Helpful Hints for Successfully Completing ATF Form 4473
Prepared by Bill Napier, NSSF FFL Compliance Consultant
During in-store FFL compliance review, the reviewing consultants are often asked about tips to successfully and consistently completing the ATF Form 4473, as well as general advice and concerns about a wide variety of situations retailers often encounter with their customers and the Form 4473. We’ve taken a look at the concerns most frequently voiced and compiled the following list of questions and answers as a quick-reference guide for the scenarios most FFL holders encounter at one time or another with their customers and this necessary piece of paperwork.
Q: Let’s start at the beginning. If you have ever been to one of the NSSF educational seminars, our moderators often ask, “Who has read the entire ATF form 4473 cover to cover?” There have been plenty of instances when not enough hands go up—so let’s ask the same question here.
A: Pull out a 4473 and read it cover-to-cover. Even if you have read it before, do it again. The routine of filling out this form and checking your customer’s answers, sometimes many times daily, can cause you to miss small details. Reading the entire form from time to time can serve as a much-needed refresher course in filling out the form correctly.
Q: “What additional comments, notes, phone numbers or other information an FLL holder finds necessary to a gun transfer transaction can that FFL holder add to a 4473, and where.”
A: Probably the most under-utilized section on the form is item 30c. We highly recommend obtaining a phone number from your customer at the time of the sale, and area 30c is the spot where you should record it. It’s also a great place to add an internal stock keeping number or SKU number for the firearm ( good cross-check against acquisition and disposition books), and other information vital to the transfer of a firearm.
Q: Is it okay to have another employee of the FFL holder, other than the one initiating the transaction, go over the form before the completion of the firearm transfer?
A: We highly recommend that a second set of eyes reviews every Form 4473 before the sale is complete and the firearm transferred. Consider using one of the NSSF Form 4473 overylays to assist you in reviewing the form. As well, investing in e-Form 4473 software program that can help prevent mistakes . If you choose to have a second FFL holder employee review a completed form, that employee should initial area 30c, indicating that they have verified the form has been properly completed before the firearm was transferred.
Q: The customer made a mistake while completing the form. Does the FFL holder have to start all over again?
A: No. Simply ask your customer to strike through the mistake with a single line; ask them to initial and date the strike-through and write in the correct information. Never use white out, correction ribbon, eraser, etc., when a mistake is made. Also, remember that such a correction is good only before the firearm has been transferred. If a mistake is being corrected after the firearm was transferred, you will need to make a photo-copy of the portion of the form that is being corrected, make the corrections the same way (strike-through, date, and initial by customer) and then attach the photocopy with its corrections to the original 4473.
Q: I made a mistake as the seller/transferor, what should I do?
A: The answer here is no different than when the customer has made the mistake: Strike-through, initial, date, and enter the correct information.
Q: What advice can you give for accurately listing imported firearms in section D question 26 on the 4473?”
A: ATF regulations require that, for imported firearms, both the foreign manufacturer and U.S. importer must be recorded on Form 4473 (as well as in the acquisition and disposition record). Here are some examples:
- Springfield XD pistols are manufactured by HS Produkt and their importer is Springfield. HS Produkt is engraved on the top of the slide. This would be recorded on the 4473 and in the A&D book like this: HS Produkt/Springfield.
- The WASR-10 is made by Romarms and imported by CAI
- Rossi firearms are imported by Braztech.
In some cases, neither the foreign manufacturer nor the U.S. importer can be found on the firearm. This is most often due to either a post-sale owner customization (such as a new barrel installation), and it frequently occurs with firearms made before 1968. Too, there are instances where no serial number can be located on the firearm; again, this is usually indication that the firearm was made or imported before 1968. When a serial number cannot be located on a firearm, you can record “no serial number,” “NSN,” or “none visible” on the Form 4473 (and in the acquisition and disposition book). If you discover a firearm is missing importer or manufacturer information, it is further recommended that you enter “none marked” or “none visible” in your records.
Q: This, by far, is one of questions most frequently asked of compliance consultants: “How long do I have to keep ATF Form 4473?”
A: The answer has a couple of parts to it. When a firearms transfer is completed as planned, the original Form 4473, along with any supporting documents (such as a multiple sales report), must be kept 20 years. If, on the other hand, the transfer of a firearm is denied or cancelled by NICS, or, if, for any other reason, the transfer is not completed after a NICS check is initiated, the Form 4473 must be kept five years. Further, the Form 4473 involving incomplete firearms transfers must be kept in a separate file, in either alphabetical or chronological order. See NSSF Factsheet.
You must remember that ATF Form 4473 is a legal document and must be truthfully and accurately completed by your customer and you and your responsible employees for each and every transaction. Take your time filling out this form and review it carefully before the transfer takes place. It bears repeating that the NSSF and its compliance consultants strongly recommend that you consider having a second set of eyes review each form for accuracy, or that you look into using the Form 4473 overlay. Uncorrected errors on Form 4473s account for six of the top 10 most common violations cited by ATF every year, and three other top 10 violations are related to information found on Form 4473s. Taking the steps outlined here will help keep your transactions off that list.