How To Get an FFL?: Step by Step Guide

Step 1 – Ensure You Meet FFL Requirements

Learning how to get an FFL is a significant undertaking, and the first step involves ensuring that you meet all the necessary requirements set forth by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

These requirements for you to get an FFL are designed to maintain the safety and integrity of the firearms industry and prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands. Let’s delve deeper into some of these requirements:

No Felony Convictions

One of the most critical requirements when learning how to get an FFL is that you must not be a felon. Having a felony conviction on your record will automatically disqualify you from obtaining an FFL.

This is a strict prohibition, and it’s essential to maintain a clean criminal history in this regard if you plan to get an FFL.

Crimes Punishable by More Than a Year in Prison

Even if you weren’t sentenced to prison, having a conviction for a crime punishable by more than a year in prison will also disqualify you to get an FFL. This includes offenses that are deemed serious and warrant long sentences, regardless of whether you served time in prison.

No Pending Indictments for Serious Crimes

Being under indictment for a crime punishable by more than a year in prison is another disqualifying factor. It’s not just past convictions that matter; pending criminal charges can also hinder your eligibility to obtain an FFL.

Not a Fugitive from Justice

If you are a fugitive from justice, you won’t be eligible to get an FFL. This means that if there are outstanding warrants or legal issues that categorize you as a fugitive, you cannot apply to get an FFL.

No Unlawful Use of Controlled Substances

Engaging in the unlawful use of controlled substances is a disqualifying factor. This prohibition is in place to ensure that individuals with substance abuse issues do not have access to firearms.

No Mental Defect Adjudication

If you’ve been adjudicated as mentally defective by a court or other legal authority, you won’t qualify to get an FFL. This is in line with the broader goal of preventing those with mental health issues from accessing firearms.

No Commitment to a Mental Institution

Having been committed to a mental institution against your will is another disqualifying factor. It’s aimed at preventing individuals who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others to get an  FFL.

Not an Illegal Alien

Only U.S. citizens or legal residents are eligible to get an FFL. This requirement ensures that those who aren’t legally residing in the country are not allowed to engage in firearms-related activities.

No Dishonorable Discharge

When learning how to get an FFL, it’s important to note that a dishonorable discharge from the military is a significant disqualifier. The military holds its members to high standards of conduct, and a dishonorable discharge is a strong indicator of behavior that would disqualify you from obtaining an FFL.

Not Renounced U.S. Citizenship

If you have renounced your U.S. citizenship and wish to find out how to get an FFL, you are unfortunately no longer considered a citizen of the United States and, therefore, cannot obtain a federal firearms license. This is to ensure that the privilege of owning or operating firearms businesses is reserved for U.S. citizens.

No Domestic Violence Convictions or Restraining Orders

When learning how to get an FFL, note that individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or are subject to restraining orders restraining them from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner are also ineligible for an FFL.

This is to safeguard individuals in domestic relationships from potential threats.

Meeting these requirements is fundamental to proceeding with your FFL application process. It’s essential to be fully aware of these criteria and ensure that you meet them before pursuing your FFL license.

Step 2 – Choose Your FFL License Type

Choosing the right FFL license type is a crucial decision in the process of obtaining a Federal Firearms License (FFL). The type of FFL you select will determine the scope of your activities within the firearms industry. Let’s explore this step in more detail:

FFL License Types

FFL License TypeFFL License PurposeSOT Class
Type 01 FFLDealer/Gunsmith of Firearms3
Type 02 FFLPawnbroker/Dealer of Firearms3
Type 03 FFLCollector of Firearmsn/a
Type 06 FFLManufacturer of Ammunitionn/a
Type 07 FFLManufacturer/Dealer of Firearms and Ammunition2
Type 08 FFLImporter/Dealer of Firearms1
Type 09 FFLDealer of Destructive Devices3
Type 10 FFLManufacturer/Dealer of Destructive Devices2
Type 11 FFLImporter/Dealer of Destructive Devices1

There are several FFL license types available, each tailored to specific activities within the firearms sector. Your choice should align with your intended business activities. Here are some of the primary FFL license types:

Type 01 – Firearms dealer (Gun Store): This is one of the most common FFL types. It allows you to engage in the business of selling firearms to the general public. If you plan to operate a retail gun store to sell firearms or be involved in the firearms business, this is the license you’ll need.

Type 02 – Pawnbroker: This type of federal firearm licensee  is suitable for pawnshops that deal in firearms as part of their business. It allows pawnbrokers to buy, sell firearms, and pawn firearms.

