FFL License – You Become a Target, Right?

Home invasion deterrent.

Home invasion deterrent.

Our last article on the Federal Firearms License (FFL) topic created great discussion and many follow up comments. Several concerns were raised and now we hope to better address these open items.

With Obama in the Oval Office and many speculating another pro-gun control politician, Hillary, likely to replace him… firearms and related items are in demand at an all-time historic record high.

Record High Demand for Guns

There is fear of future gun control laws making current firearms unattainable.  There is also obvious increased fear of protecting one’s self and family from the power of a big government, especially after the continued releases on NSA Big Brother snooping.  The firearms market is a perfect storm, with all situations brewing.

Top financial experts are even recommending buying and keeping more guns to protect yourself and your family when the USA financial markets collapse as many predict (and we know is coming).

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF.org) stats show enormous growth in:

  • women shooting
  • increased target shooting hobbyists
  • overall decrease in firearms related accidents…

These are all positive trends for continued growth and fueling demand for firearms in America.

Economic Boom for Gun Sellers

If you like firearms and see value in being at the center of an economic boom where you have access to fun toys and make a little side cash, you have probably pondered the idea of getting an FFL License.  The greatest fear though is the government.

Ever since the ATF raided Waco, Texas and the Branch Davidians in 1993, many have continued to fear the ATF and our government’s enforcement of weapons related issues.  Fast and Furious is a more recent example of ATF and our big government overstepping their bounds.

If I get an FFL, what can I expect from the government?

You will need to complete a background check, similar to obtaining a concealed carry permit.  ATF will come out to meet with you to ensure you understand the rules you need to play by.  Both are painless and really have limited downside.

How often will ATF be back after my FFL is approved?

Federal law only allows ATF to do a records compliance inspection once every 12 months, unless criminal activity is the issue.  ATF can also only inspect during your hours of operation.

There are tricks to putting appointment only to avoid surprises.  The average time before an ATF compliance inspection for a non-pawn shop, home based FFL holder is about once every 30 years.  The ATF staff is stretched fairly thin for compliance inspections.

Can ATF search my home anytime?

Nope. You will not give up your Fourth Amendment rights when you obtain an FFL License as many incorrectly assume.

Can ATF inspect personal guns during an ATF compliance check?

ATF asks that any personal firearms stored with FFL inventory firearms be labeled as “Not for Sale” to show they are personal firearms.  Another option is to provide a list of personal guns that are stored with FFL inventory at the time ATF arrives for a compliance inspection so ATF will not review those guns as part of the compliance inspection.  Another option is obviously to store personal firearms in a different location.

Do I need a store front to get approved for an FFL?

Nope. ATF still approves home based dealers.  The Internet FFL holder is very common actually.  64% of all FFL holders are in residential locations.

Government will visit me first if they come for guns?

Just because you are an FFL holder and have the legal ability to buy and sell firearms, it does not necessarily mean you have firearms stockpiled.  One could suggest the reverse is true… you are most likely well-armed and ready for any such event the government might consider.

More background on ATF & FFL holder relationship

ATF actually needs the FFL for them to do their jobs.  As many incorrectly assume, ATF does not have a national database of firearms serial numbers at their ready access.  The FFL holder keeps these serial numbers in their books.  Serial numbers are only shared with ATF when there is a criminal investigation.

If a firearm is found as part of a crime, ATF has to do a trace to determine original origin.  For example, ATF would call the manufacturer, the wholesaler, and then the dealer to see who the final buyer of the firearm actually was.


In our current political environment here in the US, the government is our greatest enemy to full freedom.  We need to be educated about our government and educated about our freedoms.  The firearms market only continues to grow and demand only increases as the government continues to expand.

Getting into the FFL holder ranks might be worth considering at this point in time if you want to start a business or need to save money while arming a large survival group. Easier access to firearms and the ability to legally help transfer firearms to family and friends is a key strategy for your survival now financially and after the SHTF.

How to Get Your FFL License

We discussed these issues with several tenured FFL license holders who work from their home addresses and function as e-retailers, including Brandon Maddox, owner ofFFL123.com and DakotaSilencer.com.

If you are interested in additional information on the FFL License process or additional insights, reach out to Brandon or listen to this episode of Gun Guy Radio on How to Get Your FFL License.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. This is all well and good until it is not, when some group tries to seize power, the rules will not be followed, evidence of this would be Hurricane Katrina and most recently the house to house searches after the Boston Marathon bombings, and the Florida resident that was held for hours while his car was searched for a weapon in Maryland, when it was in his gun safe in Florida. In each of these situations government hooligans did not follow the law and violated peoples rights, my feeling is if they don’t know, they are less likely to do something to you,IMO.

