Two Letters Re: Advice on Buying Registered Firearms Suppressors in the U.S.

Your reader OSOM wrote in with a question relating to whether or not owning a suppressor would be a good idea.
My comments are as follows:
– Legally, the National Firearms Act (NFA) [of 1934] regulates “silencers”. A rose by any other name is still a rose — owners of such articles commonly call them “suppressors” to avoid the Hollywood association with assassins and hit men. I use the term interchangeably, and either term is perfectly appropriate.
– There’s no such thing as a “Class III license”, and none is required for ownership of Title II firearms (machineguns, suppressors, short barreled rifles/shotguns, etc.). There is a Class III Special Occupational Tax that a normal 01 FFL holder (that is, a gun dealer) can pay in order to sell such items, but that’s just for the dealer.
– Individual owners have an ATF Form 4, which describes the Title II item, and has the tax stamp. This is not a license, but simply proof that one has paid the necessary tax.
– Individual owners lose no privacy rights. No rights are waived. The ATF is not going to come crashing through your door at 3 a.m. simply because you own a [registered] suppressor. They can ask you for a copy of your Form 4 if there’s a question relating to it (the NFA registry is notoriously disorganized, and occasionally they might need to clarify something), but that’s it.
– If one forms an Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)–or a trust, which is usually cheaper–and has the LLC/trust own the Title II items, one bypasses the necessity of fingerprints (as you can’t fingerprint a corporation) and the local chief law enforcement officer sign-off. This can prove to be handy if you put other family members in on the trust, as they could possess the regulated items even if you’re not present — otherwise, if an individual owns the items, they must be present whenever they’re being used. Also, without the local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) signature, only the ATF and your Class III dealer would know you own the item.
I’m a suppressor owner, and shoot with it regularly. It makes already-fun .22 LR shooting even more fun, and it creates a more comfortable environment for teaching new shooters. It also has useful SHTF applications, as has been noted by OSOM.
The $200 tax is a bit of a burden, but after a few times using [a suppressor], you wonder how you lived without it before. It makes subsonic .22 Long Rifle (LR) sound like a stapler, supersonic .22 LR sound like some sort of laser-gun/ripping cloth, and ones rated for centerfire rifles significantly reduce the muzzle blast, allowing one to shoot supersonic ammunition without hearing protection. While it does reduce the noise, supersonic .223 out of 16″ barreled ARs and supersonic 9mm out of a standard Uzi SMG do get to be somewhat somewhat annoying after a short while, but are much less uncomfortable than unsuppressed fire.
I highly recommend the Gem-Tech Outback II .22 LR silencer for a first time buyer — it’s low cost (about $550, including tax, shipping, and dealer fees, though your mileage may vary), light weight, and effective noise reduction make it ideal for putting on the end of a Ruger 10/22 rifle or any .22 pistol with a threaded barrel. Subsonic .22 LR ammunition are plentiful, inexpensive, and fun.
While hardly scientific, you can compare the relative difference between suppressed and unsuppressed supersonic and subsonic ammunition by viewing this video. (That’s yours truly with my lovely girlfriend.) is an ideal web site to visit as well, and they have all sorts of useful tests and reports on a wide variety of silencers, an active forum, and all sorts of other silencer-related goodies. Cheers! – Pete

Regarding your prudent insistence on keeping a low profile, I found this information and I wondered what you thought: Only “individuals” are required by law to have the law enforcement certification section filled out. Corporations and other legal entities may purchase NFA items without submitting photographs, fingerprints and without the CLEO signoff. This exemption is frequently used by those who are unable to obtain a CLEO signoff in their area [because of political incorrectness]. Many people are already an officer of a corporation by virtue of being self-employed and therefore purchase the NFA item through their corporation as a business investment. Others will form a corporation for the express purpose of purchasing NFA items. Forming a corporation is easier than you may think. While you can do it yourself and for a very modest sum of money and you can have a professional do it for you. Thanks, – Daniel

JWR Replies: The incorporation approach would definitely provide a lower profile, at least locally. I just wonder about the longer term implications for everyone that is on “the list.”

OBTW, in addition to incorporation, you can set up a revocable trust. This is fairly inexpensive, and a great way to designate the eventual transfer of guns to your heir(s)–that will become the successor trustee(s).