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From: robert@weitek.COM (Robert Plamondon)
Newsgroups: rec.guns
Subject: Got My Curios & Relics FFL -- Get Yours!
Date: 8 Jul 1994 16:07:21 -0400

I heard about the Curios and Relics FFL, and decided to check it out.
I called up the local ATF office, and told the nice lady who answered
the phone what I was about, and she said she'd put the appropriate
form in the mail right away.

She did, 'cause I got it the next day.

(Side note -- the guys with the body armor and the M-16s are not the
guys who answer the phone.  I've talked to the ATF on the phone a few
times now, and they've been knowledgeable and helpful every time.)

The Curios and Relics FFL application form asks the same stupid
questions you have to answer when you buy a gun, and, so far as I
can recall, it doesn't ask anything else.  In other words, it's a
non-invasive no-brainer.  You fill it in, you attach you check for
$30, and you wait a long time.  Six week, eight weeks -- something
like that.

What's the good of a Curios and Relics FFL, you ask?  Well, I wasn't
sure at this point, but I was willing to spend thirty bucks to find
out.  Essentially, it allows you to buy and sell weapons that are
classified as curios and relics, which are defined as something
like everythig made before the end of WWII, plus a bunch of stuff
that's somewhat later but is on a big long list of Curios and Relics
put out by the ATF. (Machine guns and other Class III devices are
still Class III, though).  You can buy and sell such weapons
anywhere, including through mail-order.

You're supposed to use this buying and selling in order to further
your collection, rather than as a business, though.  Where hobbyists
with dealer FFL's get into trouble if they don't use it to run a
legitimate business (however small), C&R FFL holders can get in
trouble if they DO run a business.  How this is defined is sort
of unclear, but I would suspect that taking orders from customers
and buying guns to fill them is definitely over the line.  Selling
a gun you're tired of is not, whether you make money or not.

Anyway, I eventually got my license.  Four weeks later, I got the
info pack that told me how to use it.  Essentially, you send a xerox
copy of your license along with your order when you buy a gun, signing
the xerox copy to authenticate it (you DON'T sign the original

Armed with my C&R license and a subscription to SHOTGUN NEWS, I've
already bought a Carcano carbine ($54), a Carcano rifle ($55), a
Lebel short rifle ($55), and a Turkish m 1893 Mauser ($40).  Actually,
shipping adds $6-$8 on top of this.

Eventually, I'll probably break down and buy a rifle that costs more
than $100, but I haven't run out of interesting el cheapo rifles yet.

I've found Century Arms to be honest but slow to fill orders, and
S.O.G. to be honest and quick (though Century usually has either a
better price, or throws in lots of extras like bayonets and slings for
the same price).

If you have a genuine interest in old military arms, as I do, this
is the only way to go.  Most gunsmiths aren't very interested in these
things, and it's common for them to charge a minimum $25 markup, which
is sort of a lot for a $40 gun.  The FFL also makes it so the
importers are willing to talk to you on the phone and send you their
catalogs, which they won't do for the average man on the street.

The C&R license costs $30 for three years, so you can break even in
one or two purchases.

	-- Robert

P.S. Besides, if the bureaucratic noose tightens, you will already
be a "licensed collector," which will probably be good for something.
Robert Plamondon * WEITEK Corporation * Home of SPARC Power uP (TM)
80 MHz clock-doubled SPARC processor upgrade for the SPARCstation 2 or IPX
FAX-back info line: (800) 827-8708  or (408) 522-7525
Info by ftp: in pub/weitek on * Info by email:

From: robert@weitek.COM (Robert Plamondon)
Newsgroups: rec.guns
Subject: I Love My Curios & Relics License
Date: 10 Oct 1994 15:56:38 -0400

It's been a few months since I got my Curios & Relics FFL.  This is
a special, restricted Federal Firearms License that lets you buy and
sell "Curios and Relics," which include all firearms made before
1946 and additional ones on a long list the BATF publishes.

This is particularly helpful if your area of interest is old military
weapons, since they are being imported at low prices in vast numbers
by companies such as Century Arms.


* I have a lot more guns now.

* You end up buying things wholesale.  Most of the war-surplus rifles
  I've bought cost $50 or less, with none over $100.  (You can get
  just about any bolt-action rifle except Springfields, Krags,
  and Mannlicher-Shoenauers for under $100 if you wait around long enough.
   Mausers, Enfields, Carcanos, Berthiers, Nagants, Arisakas -- you
  name it.  Most of these can be had for $40-$60.

* Pistols are cheaper, too.  The most expensive pistol I've ever
  bought cost $159.  The Broomhandle Mauser and the Webley cost
  even less!


You have to keep simple records for gun purchases, 
and fill out some form or other when you sell things (they give you a
bunch): you know, the form you fill out when you buy a
gun in your capacity as an ordinary mortal.  Still the BATF could
come in and give you a hard time if they ever got really bored.

