Thursday, January 26, 2023

SHOT Show 2023: NFA Silencer Numbers Continue to Rise

On January 18, 2023, at the SHOT Show, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) hosted a slide show on what has been happening in the National Firearms Act Division of the ATF.

This presentation did not explain ramifications of the controversial "new rule" on stabilizing pistol braces. It was an overview of the internal happenings in the NFA division of the ATF.

This correspondent has seen many such presentations in other organizations in his career. There is useful information to be gained. Do not expect bureaucracies to air their "dirty laundry" in public.  Each agency and each division is going to do their best to present themselves in a positive light. They will explain any shortcomings as something outside their control. They will convincingly explain why they need more resources and explain they are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have.

Some very interesting numbers were presented showing how the workload of the NFA division has increased in the past few years.

FY is an abbreviation for Fiscal Year. A Fiscal Year is a one year period during which the agency expends its annual budget. It is not the same as a calendar year. The Fiscal Year for the ATF (and most federal agencies) is from October 1st to September 30th.  FY 2020 started on October 1st 2019 and ended on September 30th, 2020. FY 2021 started on October 1st 2020 and ended on September 30, 2021. FY 2022 started on October 1st 2021 and ended on September 30th, 2022.

The slides showed how many NFA applications were processed in each of the last three Fiscal Years, up to September 30th, 2022. The FY 2019 number was taken from a previous report:

  • In FY 2019, 342,860 were processed.
  • In FY 2020, 512,315 were processed.
  • In FY 2021  546,224 were processed.
  • In FY 2022  709,508 were processed.

These are applications processed, which appear to be almost entirely Forms 1,3,4, and 5.

The numbers of the various forms were not shown in the slide show. Experience has shown the vast majority of these applications are Form 4 for the transfer of silencers.

The total number of silencer tax stamps existent in the USA as of 2019 was 2,042,719. The total silencer tax stamps existent in the USA as of 2020 was 2,664,774. The increase was 622,055 from 2019 to 2020.  The numbers do not precisely match with the application numbers. The exact date the number of tax stamps for silencers was reported is not clear.

The number of legal silencers in the United States has not been updated since 2020. It is now 2023. When this correspondent asked representatives at the briefing if the numbers presented represented about a one million increase in legal silencers from 2020 to the end of 2022, they stated the number was reasonably correct.

The number of legal silencers in the United States now exceeds 3.6 million. The number is likely to be considerably higher, but has not been directly reported.

It is difficult to argue silencers are not in common use when there are about four million legal silencers in the United States. In the Caetano case, the Supreme Court held 200,000 stun guns in the United States shows they are in common use.

Common use is a main criteria for protection under the Second Amendment, in the Heller, McDonald, Caetano, and Bruen decisions at the Supreme Court.

The presentation made a good case the NFA division of the ATF is overwhelmed with NFA applications, leading to significant wait times to process those applications.


The NFA division is experiencing considerable stress in processing NFA forms expeditiously, especially Form 4s. Those working to process the applications put in long hours trying to decrease the backlog.

The ATF does not receive the $200 tax for NFA applicaitons. The money goes directly to the general fund. Therefore, the NFA cannot simply hire more people to process more forms.

A new group will be required to process the flood of form 1s which are expected under the new rule on stabilizing braces. The current system cannot handle an increase of several hundred thousand or a few million applications for Form 1s.

The Bruen decision said unreasonable delays in processing permits was impermissible, under the Second Amendment.

Court challenges are ongoing which argue silencers are protected by the Second Amendment.

Court challenges are ongoing on the new rule for stabilizing braces. That is a subject for another article.


©2023 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch 


ScienceABC123 said...

What is the good from having the National Firearms Act Division of the ATF process all these forms? I think this is more evidence of too much government bureaucracy, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I am a Vietnam Veteran. My hearing was damaged during four hours of 175 1nd 155 cannon fire every one of the four guns fired one round each every five minutes directly over my heard. I am a firm believer in making silencers legal for any one to own. Not too many people have an )) number like James Bond so what is the need for a ban on silencers. They would definitely reduce hearing loss for every one. Ear muffs and plugs deny the ability to hear what is going on around you at time when you really need to know. I know and have the equipment to make silencers but will never make any until they are legal. I hope it happens soon. Huh, what is getting very old. So am I. I could not wear any hearing protection and do my job during that cannon fire.

Anonymous said...

The A. H's at the VA are trying to say I never saw combat. 40 of my 46 man platoon did not come back alive. My work site was the first thing hit by rocket fire. A year in two corp. I saw combat action first hand many times. and by V.A. regulations I only qualify for a 170+ disability rating getting paid 60% 40 years after my injuries. Corrupt government agency??