There is a certain class of firearm called curios and relics that you might have heard mentioned. Generally, these are collectible but possibly still functioning firearms that are treated differently under law than the run of the mill gun you find in a gun store.
What are they?
Curio and relic guns, also called C&R, are firearms that are at least 50 years old and/or have historic significance. Granted, the “significance” can be relative, but the point is that C&R guns are treated differently at law due to their interest to collectors. Since they are older designs, there is also a federal license that can be obtained that allows for a bit more freedom in purchasing than buying typical guns.
To be recognized as C&R items, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
• Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas of such firearms;
• Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, state, or federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and
• Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.
Firearms automatically attain C&R status when they are 50 years old.
Any firearm that is at least 50 years old, and in its original configuration, would qualify as a C&R firearm. It is not necessary for such firearms to be listed in ATF’s C&R list. Therefore, ATF does not generally list firearms in the C&R publication by virtue of their age.
Curio & Relic Compliance Inspections
At the election of a licensed collector, the annual inspection of records and inventory permitted under this paragraph shall be performed at the office of the Attorney General designed for such inspections which is located in closest proximity to the premises where the inventory and records of such licensed collector are maintained.
Conversion of C&R firearms
Any firearm sold as a C&R firearm once changed out of its original configuration cannot be resold as a C&R firearm. In regard to conversions; certain pistols have been approved for sale with added safety conversions (i.e. Polish and Romanian Tokarev pistols, to which a manual safety was added to meet import requirements). Certain other modifications, such as period sporterisations, are arguably C&R qualified as they represent the gun culture of the period. An example would be a Lee–Enfield or 98 K Mauser military rifles that had been converted into a continental style sporter before World War II. These common conversions occurred more than 50 years ago, and represent a sub-type of special interest to collectors.
Federal law defines guns manufactured in or before 1898 with unconventional firing mechanisms (such as percussion, flintlock and other combustion methods typically considered “black powder”), or cartridge firearms that have uncommon and not readily available ammo types and they are generally unregulated in federal law. They may be bought and sold across state lines without an FFL. The only exceptions are short-barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, and machine guns, which are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934. Unlike C&R guns, antique guns can be re-arsenalized, sporterized, re-barreled, or re-chambered, yet they will still retain their federally exempt status. Even if every part except the receiver is replaced, a pre-1899 “black powder” firearm still qualifies as an antique.FFL holders have been directed not to enter Pre-1899 guns into their Bound Books.
What can a licensed collector do?
What Are the Requirements for a Curio & Relic License?
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, licenses collectors of curios and relics. The ATF defines such firearms as those that have special value to a collector. The firearm must have one or more qualities you don’t find in traditional firearms used for sport or as a defensive or offensive weapon. A curios and relics license is neither a license to carry or use a firearm, nor a license to operate a firearms business.
Requirements in application for a C&R license
• The applicant is 21 years of age or over;
• The applicant (including, in the case of a corporation, partnership, or association, any individual possessing, directly or indirectly, the power to direct or cause the direction of the management and policies of the corporation, partnership, or association) is not prohibited under the provisions of the Act from shipping or transporting in interstate or foreign commerce, or possessing in or affecting commerce, any firearm or ammunition, or from receiving any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce;
• The applicant has not willfully violated any of the provisions of the Act or this part;
• The applicant has not willfully failed to disclose any material information required, or has made any false statement as to any material fact, in connection with his application;
• The applicant has in a state premises from which he conducts business subject to license under the Act or from which he intends to conduct such collecting subject to license under the Act or from which he intends to conduct such collecting within a reasonable period of time; and
• The applicant has filled an ATF Form 5300.37 (Certificate of Compliance with State and Local Law) with ATF in accordance with the instructions on the form certifying under penalties of perjury that:
i.The business to be conducted under the license is not prohibited by state or local law in the place where the licensed premises are located;
ii. Within 30 days after the application is approved the comply with the requirements of state and local law applicable to the conduct of business;
iii. The business will not be conducted under the license until the requirements of state and local law applicable to the business have been met; and
iv. The applicant has completed and sent or delivered ATF F 5300.36 (Notification of Intent to Apply for a Federal Firearms License) to the chief law enforcement officer of the locality in which the premises are located, which indicates that the applicant intends to apply for a federal firearms license.
