GOA FOIA Shows The Inner Workings of The ATF’s Evidence Handling

GOA FOIA Shows The Inner Workings of The ATF’s Evidence Handling

MARTINSBURG, WV-(Ammoland.com)- For the second part of AmmoLand’s and Gun Owners of America’s joint project to shed light on the inner workings of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD), we will look at how the division handles and processes evidence in criminal cases.

Gun Owners of America received an unredacted FOIA response with the FATD standard operating procedures (SOP). One of the received SOPs is titled “Evidence Handling and Processing.” That SOP deals with how the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) approaches to evidence in criminal cases. Having a copy of this SOP can help criminal defense attorneys defend their clients against criminal prosecutions since FATD is the group that determines if a firearm breaks federal law. FATD officers are experts in federal law in the eyes of the government and court system.

Firearms Enforcement Specialist (FES) is a FATD officer assigned to handle criminal evidence when it arrives at the FTB.

The FES is the person that logs in the evidence before it is examined by the Firearms Enforcement Officers (FEOs). The evidence can originate from cases on the federal or state level. The FES could find themselves in control of evidence submitted by the FBI of a local Sheriff’s Department.

The chain of custody is critical to the FES’s job, and that chain is laid out in the Evidence Handling and Processing SOP. The evidence in a criminal case is sent to the FATD officer through common couriers (UPS, USPS, FedEx) to the ATF mailroom in Martinsburg, WV. The mailroom will notify the FES that the evidence has arrived and is ready for pick up. The FES will go to the mailroom and sign out the evidence. From here, FTB assumes control of the received items.

Suppose the ATF is investigating the criminal case tied to the evidence themselves. In that case, there is a chance that the evidence could be hand-delivered to the Martinsburg, WV facility by an ATF agent. The evidence should be accompanied by an ATF F 3311.3. The FES will act as the representative of the FTB when meeting with the ATF agent delivering the evidence. He will draw a line under the last item on the list then date stamp the document. At this time, FTB has assumed custody of the evidence.

The FES will inspect the box that the evidence arrived in for damage. The officer will photograph the box and the shipping label. The photos will be placed with the Evidence Transmittal Form. The ATF cannot assure the chain of custody when evidence is mailed, so they rely on examining the labels and boxes for signs of tampering (This will become important later in the article).

If a firearm arrives loaded, the FES will notify the FTB Branch Chief. The FES will render the firearm safe by following standard safety procedures. After the ATF employee verifies that the gun is now rendered safe and “insert a yellow chamber checker flag or a zip tie into the barrel of the firearm to indicate that the weapon has been rendered safe.”

The FES will assign the evidence an internal FTB tracking number. The employee handling the item will write the FTB tracking number on the Evidence Transmittal Form, the shipping label, and on the outside of the box that the ATF will use to store the firearm. The FES will seal the box and place it in the secure evidence staging area. The employee will log the received item into the FTB electronic evidence database and FTB evidence log. They then will search to see if an FEO has worked on the case number. If the FES can locate an FEO that is currently working the case, then the FES will assign the examination of the firearm to that FEO. If it is determined that no FEO worked on the case, then the FES will assign the examination the next FEO on the rotation.

The FES will place the Evidence Transmittal Form, incoming shipping label, ATF E-Form 3400.23 Receipt of Property (if hand-delivered from an ATF agent) and any other documentation from the case into an orange case folder. If the case is expedited, the FES will place the orange folder into a yellow folder and hand-deliver everything to the FEO. If the case isn’t expedited, the FES will deliver the orange folder and leave the evidence in the staging area.

The FES must complete all logging in of evidence before handing the items over to the FEO to start the examination. An FEO wields immense power that can be used to put someone away for life. An FEO recently determined that the Auto Key Card is a machine gun, and now the company’s owner is facing hundreds of charges, and life has been destroyed. We will explore the examination of various types of evidence as this series continues.

If the FES needs to ship the evidence to a laboratory, then the FES will ship the evidence via a common or contract carrier. The only requirement is that the FES uses a service with a tracking number, mark the shipping label in the ledger with a red marker, and checks the tracking number daily to ensure the package arrives where it is supposed to be. Some experts might think that the type of shipment that the FTD uses breaks the chain of custody, but the ATF doesn’t seem to agree with the assertion.

If the evidence is meant for another department, the FES will determine if they can reuse the same shipping box. The FES will repack the evidence in a new box and ship it out if they can’t. If boxes can be reused, how can anyone determine if a package has been tampered with by a third party? It could be that an ATF employee just decided to reuse the original box.

