How To Buy A Silencer Without Really Trying

By Tom McHale
Gun guy, Tom Mchale, gives us a quick look at the new process for individuals and trusts on how to buy a silencer.

How To Buy A Silencer
How To Buy A Silencer Without Really Trying
Tom McHale headshot low-res square
Tom McHale

USA –-( Every time I go to the range with a couple of suppressors, I get the question, “Can anyone buy one of those?”

Yes, still, after decades of legality, it’s still a common question, probably because Uncle Spendy makes the process of buying and owning one so darn confusing.

Here, we’re going to take on the herculean, and most likely impossible, task of translating government regulation-speak into common English and a set of easy to follow steps, so you can figure out how to buy a silencer or suppressor if you so desire.

The whole process just changed somewhat, thanks to the implementation of ATF Rule 41F, which took effect July 13, 2016. Under the new rules, the purchase process became easier for some and more difficult for others.

The net-net explanation is that there are two ways to legally buy a suppressor – as an individual or as a legal entity like a trust or corporation. For individuals, restrictions have lightened up a bit. For entities, you have to do more legwork.

While pros and cons of buying as an individual or trust is a whole separate discussion, it’s worth a brief diversion here to look at the big pros and cons.

If you buy as an individual, you fill out paperwork, jump through some hoops, and you own a suppressor. As far as overly-complicated government processes go, it’s a fairly straightforward process. However, you are the only one who can own and use the suppressor. You can’t loan it to someone else. You can’t transfer it to a friend or family member without them going through the whole process you just did.

Springfield Armory XDM Threaded Models in 9mm and .45 ACP shown here with a SilencerCo Osprey (top) and SilencerCo Octane (bottom)
Springfield Armory XDM Threaded Models in 9mm and .45 ACP shown here with a SilencerCo Osprey (top) and SilencerCo Octane (bottom)
SilencerCo Salvo 12 Shotgun Silencer
SilencerCo Salvo 12 Shotgun Silencer

If you go to the trouble and expense to set up a legal entity like a gun trust, it’ll cost you a couple hundred bucks for the legal work to create your trust. However, when the trust buys a suppressor, all trustees designated on that trust have legal access to use suppressors, buy more on behalf of the trust, or sell them later. Multiple people have legal authority to use it. As an example, I use a trust for all of my immediate family members so any of us can use any of our collective suppressors. If I die, those I leave behind have full legal right to continue owning and using the silencers.

How To Buy A Silencer

So back to the how-to process. Let’s take a quick look at the new process for individuals and trusts. We’ll ignore how it used to be because you can’t do that anymore anyway.

If you’re buying a suppressor as an individual, your life is a little bit easier with implementation of 41F, mainly because you no longer need to get specific permission from your chief law enforcement officer (CLEO). We’ll explain that in a minute.

Here are the steps on how to buy a silencer as an individual:

Step 1: Choose the suppressor you want from a dealer like SilencerCo. You’ll probably have to pay for it up front, or at least leave a deposit, but that’s up to your dealer. They’ll need some money because they’ll have to hold it for some undetermined number of months while Uncle Sam laboriously scrutinizes your paperwork.

Step 2: Your dealer will help you fill out a BATFE Form 4 titled “Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm.” Yes, this is for a suppressor, but the paperwork is for other National Firearm Act items too like short barrel rifles. The form asks for information on the specific silencer, its make and model, serial number and so on. It also contains information about you, the buyer. On the back are a series of questions that affirm your legal ability to purchase this item. The requirements are essentially the same as when you pass an NICS check to buy a regular firearm. If you’re not a convicted felon, currently indicted for a felony, drug user, mental defective, and don’t have a restraining order, you’re probably OK.

Step 3: You’ll need to attach a fingerprint card and a 2×2-inch photograph of yourself taken within the past year. Basically, this is a common passport photo. This is a good place to mention how enterprising people have made the process much, much easier. If you buy a suppressor through the SilencerCo network of dealers they offer a useful download, EasyGuide To Purchasing A Silencer .

Step 4: Next, you’ll need to send a copy of the completed Form 4 from Step 2 to your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer. This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as the Form 4 asks for the name and address information of the CLEO in your area where you sent a copy of the same Form 4. Just fill it out with the right contact information, then send it to your CLEO. Here’s a positive change for individual purchasers. Before, you would have had to get permission from your local CLEO before even submitting your application to the ATF. Many CLEOs in less gun friendly areas simply would not approve suppressor applications, thereby creating a de-facto ban on suppressor ownership in their area of jurisdiction. Now, you don’t need their permission, you only have to inform them, and they can’t prevent your purchase without a legal reason proving that you are ineligible.

