Buying a Machine Gun

Understanding the Basics of Buying a Machine Gun
Gun Collecting

Exceptional Original Colt, Model 1921/1928 U.S. Navy Over Stamp Thompson Submachine Gun

Michigan –-( Separating the truth from the fiction can be difficult at times. When it comes to buying certain types of guns you certainly don’t want to cross into any gray area.

This is especially true when it comes to machine guns.

Despite numerous anti gun media misconceptions, buying a fully functional machine gun involves a lot more than merely going to a gun show. It can be a long and often times tedious process, one that includes no small amount of paperwork, see:(National Firearms Act Forms and Their Use) and when all that is done, be prepared to do some waiting.

With the kind help from our friends at they offered some thoughts on what it is actually involved in buying a machine-gun.

Currently, there are basically 4 types of machineguns in the US market today:

  • C&R (curio and relic) transferable Machine Guns, including Deactivated War Trophy Guns
  • Transferable Machine Guns
  • Pre May Dealer Sample Machine Guns
  • Post May Dealer Sample Machine Guns

“The first is the C&R (curio and relic) transferable machine guns,” says Frank, an advanced collector of firearms. “These guns are original factory guns registered generally prior to the end of December, 1968 when the Gun Control Act of 1968 passed, banning the import of machine-guns for civilian sales.”

He notes that DeWaTs (Deactivated War Trophy) are in this group. These are registered as “unserviceable firearms” and transferred via 5320.5 or form 5 tax exempt.

“Those were guns that came in under the US DeWaT (Deactivated War Trophy) program. The GCA 1968 defined the receiver of a firearm as the firearm owner and since most DeWaT’s were deactivated in a manner that left the receiver intact they were allowed to be registered during the amnesty in December of 1968. If they were registered they can be reactivated legally and returned to functional status.”

Next up are machine guns that were manufactured in the US after the 1968. “These guns are transferable but unless they are put on the C&R list individually they aren’t normally C&R. These guns had to be built and registered in the United States in order to be transferable. Many original guns were cut in half to destroy them then re-welded and registered during the period between the Gun Control Act of 1968.”

This cutting and rebuilding was the only way to take an existing “contraband” machinegun and make it legal.

All this changed on May 19, 1986 with the signing of the McClure-Volkmer Act or Gunowners Protection Act. This “controversial act” banned the further manufacture of all machineguns for civilian sales

“Pre May (May 19, 1986) Dealer samples are machine-guns that were imported between the Gun Control Act of 1968 and May 19 of 1986. It wasn’t legal to import machine-guns for civilian sales after 1968 so anything imported could only be sold to a class 2 or class 3 dealer as a ‘Dealers Sales Sample.’ As such the guns could be kept by the dealer after he gave up his Federal Firearms License (FFL) or Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT) but could only be sold to another SOT paying FFL. They never become transferables but since the dealer can keep it they call them keepers. Also they don’t require any special paperwork above and beyond the normal forms for transfers so they are easy and simple for dealers to buy. They will transfer on form 3s between active dealers and if the seller has given up his FFL/SOT then the transfer will be via tax paid form 4.”

Post May Dealer Samples therefore refer to any machine gun made or imported after the McClure-Volkmer Act.

“These guns can only be registered to an SOT paying FFL holder who has a letter from a recognized and certified law enforcement agency asking for a demonstration of the firearm. The letters are a pain to get and the guns have to be abandoned, sold, destroyed or otherwise transferred out of the SOT’s inventory when he gives up his FFL/SOT. The value of these guns is the lowest because the market is very limited.”

For this reason C&R guns are usually the most valued.

“These will transfer on form 3s tax exempt between active FFL/SOT holders, on form 4s tax paid if a non FFL/SOT is at either end of the transfer or a form 5 tax exempt if the firearm is unserviceable or transferring to or from a government agency. Transferables are next in value and transfer the same as the C&R’s.”

Special Occupational Taxpayer and this is what converts an otherwise ordinary every day FFL dealer into a class 3 dealer.

Disclaimer: Consult with local law enforcement to clarify the laws in your area. The above statements are meant for background information only and should not be used as a legal recommendation.

Peter Suciu is executive editor of, a website that tracks and monitors media bias against guns and our Second Amendment rights. Visit:

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Shane Reyes

I bought a madsen light machine gun in a german 8mm caliber as far as I could tell it is from Denmark a danish machine gun made by Danes and was the world’s first light machine gun , make no mkstake mine was from a 1948 year and carries a 25 round magazine ( magazine capacity not sure ) it was Being deactivated by removingg the spring and follower to comply in California law, and it falls in class 3 meaning it is C&R ( Curio Relic ) mine is a true legend of world war 2 and it is… Read more »


I am a gun collector of military fire arms I would very much like to add a ak 47 full auto to my collection. I found one on for bid the highest being 500 dollars and a link that says buy now for 2000 I was intersested it says it needs to transfered to a class3 arms dealer which I have who is agreed to do this they said it might needa LE leter no problem I have no criminal record and am a law abiding gun owner when I contacted the seller I was told this is only… Read more »

chris keenz

wow very awesome