Federal Firearms License: What it is and How to Get One

You most likely already know that a Federal Firearms License is required to buy and sell firearms, but did you know they aren’t limited only to businesses, and any eligible individual can apply for and get their own FFL? 

Thorough, but not difficult, a Federal-Firearm License is available in multiple types specifically for firearm business, ammunition manufacturing, and even the collection of curio and relics. We’ve highlighted the information you need below, as well as the process to help get you started. 

What is a Federal Firearms License?

A Federal Firearms License, known as an FFL, allows individuals to do business in relation to ammunition and firearm manufacturing, as well as interstate and intrastate sale of firearms. Licensure to engage in these activities has been a legal requirement since 1968, with the passage of the Gun Control Act. Even though a license for these activities has been in place on a Federal level since 1938, the current system is administered through the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), housed within the U.S. Department of Justice.

There are 8 different Federal-Firearm licenses that allow you to pursue various types of ammunition and firearm manufacturing and selling activities. These licenses deal with specific products and specific manufacturing and selling opportunities. 

FFL Types

There are four categories of business activities allowed with a Federal Firearms License Types. Dealing, Manufacturing, Collecting, and Importing. Each deal with a specific type of license:

  • Dealers: types 01, 02, 09
  • Collecting: type 03
  • Manufacturers: types 06, 07, 10
  • Importers: types 08, 11

Type 01: Firearm Dealer/Gunsmith

This is the most common FFL for business use. It allows for the buying and selling of firearms, i.e. being a gun dealer. It also allows for gunsmithing and is all you need if you are working with Title 1 firearms (or standard firearms) – meaning you are a Title 1 dealer. If you also want to deal in NFA-regulated weaponry, then you need to become an SOT (explained below) to avoid a tax stamp on every NFA product. 

Type 02: Pawnbroker

This FFL type is the same as Type 01, but also allows pawnbroker buying and selling activities. 

Type 03: Collector

tuscan closet design with guns
Image Source: www.houzz.com

A Type 03 FFL is not for business and is specific to collectors of curio and relic firearms. This allows them to receive curio and relic firearms for their collection only, not modern firearms. 

Type 06: Ammunition Manufacturing

This license type is limited to the making of ammunition with the intent to sell. It does not allow business activity related to firearms. 

Type 07: Firearm Manufacturing

This is another very popular FFL type as it allows for the making of firearms to sell, plus includes the manufacturing of ammunition to sell, as well as sales of other firearms. It also does not require registration with ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) unless the holder intends to make at least one NFA-regulated firearm. 

It also allows the manufacturing of ammunition for sale. 

Type 08: Firearm Importer

german assault weapons lies in a gun room

If you want to import standard firearms from another country, then you need this license. 

Type 09: Destructive Device Dealer

To buy and sell regulated firearms, then you need a Type 09 FFL. You’ll also need a Class 3 SOT.

Type 10: Destructive Device Manufacturer

Much like a Type 07 FFL, Type 10 is a firearm and ammunition license. The difference is that Type 10 allows for the manufacturing and selling of destructive devices and armor-piercing ammunition. A Class 2 SOT is also required. 

Type 11: Destructive Device Importer

If you want to import firearms that include destructive devices, you will need a Type 11 FFL as well as a Class 1 SOT. 

What is SOT?

If an FFL holder wants to deal, manufacture, or import NFA-regulated Title II firearms, they also need to become a Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT). This means their business can include regulated items considered weapons,  such as silencers, short-barreled rifles, and full-auto machine guns. There are also different classes of SOTs. These include:

  • Class 1 SOT – Import and deal NFA / Title II firearms
  • Class 2 SOT – Manufacturer and deal NFA / Title II firearms
  • Class 3 SOT – Deal NFA / Title II firearms

FFL Availability by Type and State

safe room with many guns
Image Source: www.instagram.com

Although limiting FFL availability by both type and state may sound like one more hurdle, overall there are many available and it is not common to run into availability issues. If this is a concern, it is best to check directly with the ATF to stay on top of current availability. 

Gun Control Act of 1968

Even though there was a form of Federal licensing prior to 1968, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) was passed following the assassinations of President John. F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It specifically addressed the regulation of the importation of ammunition and firearms into the IS, as well as continuing to regulate domestic sales and distribution. Its stated goals are to “keep firearms out of the hands of those not legally entitled to possess them because of age, criminal background or incompetency, and to assist law enforcement authorities in the states and their subdivisions in combating the increasing prevalence of crime in the United States.”