  2. riverrider says:

    i am sure you are correct that by and large atf agents don’t harass ffl’s in most areas. however i know several ffl’s that were harassed until they gave up their ffl. one did have his home invaded by agents looking for “off the books” guns. another ran a small time pawn shop and was visited 3 times in one month. they actually pulled my file and were coming after me until he told them to LOOK in the file for my proper paperwork. true, in most areas agents are honest and are more concerned with other things. around here tho, you’re taking your chances. i have zero confidence in their behavior if future events pan out as we generally believe. great job on the write-up though. my experience in no way should be taken as criticism. i hope you continue your efforts in this area……… it is an easy way to save HUNDREDS on your own guns and those of trusted people and/or make a buck. the markup on guns is crazy high at the shops.

  3. I contemplated getting an FFL when I left the service. At the time there was a local requirement that you business, if in your home, had a separate entrance. Ours didn’t. There was/is a requirement that 50+% of your sales are to others/non-family members. We ended up not doing it. I may have saved myself a lot of money over the years 😉

  4. There is some newspaper chain using the Freedom of Information act and is acquiring all of the Concealed Weapon permits from all states… This FFL information will also be available in the same manner? Just wondering here. ‘Tis up to everyone to make up their own mind about such matters, but it does give me pause as something to think about.

    • worrisome,
      The FFL licenses are public information. As for CHL holders, at least here in Ohio, someone wanting CHL license information has to make individual requests to ask if a specific person has a license. Our law was crafted specifically to stop mass witch hunts.

      • Ohio Prepper and MD. I didn’t phrase my statements/questions right in this segment. Thanks for the help. Between you and MD, I was wondering how “easy” it would be to get info……..thanks!

  5. I went as far as getting the BOX OF PAPERWORK to apply for my FFL. I spoke at length with our local ATF and was told that i had to have regular business hours. My intent was to sell at gunshows only and i was informed i would have to have a storefront with regular hours and those hours had to be adhered to. I decided to just take my chances and buy guns,fix,repair,refinish, and sell tham at gunshows as a private citizen. Well, turns out thats illegal as well. The ATF considers you to be in the business of selling firearms if you make a profit on a gun. I actually witnessed a man lose all his inventory and face some very stoiff penaltys for operating in the gray area that i was. I decided to quit gunshows and now just buy for myself and my own collection. i dont want to do anything to garner the governments attention and i most certainly dont want them knowing anymore of my business that dont already know.

  6. Pineslayer says:

    I have to agree with those that don’t trust.
    Here in CO the CBI does the background check for the FFL, then they say they purge the record. Do you believe that they do? Do you believe that the NSA or some other group doesn’t hack into that system and gather data?

    We all know that the rules do not apply to them in the real world.

    • Ahh, a post that I’m actually qualified to reply to. Here goes:
      First, I have 25 years experience in corporate information technology. That was not as a DBA (DataBase Administrator), but I do know a thing or two about information systems.
      Once data is entered into a properly run data system, it stays around for a LONG time. Not necessarily available for immediate access, but proper management of your data center includes regular BACKUP of your data. Those tapes can sit in an offsite recovery center for months.
      Retrieving information about a single gun owner would be very difficult, but is not impossible.
      As for “purging” the background search information, that might be officially true, but on the technical side some systems keep “transaction logs” to allow them to recover the days work in case of a system crash. Again, retrieving information about a specific person would be difficult, but not impossible.

  7. mikeymikeRN says:

    Good article with valid points. However, a majority of the commentators posts now let me understand why all the Reynolds Wrap is missing at my local grocer; the ‘Tinfoil Hat Brigade’ is obviously alive and well.
    1) The poster that laments about a ‘friend’ being raided and that ATF was coming after him, too – I call BS. Period.
    2) Huge mark-ups? Really? No, not really. Particularly when you figure the business costs (i.e. Liability Insurance, Security System, maintaining FFL and paperwork requirements, time performing NICS check, S&H on firearms, fees charged by credit card companies, etc). We charge $50 to $100 over actual cost.
    3) @bctruck – if you were actually told the information you said you were, you were grossly mislead. All you have to do is go to the ATF website and read the requirements for yourself. If you haven’t done so yet, you need to report the ATF agents to their District Managers.
    4) @the rest of you – you are no more of a target holding an FFL than you are holding a Driver’s License. As a matter of fact, it’s easier and cheaper to receive an FFL than it is a Commercial Drivers License.

