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Understanding the Distinctions: ATF eForm 1 vs. ATF eForm 4


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has implemented a digital system to streamline and expedite the processing of certain firearms-related applications. The ATF eForms platform provides a convenient way for individuals and entities to submit applications electronically, reducing paperwork and wait times. This article aims to explore and highlight the key differences between two commonly used ATF eForms: eForm 1 and eForm 4.

ATF eForm 1:

ATF eForm 1 is primarily used for the application to make and register a firearm. It is commonly utilized by individuals who wish to manufacture their own firearm or modify an existing one. The eForm 1 is a versatile and accessible tool for firearm enthusiasts who want to engage in lawful and regulated firearm manufacturing.

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of ATF eForm 1 is to facilitate the registration of a firearm with the ATF. This applies to both NFA (National Firearms Act) firearms and non-NFA firearms, including short-barreled rifles (SBRs), short-barreled shotguns (SBSs), and suppressors.

  2. Application Process: The eForm 1 requires the applicant to provide detailed information about themselves, the firearm, and its intended use. This includes personal identification, responsible persons (if applicable), firearm specifications, and the reason for making the firearm. The applicant must also submit fingerprint cards, photographs, and pay the required tax stamp fee.

  3. Approval and Processing Time: Once the ATF eForm 1 application is submitted, it undergoes a thorough review process. The ATF conducts background checks, evaluates the application's legality, and verifies the provided information. The processing time for an approved eForm 1 can vary but typically takes several weeks to several months, depending on the workload and other factors.

ATF eForm 4:

ATF eForm 4 is designed for the transfer of firearms already registered under the NFA. This form is primarily utilized by individuals or entities who wish to acquire an NFA firearm from another person or an FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee).

  1. Purpose: The primary purpose of ATF eForm 4 is to request approval for the transfer of an NFA firearm from the current registered owner to another individual or entity. NFA firearms include machine guns, short-barreled rifles (SBRs), short-barreled shotguns (SBSs), suppressors, and any other weapon (AOW).

  2. Application Process: The eForm 4 requires both the transferor (current owner) and transferee (new owner) to provide detailed information about themselves, the firearm, and the transfer. This includes personal identification, responsible persons (if applicable), firearm details, and information about the transferor and transferee. The application also requires fingerprints, photographs, and the payment of the tax stamp fee.

  3. Approval and Processing Time: Similar to the eForm 1, the ATF conducts background checks and verifies the information provided on the eForm 4. The processing time for an approved eForm 4 can also vary but generally takes a similar timeframe as the eForm 1, depending on the workload and other factors.

Key Distinctions between ATF eForms:

  1. Purpose: The main distinction lies in the purpose of the forms. eForm 1 is for manufacturing or modifying firearms, while eForm 4 is for transferring already registered NFA firearms.

  2. Firearm Types: The eForm 1 covers both NFA and non-NFA firearms, whereas the eForm 4 specifically deals with NFA firearms such as machine guns, SBRs, SBSs, suppressors, and AOWs.

  3. Ownership: The eForm 1 is for the creation of new firearms, making the applicant the initial owner, while eForm 4 facilitates the transfer of ownership from one person or entity to another.

  4. Processors: While both forms require fingerprint cards and photographs, the eForm 1 typically requires the submission of these documents for the applicant only. On the other hand, the eForm 4 necessitates submission for both the transferor and transferee.

How .EFT Files Speed Up the FBI Background Check Component for the ATF Processes

Previously, obtaining an ATF background check to accompany ATF eForm applications involved a cumbersome process of mailing in ink cards and passport photos. This hybrid online and mail-in process often took over a month to complete. The ATF had to receive the mailed FD258s, match them with the online application, and then send them to the FBI. After the FBI received the prints, applicants would have to wait an additional 2-4 weeks for the results to be returned to the ATF, who would then make a determination.

However, the ATF has embraced technological advancements and introduced a privacy-focused and encrypted solution. In collaboration with a technology provider, applicants can securely store their fingerprints and personal information in an encrypted file. This file can be directly used on the ATF's online eForms platform through electronic fingerprint channeling, which the ATF prefers.

While other NFA item brokers like Silencer Shop only offer a one-time use EFT file specific to their products, Colorado Springs Fingerprinting provides a service that allows both dealers and individuals to create ATF EFT files for multiple submissions to the Form 1 and Form 4 eFile portal.

We at Colorado Springs Fingerprinting offer step-by-step guidance to create a compliant ATF 41 Form 5230.4, commonly known as ATF eForm 4 and eForm 1. Once you have completed the process, we will email you the encrypted file, which can be used repeatedly for multiple submissions.

Whether you are purchasing, transferring, registering, or building a firearm or NFA item as an individual or establishing a legal entity such as a "firearm trust," our service is tailored to your needs. By visiting us, you can have your fingerprints scanned, enter your information using our user-friendly on-screen prompts, and leave with an encrypted file that only the ATF can decode. This file can then be uploaded onto the ATF eForms wizard to initiate your background check process.

What does an ATF EFT appointment look like at Colorado Springs Fingerprinting?

You come in, get your fingerprints scanned, enter your complimentary information with our our step-by-step on screen prompts and leave with an encrypted file which only the ATF can decode to run your background check when uploaded onto the ATF eForms wizard.

At your fingerprinting appointment we will guide you, step by step, to create your NFA Compliant, ATF 41 Form 5230.4 - commonly know as the ATF eForm4 and eForm1- Electronic Fingerprint Transmission file (EFT) and then email it to you to use again and again for multiple submissions.


ATF eForm 1 and ATF eForm 4 are integral components of the ATF's digital application system, enabling individuals and entities to navigate the legal processes associated with firearm manufacturing and transfers. Understanding the differences between these two forms is crucial for anyone looking to engage in such activities within the bounds of the law. By streamlining paperwork and expediting processing times, these eForms contribute to a more efficient and accessible firearms regulatory system.

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