How Do You Get a Federal Firearms License?

If you are eligible, then getting your FFL is only a matter of following the proper steps and background checks. It is possible you could run up against state regulations, but federally you shouldn’t have any issues if you meet the requirements for applications. 


The minimal requirements for FFL application are as simple as being legally able to possess a firearm and being at least 21 years of age. Always check specifically with your state if other requirements exist for both individuals and businesses. If any concerns exist, then chances are you aren’t a good candidate, especially if any of the following applies to you:

  • You are a felon
  • You’ve been convicted of any crime punishable by more than a year in prison.
  • You are under indictment for any crime punishable by more than a year in prison
  • You are a fugitive
  • You have been proven to be an unlawful user of any controlled substance
  • You have been adjudicated as a mental defective
  • You have been committed to a mental institution currently or in the past
  • You are an illegal alien
  • You have a dishonorable discharge from the military
  • You have renounced your U.S. citizenship
  • You are subject to a restraining order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner
  • You have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence


Once you determine eligibility, then you need to fill out the application. Although comprehensive, it is not a difficult application to complete. Time must be taken to ensure it is fully completed and includes fingerprint cards, photographs, and application fees (including a separate questionnaire). A type 03 does not require photographs and fingerprints. 

Review and Background Check

Once received, the FFLC will conduct the background check and then send the application to the nearest ATF office to which the business is located once the status is verified. 

Interview and Final Review

Man Being Interviewed By A Woman

An Industry Operations Investigator (IOI) will be assigned to an in-person interview with you to discuss federal, state, and local requirements, and to ensure your information is current and correct. A report of the interview will be made and a recommendation to issue or deny the license will be made. The field office supervisor will review and submit their recommendation to the FFLC, and as long as everything is in order and you are in compliance, the license will be issued. 

The entire process takes approximately 60 days on average, and any denials are usually due to your own fault and concern surrounding the failure to comply with state or local law (such as zoning ordinances), evidence of previous willful violations of the Gun Control Act, or falsification of the application.

Wrapping it Up

If you have considered getting firearms licensing for your own manufacturing and business needs, hopefully, this article has helped narrow down the types you might need, and if you are required to do anything else to stay within federal law. 

Although this is not a difficult process, the overall application is lengthy and detailed and requires your attention to complete. Once submitted, you have the chance to speak directly to an investigator to make sure everything is in order, and to answer any questions you may have. 

Let us know if you have any questions and please share!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of having an FFL?

Having an Federal Firearms License (FFL) gives you additional freedom and capability when it comes to firearms. An FFL enables you to buy, trade, and even manufacture handguns for profit, among other privileges, in accordance with your specific license type. Because the FFL grants you these liberties, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is particular about ensuring your FFL activities are considered commercial practices, rather than a simple pastime. Having an FFL also opens doors for ample business opportunities in the firearms sector. It’s not just a license, but a comprehensive enabler to expand your horizons in the industry. As an FFL holder myself, the license has been instrumental in running a successful firearms business.

Which FFL is easiest to get?

From my experience and general consensus, a Type 03 Federal Firearms License is the most accessible and straightforward to obtain. This is a special license designed for the collection of curios and relics. It’s important to understand that this isn’t a license to conduct firearms transactions; rather, it’s a permit to have Curios and Relics directly transferred and delivered to your residence. It certainly has its limits compared to other licenses, but it’s the one with the least barriers to acquire. The simple application process and cost effectiveness make it an attractive option for collectors and history enthusiasts alike.

What is the highest gun license you can get?

The most comprehensive and versatile license you can obtain is a Type 07 FFL. It’s often referred to as the premier license due to the multitude of activities it permits. With a Type 07 FFL, you’re authorized to buy, sell, repair firearms, and on top of that, manufacture guns and ammunition. It certainly lives up to its reputation of being the most “powerful” license. As a Type 07 FFL holder, the breadth and depth of my operations have expanded significantly.

Is it hard to get an FFL in Texas?

Securing an FFL in Texas is relatively straightforward, provided you can pass a background check. Typically, this involves submitting a completed fingerprint card to the ATF and providing a Physical address. From my personal experience, the process was rather prompt and efficient, and as long as you meet the requirements, there shouldn’t be any substantial hurdles. However, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly understand FFL requirements before applying.

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