    • riverrider says:

      well you can call bullshit all you want, but i believe my buddy over you any day. they were upset about multiple purchases thinking i was gunrunning. i get shotgun news and other adds from distributors like southern ohio gun and the wholesale prices are hundreds less than at the gun shop. i realize they need to make a profit but not all on my back. ncic check two minutes and many charge 5 bucks for that. i’ll let bc defend himself….

      • Riverrider. I believe you and bc over someone I have never seen post here before. Riverrider you problem is that you need to live closer to the border and start buying assualt rifles. Tdl will send you xmas and birthday cards if you do that.

    • Hmmmmmmm, im begining to pick up an undertone of of disagreement here. I do thoink its funny you would use a commercial drivers license as an example since i have one and know how easy it is to get. I wont go do your work for you but the question in the FAQ section of the ATF,s website is. ” if you buy a gun or guns with the intention of selling them fo a profit,you are considered to be in the business and therefore would need an FFL”. I call BS on your knowledge of FFL laws, and your ability to do a simple google search. I call bs on your knowledge of commercial drivers licenses. Have a nice day.

      • midnight1st says:

        My DH has an FFL, and, in many cases, he tells friends where they can get firearms cheaper than he can buy them for them. Some shops have a large markup, but many don’t. Also, the large shops can get some guns cheaper than he can because they buy in great bulk. But, usually, he has not found that the mark up of most stores is much according to what he can buy them for with his FFL.

        As far as any news people being able to get his records – let them try. I would imagine most people with FFLs feel the same way about folks giving out info to the press.

      • Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

    • mikeyMikeRN. Living in comradfornia I could say that many shops in my part of the state jack up the prices pretty high. I have seen shops jack up the prices of guns after seeing what they bring in auction on gunbroker. Several months ago I saw a pistol price jump 135 dollars the day after he put it on display.That was a sesult of a idiot auction it had nothing to do with any other reason.

    • Well Mike,
      Here’s the deal. I inquired about obtaining my FFL shortly after retiring from law enforcement adn was told the EXACT same thing as BCtruck. A storefront was needed (direclty from ATF) and it also stated such in the packet of paperwork that I received…So it seems that either you are misinformed or the ATF selectively tells this to people…

  8. Okay now let’s ask a few questions here. Has our TDL adhered to, protected and respected the Constitution Of the United States of America? I my opinion a big fat NO. Will all future POTUS do the same or worse? Probably, it is now out of their hands..
    When the need to put together a list of undesirables and others who may be a threat to a coming Dictatorship who will they come after first? Gun owners and those that supply them.

    So yes the rules are there , until they are no longer of benefit to those who write the rules and enforce them upon the peons of society who get in the way of those who steal rights like the Constitution protect.

    • riverrider says:

      thats like the LAW here that demands cc records be kept only at the local courthouse but whenever i get pulled by a state cop, he knows and asks me if i don’t hand him my permit when he walked up.

  9. You must really like the Kool Aid you’ve been drinking!

    If you don’t think the people, especially govt. people, who has the info of what kind of firearms, the number of firearms, etc. that we have won’t use that info, whether it is taken from an FFL form or driver’s license, then shame on you! We see it every day. This govt. is out of control and getting more so daily. IMHO

  10. My reply was to MikeymikeRN.

  11. nick flandrey says:

    Hi Guys, I know I’m a new poster, but here are my thoughts on this.


    I’m not being antagonistic. Consider, have you ever done any of these things?

    Posted on a website about SHTF, III, Patriot, liberty, sovereign citizen, prepping, or any gun blog or site?– the internet is NOT anonymous. Even without being infected with malware, your searches and web browsing history are an open book to an investigator. Social media and blog posts too. If you ever slip up in even the tiniest way, they will link your various online pseudonyms.

    Ever sent in a warranty registration card for guns/ camping equipment/ hunting supplies?

    Ever used a credit card to purchase preps or guns or ammo, or a cleaning kit or a case, or camo?

    Every use a store loyalty card for preps? After 9-11 they went through grocery store loyalty card purchases looking for people who bought hummus and other middle eastern food.

    Got your CHL?

    Register the property at your BOL in your name? Pay taxes on it? That is usually public record. They don’t even need a secret data collection effort.

    Have you read the Homeland Security pdf’s about what a domestic terrorist looks like? It looks like you and me and our neighbors.

    In other words, YOU ARE ALREADY on dozens of lists. Along with 100’s of millions of others. 100,000,000 gun owners in the USA. That is a pretty big pool to hide in.

    Now, I get it. Getting on a specific and shorter list like all the FFL holders might help them narrow it down if they want to come knocking in the middle of the night. But don’t avoid it because you think you are a grey man. You aren’t. The very fact you are here at this site and are actively taking steps to prepare ALREADY narrows it down for them.

