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).
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)
How to Get an FFL License
Getting an FFL license is fairly straight forward once you learn the basics of the 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:
- ensuring that you meet the basic requirements,
- choosing the correct type of FFL for your activity,
- taking a course to learn about the laws (not required, but its easier and cheaper than law school or getting in trouble), and
- 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.
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.