Common Mistakes Made on the 4473

  • Jack Collins

If you’ve ever worked at a gun store (or even bought a gun) since 1968, you should be familiar with Form 4473. The ATF requires all Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders to complete one of these neat little forms every time they transfer a firearm. That means if you’re considering a future in the firearms industry, you’re going to need to be intimately familiar with it. You need to be on your toes as some gun buyers out there will do their best to mess up even this simple little form. Fortunately, SDI grad and five-time Mr. Alaska runner-up, Caleb Downing, has some knowledge to share in this week’s edition of SDI Grad Advice.

Common Mistakes Made on the 4473

So, a customer comes in to pick up his shiny new firearm from your shop. You’ve already added it into your A&D book as an Acquisition (more on that here). But you still need some information from the buyer before you can legally transfer the gun to them. You’ll find that info on a 4473.

Clipboards and Fine-Tipped Pens

One of Caleb’s first tips regarding Form 4473 doesn’t actually have anything to do with the form itself. Instead, it’s a way to stupid-proof your customers. Caleb says to give your customer a clipboard and fine-tipped pen to complete their 4473. After all, plenty of us out there (even professional writers like yours truly) have terrible handwriting. With a fine-tipped pen and a clipboard, you’ll be stacking the deck to ensure you’ll be able to read your customer’s chicken scratch later on.

Fill Out As Much Information Yourself as Possible

Before you hand over the 4473 to a gun buyer, make sure you complete as much of the form yourself as possible. There are some gun buyers out there with the best intentions in the world who will want to complete extra information for you. DO NOT LET THEM DO THIS. The ATF will not accept “the customer did my job wrong” as a valid excuse for erroneous FFL transfer records.

Tell Your Customer to Read and Answer All Questions in Section B

One of the most critical parts of successfully completing form 4473 is ensuring your customer understands the questions they’re answering. The best way to do that is by telling them to closely read every question. Tell them to pay particularly close attention to the last few questions, too.

This brings us to boxes 18a and b. Because these two boxes contain fairly similar information, it’s easy to get them confused. Make sure your customer understands that box 18a: Ethnicity and box 18b: Race are different. In box 18a, a customer needs to mark whether they identify as Hispanic/Latino or not. Box 18b is a separate field that includes whether a customer identifies as Black, Asian, or one of several other races. A customer needs to answer both questions.

With that being said, Caleb makes a good point: Don’t coach your customers through these questions. That could be “highly illegal,” Caleb says. Instead, tell them to read carefully and answer for themselves.

Encourage Your Customer to Include Their Social Security Number

Writing down their Social Security number is a great way for a gun buyer to speed up their background check process. This is particularly true when a customer has a common name, like “John Smith.” Listen, I don’t like giving out my Social Security number, either. But realistically, the last place a customer needs to worry about that is on a 4473. They’re giving this number to the Federal Government. That’s the same group who gave them this number in the first place.

Common Mistakes Gun Shop Workers Make on 4473 FFL Transfers

Although they’re the most common party to mess up during a gun sale, customers aren’t the only ones who make mistakes. FFL employees are fallible humans, too. Some of the most common mistakes they make are:

  • Writing illegible.
  • Copying information incorrectly (often a customer’s driver’s license number).
  • Not double checking current address—if a customer moves, they need to bring you something that shows their new address is valid.
  • Not making a photocopy of the customer’s NICS check and driver’s license. If using a concealed carry card instead of running a NICS check, make a photocopy of the card.
  • Not labeling all pages connected with the FFL transfer with the Transfer Number from your A&D book.
  • Not keeping everything neat and orderly!

One last thing: Make sure you double-check all the information on the 4473! You seriously don’t wanna send invalid information to the ATF.

Learn More About the Firearms Industry at SDI

Do you love learning about firearms and using that knowledge to help others? At SDI, we can help you navigate the world of firearms. To learn more about SDI and the courses we teach, explore the full list of available programs we have available.

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