Is it time to get a home-based FFL?

I’m  a review writer.  Most of what I review comes directly from the the manufacturers.  It isn’t mine to own, though I still have to fill out transfer paperwork at my gun store in order to take temporary ownership of the guns.  I pay transfer fees to my FFL to pick up guns I send back two or three weeks later.

And then there are the guns I actually have to buy outright in order to review.  Almost anything imported (like AKs) I buy.  When the review is finished, I try to sell the guns for what I paid for them.    It can all get a it absurd.  And my FFL is making easy money at my (literal) expense.  So I’ve been thinking about what it would take to get my own FFL.  That way I could do the reviews without paying transfer fees, and maybe make a few sales on the side to help supplement the income flow.

But I honestly don’t know too much about the process.  And the rumors I hear make the process seem really daunting.  So I called up Brandon Maddox, the brains behind FFL123.com, a service that specializes in helping people navigate the application process.  Maddox has put together an info-graphic that neatly illustrates the percentages of home-based FFLs in every state.

home based numbers

This image shows the percentage of FFLs in each state that are home-based.

The ATF.gov website allows FFL dealers to download the entire FFL database (which provides the physical addresses of all FFLs).  There are 65,00 type 01 FFLs (Dealers in Firearms Other than Destructive Devices).  This database is maintained in real-time by ATF for other FFL dealers to verify an FFL’s authenticity.  Maddox took all of their addresses and cross referenced the data with smartystreets.com, a tool the USPS uses to determine if mailing addresses are residential or commercial.

That’s a lot of number crunching, but the results are clear.  In almost every state, home-based FFLs are more common than traditional gun stores.

Ask an expert

We often get the questions about individuals having FFLs from their home address, so I asked put some of them to Maddox.

David Higginbotham: Is it more difficult to get a home-based FFL approved by the ATF?

Brandon Maddox: No!  My research shows 64% of all FFL dealers are based out of a residential addresses.  Alaska has the highest percentage of home-based FFL’s at 85%.  Washington, DC was the lowest at 14%.

DH:  How long does it take to get an FFL License?

Per federal law, ATF must respond to your FFL application within 60 days.

This one’s tricky.  I’ve heard you lose your right to search and seizure with a home-based FFL.  True?

The ATF can only do a compliance check once every 12 months.  The average is about once every 20 years.  ATF can only inspect FFL A&D records and only inspect FFL inventory firearms.  This is a common myth that is not true.  Defining your FFL activity area correctly is very important.

Are you surprised by the lower percentage of home-based FFLs in the gun friendly state of Florida?

Yes, must just be a lot of commercial gun shops in FL.  Still, our Florida customers at FFL123.com are getting FFLs approved from home.

Here are Maddox’s findings, broken out state-by-state.

Home Based FFL License by the Numbers

Conclusion

If you decided to apply for an FFL, we recommend getting help.  Obviously help is not a requirement.  The ATF covers the requirements on their website.  But we’ve reviewed the guides at FFL123.com and they are extremely thorough and professional.  They bring up issues I would have not thought of, and I think way too much about these things.  There are some things that aren’t immediately obvious, like who should be added on the license, and where to buy after you get approved.  The guide even covers strategies for acing the ATF meeting and handling local issues (which may be the hardest part).

Check out FFL123.com for more information.  Having someone like Maddox involved, someone who lives and breathes this stuff, can make all the difference.