The ATF uses several criteria for deciding to classify a firearm as a curio and relic. The firearm must be at least 50 years old at the time you apply for a license and cannot be a replica. The ATF will also recognize firearms as curios and relics if the curator of a municipal, state or federal museum that displays firearms certifies that the firearm is a curio and relic. The ATF will also recognize a firearm as a curio and relic if its value is substantively tied to its novelty or rarity or from its association with a historical figure, period or event.
To apply for a curio and relic license, you must submit an application form to the ATF and pay a $30 application fee. Along with standard information, such as your name, age and address, the application for a curios and relics license asks about every address you have had in the last 5 years, other firearms license you have criminal record, drug and alcohol use and mental health. (reference 2) You must also certify that you will follow applicable state and local laws. Once issued, the license is good for 3 years.
Once the ATF issues a curios and relics license, you can acquire curios from other licensed collectors. You can also dispose of curios and relics to anyone living in the state where you live that the Gun Control Act of 1968 does not bar from buying, selling or owning firearms. The license only covers curios and relics and is not the license you’d need to buy or use other types of firearms. While this license lets you acquire and dispose of curios and relics, such acquisition and disposal cannot include money changing hands. In other words, this license does not grant you the authority to buy or sell firearms, whether they are curios and relics or not. To buy or sell firearms, you need to apply for a dealer’s license.
Collectors of curios and relics do not need to run a background check on someone they transfer a firearm to. However, federal law bars you from transferring a firearm to someone you think may be a felon or otherwise be prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms. You do not need to keep records of the people you acquire firearms from or transfer them to, since yours is a license that allows you to collect firearms, but in no other way run a firearms business.
Advantages of Holding a C&R License
A C&R license is a Federal Firearms License issued by the BATFE—specifically known as FFL Type 03 – Collector of Curios and Relics. Essentially, a C&R license allows individuals to purchase C&R-eligible firearms without going through a third party and paying transfer fees or filling out form 4473. Individuals can purchase C&R-eligible rifles without a C&R license by transferring through a regular FFL, but possessing a C&R license has certain benefits—such as reduced dealer prices at many distributors and having eligible firearms delivered to your front door. ATF is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the GCA and its subsequent amendments. A significant part of the GCA concerns the licensing and recordkeeping requirements pertaining to the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of firearms. A collector of Curios or Relics may obtain a collector’s license under the GCA. The privileges conferred by this license extend only to transactions involving weapons classified as curio or relic firearms. In transactions involving firearms not classified as curios or relics, the licensed collector has the same status as a non-licensee. A person need not be federally licensed to collect curios or relics. Generally, persons must be licensed in order to lawfully receive curios or relics from outside their State of residence. The principal advantage of a collector’s license, therefore, is that a collector can acquire Curios and Relics in interstate commerce. Although a licensed collector may acquire and dispose of Curios and Relics at any location, dispositions to non-licensed must generally be made to residents of the same state in which the collector is licensed. Further, a licensed collector is not authorized to engage in business as a dealer in any firearms, including curios and relics. A federal firearms dealer’s license is required for this activity. The term “engaged in business” as applied to a dealer in firearms refers, in part, to a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to engaging in such activity as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit. Therefore, any person intending to “engage in the business of selling firearms, including firearms defined by ATF as Curios and Relics, must first obtain a dealer’s license.
C&R Eligible Firearms
The BATFE recognizes C&R-eligible firearms as the following: “Firearm curios or relics include firearms which have special value to collectors because they possess some qualities not ordinarily associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
• Have been manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof; or
• Be certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; or3. Derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or from the fact of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.”
It’s important to remember that a C&R license comes with specific responsibilities. First, this is only a license to collect for personal enjoyment, and in no way allows a C&R licensee to engage in the business of selling or manufacturing firearms. Participating in these activities requires completely different Federal Firearms Licenses. C&R licensees must also keep a bound book of all purchases made with a C&R license. These records must remain on your premises and are subject to BATFE inspection. Lastly, it is always recommended to carefully observe all firearm regulations pertaining to state, local and/or federal laws.
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