The law is written, though, so their "inspection" of your collection
can only happen once a year, and you can choose to have it occur at
their office rather than your home.  Their right to peruse your records
is less restricted (so they can backtrack gun purchases as part of a
criminal investigation, presumably).

The BATF knows who you are, if they didn't already.  They get to do
a background check on you, of some sort.

While you're allowed to buy and sell, you're supposed to be
"collecting,"  not "running a business."  While in my case I'm outside
any grey area -- by the simple expedient of never selling anything --
you could get into trouble if you did too much dealing, especially
if you succomb to the temptation of buying things for your friends.
Don't do it! (Instead, sell them stuff you've had for a while, and
buy a more interesting gun with the proceeds.  Selling stuff in
order to buy better stuff is part of collecting.)

You can get tangled up in state and local laws, especially if you
sell to a non-FFL holder.  Since you have a (restricted) FFL license,
most laws don't apply to you when you buy, or when you sell to another
FFL, but your mileage may vary.  Here in California, all sorts of
weird stuff can kick in when I sell to a non-dealer, though Curios
and Relics are, I think, mostly exempt.

I didn't find these disadvantages very daunting, so I pressed on.


I looked up the BATF in the Government Pages in the phone book.  Look
under US Government/Treasury Dept.  I forget whether it's ATF or BATF.
That'll get you the local office.  Alternatively, call the all-purpose
Information line (800-555-1212) and get their 800 number.

Tell them you want to apply for a "Curios and Relics Federal Firearms
License."  All my phone conversations with the BATF have been with
helpful and knowlegeable people, so I doubt you need to know the form
number or anything like that. (I think the people they put in
Enforcement are the ones who can't learn basic office skills -- part
of the BATF that doesn't tote guns seems to be pretty competent.)
I got my application in the mail the next day.

The form asks the same stupid questions you answer every time you
buy a gun.  It asks virtually no other questions, so you're not
telling them anything they don't already know.  You fill out the
form, append a check for $30 (it's a three-year license, so it
costs you a whopping $10/year), and wait six weeks.

I got my license in the mail first, then weeks later I got the
instructions to go with it.  They included a copy of the Red Book,
plus a couple of pamphlets about which end is up, and a bunch
of the forms whose number I still can't remember, though I've
referred to it three times now.  DON'T sign the license!  Make
xerox copies of it, and sign the copy when you send it out someone
you're buying guns from.


Basically, I've only bought guns from importers: Century Arms, Navy
Arms, S.O.G., Springfield Sporters -- people like that.  Here are
my thumbnail reviews:

CENTURY ARMS:  Appears to be the market leader.  I've bought a
number of guns from them.  All shipments have been exactly as
advertised.  Once they forgot to include a promised bayonet, but
their courteous customer support people tossed it in the mail right
after I called.  They definitely keep FFL licenses on file, so after
mailing them a copy of your FFL once, you can order over the phone
or by FAX.  Most orders take about 30 days to arrive.  When you
call, you are likely to stay on hold for a long time. (I order
by FAX for this reason.  I also like to have a record of what
I ordered, which is harder with phone orders.)

S.O.G.: Has a selection similar to Century's.  Answers the phone
more promptly, ships promptly.  A good bunch.

NAVY ARMS:  Weirder stuff than Century, which makes me like them
better.  Good prices.  I haven't ordered from them enough times
to have a good idea of their phone or shipment delays, but I don't
think they're record-breaking.

SPRINGFIELD SPORTERS.  Seems to be split into two kinds of gun
offerings:  Stuff that everyone wants (Mausers, Enfields,
Springfields, Garands), which they headspace, test-fire, and offer in
sporterized and original versions; and other stuff, which they make
you sign a waiver indicating that they don't know whether it's
a gun or a pinata.  The guns in the latter category are "odd"
guns: Carcanos, Berthiers, Dutch Mannlichers, and such.  A lot
of these are guns I've seen advertised nowhere else.  Springfield
Sporters takes at least a month to ship anything.  They have
really good prices on a lot of things, such as used M1 carbine
magazines, eight for $5 (or was it 5 for $8? A bargain, either
way).  The guns I bought from them (A Carcano and a Berthier)
were as advertised or a little better.


You gotta have a subscription to SHOTGUN NEWS, or you just aren't

PO Box 669
Hastings, Nebraska, 68902

It costs $20/year, and is published three times/month).

I know of no comparable way of becoming aware of what's out there.
Guns come and go, so a rag like SHOTGUN NEWS is a necessity.
For example, my wife has a sporterized Model 1891 Carcano that
keyholes at 50 yards.  I want to move the stock onto a Model 1938
Carcano Short Rifle.  Six months ago, everyone had them for $40-$50.
Now, nobody has them.

Anyway, look at the ads, pick what you want,  write out an order,
enclose a signed copy of your C&R FFL, enclose payment, and, some
day, the UPS man shows up with your gun.

Most of these places keep your FFL on file, so you can make
subsequent orders over the phone.


