Suppressors in Iowa

By Michael Ware

In the time that suppressors were legal in Iowa, many Iowans have purchased suppressors. Those same Iowans have moaned and groaned about the lengthy and arduous process associated with a purchase like this. Iowa isn’t an “NFA” friendly state. The National Firearms Act (NFA) regulated and federalized record keeping and ownership of a short list of weapons. Currently Iowa in its infinite wisdom has a list located in Iowa Code 724.1, a list of “Offensive Weapons” and all the same items listed on the NFA are included here in Iowa and then some. Apparently there is a pocket billy epidemic as they listed as well. If any of you even know what a pocket billy is, you’re ahead of 99% of those you walk among daily. Maybe this list was silly in the first place? Hint, hint…

Regardless, now that Iowans can possess and own an item that was formerly on Iowa’s Offensive Weapons list, they are still regulated federally. Thus the paperwork is a hassle and it takes many months for the ATF to process your information, perform all the background checks, upload your data, and officially approve your intent to purchase and transfer one of these weapons into your possession. The states surrounding us and the majority across the country have access to some or all of the items contained within the NFA. They have practice at this. Up until last spring, Iowans that hadn’t lived outside Iowa had not. It was quite a learning curve for them. My shop has been building and dealing in NFA weapons since 2008, so I knew this was going to make some of my customers puke. You should have seen their eyes bug out when I informed them that this process could take as long as a year to complete.

We handled it though and now people are up to speed. Mostly. One nagging question still tugs at customers all the time however. Do I purchase my suppressor locally from a store or shop here, or buy it online?

That’s a good question and there are pros and cons with both. There are also some pretty serious considerations too, as we have established this isn’t a quick process by any means. First we need to delve into the law, as there is no ‘work around’ for some of these hurdles and we simply have to jump them.

When you buy an NFA item, YOU WILL have to choose a local dealer to ultimately have your purchase go through. Whether you buy from an online source in Kalamazoo, or down the street at Bob’s Rib Shack and Suppressor Outlet, a final dealer within the state of Iowa has to be established. That dealer will perform your ATF “Form 4” which is the transfer from the dealer’s inventory into your possession. Now, you could buy this from a dealer clear across the state and have your shiny new can transferred to your local dealer in your home town if you wish.

Some folks prefer to do that since it saves them a long drive. But beware, as this adds another transfer from dealer to dealer, which is called an ATF “Form 3” and the time associated with this may not be to your liking. For example, it can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to complete a Form 3. You might save $40 on your can, but you’ll add as much as three months to the length of time you’ll wait to take it home because you added another layer and step to the process. Keep that in mind.

When you purchase online, which we really just regard as out of state shopping for most purposes, most folks are simply after one of two things. Either they are looking for the lowest possible price or they are trying to find something in stock they can’t wrangle locally. I can understand both of those needs by the way. When you buy online that dealer, regardless of their location, will need to know the dealer you prefer to have the can sent as your point of pick up. You’ll need to decide that one first and have made arrangements with a local dealer to do so. Why? Because some folks charge different rates to transfer these weapons. There is a fair amount of paperwork associated with these purchases for the dealers. There are extra layers of taxation just to legally deal in these goods, as well as insurance hoops to jump through, and scrutiny from local jurisdictions. Long story made short, becoming a dealer for NFA items is neither cheap or for the person who doesn’t enjoy a mountain of paper generated by a federal agency with a track record of failure. As a result, dealers charge for the work.

You can find the can you’re after in Kalamazoo, but you’re going to have to embrace the fact that the transfer from that dealer to yours takes time and there is a cost associated with freight and transfers. If Bob’s Rib Shack and Suppressor Outlet has it in stock, then you’re way ahead of the curve in terms of time. You could conceivably begin your Form 4 on the spot and get it wrapped up and sent out to the ATF very quickly. Time is important to us all, so keep that in mind.
What about the needs for ‘gunsmithing’ or other items associated with buying a suppressor? Do they enter into the decision of where to buy? Sure, they may. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, suppressors don’t just latch onto your gun like some neato mosquito gadget from the movie “Transformers”. Most are screwed onto the weapon with threads. There are a few other mounting types, but most either direct thread onto your barrel or use an adapter, commonly referred to as a suppressor host. Most hosts combine the properties of a flash hider or muzzle brake and that of a means for quick disconnection of the suppressor. Somebody will need to install this host if you’re unable or unwilling.

I tend to recommend a ‘smith for this, because some require being timed or indexed to work optimally. Also, when your can gets hot, and it will get hot, you can sometimes spin your host off, especially when you haven’t installed the host properly and/or you over tightened your can when connecting it. How would you know the difference? Well, that’s what you hopefully are getting when you buy from a local source. Most are either equipped to help you with that or direct you to those who are. No online retailer can do that for you as you stand there in the showroom. After all, you can’t be on the internet buying from Kalamazoo in your jammies and have them performing this work in front of you at the same time. You’ll need to choose.

Cans are like a bottle of Coke a Cola. Coke pretty much is what Coke is, so why pay more for Coke over there than over here? Well, delivery of Coke, recipes with Coke, how to savor and drink Coke, among many others are considerations when used practically. So while bottom line pricing is a consideration for us all, you have to ask yourself who is going to help you out on down the road when there is a problem with your Coke. Is an online retailer that you saved a few bucks going to be able to tell you if you’ve experienced a baffle strike? Will they help you get that stuck cap off your can to dissemble and clean it? Are they able to tell you if those baffles are clean enough or whether you should scrub more? And what’s that funny smell when I shoot?

See what I mean? Some guys will travel across America to save $400 on a $48,000 pickup truck. Some guys will pay $1000 more for the same unit because they want to spend their money in town and love the local service. There’s no right or wrong answer. You simply need to understand that both are legal, ethical, and moral and neither fall into some silly loop hole you heard Hillary yapping about. Spoiler Alert, there is no loop hole. Propaganda sells, and thankfully you guys are no longer buying it. More on that next month.

Shoot quietly friends! Michael