Federal Firearms licensees (FFLs), whether they are a retail gun store, manufacturer, or even an at-home FFL, have many requirements to follow in order to stay complaint with Federal firearm laws and ATF rules and regulations.
These ATF requirements include things like proper control and storage of firearms, conducting transactions and sales via ATF Form 4473, background checks, and record keeping.
Although there are a handful of records a licensee must keep, the heart of these required records is the “Acquisition and Disposition” record, often called an A&D record, A&D book, bound book, or log book.
In this article, we’re going to explore what an acquisition and disposition book is and cover the requirements of the bound book.
We compare the best FFL Bound Books here.
What is an FFL Acquisition and Disposition Book?
An FFL Acquisition and Disposition book is the record that tracks all of the firearms that an FFL receives or makes and then shows where each of those firearms are – whether they are still in the FFL’s inventory or where they went if they were sold or transferred.
This FFL log book used to be a physical bound book – when opened, the left side of the book was all of the acquisitions (guns received or made) and each line of firearm information continued across to the other page where the disposition information was kept.
During an inspection of a firearms dealer’s records by the ATF, the ATF could simply look at the A&D book and see all of the lines of firearm info for which there was no disposition info, we call these “open dispositions,” and know that those were firearms that had been received but never transferred or sold. Therefore, the open dispositions in the gun log book were firearms that should still be in the FFL’s inventory.
The A&D book doesn’t need to be a physical bound book. Various ATF rulings have allowed keeping the A&D book electronically as long as certain specific conditions are met.
Regardless of how the book is kept, it must display the information in a proscribed format by the ATF (FFL Bound Book Template):
A&D Bound Book Requirements
The A&D Book has certain specific requirements by the ATF and these requirements must be STRICTLY adhered to in order for an FFL to remain in compliance. During ATF inspections, it is common for FFLs to be cited for violations for things as simple as typos – it is very important that you keep the bound book carefully and to focus on other areas of ATF compliance.
We’re going to break down the bound book requirements into a few areas:
- Firearm Information (Acqusitions)
- Disposition Information
- Correcting Errors
- Records Retention
Firearm Information (Acquisitions)
When a firearm is made or received, an FFL must log it in as an “Acquisition” in their A&D book.
The timing of when the firearm must be logged depends on the type of FFL activity.
The acquisition information must include the make, model, type, caliber, and serial number of a firearm. If the firearm was imported, it must also include the importer and the country of manufacture.
If some of the information is not yet known (e.g. the firearm is a receiver and the model or caliber isn’t known yet because it hasn’t been made into a complete firearm yet), it may be omitted from the record. However, once it is known and made into a complete firearm, a new line must be made with the complete information.
The information must be exactly as it is marked on the firearm.
When a firearm is “Disposed,” it doesn’t mean that it is thrown away. Instead, it means that it was:
- Transferred to another FFL (or a government entity that doesn’t need an FFL),
- Sold to a non-FFL customer,
- Destroyed, or
- Reported as Lost/Stolen to the ATF
This information must either have the FFL number of the recipient FFL, the government agency info, or the name and address (or name and 4473 number) of the non-FFL customer.
This information is what helps the ATF conduct one if its primary roles, tracing firearms found at crime scenes.
This is a very rough overview of these requirements. If you’re looking for help in ATF compliance, you should check out my course on ATF Compliance.
If there is an error found in the bound book, it must be corrected. Correcting the error depends a bit on what type of error it is and how the book is kept (paper or electronic) but, on the whole, the correction must show that a correction was made, by whom, and when.
The FFL must keep records for a certain amount of time depending on the type of record.
Up until recently, A&D records could be discarded or submitted to the ATF after a certain number of years but currently, the bound book must be kept for the life of the FFL.
Paper vs Electronic A&D Books
A big question, especially for new FFLs, is whether they should keep their bound book on paper or electronically.
There are pros and cons to each.
Electronic bound books, in my opinion, are superior to paper log books. It is easier to keep backups of records, it is easier to search for and find firearm and customer data, and it is easier to prevent errors and correct them when/if found. The downside to electronic bound books is that there are some extra requirements when using them such as they must show edit history properly, they must be backed up locally if they use cloud-based software, they must be printed periodically, and a few other requirements.
If you are going to use software designed for A&D records, you MUST ensure that it meets all of the requirements or you could end up in trouble during an ATF inspection.
Contrary to what many believe, an excel spreadsheet can be used if it is set up and ran properly. This gives some of the electronic benefits over paper but they can be difficult to use properly and they lack many features of specifically designed software.
If you’re investigating which ffl software might be right for you, please check out our FFL software comparison.
Paper A&D books have two major things going for them – they are inexpensive and they are simple.
However, they can be easily lost or damaged, error may not be easy to catch, and they are more difficult to use as a record book to search for and find firearm information.
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