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What is the ATF Bar Code System?

August 20, 2017 3 comments

Since the announcement of the new ATF bar code system, we've received numerous emails regarding the status and use of these new bar codes. There are many rumors floating around the internet and this post will cover some of the facts behind the bar code system and answer some of the questions we've received to date.


First, Capitol Armory uses its own proprietary Form 4 generating system to reduce errors and increase efficiency for both Capitol Armory employees and our customers. When our Texas customers purchase from Capitol Armory, our system generates a form 4 in seconds for those NFA items purchased and automatically emails each responsible person (RP) for digital signatures. At no time does the customer or any other responsible person have to be present in our shop to handle paperwork or fingerprints as everything can be done remotely, which saves our customers time, money, and any hassle with rounding up responsible persons. Our proprietary Form 4 generating system includes the new ATF bar code to help increase efficiency at the ATF.


The new bar code system approved by the ATF utilizes a 2d bar code system called PDF417. PDF stands for portable data file and is used to store up to 1800 ASCII characters within one bar code. The ATF will use these bar codes to "scan" digital information about the transferee and responsible persons, if any. The information stored within the bar codes is from sections 2a and 12 found within the Form 4 as well as much of the information found on the responsible person questionnaire. Currently, the data entry personnel at the ATF input this information from the Form 4 into the ATF database. It is a manual process that takes a little bit of time and can be prone to errors. The implementation of this bar code process will reduce transcribing errors and save about 60 seconds of data entry time. Keep in mind, the data entry staff are not legal examiners, and while the bar code system will get your data into the ATF system quicker and with reduced errors, it will not advance or speed up the approval process for each form.


We are thrilled with any improvement or increased efficiency at the ATF, and we are happy to implement bar codes on our forms to help in any way we can. However, what has been communicated through recent press releases is the bar code system will result in faster approval of forms, which is just wishful thinking at this point. Eliminating 60 seconds of time per form for data entry personnel does not correlate to faster approval time frames for the legal examiners who actually approve the forms. Any speculation of reduced wait times due to implementing the bar code system is purely a guess at this point, and no person, dealer, distributor, or manufacturer knows how the ATF will allocate their resources if they require less data entry staff due to the bar codes. Faster approval times on forms would be great for everyone in the industry and we definitely hope wait times will decrease, but as of now, we have no evidence this will occur simply due to implementing a bar code system.


Does the new ATF bar code system advance or speed up my wait time?

Forms with bar codes will not be given priority over those forms without bar codes. Bar codes only speed up the initial data entry process; they do not aide the legal examiner. The bar codes remove some of the data entry required when the Form 4 first reaches the ATF, but they do not affect the time spent by the legal examiners who review and approve your Form 4.

Is the ATF using the new bar code system?

As of 8/25/2017, the ATF is not using the bar code system and our NFA Branch contact does not have a date when they will start.

Will two queues be implemented, one for bar codes and one for non-bar coded forms?

No, the ATF is not placing special priority on forms with the ATF bar codes. The bar coded forms simply reduce errors and data entry time, all forms go into the same queue after data entry.

Will wait times significantly drop because of the new bar code system?

Probably not. This new system only affects the data entry team and they do not approve forms. In the long term, this will reduce ATF costs and some inefficiencies, but it will not affect your wait time for a legal examiner to approve your Form 4.

Is the bar code system proprietary and can my dealer implement it?

The bar code system is not proprietary to any one dealer or manufacturer. Any dealer can implement or use the ATF bar code system as long as they have the technical capabilities to do so. For dealers looking to reduce errors and save time and money, we recommend you generate your Form 4s and Form 1s with www.NFAtools.com

Mike August 20, 2017 at 11:25 AM
Weird you say it won't speed up. TTAG reports that the ATF has now created 2 queues and the barcode wait time will be under 4 weeks. Yes weeks.
Torrey August 20, 2017 at 8:21 PM
An article posted on the internet, especially from a gun rag, doesn't have to contain facts. Most of the time they are sensational to attract viewers and subsequent clicks. Jeremy S, the author, is quoting a four-week turnaround. Write him on September 15th to see if he's received approval for his Liberty Goliath. I can guarantee he will not have an approval 4 weeks from August 15th.
Bob August 21, 2017 at 10:11 AM
Anything on TTAG is suspect. Don't believe the hype.