Step 5: Package all this up, along with a check, money order, or credit card number and send it off to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Your dealer will help you with this to make sure you’ve got everything together.

Step 6: Wait. And wait. And wait some more. It’ll take months. How many depends on how nervous people are about the pending political situation. If it looks like Hillary is going to win, there will be a flood of suppressor applications and the ATF will get backlogged again, causing delays of a year or more. At time this article was written (August 2016), you’ll probably only have to wait a few months to get your approval back.

National Firearms Act Transfer Stamp
National Firearms Act Transfer Stamp

Step 7: Eventually, you’ll get a letter from the ATF with a copy of your Form 4 with an attractive and colorful stamp attached. This is your permission slip to take possession of the suppressor you paid for that’s been collecting dust while the ATF dilly dallies around with your application. Make photocopies of this and keep one with the suppressor at all times – you have to produce it if asked by law enforcement. Stash the original away somewhere safe.

If you buy as a trust, the process is almost identical. The only difference is that all trustees will have to do the fingerprints, passport photos, and complete an ATF Form 5320.23 Responsible Person Questionnaire each time the trust acquires a silencer. As a result, your application packet will be about an inch thick, which is really funny because the fine print on all these forms always has a notice about the National Paperwork Reduction Act. Hmmm, imagine that.

That’s all my advice on how to buy a silencer. It sounds harder than it really is, and a good dealer knows this process cold and can walk you right through it.

Well, folks, this is a great example of your tax dollars at work. All this, just to buy a muffler to protect your hearing and those around you.


Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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David Hawkins

I have a silencer already. If wanted to buy another silencer do have the paperwork all over again.


Will California allow this? Suspect not.

Robert Tagliarini

I live in N.Y. I dont think there is a way around it. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think I am.


,I don’t know the answer to that. I got my NFA stuff before the b/g check,photos,fingerprint crap with my trust. On my cans Silencer Shop handled it and on the SBR’s I got them separate. Call the ATF local office closest to you for that answer.Thats my advice.

I’ve had a question that I haven’t really been able to get a straight answer on. I’m applying for three stamps at one time, (two supressors and a sbr) my question is can I put all the forms and checks in one envelope with only two sets of finger prints or do I need a set for each stamp I’m applying for?

Gregory Romeu

Obviously you would only need ONE set of prints, but then again, why aren’t you using an NFA Trust for this transaction?

Johnny DOH

Or, just spend 25 cents on some ear plugs.


Are you going to put earplugs in during a home invasion? Didn’t think so.

JOhnny Doh

Should I get silencers for my flash bangs too? I want the a LOUD azz gun – bigger and louder than what the guy shooting at me has.

JOnny got Slapped

Don’t worry Dalton, JOhnny is obviously trying compare a lethal weapon to a nonlethal deterrent.
Also i think he meant to say Concussion Grenade instead of flash bang. He doesn’t sound very educated on the topic of home defense.
Hahaha “flash bang”. JOhnny – You play too much Call Of Duty. I would much rather be quiet and lethal, than loud and retarded. Have fun being a moron. ;0
——–MIC DROP——–

Gregory Romeu

I want to know WHY I had to pay $200 for a tax stanp for a silencer that only cost me $159?


,just curious.What silencer costs that ?

Gregory Romeu

First of all who is, “George”? Secondly, it’s the Red Jacket Firearms .22 cal light weight can sold by Meaux Guns, Baton Rouge, LA. They went for a reduced cost to bleed the RJF stamped stock from the RJF scandal.


@Gregory,my bad on the name. Is it a pretty decent can ? That was a great price on it. Take care,TEX

Gregory Romeu

Text you know I was just busting your chops.

I haven’t been able to try it yet I think it’s lightweight titanium, I can’t remember, it’s been sitting at the shop so long waiting for the blessings of some government stooge who thinks he/she is Lord and power over my rights?

It’s a Pity that you and I, along with about 22 million of our veterans were not alive and well in 1934.

Our country would have been in a whole much better shape than it is now.


