How to Get a Class III Firearm License in California

How to Get a Class III Firearm License in California

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The National Firearms Act of 1934 restricted certain styles of guns from general civilian ownership. Without the approval of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it is illegal to purchase weapons on the Class III list.

States are free to further restrict that list and ban the weapons completely from their residents. California allows Machine Guns, Any Other Weapon (except Pen Guns), Short Barreled Shotguns or Short Barreled Rifles. It does not allow silencers or Pen Guns, or any weapon that fits its modern definition of an assault rifle.

Items you will need

  • 2 completed fingerprint cards

  • 3 passport photos

Tell the Class III Firearms dealer that you desire to purchase a specific weapon from among the California approved Class III weapons.

The registration number for that particular weapon is already on the Federal government books and must accompany the paperwork.

Obtain the AFT Form 4 from the dealer and complete it with your name and address.

Provide the local chief of police, sheriff or district attorney with the Form 4 and request she sign the back, giving permission for you to purchase the weapon. You must show evidence of being 21 or older, a citizen of the U.S. and a clean drug and criminal record. A machine gun purchase must have the permission of the California Department of Justice.

Send the AFT two copies of the Form 4 with three passport-style photos and two fingerprint cards done by the local law authorities. Include the one-time, Federal Excise Tax check, which is $200 as of 2010. All mailing information is on Form 4.

Check your mailbox daily for the Class III approval beginning six months after the ATF receives the forms.


  • Some local law enforcement officials are unwilling to sign off on a Form 4. For that reason some collectors desiring to own a Class III weapon turn to a NFA Firearms Trust, which does not require local approval.
  • Before sending in the Form 4 and related material, have the Class III dealer take a look to ensure everything was done correctly.
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