Federal Firearms Licenses, or commonly known as FFLs, are documents that give an individual permission to engage in activities that involve firearm and ammunition transactions, whether within or in-between states. It has various purposes depending on the identification code written on the document.
You can determine the FFL’s purpose and validity spot-on without checking it on an official government website. FFL Numbers are 15-digit unique codes that specifically identify someone or an organization, sub-divided into six series. These FFL numbers are designed in a way that would follow this pattern:
Where 0’s can be substituted with numbers, and the X is represented by another letter from A to M, except I.
Digit 1: The FFL’s Regional Location
The first fragment of the FFL number is only composed of a single digit representing the region where the FFL is located. The table below shows the numbers and their representations; note that digits 2 and 7 are not included. Take it as a red flag if you have encountered an FFL number 1 (Southwest) if they are in New York.
Table 1. Representations of the first digit in an FFL
Digits 2 & 3: The IRS District
The next group of numbers in your FFL is two digits representing the IRS District where the FFL is located. This also serves as a safeguard for its accuracy because the IRS District number has to match the region the first digit represents.
Digits 4 to 6: FIPS Code
The third section represents the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) number of where the FFL is located. There is nothing to cross-check on this one, though, as FIPS can be changed anytime.
Digits 7 & 8: FFL Type
The seventh and eighth digits of the FFL Number indicates its Type -- what the license could be permissible of doing. The table below shows the different FFL Types and their descriptions:
Table 2.FFL types and their descriptions.
It is worth noting that ATF intentionally skipped Type 04 and Type 05. Therefore, mark it as a red flag if the FFL you have encountered has 04 or 05 in their seventh and eighth digits.
Digits 9 & 10: FFL Expiration Date
This section of the FFL number shows the expiration year and month of the license. Character #9 represents the last digit of the coming expiration year. For example, if today is 2021 and Character #9 is 3; therefore the expiration year would be 2023. FFL Licenses are only valid for three years, so it is unnecessary to know what decade it would be.
Meanwhile, Character #10 signifies a month of the year based on the table below. Combined, the number and the letter corresponds to the expiration date of an FFL in year/month format.
Table 3. Character representations of the tenth digit in an FFL
Digits 11 to 15: The Unique RDS Key
Finally, there will be a set of five numbers that will represent an FFL’s RDS key, which is unique to all FFLs. This is the identifier of the FFL and separates it from others.
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