Check out Rebel Suppressors

Gregory Romeu

I will do that! They are just, “up the road” in El Paso. It will be interesting to put my can up against their…?

Nam Vet 67 to 69

So your name can be added to a list for use by the Gestapo at some future date when they come knocking on doors asking for certain items and the silencer.

Gregory Romeu

Yeah, like THAT’s going to work for, “them”.

Johnny DOH

They rounded up every single Knight Templar in two nights, And that was with NO technology.

Gregory Romeu

That may have been, but in searching for anything, you have to be able to FIND it… By the way, where is, Jimmy Hoffa”s body?


This must be the website for people who don’t understand technology. Nam Vet thinks registering would affect government control. No. Government control very soon will come from nanotechnology, actual brain readings, and pervasive surveillance (thanks to the Republican-Driven Patriot Act passed by Republicans who could not have won without most veterans cheering them along, as it is today). Fact is, we are very close to practical deployment of systems to read your thoughts and even predict them. Already in China, they LITERALLY have used the language of “though crime”. George Orwell is one of those who warned us. TEN YEARS… Read more »

Johnny DOH

“knocking on doors” most likely it will be like this: “We have your child locked down at the school, if you want them back bring these items with you to turn them in” and or “Tattle on your neighbors and we won’t kill you”

gerardo hernandez

Isn’t this a scam site like the one that is called……”canceledgun,com” Those f**ks put you a “test” online, if one passed those a**holes send you a “certficate” saying at the bottom…. “this is not a permit”, and they send an application that says the same sh*t if you go to and waste 10 hours to get your permit and carry a gun….

.PS: they charge $ 49.00 bucks just for that f**king “certificate”

Chuck W

Can someone who lives in the (nanny) state of NJ be a member of a trust in another state, PA in this case? My brother and I shoot in PA where he lives and had thought of setting up a trust in PA due to their more appropriate laws. And can someone be added to a trust after its created? Thanks Tom McHale for a clear and concise presentation of what is surely not created that way.

Gregory Romeu

As far as I have experienced the answers are, yes and yes.

Just because you live in a state of tyranny does not mean that your freedoms and Liberties are restricted in other states. ( although everyone probably wants to question why you still live in New Jersey?)

The trust can always be upgraded, altered and modified as long as it’s signed off by a notary each time that it is changed.


Seems all Second Amendment junkies just like to whine.

Michael Ring

Why not? Silencers are common and legal in Europe. They’ve viewed as a public health and quality of life improvement products. No valid reason for the punitive measures place on Americans.


Silencers may be legal in Europe, but the weapons to put them on aren’t!


That’s kinda like owning a truck but can’t buy gas.

Big D

Because in America we watch too many movies and actually believe silencers can make a firearm completely silent.


COBB – That’s correct! If we remain silent the ‘media’ and the ‘politicians’ will trample the 2nd Amendment!


@Janek,that’s the problem we’ve remained quiet too long,no more ! We thought that we were electing people to handle it for us and they are traitors. We see how that worked out !


@Coob,you’re a bit*ch !

Gregory Romeu

Cobb, I am hereby publicly allowing you to waive any of your, RIGHTS, freedoms and liberties as you like, as it doesn’t appear you have the backbone to fight to keep them in the first place, nor do you seem to be the type of person that actually deserves those rights.


Fighting for rights occurs in the legislature, not during a government takeover when its too late and would be far more destructive even if you succeeded. Protecting rights means establishing a socio-economic system that does not pit one person against another in a culture of zero-sum pursuit of happiness as we have now. The system we have now ensures the kind of discontent that will lead to far more revolutionary desires. Of course, those will lose in the coming perfectly autocratic fascist state of the future. The willfull choice by people (such as many here) to stop acting like empathic… Read more »

Wild Bill

It is so easy to make a throwaway muffler that fits almost any rifle or pistol, it is a wonder that the BATFE even wants to regulate the permanent ones. That is to say that anyone wanting to quiet down their firearm for a nefarious purpose would use a throwaway not an expensive, well built unit. So why even bother regulating? Must be a revenue gathering maneuver.


,I bet the ATF would even take that $200 tax stamp money for a Fram oil filter can. It’s got to be for revenue. I think that’s the reason a lot of states don’t go to constitutional carry too. LTC generates too much revenue for the state. (We have to get constitutional carry passed in Texas in the next legislative session) Take care,TEX

Rich in Mo

Other things you could use as a suppressor: potato, pillow, loaf of bread, bottle, an actual can, backpack with wads of newspaper; the list is almost endless!


