FFL License Requirements – Do You Qualify for an FFL?

by Ryan Cleckner

December 21, 2020

32 comments

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There are a few basic FFL license requirements that you must qualify for before getting a federal firearms licnese (FFL). Each requirement is explained ...

So, you’re thinking about getting a Federal Firearms License (FFL) but you’re not sure if you can meet the FFL license requirements. Well, you’re in the right place!

In this article about the requirements to get an FFL, we’re going to cover the basic qualifications for getting an FFL license and give you the next steps to getting your own FFL (even from your own home).

If you’d like to learn more about the process to get your own FFL, check out How to Get an FFL.

In this article we’re going to cover:

What is an FFL License?

Before we jump into the requirements for an FFL license, we should first understand exactly what an FFL license is.

Technically, the term “FFL License” is redundant because FFL stands for “Federal Firearm License.” However, since “FFL License” is a common term, although not grammatically correct, that’s what we’ll use here.

An FFL License is a license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to an individual or business for making, importing, selling, or repairing firearms as a business activity.

To be clear, an FFL License is NOT required to manufacture or sell firearms under federal law. In fact, it is perfectly legal under federal law to make your own gun at home as long as you aren’t a “prohibited person” (felon, fugitive from justice, etc.) Also, it’s perfectly legal under federal law to sell any firearms you own.

Q: So, if you can make and sell your own guns without an FFL, why do you need an FFL? A: You need an FFL License in order to make or sell guns as a business activity.

So, if you’re allowed to possess firearms, you are legally allowed under federal law to make your own gun for your own use. You can even sell that gun to someone else someday. However, you can’t make the gun with the intent to sell it without having a valid manufacturer’s FFL.

In addition to being able to make guns for sale, getting an FFL License also allows you to sell guns as a business: this means you can save a ton of money by purchasing firearms as a dealer from a distributor and you can make money selling guns too! Heck, we know people that make side-money just handling firearm transfers for their friends and acquaintances.

There are different types of FFLs depending on what activity you’d like to be engaged in. For example, if you want to be a dealer and/or gunsmith then you’d get a Type 01 FFL. However, if you’d also like to pawn firearms, you’d need a Type 02 FFL.

FFL License Requirements

The requirements for getting an FFL License might sound complicated but they really aren’t.

Here’s the simplest way we can summarize the FFL License requirements: If you are allowed to posses a firearm and have a business intent then you qualify for an FFL license.

Before the ATF will approve your application for a Federal Firearms License as a manufacturer, dealer, or importer, you must meet the following FFL license requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a U.S. Citizen (or a legal permanent resident)
  • Be legally allowed to possess firearms and ammunition
  • Have a premises for conducting business (your home can work for this! In fact, most FFLs in the country right now are home-based FFLs)
  • Ensure that your business activity at that location is not prohibited by state or local law
  • NOT have violated the Gun Control Act (GCA) or its regulations
  • NOT lied on your FFL application

Let’s explore the nuances of some of the FFL requirements above.

Being Legally Allowed to Possess Firearms and Ammunition

In order to have an FFL license, you must be able to legally possess firearms and ammunition. This should seem obvious, but there are plenty of valid questions about exactly what prevents someone from being qualified.

There is a class of persons, called “prohibited persons,” who may not possess guns or ammo under federal law. State and local laws may be different and add more features.

Prohibited persons are:

  • convicted felons
  • people convicted of any crime of domestic violence
  • users of illegal drugs
  • people who have renounced their U.S. citizenship
  • people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent
  • People who have been convicted of any crime that could have been sentenced to over a year in jail
  • veterans who were dishonorably discharged
  • and some more….

If you think that one of these may apply to you and would like to learn more about each category, please check out our article on What is a Prohibited Person?

Business / Location Requirements

As we mentioned above, you must have a business intent for getting an FFL. The specific FFL requirements below are listed by the ATF as prerequisites for getting a license. However, there’s a bit more to the process and some of these requirements are covered on the actual application.

There are also some other nuances to the actual application process and even more for actually operating your FFL day-to-day in compliance with all the laws, rules, and regs. It might seem overwhelming, but if you know how to set up your FFL the right way and you learn and understand the rules, it is actually pretty straight forward.  As a firearms attorney, I help people get and run their FFLs through online courses and materials at RocketFFL.  If you could use some help making sure everything is set up the right way, check out this article on how to get an FFL.

As I teach in the online course, you can absolutely get firearms for personal use but you can’t have ALL of the firearms be for personal use – you must have an actual/genuine business intent.

