Buying a Silencer? Clarity on What your CLEO Can & CANNOT DO


Recently, my Silencerco rep stopped by and we discussed the most troubling issues for consumers when buying a silencer. Some people do not like getting fingerprinted. Others fear the wait time or the tremendous paperwork. The most bothersome issue we see is the lack of clarity in regards to the CLEO (Chief Law Enforcement Officer).

Since July 13th silencer sales have slowed to a trickle as a result of the 41F ruling. If you are still unfamiliar with the 41F ruling; in short, it changed the way we buy silencers. It can be confusing, concerning, and the CLEO portion still has people scratching their heads.

Before the 41F ruling, if you bought a silencer as an individual, you needed to get a CLEO to sign off on your paperwork. This barrier alone deterred a lot of people from buying silencers because it can be intimidating.

Now when you buy a silencer, whether it is through a trust or as an individual, you need to send out CLEO copies of certain forms. There is no signature requirement from your CLEO (I promise, this is not a trick). The ATF even sent out a letter to CLEOs so they too could better understand the process.


CLEO Responsibilities-2

The most important part of the notification letter is on page 2 boxed in red. The ATF basically tells all CLEOs that it is up to them whether they even keep paperwork on file. It openly says CLEOs can “dispose of notification documents once received.” So you can take heart in knowing that your CLEO does not decide whether you are approved.

So here is the short and sweet version to how your CLEO is involved in a silencer sale.


  • Notify the ATF if you break the law or in some way should NOT have a silencer during your approval period (you are declared mentally defective, commit a domestic violent crime, or cannot possess a firearm because of new felony charges, etc.)
  • Keep a copy on file of your NFA/silencer purchase
  • May also shred their copy of your NFA/silencer purchase (they are NOT required to keep paperwork on file)


  • Approve your silencer sale
  • Visit your home unannounced without probable cause
  • Slow down your paperwork because they dislike you or dislike silencers
  • Get access to your silencer’s serial number (that information is redacted on their copy)
  • Get access to a passport photo of you from your Responsible Person Questionnaire (that information is redacted on their copy)

Some of the items stated may seem silly, but these are all genuine concerns for some people. If you have any further questions, a great reference is Silencerco’s Suppress-Ed website. They outline all of the paperwork you will need as an individual or someone using a trust when you buy a silencer.

The outdoors, fitness and anything related to firearms are my passions. I am a S&W Armorer, Glock Armorer, reloader and am coping with an addiction to classic S&W and Colt revolvers (by buying more revolvers). I’ve been a guest writer for Sierra Bullets and love long walks to the gun range.


  • TheWarriorWorkshop

    Well unlike most, I’m happy this new law is in place. Wth any luck, it should put a stop to the rash of violence involving silencers. Guys coming in and shooting up the place and leaving before anyone else even knew they were there

    • Mike N.

      Especially since we all know silencers are “movie quiet”

      • jamezb

        I’m not buying one till they can make it go “thweep” like in the spy movies.

    • Ondřej Tůma

      I somehow fail to see how could a ruling concerning legal, registered silencers affect, in any way, shape or form, any activities regarding illegal, unregistered silencers possessed by felons?

      • BillC

        Verbal Irony. (Also sarcasm).

        • TheNotoriousIUD

          Hes not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    • J.K.

      Because, feelings. Don’t let facts get in the way. We must do something. For the children.

    • Scott Connors

      Guys, chill: he’s being sarcastic. (The last bit about “Guys coming in and shooting up the place and leaving before anyone else even knew they were there” is pretty funny IMO.) Maybe we need emoticons?

    • westford86

      I do appreciate a heavy dose of sarcasm; however, I fear not everyone will get it, especially any anti-gun liberals looking to stoke the flames of stupidity…

  • RocketScientist

    “It can be confusing, concerning, and the CLEO portion still has people scratching their heads.”

    In what way? Its not a complicated or nuanced change. Every single tidbit I’ve read about the rule change stated, very clearly, that it was eliminating need for CLEO approval/sign-off. Seems pretty unambiguous to me?

    • Person

      Bro, you’re a rocket scientist. Some of us struggle getting the last bite off of a corn dog.

      • RocketScientist

        Hehehehehehe. I’ve been stumped by a corndog before too… granted, there were several glasses of bourbon leading up to that…

      • JT Wise

        That’s why we civilized hillbillies uses a knife and fork.

      • jamezb

        Stop that immediately. Are you TRYING to make coffee come out of my nose?

    • Jack

      I had a customer go to his SO to get fingerprints to file post 41F. The SO wasn’t aware of the change and said they needed to see all the papework and run their own background check and sign off on it before they’d give him the fingerprints. It can still be hard.

      • milesfortis

        Seriously, it is not a hard task at all to learn to how to fingerprint. I do my own cards all the time.
        There’s even a Boy Scout merit badge for it.
        So, if teenagers can figure out how to roll a card that the FBI can classify, any average American can learn to do it for themselves too.

  • Audie Bakerson

    Congress is back on the 6ths. Be sure to chew their ear off about passing the HPA.

    And demand a general NFA repeal bill while you are at it.

    • The Punisher

      I agree with and commend you, but most ardent 2a supporters are fine with this tyranny or don’t have the gumption to do anything about it sadly.

      • Audie Bakerson

        That’s why we get the bill introduced.

        • The Punisher

          All I know is the system is broken and to try to fix the broken system from within the broken system just doesn’t seem logical. I just keep thinging about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over without success.

          • DonDrapersAcidTrip

            That’s never been the definition of sanity ever.

  • HH

    “Before the 41F ruling, if you bought a silencer as an individual, you needed to get a CLEO to sign off on your paperwork. This barrier alone deterred a lot of people from buying silencers because it can be intimidating.”

    Well…not really. I bet its mostly bc previously some folks had CLEOs that simply would not sign form 4’s. Period. That was what forced law abiding citizens into going the Trust or LLC route. That much moreso than getting fingerprinted or making a CLEO visit.

    Prior to 41F any CLEO could refuse to sign and not have to give ANY reason. And plenty did just that saying “I don’t sign for MGs, cans, or SBRs”. That was the case in Dallas, TX for many years around 2000 when I lived there. I tried for two full years to get a CLEO sign off to no avail. Was forced into going the Corp. route

  • supergun

    “The U.S. Supreme Court broadly and unequivocally held that licensing or registration of any Constitutional Right is itself Unconstitutional”. — Follett vs McCormick, S.C., 321 U.S. 573 (1944)

  • Emperius

    REPEAL the NFA. Close down the ATF.