1934 the $200 tax stamp prevented everyone but the rich to own suppressors, short barreled shotgun and rifles. The average house rent was $20 per month. The average family income was $1,524 per year.
A Colt .45 cost $25


I think you mean silencer shop not silencer co.


That’s the name of the company that makes them ‘Silencerco’, they have a cool web site, check it out.


Silencer Shop sells SilencerCo stuff.

John Dunlap

Mr. McHale, thank you for the clarity. With your indulgence, I will attempt to summarize; in order fully avail myself of a Constitutionally protected right, I must first ask permission, and then prove that I am innocent of any crime and/or nefarious intent, as defined by government, while waiving my also Constitutionally protected right to be secure in my person and papers, right to freely travel, and right to property. I’m sure I’ve missed one or two other rights, but I think I hit the highlights. As long as we tolerate this state of affairs, we have no business calling… Read more »


Thank you John. I do appreciate Mr Mc Hales attempt to simply describe the process but you hit the bottom line right on the head! My question is; when and how do we who value and respect our rights, and the rights of others in our country, begin to truly live by our rights? When if ever will all of the big talkers and keyboard warriors grow a set and unite in one voice to say to our government, we have had enough of your over rule and dictation on how we will live within our rights and when and… Read more »


Right on JB!!!


why commeni?

Clyde Hutchins

Yet you did.

John Snowwhite

Not all States allow silencers. Am I correct? I live in Illinois and don’t think I could have one


,Il,CA,NJ,NY,and a couple other states who trample the 2A !


,I dont even think you can own a firearm to put it on in that fu*cked up state !

Gregory Romeu

In regards to Firearms there are red States, Pro-2nd Amendment, blue States, Anti-Gun and Illinois being the only black state on the United States map for firearm ownership, rules, regulations, gun and firearm related bans, etc. THAT folks falls squarely on the shoulders of the citizens of the state of Illinois because of their inaction to take charge of their own government due to their lack of responsibility, lack of duty, lack backbone to throw out of office the un-constitutional hacks that are posing as Representatives in ALL levels. The citizens of the state of Illinois in general or a… Read more »

Johnny Doh

No you are correct. It’s the slave mentality. Black mothers are SCARED TO DEATH that picking up a gun means your own death if caught with it. Because that is how it has always been for Black folk. Democrats started the KKK and all gun control laws they pass are designed to disarm black folk. This is why Black Panthers, Malcolm X etc.. bumped up against MLK. They understood that it is the violent minority that brings change. Not the peaceful majority. We see this same thing with Islam today.

Peter Chaping

@Gregory Romeu,
The state of Illinois is so screwed up because 3 counties out of 104 dictate how the whole state goes because 2/3 the population lives in those 3 counties. The rest of Illinois would love to see Chicago carved off into its own state, then we Dow stagers could get back to constitutional governance. Just thought I’d educate you on aan otherwise ignorant statement on your part


ATFE should be a general store, not a damn government agency!


I got my NFA Trust in 2010 and used it to get two SBR’s and two silencers. With all this new BS,passport photos,fingerprint cards, it’s no longer worth it. This is why I got the Trust to avoid this nonsense.

Mark Devine

It is a shame to place more burdens on what should not be strictly regulated. The new rules are a hassle, but one benefit from the trust is that all trustees are allowed use of the item and it can be passed on to heirs without them having to go the single stamp route.


,true. That’s why I went the Trust route to start with. I’m just glad I already got all the NFA items I need and want. All of the people listed in my trust have access to these items without a b/g check,photos,fingerprints,etc.Our trusting gov’t doesn’t need to have that information at all. My trust is useless for all intents and purposes at this point.


What I see is a bunch of “claimed” second amendment supporters who are jumping through government hoops and cowering to illegal and unconstitutional government restrictions because they want something that government has deemed illegal. The millions of dollars that are being paid each year for these permits and fees should instead be used to nullify this bullshiite law. Same goes for all of those who insist on paying for their right to carry a handgun, concealed or otherwise. All this is doing is giving legitimacy to government’s unconstitutional laws and restrictions and helping to fund their agenda.

Douglas White

None of my firearms are threaded. What are my options?


Have them threaded or buy a “silencer” that clamps to the barrel.