    Anyway, that is the approach I’m taking. I’ve already stood up as a strict constitutionalist, and CHL holder. I got my CERT training. I’ve passed dozens of background checks for work.

    I’ve been considering the benefits of becoming a FFL, and the post was timely and informative.


    –might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb….

    • riverrider says:

      true, but like you say “hiding in a big pool” that pool gets a lot shallower when you get an ffl. not because you got one, but because of the”straw that broke the camel’s back” i call it. metadata, email contacts, gps locations etc are all straws stacked in a pile. when the time to pick somebody to make an example of, the one with the most straws wins. i’m screwed already. being ex-career .mil, they got my dna. heck they can call me up and assign me to guard myself if they want,lol.

      • They will never catch me since everything i own is in the name of “rusty shackelford”.

      • nick flandrey says:

        (Sorry, I hit the Report Comment button by accident, no report was requested.)

        RR, as ex-military, you are already suspect, per their pdf of suspicious types. Sorry about that DNA collection, I’ve heard that if you were in the right place in the right MOS you could dodge that, but like your fingerprints and psych evals, they’ve got you now.

        N.B. the ‘you’ below is a general you, not directed to any one in particular.

        I forgot to mention magazine subscriptions, and gun show attendance as things to get you on a list. (If you’ve been to a gun show, there is a really good chance your license plate was recorded as you entered the parking lot. Oh, and using cash, or buying precious metals in quantity too.

        So I see the point that some lists might rank higher, and probably the lists do stack up. I’m just saying that if you are already on a bunch of lists, what’s one more? Especially if the benefits of that FFL have real present value for you.

        If you are really worried about the late night visit, have you replaced your entries with stronger versions? (Not just the doors, but the jambs too.) Have you replaced your windows with hurricane rated glass? Do you have a perimeter warning system in place? Do you have a secret way out? If not, then it makes no difference really what lists you are on because there is nothing you can do to resist if they do come for you, no matter what triggers the visit. And if you really think you will get a visit, better to prepare before hand.


        • riverrider says:

          point made and taken, and yes on the last paragraph. let them come. as tdl said “let the buck stop here.” only difference is, i mean it.

  12. nick flandrey says:

    Also, from the ATF website, there were just shy of 132,000 FFL holders countrywide in 2012. Not a small pond.

    I think that like a ham radio license, the costs are far outweighed by the benefits. Even if it does add another list to the pile-o-lists.


    • riverrider says:

      funny you should say that, i about to test for my ham. damn, got me ten ways from sunday, lol.

    • 132,000 FFL holders, and over 800,000 fed, state, and local LEOs. They could easy inspect every one of them the same day if they wanted, even if half the LEOs were OathKeepers and refused the order to do so. We’re only one executive order away from it.

      On ham radio, I’m actually thinking my decision to get my Extra (over 25 years ago) may not have been so wise from the prepping perspective now. If the government decided to restrict or control the flow of information in particular area(s) under martial law, then after shutting down cellular service, landline phone, and regional ISPs – I’d likely be getting a knock on my door next. The FCC (a Dept of DHS) can inspect any radio station, private or commercial, without cause or a warrant, whenever they choose under current law (www.fcc.gov/guides/inspection-fact-sheet). Anyone with any military background knows that they’re not going to ignore known transmitter sites in their AO, in fact securing those will be high on their list of things to do first. What becomes of my family, preps, and our safety if that happens?

      73’s, de KA8YPY

  13. I know an FFL guy , he has his full time job as an insurance agent , and just transfers weapons on the side . THats it , he doesnt buy or sell anything , just transfers them ( usually from on line sellers to the individual ) and at $20 per gun , he makes a good side income .

  14. This is what I read about publishing names, addresses etc of licensees…


    • Worrisome,

      FFL license holders and carry permit holders are not the same. FFL license holders are legal dealers and business owners that buy and sell firearms for a profit.

      • I know MD, what I was wondering is……..is the information as easy to publish for a newspaper as a CW is………..

