requirement for engraving can be seen in the Federal Firearms Regulation Reference Guide (ATF P 5300.4) found on this page. Section 479.102 (starting page 91) gives you the details on engraving. For this lower receiver, I believe that the NFA Gun Trust name along with my city & state must be engraved on the lower receiver. An example of what I engraved is shown below.
Doe Family Gun Trust
There are several different approaches you can take to getting your item engraved; do it yourself, find a local engraver, or send it off for engraving. Each person will have to consider the pros and cons themselves. In my case I decided I wanted a better engraving job than I thought I could do myself. I also wanted to find someone that anyone else could potentially use (not a local engraving shop). After doing some research on the internet and reading several forums, I decided to ship my lower receiver to Orion Arms for engraving. You can visit their website for more details, but the bottom line is that it cost me $45 for them to engrave my lower plus another $15 for return shipping. When you add these costs with my cost to ship them the lower, the total costs for engraving were $72.60 including my shipping costs to them.
Orion Arms offers several potential locations on your lower receiver for engraving. I decided to go with the front of the magazine well. I feel they did a great job with the engraving and you can see their work in the photo below. The engraved letters appear to be re-blackened and it looks like a professional job.
Step 6 - Update Your NFA Gun Trust
Once you receive your paperwork and stamp back from the BATFE, you will need to update (add an amendment) your NFA Gun Trust so that your new NFA item is identified.
Getting the paperwork back on an SBR is taking about 6 months provided there are no errors. I had an error letter due to a detail in my trust name and how I filled out one block. Following the steps outlined above will not guarantee that you will not get an error letter, but these are the steps I plan to follow again on my next NFA item. Now that I have registered SBR, I can evaluate other upper configurations provided I keep the 5.56 mm caliber & 11.5" barrel length upper as the primary configuration and consider the other new configurations as temporary. I was pleased with the engraving results from Orion Arms and will also use them again in the future. The photo below shows my SBR and I'm pleased with the build. You can see the details of this build by going to my article Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) Build.