Type 03 – Collector of Curios and Relics (C&R): If you’re a firearms enthusiast interested in collecting antique and historical firearms, you would want to become a Type 03 Federal firearms licensee. It allows for the acquisition of C&R firearms for personal collection.

Type 06 – Manufacturer of Ammunition: This FFL is designed for businesses involved in manufacturing ammunition. If you plan to produce ammunition for sale, you’ll need this license.

Type 07 – Manufacturer of Firearms: This license type is for those intending to manufacture firearms, including firearms components and accessories. It’s suitable for gunsmiths, custom gun builders, and firearms manufacturers.

Type 08 – Importer of Firearms: Businesses involved in importing firearms and ammunition into the United States require this FFL type. It’s essential if you plan to import firearms for resale.

Type 09 – Firearm Dealer in Destructive Devices: This FFL is specifically for individuals and businesses dealing in devices such as explosives, grenades, and other specialized items.

Type 10 – Manufacturer of Destructive Devices: If your business involves manufacturing destructive firearms/device, you’ll need this FFL type.

Type 11 – Importer of Destructive Devices: Similar to Type 08, this license is for importing destructive devices into the country.

SOT Class Activity

ActivitySOT ClassFFL Types
Buy/Sell NFA FirearmsClass 31, 2, and 9
Make NFA FirearmsClass 27 and 10
Import NFA FirearmsClass 18 and 11

In addition to the FFL license type, some businesses may require a Special Occupational Tax (SOT) class. This is particularly relevant if you plan to deal with National Firearms Act (NFA) items, which include suppressors, machine guns, armor-piercing ammunition, and other highly regulated firearms and accessories.

The SOT class you choose will depend on the NFA-related activities you intend to undertake. There are three primary classes:

Class 1 SOT: This class is for importers of NFA items.

Class 2 SOT: This class is for manufacturers of NFA items.

Class 3 SOT: This class is for those who wish to be a firearms dealer of NFA items, which often includes gun stores that sell NFA firearms, which are highly regulated items.

FFL Types and SOT Activities

FFLSOT ClassSell NFAMake NFAImport NFA
Type 1 FFL3XX
Type 02 FFL3XX
Type 03 FFLXXX
Type 06 FFLXXX
Type 07 FFL2X
Type 08 FFL1X
Type 09 FFL3XX
Type 10 FFL2X
Type 11 FFL1X

It’s essential to understand the alignment between your chosen FFL type and any necessary SOT class activities. For example, if you intend to run a gun store and sell NFA firearms or items like machine guns, suppressors, and armor-piercing ammunition, you would need both a Type 01 FFL and a Class 3 SOT.

Before deciding on your FFL type and any required SOT class, it’s advisable to conduct thorough research and consider the specific business activities you plan to undertake.

Keep in mind that the process and requirements can vary, so consulting with the ATF or seeking legal advice from a firearms attorney may be beneficial to ensure you’re on the right track when choosing your FFL and SOT classes.

By making informed decisions regarding your FFL type and any related SOT class activities, you’ll set yourself up for a smoother and more successful journey in the firearms industry.

Step 3 – Take an Online FFL License Course

Taking an online FFL license course can be an invaluable step in your journey to obtaining a Federal Firearm License. These courses provide aspiring FFL holders with comprehensive knowledge about the legal and regulatory aspects of the firearms industry. Here’s a closer look at this step:

Why Take an Online FFL License Course

Regulatory Compliance: Online FFL courses cover federal law, state law, and local regulations governing the firearms industry. Staying compliant with these laws is crucial to avoid legal issues.

Firearm Safety: These courses often include firearm safety training, which is not only essential for compliance but also for ensuring responsible firearm handling.

Business Operations: Aspiring FFL holders learn about the day-to-day operations of firearms businesses, including record-keeping, inventory management, and customer interactions.

ATF Form Requirements: FFL courses provide insights into the specific requirements set by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) for FFL holders. Understanding these requirements is critical for a successful application.

Networking: Many courses offer opportunities to connect with other individuals in the firearms industry, fostering valuable connections that can be beneficial in the future.

Varied Licensing Information: FFL courses cover different types of licenses, SOT classes, and the associated activities, helping you choose the right combination for your business.

What to Look for in an Online FFL License Course

When selecting an online FFL course, consider the following factors:

Accreditation: Ensure that the course is accredited or recognized by relevant authorities or associations.

