Handgun Importation Criteria According to the BATF

In my previous post about importing firearms into the USA I discussed who are the certified and licensed entities that are permitted to deal in and import firearms for mainly the civilian market according to their FFL license.
In this article I will discuss what are the permitted types of handguns that can be imported into the US according to criteria that the BATF set forth.

The Gun Control Act enacted by Congress in 1968 enabled the Secretary of Treasury to authorize the importation of firearms and ammunition for sporting purposes.  To decide what is importable, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms implemented a point system criteria under which a handgun will be deemed importable or not if achieving a certain minimum point total based on the handgun’s characteristics.  These characteristics, or prerequisites, are based on the handgun’s overall length and height for pistols or frame length and barrel length for revolvers, as well as weight, caliber, frame construction, safety-related features, sights and grips.

Criteria for pistol importation

Prerequisites:

  1. The pistol must have a positively manually operated safety device
  2. The combined length and height must not be less than 10″ with the height (right angle measurement to barrel without magazine or extension) being at least 4″ and the length being at least 6″.
Individual Characteristics Point Value
Overall Length
For Each 1/4” Over 6” 1
Frame Construction
Investment Cast or Forged Steel 15
Investment Cast or Forged Hts Alloy 20
Weapon Weight W/Magazine (unloaded)
Per Ounce 1
Caliber
.22 Short and .25 Auto 0
.22 LR and 7.65MM to .380 Auto 3
9mm Parabellum and Over 10
Safety Features
Locked Breech Mechanism 5
Loaded Chamber Indicator 5
Grip Safety 3
Magazine Safety 5
Firing Pin Block or Lock 10
Miscellaneous Equipment
External Hammer 2
Double Action 10
Drift Adjustable Target Sight 5
Click Adjustable Target Sight 10
Target Grips 5
Target Trigger 2
Score Achieved (Qualifying Score is 75 Points)

Criteria For Revolver Importation

Prerequisites

  1. Must pass safety test (mostly dropping the revolver cocked with hammer back and having it not fire on impact)
  2. Must have overall frame (with conventional grips) length (not diagonal) of 4 1/2” minimum.
  3. Must have a barrel length of at least 3”.
Individual Characteristics Point Value
Barrel Length (Muzzle to Cylinder Face)
Less Than 4” 0
For Each 1/4” Over 4”  1/2
Frame Construction
Investment Cast or Forged Steel 15
Investment Cast or Forged Hts Alloy 20
Weapon Weight (Unloaded)
Per Ounce 1
Caliber
.22 Short to .25 ACP 0
.22 LR and .30 to .38 S&W 3
.38 Special 4
.357 Mag and Over 5
Miscellaneous Equipment
Adjustable Target Sights (Drift or Click) 5
Target Grips 5
Target Hammer and Target Trigger 5
Safety Test
A double action revolver must have a safety feature which automatically (or in a single action revolver by manual operation) causes the hammer to retract to a point where the firing pin does not rest upon the primer of the cartridge,. The safety device must withstand the impact of a weight equal to the weight of the revolver dropping from a distance of 36” in a line parallel to the barrel upon the rear of the hammer spur, a total of 5 times.
Score Achieved (Qualifying Score is 45 Points)

Click here to download the original BATF Point System document

The BATF with its point system for the importation of handguns criteria basically do not allow the importation of pocket pistols such as derringers or even small and relatively light and short barrel pistols such as Beretta 71 0.22 caliber.  As for revolvers, again the length of the barrel is a major factor but also the safety issue of having it fire when cocked after being dropped.  For this reason, older revolvers such as British Webley or Enfield pistols are not importable.

Other factors for not approving an import license application by the BATF is if the handguns (or any other firearm) was either given to a country as American military aid or was actively used in a military.  In stages like these the US State Department also gets involved with their own criteria.  For this reason many US made firearms cannot be imported back to the US from allied countries (or the process is very difficult).  Firearms such as M1 carbines, M14 rifles, M1 Garand rifles, Colt 1911 US Army pistols, Thompson sub-machine guns, M16 rifles and many other firearms that helped allied countries achieve their independence, fight invasions, civil unrest, terrorism, communism,  and other threats, are in high demand by military surplus firearms collectors but are very hard to get approved for importation into the US.