Importing Firearms Into the United States of America
MCT Defense specializes in brokering, sourcing and procuring new and military surplus firearms, ammunition and equipment to its clients worldwide. The clients of MCT Defense consist mainly of firearm importers who are wholesalers and distributors for the civilian market but also for government, military and law enforcement agencies and other defense and security entities. The civilian end users of these firearms are usually firearm collectors, especially in the USA, where national and state laws allow a private person to collect firearms, ammunition and military equipment with comparatively little restrictions compared to most other countries in the world. This makes the US market for firearms and related material the most attractive to dealers worldwide. MCT tries to make the initial process of importing firearms into USA as clear as possible to its clients who have never done it before.
Like in many other countries, an individual cannot import a firearm and so he must rely on licensed businesses that have the authorization to do so. In the US this authorization in called an FFL Type 08 which allows a business to import firearms and ammunition according to specific guidelines and regulations.
What is an FFL?
FFL is an abbreviation for Federal Firearms License; this is given to a company or individual who is licensed to engage in the business of dealing, manufacturing or importing firearms. Individuals must first be licensed by the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) to operate a business of firearms.
The types of FFLs (Federal Firearms Licensees) can be broken down into four main categories:
- Dealer FFL
- Manufacturer FFL
- Importer FFL
- Other FFL – Collector
Types of FFL
Type 01 FFL – Dealer in Firearms / Gunsmithing (firearms repair)
The Type 01 FFL is the most common license type. If you are a gunsmith, this is probably the only license you need in order to deal and repair firearms. If you want to buy and sell non-NFA (National Firearms Act) regulated firearms, this license will get you started in the gun business. However, Type 01 FFL comes with some limitations, mainly that you cannot manufacture guns for sale, even assemble parts kits.
Type 02 FFL – Pawnbroker
Similar to the 01 FFL and designed specifically for pawnbrokers since they are permitted to take firearms as a security for loans. FFL 02 businesses are inspected by the ATF more often due to the nature of their type of business since there is a high turnover.
Type 03 FFL – Collector of Curios and Relics
This is a special FFL for collectors of antique firearms, considered Curio & Relic by the ATF for shooting weapons that are at least 50 years old, not including antique edged weapons. There are some exceptions for certain newer guns as well, such as some semi auto military rifles and pistols that are less than 50 years old. The Type 03 FFL is not a license to sell guns, or to acquire firearms for resale, the guns the licensee can purchase are intended only for his collection, for private personal use. However, it allows an FFL 03 holder to purchase C&R guns without additional background checks and paperwork on each gun. Some states with restrictive gun laws may ignore the 03 FFL and still require background checks on certain kinds of guns.
Since this is one of the major markets that MCT Defense deals with, although not directly since we don’t sell to individuals, we would like to get a bit more specific as to the definitions by the US authorities as to what an antique and Curio and Relic (C&R) firearm is.
The ATF defines an antique firearms under regulation 27 CFR § 478.11 as:
“Any firearm not designed or redesigned for using rim fire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system or replica thereof, whether actually manufactured before or after the year 1898) and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.”
Therefore an “antique firearm” is not a “firearm” as defined by the Gun Control Act.
Importing Antique Firearms into the USA
The definition of a firearms under 18 U.S.C. § 921 does not include antique firearms, therefore firearms meeting the “antique” definition under the Gun Control Act are not regulated under the NFA (guns manufactured in or before 1898) can be imported into the U.S. without the need for an import permit from ATF. The exporter of these from another country will probably need an IIC (International Import Certificate approved by the US Department of Commerce) so that he may start his export process for the firearms. To import these one must ensure that there is sufficient evidence and proof that the antique firearm falls under the definition of “antique”. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may require such proof prior to releasing the antique into the U.S.
The definition of a Curio and Relic firearm according to the ATF is:
“As those which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons.
To be recognized as C&R firearms they must be defined according to one of the following categories:
- Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas of such firearms;
- Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, state, or federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
- Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.
The terms used in this article refer to firearms that are not regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA). It’s important to understand the distinctions because it’s possible to possess a firearm that may be generally recognized as an antique, but due to its current configuration, is regulated under the NFA, and subject to all the restrictions and registration requirements of the NFA. For more information about Curio&Relic Firearms and lists of current firearms considered so go to: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/curios-relics .
Importing Curio & Relic Firearms into the USA
As written above, under the Gun Control Act (GCA), a licensed Collector of Curio and Relic Firearms (FFL 03) may import firearms “occasionally” without the need to become licensed as an importer of firearms, if the occasional importation is for the adding to his personal collection and not reselling the item. To import a C&R firearm the collector must have an approved ATF Form 6 as required for any other importation of a firearm regulated under the GCA. Entities that would like to import firearms classified as curio and relic as a business must be properly licensed as a Type 08 or 11 Importer which we will define late on. Importation of Curio and Relic firearms by non-licensees would require the services of a FFL unless the person can show that the firearm was exported by them in the past at some point. The person must prove to CBP that the firearm to be imported was exported by the person seeking to now import the firearm.
Type 06 FFL – Manufacturer of Ammunition for Firearms
This FFL pertains only for making common small arms ammunition for resale, including commercial reloading, or hunting and self defense ammunition.
Type 07 FFL – Manufacturer of Firearms & Ammunition
This type of FFL has the most possibilities for its holder since it includes all options as an FFL 01 (buy, sell, repair) but also manufacture firearms and ammunition. When you add a Class 03 SOT to this license you can also make NFA items such as machine guns, short barrel rifles (SBR) and shotguns, and silencers.
Type 08 FFL – Importer of Firearms/Ammunition
The FFL 08 allows to import firearms and ammunition, new and military surplus but not what are considered destructive devices or armor piercing. Businesses that posses this FFL 08 are MCT Defense’s main clients since most of them are not just importers but are also wholesalers who purchase firearms, ammunition, gun parts, accessories, optics and other gear in bulk and distribute it to their network of clients nationwide.
Type 09 FFL – Dealer in Destructive Devices
Destructive devices are firearms with a bore of over half and inch and are considered non-sporting and the end users for these are generally military and law enforcement agencies who are permitted to posses machine guns, grenades, artillery, some semi-auto shotguns, or some kinds of exploding ammunition. Some collectors have an FFL 09 which allows them to own RPG’s and other unusual and rare firearms for a civilian.
Type 10 FFL – Manufacturer of Destructive Devices, Ammunition for Destructive Devices, or Armor Piercing Ammunition
The Type 10 FFL is for people who want to make Destructive Devices (DD’s) and ammunition for them or armor-piercing ammo. These items are usually manufactured for government agencies. The FFL 10 can also be used for a business who specializes in restoring certain kinds of C&R military guns for collectors.
Type 11 FFL – Importer of Destructive Devices, Ammunition for Destructive Devices, or Armor Piercing Ammunition
Very similar to the FFL 10 but the FFL 11 allows the importation of destructive devices. It is a license mainly for people dealing with government agencies, military sub-contractors, military training facilities or handling the importation of certain kinds of rare and collectible military firearms for museums and private collectors.
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