Understanding Class III Firearms

Have you ever researched firearms online and come across terms like NFA, Title II, or Class III weapons? Did you know what they meant, or did you simply disregard them and continue to browse the weapons on the website? Either way, it is a good idea to have an understanding of Class III firearms as well as some of the laws, regulations and definitions that surround them.

Let’s start with the NFA, which is short for the National Firearms Act. The original act was signed in 1934 to impose a tax on the manufacturing and distribution of certain. It also required NFA firearms to be registered with the Secretary of the Treasury. NFA firearms were defined as SBS (short barreled shotguns), SBR (short barreled rifles), machine guns, suppressors (firearm mufflers and silencers), and certain firearms defined as “any other weapons.”

In 1968, Title II of the Gun Control Act (GCA) was an amendment brought forward to correct some flaws of the NFA, most notably in the Haynes case. Title II redefined “firearm” to add “destructive devices” and broadened the definition of “machine gun.”

The current list of NFA weapons on the official website looks like this:

(1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;

(2) a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;

(3) a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;

(4) a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;

(5) any other weapon, as defined in subsection (e);

(6) a machinegun;

(7) any silencer (as defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code); and

(8) a destructive device.

Finally, we have the term Class III. In order to be sold legally, NFA firearms, which fall under the Title II amendment, must be sold by a specially licensed dealer with a Class III Special Occupational Tax permit. Due to this restriction on who can sell them, these weapons are often referred to as Class 3 weapons. The cost to process any transfer of the weapon was set at $200 in 1934, and it has stayed the same ever since.

Though there have been some modifications to NFA regulations, the legality has remained mostly the same. The way people view these weapons has been the main difference over the years. From semi-automatic handguns to tactical rifles, the public view has become skewed. Many people look at the list of weapons on the NFA list and assume they are illegal weapons. That is simply not true.

Plenty of myths surround these weapons, including the idea that they are illegal. To debunk the misconceptions around these weapons, here are three facts regarding their safety and legality:

  • There is no special license to own an NFA weapon. To obtain one, an approved ATF form must be filled out. Which form you need depends on how you plan to acquire the firearm. The Class 3 license is associated with the seller of the weapon, not the buyer.
  • Since the NFA was enacted in 1934, only one felony has been committed with a legal NFA firearm. Every other crime that used a weapon on the list was committed with an illegally acquired firearm. Law abiding citizens have proven over the decades that they can handle the responsibility associated with owning NFA Class 3 weapons.
  • You can legally make these weapons. As previously mentioned, the right ATF form must be filled out; in this instance, an ATF Form 1 Application to Make and Register a Firearm must be used.

Now that you know a little more about Class III firearms, you can approach your search for a SCAR rifle, semi-automatic shotgun, or another Class III weapon with confidence. Be sure to double-check any state laws before you proceed with a purchase, as there may be additional paperwork to fill out or approvals that must be secured.

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