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Understanding ATF Form 4473: What Is It and Do You Need It?

Table of Contents


By Vic Laboy

A Firearms Transaction Record, or Form 4473, is a form filled out when an individual purchases a firearm from a Federal Firearms License holder, or FFL dealer. These are used to document information collected from the transferee, as well as attaches the firearm and serial number to the transaction. Once the form is completed, a background check is run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. A NICS check is valid for 30 days and only covers a single transaction.


Is This Necessary?

This form contains your personal information along with which firearm you purchased. If ATF conducts an audit or the firearm is used in a crime, the forms remain on file for referral and gathering of information or evidence in a case. Each time you purchase a firearm from a licensed FFL dealer, you will complete a 4473 and background check if applicable. As these are only good for a single transaction, you must complete another form when purchasing another firearm.

Firearms made after October 22, 1968 contain a serial number which is equivalent to our social security number and is logged into FFL books under acquisitions or dispositions. This is to document the exact location of the weapon prior to sale. Refusal to complete the form can result in a denied sale, which is then projected to local dealers in your area, so do not attempt to purchase a firearm if you are unwilling to follow all steps.


Is This Necessary with an LTC?

A license to carry, or LTC, allows you to bypass the FBI background check; however, you still are required to complete the form. Although it is rare, some dealers will still require a background check on all patrons which can lead to complications processing the NICS check. If a check is run on an LTC holder, the NICS review shows a form of government involvement which is likely to delay or even deny the sale. To avoid complications, respectfully decline the sale from a dealer attempting to run a background despite possessing an LTC.

Texas recognizes most concealed permits which allows you to carry concealed; however, it does require a valid Texas LTC in order to open carry. However, a background must be run despite ownership of the concealed permit. Once a valid TX issued permit is attained, you will bypass this area of the process with future purchases.

Completing the Form

When completing the form, it is important to remember that no assistance may be provided. By law, the associate selling the firearm cannot tell you how to answer a question. Asking a friend or colleague nearby for assistance with the form is also strictly prohibited. You must answer the form honestly and to the best of your ability.


The upper portion is essentially a personal history statement where information is placed. This includes height and weight, your full legal name, as well as your race/ethnicity. Below this is a questionnaire that must be answered truthfully and to the best of your ability. If you miss a selection, the associate is only authorized to inform you that a question was missed but cannot point it out directly. Note that incomplete forms can result in a denied sale, so take your time and read through the form carefully.

Once you have completed the form, sign and date where prompted and release it to the associate for the remainder of the process. Along with your information, a selection is made to alert the NICS agent reviewing your information whether you are purchasing a handgun, long rifle, or even a lower receiver. Do not advance beyond where you signed and dated as the remainder of the document is for the associate to complete. Failure to cooperate with these instructions can result in a denied sale. This may seem repetitive; however, it is best to understand all aspects of the transaction to ensure the sale is successful.

Form Status

The NICS check will return under one of three statuses; proceed, delay, deny, or no response/open. Each occurs for different reasons, some simpler than others, and is outlined below:


A proceed means your background came back clear and you may proceed with the sale. The NICS check did not find any reason to halt the purchase.


Both delays and denies are a bit more complex and can occur for several reasons. The most common occurrence is a popular name. An extremely common name, like John Smith, can delay a sale while the NICS check attempts to single out the correct individual. While it is optional, providing your SSN can aid the process by allowing the check to single you out and run your individual check without having to sort through all with the same name as you. Bear in mind, NICS utilizes information given from the national database so the check can be quite extensive.


Contrary to belief, high-level security clearances or those with government agencies can experience a delay as well. During the review process, your personal record shows involvement which is flagged and can delay the sale. Once a more thorough search is done and your clearances are recognized, the delay will turn to a proceed and the store where you made the purchase will notify you with the change in status.

Lastly, those who entered the country on an immigrant or work visa, as well as non-US citizenship status can receive an almost immediate delay. This is only for the NICS to run more in-depth review to confirm citizenship status and will likely result in a proceed after time.


Denies are not comfortable for anyone involved, and although the occurrence is rare, checks are denied for common yet singular reasons. For example, felony convictions, even non-violent offences, are grounds for denial. Also, DUI/DWI arrests, domestic violence, or even those reported as mentally unstable can be denied. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the law and it is best to consult with your Department of Justice to determine if you are eligible to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer. There are incredibly rare occasions where someone bears the same name as you, i.e. Jennifer Smith. Even though you are the purchaser, the NICS check may review and mistakenly associate Jennifer the felon with your check. If you feel you were wrongfully denied, or would like additional information regarding the status, you may request an appeal sheet from the associate helping you through the sale.

If you are certain that you cannot legally purchase a firearm, do not send a family member or friend to purchase the firearm on your behalf. Doing so is considered a straw purchase and is punishable by law; 10 years in prison as well as a $10,000 fine. Should anyone ask you to purchase a firearm in their place, even with compensation, refuse the offer and remove yourself from that situation.

No Response

Lastly, your background review may come back as no response. This follows a delay that surpassed the Brady transfer date which is typically five business days following the initial check. For instance, if you purchase the firearm Monday April 8th and receive a delay, you will have until the following Monday to receive a response. If one is not received by this date, you are clear to pickup the firearm and complete the sale.

Under no response, if the ATF advises the initial status has switched to a deny; however, the firearm was transferred to you, you must comply with all demands from the FFL to return it to their facility to avoid ATF and police involvement.


Final Regards

While specific questions pertaining to the form cannot be discussed amongst yourself and the associate, they will do their best to ensure you properly complete the form and offer any possible assistance. Now that you better understand the process and what to expect when purchasing a firearm, we hope to see you soon! Visit our site at or stop by the counter in Arlington, Texas where we will take care of you. As always, train hard, train smart, and stay safe out there.

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