The next article well will explore how the FEO examines the evidence in criminal cases.

About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.

John Crump

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Evidence handling procedures should be standardized among all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Im surprised the evidence handling methods used by ATF have not yet been challenged.


The ATF has kept the procedure secret. It was likely redacted in the version sent out in response to the FOIA request. If an unrelated version had not been leaked defense lawyers would not have the information needed to assert failure to maintain the chain of evidence.


“Who will challenge it? Some RINO cowards?” -TEX(!)

Maybe your favorite RINO coward Greg Abbot!

Agency Calls Genital Mutilation Child Abuse, Abbott does Zip.
“Tx medicos are allowed to disfigure children, cut off body parts in gender mutilation surgery, chemically castrate with sterilizing cross-sex hormones & puberty blocker drugs. Why won’t Gov Abbott ask legislators to ban this?”


Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r

Hey asshole. For the record Im no fan of Abbot and I support the death penality for all child sexual abuse especially transexual conversion. Maybe your so high on meth you passed out, woke up and forgot this comment thread is about the ATF.


Hey bitchy hall monitor, the reply was to TEX, a big-time Abbott shill who deletes posts & runs away so it looks like I replied to you. Conversations evolve. TEX went “off topic” on two RINOs, I tagged his favorite RINO cuck Abbott. Are you going to bitch him for that? Will you be the naggy bitch from now on who carps when anyone strays from what you think everyone should talk about? Don’t be a hypocrite.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r

Your so deranged you fail to see you replied to me, not TEX in your rant about Abbot. If you continue to troll folks who provide relevant and focused commentary we will collectively work to ban you from this forum. If youve got a beef with another reader then leave me the hell out.


Get it through your head: I didn’t reply to you. It just looks like it: If you reply to someone who deletes a post & runs away like TEX, it looks like you replied to who TEX replied to – you in this case. Figure it out before nagging me instead of the sock-puppet coward who dumped his post so it looked like I replied to you. The clue, if you were sober, is that the quote was attributed to TEX, not you. But hey, ban away. I got better things to do than deal with drunk chatroom commando crybabies.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r

Jaque,this idiot’s insane, needs help.”
-TEX 4:30pm 8-14-22

TEX is so desperate he’s giving his own sock puppets lick jobs.

Hey TEX, delete your post as usual & RUN AWAY like the Low-IQ thug you are.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r

,you described this moron perfectly.” -TEX

Good projection & brown-nose job, TEX.

However, Jaque don’t like your cuck hero Abbot either.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r


Double down on the rib jobs & projection, TEX! Jaque don’t like your cuck-hero Abbott. Get busy, boy!


Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r

Speaking of “denial and deflection” Tex, why is that you refuse to address any of Russn8r’s posted links? Not interested in anything except your own deflections and denials?


Spine? BS. Abbott’s a morally crippled Texas Shorthorn RINO.


Don Huffines is the true conservative for Gov of Texas.

Last edited 1 year ago by Russn8r

The FES could find themselves in control of evidence submitted by the FBI of a local Sheriff’s Department. hate to be a nitpicker, but shouldn’t this read “or” vice “of” a local sheriff’s dept? using the usps, as a link in the chain of custody seems a poor choice to me. how much mail is lost or delivered to the wrong address every day? fedex or ups seems like only slightly better choice but i have also had packages delivered to wrong address or not at all. their evidence handling procedures are a good example of bureaucracy, excessive, inadequate and… Read more »


Criminals that need thier alphabet soup agency disbanded because of thier corrupt actions and unconstitutional bullshit !


What were the results of your calls to Tester’s offices (regarding Chipman’s appointment)?

Last edited 1 year ago by JSNMGC

Nothing BATF does is professional. When I gave up my FFL (got tired of the bureaucrats and paperwork), I was required to send my original records to BATF, which I did, with a signed delivery form returned to me upon receipt by the Post Office, which turned out to be an excellent move on my part. A few years later I was ordered by subpoena to give a deposition regarding guns I had legally purchased and sold that wound up being used in a BATF sting operation. Long story short, when asked about the particulars, my attorney (Never deal with… Read more »


When the evidence is handed off to UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc., I would say that the chain of custody is broken and therefore the evidence is tainted. It should all be thrown out of any and all court cases and returned to the rightful owner(s).

Happy Everafter

Press on, Mr. Crump! Verifying once again that we taxpayers are supporting bigger and dumber governance that apparently cannot get big enough or dumb enough.