But, there is no minimum business requirement – so, selling an occasional firearm or conducting an occasional transfer could be “business intent.” Your business (either an actual company or just you as a sole-proprietor) must:

  • have a physical location where the business will be conducted (this can be your home or a commercial building)
  • be allowed to operate at that location (there’s a whole section in my course on zoning)
  • notify the chief law enforcement officer of your area (there’s actually a checklist I give you of what to do and when), and
  • if you’re going to be a dealer, certify that secure gun storage or safety devices will be available (this is part of the application process)

Hopefully you can see that the requirements aren’t that difficult for getting your own FFL license. The next step is to go get your FFL!

How to Get an FFL License

Getting an FFL license is fairly straight forward once you learn the basics of the FFL application process.

However, if you want to avoid troubles later down the road, it is very important that you set up your FFL the right way!

I’ve represented 100’s of FFLs across the country as a firearms attorney helping them with ATF Compliance issues. It was always shocking to me how many people were doing things the right way (or at least what they thought was the right way) and ended up with troubles because they didn’t;t set something up properly with their initial FFL.

Here’s my big ask: Go learn ACTUAL information about getting and being an FFL. Yes, forums and social media can be valuable resources. However, there’s a lot of self proclaimed “experts” out there that are trying to give you advice…. be careful.

Getting an FFL involves:

  1. ensuring that you meet the basic requirements,
  2. choosing the correct type of FFL for your activity,
  3. taking a course to learn about the laws (not required, but its easier and cheaper than law school or getting in trouble), and
  4. applying for your FFL.

If you’d like a bit more details about these steps, I cover them here: steps to getting an FFL license

FFL Requirement Myths

There are MANY self-proclaimed experts online who are giving either inaccurate information or guidance that is technically correct but not ideal for your particular situation. Be careful what information you find and trust about getting and running your FFL.

I have no doubt that most of the people are trying to be helpful and they may have even done what they’re advising before. However, much like you shouldn’t trust generic tax or medical advice from someone who isn’t an accountant or a medical doctor, please make sure the advice you’re getting helps you do things the RIGHT way.

Sure, I’d love for you to be a customer of RocketFFL. However, this isn’t advice based on making money.

It’s wayyyy better for me financially to have you get an FFL but set it up or run it the wrong way, get in trouble with the ATF and then have to hire me as your attorney to TRY to get you out of trouble.

I don’t want that. You don’t want that.

Although we can’t cover everything here, let’s at least try to dispel some of the FFL License requirement myths I find online:

Myth #1 – You must have a retail storefront to get an FFL False! Not only is it perfectly legal to get an FFL from your house, MOST of the FFLs in the country are currently home-based FFLs!

Myth #2 – You have to sell a certain number of guns to keep your FFL False! Although you must have a business intent, there’s no actual requirement on how much business you must conduct. For example, it is reasonable for some FFLs to only sell or transfer a firearm occasionally.

Myth #3 – The ATF can show up and inspect whenever they want False! At most, the ATF can only conduct a compliance inspection once every 12 months (it’s usually more like once every 5 years). And, the ATF can only inspect records and inventory for the FFL! They don’t have free-reign over your whole house and possessions.

Myth #4 – You must put your personal firearms “on the FFL” False! If you want to, you can, however, your personal firearms are personal! This is similar to opening a clothing company and thinking that you have to put your personal clothes on the company books. You could if you want to, but I advise that they should be kept VERY separate.

Myth #5 – You can’t sell/transfer a gun to yourself False! You can absolutely purchase a firearm with your FFL from a distributor and then transfer it to yourself! What you. can’t do is ONLY do that because that wouldn’t appear to be a business intent for the ATF.

Myth #6 – You have to buy a safe or have an alarm system for your FFL False! Although both are good ideas, there is NO safe nor alarm requirement for getting your FFL.

FFL License Requirement FAQs

Q: Can I get an FFL at my house?

A: Yes, you may have an FFL at your home.

Q: Do I have to have a storefront for my FFL? A: No, a storefront is not required for an FFL.

A: No, a storefront is not required for an FFL.

Q: Does my FFL location have to comply with zoning?

A: Yes, you must operate your FFL from a location where it is allowed to operate.

Q: How do I get an FFL?

A: You can get your FFL by meeting the requirements and applying.

More here: How to get an FFL.

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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Ryan,

    I have a hypothetical question…

    Will I need an FFL myself to operate as a middleman that does NOT take possession of firearms, making sales by website to be fulfilled by drop shipping directly from the manufacturer and shipped to the recipient FFL dealer??

  2. For a home FFL, does the house it would be operated out of have to be in the Federal Firearms Licensed person’s name? Must that person legally own that home?