Comprehensive Content: The course should cover a wide range of topics, from firearm laws to business management and ethics.

Support and Resources: Look for courses that offer ongoing support, access to resources, and assistance with the FFL application process.

User Reviews: Read reviews and testimonials from previous course participants to gauge the quality and effectiveness of the training.

Cost: Compare course fees and consider whether the cost is justified by the value and knowledge you’ll gain.

Step 4 – Apply for a Federal Firearms License

Applying for a Federal Firearms License is the culmination of your efforts to enter the firearms industry as a legal and responsible entity. Here’s an in-depth look at this critical step:

The Application Process

Form Submission: To apply for an FFL, you’ll need to complete and submit ATF Form 7, the Application for Federal Firearms License. This form is available on the ATF’s website and includes detailed information about your intended business activities and the type of FFL you’re seeking.

Background Check: Once your application is submitted, you’ll undergo a thorough background check, which includes criminal history, mental health, and other eligibility criteria.

ATF Interview: As part of the application process, you may be contacted for an interview with an ATF agent. Be prepared to discuss your business plans, security measures, and compliance with federal firearms laws.

Business Premises Inspection: Depending on the type of FFL you’re applying for, your business premises may be subject to an ATF inspection to ensure you meet safety and security requirements.

Fingerprinting: You’ll be required to provide fingerprints as part of the background check process. This information helps the ATF verify your identity and assess your suitability for holding an FFL.

Notification of Approval: After a successful background check, interview, and inspection, you’ll receive notification of your FFL approval. You will also be required to pay the associated licensing fees.

Renewal and Compliance: Keep in mind that FFLs are subject to periodic renewal, and you must continuously adhere to federal firearms regulations to maintain your license.

Seek Professional Guidance from a Firearms Attorney

While the application process may seem straightforward, the nuances of federal firearms laws can be complex. Many aspiring Federal Firearms License holders seek professional legal advice from a firearms attorney or assistance to ensure a smooth application process.

This guidance can help you navigate the intricacies of FFL acquisition and reduce the risk of complications or delays.

By following the steps outlined in this article and taking an online FFL license course, you’ll be better prepared to apply for a Federal Firearm License successfully and establish a lawful and compliant presence in the firearms industry.


Obtaining a Federal Firearms License (FFL) is a significant and responsible endeavor if you possess firearms and wish to be in the business of selling firearms. It helps with having a business license in various activities related to firearms sales, from running a gun store to manufacturing firearms and ammunition. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve walked you through the essential steps involved in the FFL application process and provided in-depth information on key aspects.

By ensuring you meet all the Federal Firearms License requirements and making informed choices about your FFL type and, if necessary, Special Occupational Tax (SOT) class, you can lay a strong foundation for your firearms-related business.

Understanding the regulatory landscape and taking an online FFL license course can significantly enhance your knowledge and preparedness.

When it comes to applying for your FFL, it’s essential to be thorough, diligent, and patient. The application process involves background checks, interviews, and inspections, all designed to verify your eligibility and compliance with federal firearms laws.

Seek professional guidance if needed, as it can help you navigate any complexities and minimize the risk of complications during the application.

In conclusion, obtaining an FFL is not just a license; it’s a commitment to operating within the bounds of the law and ensuring the responsible and legal distribution, manufacturing, or firearms sales and related items. The firearms business is highly regulated, and adherence to these regulations is paramount to your success.


How long does it take to obtain an FFL?

The FFL application process typically takes a few months, but the exact duration can vary based on your location and the ATF’s workload.

Can I appeal a denial of my FFL completed application?

Yes, you can appeal the denial and provide additional documentation or information to support your case. It’s essential to address any concerns or issues raised by the ATF.

Do I need a physical store to obtain an FFL?

Not necessarily. Depending on your license type, you may operate from your home or other locations, as long as you meet the ATF’s requirements.

While an FFL holder may prefer to operate primarily online, some may prefer having physical storefronts with a firearms industry executive assisting their customers.

What are the costs associated with obtaining and maintaining an FFL?

The FFL cost of obtaining and maintaining one can vary depending on your chosen FFL type and SOT class (if applicable). License fees, renewal fees, and associated costs for background checks and inspections should all be considered.

It’s essential to budget for these expenses as part of your business plan.

Can I upgrade or change my FFL type after it’s been issued?

It’s possible to change or upgrade your FFL type, but this requires submitting a new application and undergoing the associated background checks, interviews, and inspections. You may also need to pay additional fees and adhere to the requirements of the new license type.

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