Though it might come as a surprise to the non-gun-owning public, silencers (also known as suppressors—the terms are interchangeable) are perfectly legal to own and hunt with in most of the United States. While acquiring a silencer isn’t as easy as heading to your local gun shop to purchase a rifle, it’s a relatively simple process to follow once you get the hang of it.

If you’re interested in buying a suppressor, here’s a quick rundown. For the sake of simplicity, this guide assumes that you’re purchasing through a dealer and live in a state where it’s legal to own silencers. For an up to date list of legal states visit the American Suppressor Association.

Special Note: You have until July 13, 2016 to purchase a suppressor under the current benefits of a trust. To learn more about the new 41F rules check out the article 6 Things You Need To Know About 41F and consider buying a SilencerCo Easy Trust.

1. Figure Out Which Silencer You Want

This step seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but there’s more to it than just “pick a can, attach to gun.” You need to ensure that your silencer of choice is rated for the calibers you own or want to own. You also need to make sure it’s capable of being attached to the firearms you want to put it on. Generally speaking, that means your gun needs to have a threaded barrel. Many silencers today can attach and detach quickly using a specially designed muzzle device, like the ASR Muzzle Brake. If you are wanting to suppress a pistol, reference this article for what you’ll need to make it compatible with your silencer: Why Threaded Barrels are the New Black.

2. Find a Dealer

More and more gun shops are stocking silencers these days, but in some areas they’re still rare items. You will need to find a dealer who has the appropriate license to sell suppressors. You can use tools like a Dealer Locator to find a suppressor-friendly shop near you. The dealer you choose should make you feel comfortable and prove to be knowledgeable; you are going to be connected to this dealer for the entire process, which could be as long as 4-6 months.

3. Fill Out Your Form 4’s

Once you’ve picked a product at a dealer, your dealer will set aside your silencer and provide you with two ATF Form 4’s. On the Form 4’s, the dealer will enter the product info, such as the serial number, model, and so on.

If you are acquiring the silencer as an individual, you will need to fill out the Form 4’s and fill out an ATF Form 5330.20 Certification of Compliance. To complete the forms, you’ll need to obtain a certification from your local chief law enforcement officer (CLEO). Generally, your CLEO is your local chief of police or sheriff. While at your CLEO for the sign-off, you should also obtain two copies of fingerprint cards of yourself–you will need them when mailing in your Form 4’s.

If you are acquiring the silencer through a trust, then you need to include the name and address of your trust on the Form 4’s; a Form 5330.20 is not needed. If you use a trust, you also do not need a CLEO certification–another tremendous benefit of using a trust.

4. Compile and Mail Everything

Now you need to get all of your information together and send it to the ATF. If you’re buying as an individual, you will need to mail:

  •      Both copies of your completed Form 4’s
  •      $200 check made payable to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  •      Two passport photos
  •      Two fingerprint cards
  •      Completed Form 5330.20

If you’re buying as a trust, you will need to mail:

  •      Both copies of your completed Form 4’s
  •      $200 check made payable to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  •      Copy of your trust

While you can send a $200 money order in lieu of a check, it’s a better idea to use a check as you will be able to know exactly when the check has cleared and your paperwork has begun processing.

5. Wait

It can take several months (usually at least three) to hear back from the ATF on a Form 4 approval. If you did everything right, then the dealer you’re working through will receive one of the two copies of the Form 4 back from the ATF affixed with your tax stamp. Your dealer should notify you promptly afterward and you’ll be able to pick up your suppressor!


Through the Hearing Protection Act, SilencerCo is working to remove suppressors from the list of NFA items.  By adding your voice to the cause, you can help make this a reality.  Click the button to join the Movement!