    1. Not at all. You may be renting your property, however, the landlord will need to approve you getting an FFL at the location.

      1. For those of us that are still in, are we able to use our home of record as the physical address? Or will we need to use our current housing situation and simply update it everytime we PCS?

        1. You will need to use whatever address you will actually be conducting business from. There’s a couple reasons for this that are discussed in more detail in the course along with how to update your address. It’s not that bad, but it can be a hassle as long as you’re PCS’ing.

  3. Do you have to have a Federal Tax ID number to apply for the license or would you social security number work in a sole proprietor license?

    1. Either can work depending on how you set up your FFL. The RocketFFL walks you through this setup process.

  4. I’m considering a small ammo production setup and occasional firearm sales. Would it be risky to do an FFL as sole proprietorship as far as liability is concerned. If someone were to sue for any reason, could they come after my personal and real property if I’m established under my SSN rather than an LLC or something of the sort?

    1. I would not produce ammunition for sale without plenty of liability protection – both in my business form and also insurance.

  5. I would like to apply for my FFL, but do not have a store front yet. I dont want to pay rent on a facility I can not conduct business from. Can I apply now and update the address or note intent to move to a store front on my application?

    1. You sure can! I just completed an address change for my FFL recently. Also, you can have the FFL from your home (pending local laws). In fact, most FFLs in this country are home-based.

  6. Would a class 3 be appropriate for someone who just wants to buy a few lower receivers per year, assemble Firearm’s, and transfer them to family legally?

    1. No, becoming a Class 3 SOT would be for someone interested in dealing NFA firearms. If you wanted to manufacture NFA firearms, you should become a Class 2 SOT. However, manufacturing standard firearms would not require becoming an SOT. The RocketFFL courses can help clear up all of these requirements if you still have questions.

  7. You have not mentioned costs, but I have a feeling that getting and keeping an FFL is not free. What are the initial and on-going costs?

  8. Ryan,

    I am currently in the process of obtaining an FFL License. I am Applying for 01, 03, 06 & 07. One of my goals in to manufacture small amount of ammunition for sale. As I can see from one of the questions above, you do not think this is a good idea without adequate insurance. Good advice to follow. I am also wanting to custom build AR15 rifles for customers. Is this covered under 06 or 07. I would purchase all parts, including the lowers, and manufacture to customer specs and resell.

    1. No certification, of any kind, is required for a Type 01 FFL. Instead, by getting the Type 1 FFL License, you are now legally allowed to be engaged in the business as a gunsmith.

  9. I am interested in obtaining an FFL to be able to assist in transferring firearms. It seems more and more of the retail locations near me don’t want to deal with transfers between third parties, as I have found in my own purchasing from independent sellers. I fully understand the business aspects of running a business (I have my own professional services company). I would prefer to raise as few eyebrows as possible in my neighborhood in setting this up from my home.. I am curious how I would find out the zoning requirements, and what (if any) permissions I would need from my township, without “advertising” I was going to get into this business out of my house.

    1. That’s a very popular reason to get a home-based FFL! We know many FFLs that just make their money on transfers.

      For zoning, the easiest thing to do is to start with your local town or country websites to see their zoning requirements. Also, you can always call in and ask WITHOUT telling them the type of business and instead just explain that you’re thinking about other sources of revenue and are considering a home-based business and want to know what is allowed/involved before you choose what to do.

  10. Do I need a FFL to import standard centerfire reloading components? Do I need FFL to buy directly from US manufacturers? Due to the current shortage I’ve been looking at sites like AmmoTerra that offer bullets, primers and smokeless powder direct from manufactures. Thinking of starting a business. Buying directly from US manufactures or importing these components and reselling to retail stores or club members. Not looking to sell loaded cartages, just components for the hand loader. Thank you for any reply.

    1. If you’re going to start a business, you’ll definitely need an FFL. This is covered in the RocketFFL courses but all components of ammunition, by themselves, are considered to be “ammunition” under federal law.

      1. You have to have a 2 lock system right. Could you have a safe and a way to lock a garage door on a separate garage?

        1. At the federal/ATF level, the requirement isn’t that specific – it’s “reasonable” security. There’s a lesson in the RocketFFL start-up guide, Get Your FFL, in which Ryan covers this topic. As always though, you need to be aware of all applicable state and/or local requirements. For example I live in Illinois, and here there’s an alarm monitoring service/system requirement for all FFLs.

    1. Hi, Juan – you can do it on your own but I offer FFL and SOT online courses at RocketFFL. It takes about 2 months for the atf to process.

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