Firearms Serial Numbers
Washington, DC –-(Ammoland.com)- A primary purpose of the Gun Control Act (GCA) is to enable firearms to be traced from the manufacturer or importer of the firearm through the firearm’s sequence of distribution.
Federal firearms laws and regulations require that the identifying information contained on firearms be accurately and fully recorded in the acquisition and disposition (A&D) records retained by FFLs.
The markings required to be placed on firearms and the records maintained by FFLs are critical in tracing firearms that are used in crimes. Symbols, numbers, and/or letters found in firearms serial numbers often identify model designations and date of manufacture and may include other coded manufacturer data that can be very important to a successful crime-gun trace.
Two regulations implementing, respectively, the GCA and the National Firearms Act (NFA), 27 CFR § 478.92 and § 479.102, specify the marking requirements for licensed manufacturers and importers relative to firearms and armor piercing ammunition, and for makers of NFA firearms. Licensees and makers of NFA firearms must legibly and conspicuously mark the firearms with the required markings.
The above regulations require markings that legibly identify each firearm. A serial number must consist of an actual number or series of numbers. However, such numbers may be accompanied by a combination of letters. ATF has consistently taken the position that “legibly” marked means using Roman letters (A, a, B, b, C, c, and so forth) and Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.).
ATF has received many questions regarding whether a manufacturer may identify a firearm with an individual’s name. This may be done provided it is also marked with a number(s) adjacent to the name (e.g., “adamsgun1234”). In addition, ATF has received numerous requests from Federal firearms licensees about special characters.
A legibly marked firearm may also include, but may not be comprised solely of, special characters provided that a variance is requested and approved. We caution that the manufacturer must ensure that the serial number used should be readily located in their A&D records.