  15. Name change for this reply says:

    I have had a FFL for over 20 years and a CCP for 10.
    I have read these reply’s and there is a LOT of misconception.
    1/ CCP here by filling out one extra piece of paperwork I can get NICS-EXEMPT on my CCP meaning I must fill out the form but the vendor doesn’t have to call it in.
    2/ When I deal with the local police the first thing I say before they can say anything is “I HAVE A CCP AND AM ARMED” Only one asked me if I was going to do any thing foolish to which I said why? you are doing your job. Another asked how fast could I get to it and when I told him a minute or two he said why do you carry you cannot get to it fast enough. Another time I was broke down with my company truck when an officer came up behind me. As he walked up I spread my arms and said I was armed to which he replied yes I know you we met before. I opened my coat and closed it again (It was below 0). He placed highway flares out , he could have cited me for not having any but we BS’d for a minute or two he said he would check up on me in an hour if I was still there. Don’t cop an attitude it get’s you a long way.
    NOW what does BATF know about your purchase
    you fill out the form I call in your name and facts then long gun, short gun or both PERIOD…. NO serial numbers, calibers quantity NOTHING. that info stays with me.
    Now if there is a problem like it was stated before BATF starts at the manufacture and works forward until they hit a road block and many times it’s LOOOOOOng before they come to you.
    When I give up my license much of the information I have will be so old and useless since many of the people will be dead of old age and/or the guns transferred privately several times.
    A new rule is that After 20 years the form you fill out can be destroyed by the FFL holder.
    Will you be on a list if you get a CCP or FFL??? Hell I’m a Vietnam veteran with PTSD who at one time had an A&P license, Commercial Pilots License, Class A CDL with Hazmat & other endorsements, and other things I’m on several Lists that’s why ……

  16. baddest modo u know says:

    FFL holder, I sell inexpensive handguns and transfer handguns, live on a farm and sell from my Farm office in my residence. Okayed by investigator. Not gettin rich at $40 bucks mark up or $20 per transfer,but several poorer people now have self protection they couldn’t afford previously. Met some very fine people and now know a few to be wary of when they were denied by NICS.

    All in all when SHTF , we may be the last to be messed with, cause everyone with a bound book. May be visited by the hooded guy with the gun that forces him to burn said book. Bought, matches, hood and lighter fluid the day after the license arrived.lol.

    • riverrider says:

      you’re my kind of ffl;) i guess my comments should have been tempered by the word “most” or “some”. hope i didn’t offend.

    • Name change for this reply says:

      I just cut holes into an old pillow case (to cheep to buy a hood) the rest I all ready have.

  17. Thomas The Tinker says:

    Lets see now…….
    1. Got a pass port…. I’m on the State Depts. list.
    2,. Got a DL….. I’m on the State of Ohio’s list.
    3. Exchanged USDs for Euros and visa versa…. I’m on a watch list now.
    4. Was in the Marines…. On that nasty ‘Vet’ list.
    5. Worked for the DOD…. On the list there.
    6. Got a CCW…. on the a bunch a lists there.
    7. Surf in and outta this site…. on a list … so are you.
    8. Own an NFA SBS…. on a list with the BATFE.
    9. Worked ‘in’ a Federal trade zone facility…. on that list.
    10, Did design, build, modification and refueling ‘stuff’ at 2 Nukes…. Dang sure on a list at the DOE.
    11. Subscribe to the Toledo Blade… on their list.
    12. Life member of the NRA… Gawd knows how many ‘lists’ that puts me on.
    13. Attend an adult firearms training facility each year… on the ‘back ground.. Checked’ list … who knows where.
    14. Got a Kroger Card.. Costco.. Barnes and Nobel.. Hollywood Casino… American Express… Royal Carib… Best Buy.., et al…. card on the list with those folks.
    15. I use MD’s Amazon link…. Gawd knows the lists that has put me on.
    16,. I have contacted ‘ALL’ my elected officials at some time… Bill Clinton ratted my letter to the BATFE and boosted me up a notch on that list.
    17. I own property… go figure who keeps track o that.
    18. I buy bulk from EE, LDS store, Augason (sp?) farms, Lucky Gunner, Cheaper than Dirt…. Ack!
    19. I leave and re-enter the country about once a year… Paranoia at customs.
    20. I love “Jujyfruits” and that’s gotta put me on a list if I ever get caught with em in New York State.
    21. Call me a fool, but I am one of the minority that actually ‘PAYS’ taxes in excess of ‘benefits’ received from the ‘State’…. I’m on that suckers list as well.

    ………………. I rather suspect… “They” … know who, what, where, when, why and how I live my life. How about you?

  18. At this turning point in the destruction of America I myself am staying off of any gun list. I buy ammo and when they ask for a zip code, I give them a different one than mine. I pay cash for my ammo. I carry but will not get a CCL. That is another list for them to come to my house. My carry is in my work vehicle and is unloaded. I know, why have it then. I load when I crawl in the back to sleep. I am a pretty hard sleeper so I load it for when I sleep, just in case there is a break in. I also buy guns from locals and have no problem keeping my business, mine. No lists for me, thank you very much.

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