What is the NFA? Class 3 Machine Guns, SBR's & SBS's



When you go down to your local gun store. More than likely every one of the guns you see behind the counter are title 1 firearms. Title 1 is the most common class of firearms. These include rifles with barrels 16” or longer, and shotguns with barrels 18” or longer. Now, if a rifle or shotgun is shorter than ATF likes then it is considered a Short Barrelled Rifle or a Short Barrelled Shotgun and is then labeled a Title 2 gun, more commonly called Class 3. But Title 2 is the correct terminology so that’s what I will be calling it in this article. Here is the actual definition from ATF that determines if something is an SBR or an SBS:


  1. A shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;


  1. A weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;


  1. A rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;


  1. A weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;



Common Title 1 guns are ones that have bolt actions, lever actions, pump actions, semi-automatic actions, and break or hinge actions. Fully automatic actions, which we all just call machine guns, are specifically Title 2 firearms. An automatic firearm is defined by ATF in a couple of ways.


  • Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger ​

  • The frame or receiver of any such weapon

  • Any part designed and intended solely and exclusively or combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun, or

  • Any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.


(These ones are confusing basically back in the day a receiver, frame, or even sear could be registered as a machine gun. So, there are literally stripped lowers out there that are classified as machine guns by ATF because they were registered that way. We will get into the registry in just a bit.)



So in summary if the gun has a shorter barrel length than specified by ATF or if it is a fully automatic weapon then it is a Title 2 firearm and everything else is Title 1. Title 1 firearms can commonly be bought in one day by visiting a local gun store. If you are at least 21 and qualify to buy a Title 1 gun then you can also buy a Title 2 gun...this just requires some more paperwork, a longer waiting period, and a special tax for the transfer from ATF.




These Title 2 guns are known in the gun world as NFA . NFA stands for the National Firearms Act, we will get more into that later. Gun laws shaped the machine gun world so to explain the NFA I’m going to go over the three types of machine guns: Pre-Samples, Post-Samples, and Transferable machine guns. So let's start with some U.S. History to understand why these three categories exist.


Machine guns were regulated as much as any other gun until 1934...you could actually buy a machine gun from a mail-order catalog or walk in and buy one at a hardware store.. This act did not ban machine guns but did put a hefty tax on them during this time period. The $200 tax price is still the same today, but back in 1934 that payment was oftentimes way more than the gun itself. The next piece of legislation passed was in 1968 which stated that firearms which had no sporting purpose were not able to be sold to civilians. Machine guns as a whole were determined to have no sporting purpose, and, thus, any machine guns imported after 1968 are not able to be owned by civilians. The last piece of legislation was passed in 1986 and stated that no new machine guns were allowed to be registered. The government defined new as anything after May 19, 1986. So for machine guns to be transferable they had to be registered before the cut-off date of May 19, 1986, and not imported after 1968.


These regulations are where we get the categories for machine guns from.


Pre-Sample guns are guns that were imported into the U.S. after 1968 but before May 19, 1986. The only people who can own these imported guns are dealers, manufacturers, military, and police agencies. The approved form on Pre Samples will be clearly stamped “Limited to use as a Sales Sample.”


The next category is Post-Sample Machine guns, which are guns manufactured or imported after May 19, 1986. These guns can only be purchased by special dealers, manufacturers, military, and police agencies. But for a dealer to make the purchase they must have a Law Letter from law enforcement. The only time a law letter is not needed is if the Post Samples are in possession of a dealer that is going out of business and will no longer carry their license, then the guns can be sold to a dealer without a law letter. Post Sample guns are clearly marked with a stamp that says “Restricted” on the approved ATF form 3.



The last category is Transferable Machine guns are the ones normal citizens can own. These guns are guns that were not imported after 1968 and registered with the federal government before May 19, 1986. Anyone who is 21 years of age and can legally purchase a Title 1 gun can own a transferable machine gun.


Since the government shut down the sale of new machine guns to civilians there is a fixed amount of only 180,000 transferable machine guns. This makes these guns incredibly valuable, they are literally practically as good as gold. For example, a Springfield Armory M14 would sell for 15-18 thousand dollars. I actually did a review of an M60 for The Armory Life and one of those will sell for 50-60 thousand dollars. The most I have seen a machine gun sell for was 360,000 dollars. The lowest I have seen them sell for is 4-5,000.


Well, that is a brief overview of the NFA. For any more questions about the NFA or the steps, you need to take to buy a machine gun you can contact GunSpot.com we are machine gun experts and can help you find the machine gun of your dreams!


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