ATF Storage Requirements, 4473 Cloud

A lot of FFLs are already using e4473s because of their ease and simplicity. But they end up having to print out the forms in order to store them. As you probably already know, there are strict ATF storage requirements that gun stores must abide by, no matter how they store those 4473s. But what are the options? We’re glad you asked! In this blog post, we’ll be covering ATF storage requirements for both paper and digital storage.

Storing Paper Form 4473 Requirements

If you’re looking at becoming an FFL, this might be new information for you. For you seasoned FFLs out there, this is most likely already ingrained in your brain. Either way, we’re going to now go over the ATF requirements for storing your paper 4473s.

4473 Filing system

The first thing you need to know is how your paper forms should be filed. You can choose to organize your documents alphabetically, sequentially by transaction serial number (TSN), or chronologically, by the date of the transaction.

NICS Separation

There’s another integral part of filing as well and that is that your 4473s need to be separated into three identifiable groups based on the NICS check:

  1. Transfer File System. This is the group of ATF Forms 4473s that had a firearm(s) transferred to a customer. This means that the customer had a valid NICS exemption, the NICS background check was approved, or the federally mandated NICS time to complete the background check has elapsed, and the customer has the item.
  2. Denied. Denied 4473s are those where the customer filled out the 4473, you conducted your NICS check, and the application was denied. The customer doesn’t have the item, but you must retain this file.
  3. Void/No Sale. This is the group of Form 4473s where NICS was contacted, but the transfer didn’t take place for any reason, other than a denial from NICS.

Form Retention Guidelines

The Gun Control Act and ATF regulations require that you must keep transfer file forms for at least 20 years. If the form 4473 was part of the denied or void/no sale transaction in which NICS was contacted, then you must keep that paperwork for at least 5 years.

The Fallbacks of Paper Storage

If you’ve been an FFL for a long time, the paper walls might feel like they’re caving in on you. And if you’re newer to the FFL family, it can be quite the task figuring out how to file paperwork for it to be easier to find later.

Depending on your volume, even the thought of an ATF audit might feel monumental. Heck, a trace request or conducting an internal audit can take some serious man hours too! Keeping paperwork organized for years at a time can feel like a major feat. That’s why FFLs are seeking a better option… and in swoops digital storage.

Storing ATF Form 4473 Digital Requirements

In order for you to store your 4473s digitally, you must have an approved variance. Don’t worry – let us help you with your variance request!

On top of everything else that’s required by the ATF regulations, there are additional rules and requirements involved in getting approved to digitally store your 4473s. The software you use must check all 16 additional regulations off the list. Just because you can save a PDF copy of a 4473 does NOT mean you can stop printing your 4473s.  The software you choose will need to meet or exceed the ATF’s minimum standards, so do your homework!  Once you have done so, submitted your variance request, then your FFL can expect approval from ATF.

The great news about storing your files digitally is that you can file your forms and search/sort by any of the ATF storage requirement fields how do I get a vanity bitcoin address?. For example, if you want to sort alphabetically one day, and by TSN the next, it won’t take a bunch of man hours to do so. It literally just takes the click of a button.


We’ve already covered a lot of information about ATF audits and preparing for audits. But this is just one more reason why 4473 Cloud makes your FFL day to day simpler. We handle the digital paperwork storage for you so you can focus on the customers and products they are buying that are actually making you money.

Get started today - It's free for the first 30 days!

Travis Glover Dec. 7th, 2021

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