ATF Publishes Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Firearm Silencer Markings

Silencer Gun Muffler
ATF Publishes Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Firearm Silencer Markings
Reeves & Dola, LLP
Reeves & Dola, LLP

Washington, DC -( On May 4, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking information from interested parties to assist the agency in determining whether to amend the relevant regulations to require that a silencer or firearm muffler be marked on the outer tube only.

The ANPRM is not a proposed or final rule, and no regulatory text has been proposed. Rather, the information gathered from public comments will be used to help the agency decide whether to address the issue through later notice and comment rulemaking.


Pursuant to ATF regulations at 27 CFR §§ 478.92 and 479.102, manufacturers, importers, and makers of National Firearm Act (NFA) firearms are required to affix certain markings to firearm mufflers and firearm silencers. However, the current regulations do not specify a placement for such markings on the device.

ATF does provide guidance to industry in its “Frequently Asked Questions – Silencers.” In this FAQ, dated April 17, 2008, ATF notes that its strong recommendation is to place all required markings on the outer tube of the silencer. The full text of the FAQ is as follows:

The silencer must be marked in accordance with 27 CFR 478.92 and 479.102. The regulations require that the markings be conspicuous and legible, meaning that the markings may be placed on any external part, such as the outer tube or end cap. ATF strongly recommends that manufacturers place all required markings on the outer tube of the silencer, as this is the accepted industry standard. Moreover, this practice eliminates the need to remark in the event an end cap bearing the markings is damaged and requires replacement.

National Firearms Act Trade and Collectors Association Petition

The ANPRM explains that on April 27, 2008, ATF received a petition from the National Firearms Act Trade and Collectors Association (NFATCA) in response to the above-issued guidance. The petition requested ATF amend its regulations to require the outer tube be the only place a silencer could be marked, unless a marking variance from ATF is obtained. The petition asserted there are “serious public safety issues in the areas of diversion, tracing, and evasion of other NFA rules” if the trade is able to mark a silencer anywhere other than the outer tube.

According to the ANPRM, ATF has reviewed the NFATCA petition and believes the stated concerns stated are valid.

ATF explains it is seeking information from industry to ensure “the serial numbers are placed on the part of the silencer that is least likely to be destroyed or removed, and therefore most likely to ensure that law enforcement [agencies] are able to identify and trace a particular firearm silencer or [firearm] muffler.”

ATF is asking industry members and other interested persons to submit comments on whether amending the regulations to require placing markings on the outer tube of firearm mufflers and firearm silencers would achieve this stated goal.

ATF advises that it considers “outer tube” to mean “the largest external part of a silencer and is that portion of a silencer which encapsulates all components of the silencing unit and which contains and controls the expansion of the escaping gasses.”

The rationale ATF provides for considering requiring marking on the outer tube is that doing so would provide consistency for industry and would eliminate the need to remark if an end cap bearing markings is damaged and later replaced. ATF notes that allowing marking on a removable component like the end cap may facilitate illegal activities such as illegal transfers using a marked end cap of a registered silencer on an unregistered silencer..

Submitting Silencer Comments on the ANPRM

ATF is seeking any relevant information on the proposal to amend the regulations to require markings be limited to the outer tube of firearm mufflers and firearm silencers, but is asking for specific information related to the following questions:

  1. What percentage of manufacturers mark the end cap? If an outer tube is present, why do manufacturers mark the end cap instead of the outer tube of the silencer?
  2. If there is an additional cost (fixed or variable) between marking the end cap instead of the outer tube, how would ATF estimate such costs across the entire industry?
  3. Are there other parts or locations where the markings may be placed and still meet the requirements? If so, where?
  4. Are there silencer designs for a completed device for which marking the outer tube would be impossible? If so, what are those designs?
  5. When there are multiple outer tubes that make up one complete device, how should they be marked?

ATF will accept comments through August 2, 2016 (written comments must be postmarked by this date). Comments must identify the ANPRM docket number (ATF 29P) and may be submitted by any of the following methods:

  • Fax: (202) 648-9741.
  • Mail: Shermaine Kenner, Mailstop 6N-518, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Enforcement Programs and Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 99 New York Avenue NE., Washington, DC 20226: ATTN: ATF29P.
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