Guns are advertised by grade.  You need to know what the grades mean
to figure out how beat up your gun is going to be:

FAIR -  "In safe working condition, but well worn, perhaps requiring
	replacement of minor parts or adjustments, which should be
	indicated in the advertisement, no rust, but may have
	corrosion pits which do not render the article unsafe
	or inoperable."

	In short, a "project gun."  At a minimum, you'll need to
	do some stock work, repolishing, and rebluing.  You may
	need new parts.  Guns in this condition can be restored
	if you care enough.  Normally, I'm too lazy.

GOOD -  "In safe working condition, minor wear on working surfaces, no
	broken parts, no corrosion or pitting that will interfere
	with proper functioning." 

	In other words, it works, but it looks like it's been through
	a war. The stuff I buy in Good condition needs lots of cleaning 
	and beautifying, but turns out okay with a little work.

GOOD TO VERY GOOD - An unofficial category, meaning that it looks
	nice, but not as nice as a "Very Good" arm.  Most of the
	stuff I buy is in this category.  They're pretty respectable
	as is: just take them completely apart, clean them, and put
	them back together.

VERY GOOD - "In perfect working condition, no appreciable wear on
	working surfaces, no corrosion or pitting, only minor surface
	dents and scratches."

	In other words, a very nice piece indeed.

EXCELLENT - "New condition, used but little, no noticeable marring of
	wood or metal, bluing perfect (except at muzzle or sharp


Also called "hand selection" or "special selection," this is an extra
amount of money you can pay, presumably to get a better specimen than
if you didn't pay.  Hand-pick fees usually range from $10-$20, and
you always gotta wonder if they aren't just pocketing the money.

Century Arms doesn't offer a hand-pick fee on every item in stock.
Sometimes the fee selects for quality, sometimes it lets you select
for manufacturer.  Since it varies, and because the results have
been so good, I think they're really grading guns and setting the
best ones aside.  Since they won't even take your money to hand-pick
some guns, I get the feeling they only offer it if you'll get your
money's worth.

I have a less warm feeling about everyone else, but I often pay the
fee anyway.  What the hey.  If nothing else, it gives you better
grounds to bitch and moan if the gun is slightly below grade, and
you want to exchange it or get your money back.


Century Arms advertised a Carcano carbine in for $49.95, in "Good to
Very Good" condition.  Other people were advertising them in "Good"
condition for $39.95, but the half-grade difference is well worth
ten bucks.  No hand-pick fee was offered: I suspect they separated
their Carcanos into two entirely different part numbers, sold at
the two different prices.

The rifle arrived about a month after I ordered it, in a cardboard
rifle box padded with newspaper.  Other than the invoice, it came with
no documentation at all.

The carbine had been heavily greased, including the stock.  The barrel
was full of Cosmoline, indicating that no one at Century had test-
fired it. (And why should they?  Most of their guns to go "real"
FFLs, who are presumably capable of forming their own opinions
of guns, do their own headspacing and testing, etc.)

A lot of rags, paper towels, and WD-40 later, I had a VERY nice
Carcano -- perfect bore, shiny bolt, more or less undented stock.

Of course, I recommend that you take YOUR guns to a gunsmith for
inspection and headspacing.  I did the inspection myself.  Headspace
gauges for 6.5mm Carcano are non-standard, so I measured the gun's
headspace by firing it at the range and seeing if it blew up,
which it didn't.  (I wear safety GOGGLES -- not safety glasses --
when doing this, and only load one round, so the magazine can
form a convenient gas escape port if the cartridge should rupture.)

Including shipping, this gun cost me under $60.  Had I bought
it through my local retail gunsmith, he would have tacked on a $25
fee, plus $14 for California folderol which the gun is exempt
from, being a "relic" -- but he "isn't taking any chances."
This added $39 can double the cost of a cheap rifle.

I know a discount gunsmith who only charges 10% mark-up, and as
far as I can tell, would cheerfully charge a $4 mark-up over actual
cost if I ordered a $39.95 rifle through him.  This is nice,
and I use him for what gunsmithing I don't do myself on my own guns,
but I far prefer dealing with the wholesalers directly, and having
the guns delivered to my own door.


If you like old guns -- and, particularly, if you like the kinds
of surplus guns advertised in magazines like SHOTGUN NEWS -- the
Curios and Relics FFL puts you directly in the game: no middlemen,
no mark-up.

Even if you are not interested in guns for their historical interest
per se, it might still be worthwhile, since the state of the art
in guns has barely advanced since WWII, and many interesting post-WWII
guns are on the BATF's Curio and Relic list.

My particular passion in pre-WWII military guns (preferably pre-WWI),
which means I'm the C&R Poster Boy.

	-- Robert
Robert Plamondon * WEITEK Corporation * Home of SPARC Power uP (TM)
80 MHz clock-doubled SPARC processor upgrade for the SPARCstation 2 or IPX
For info call (800)758-8000 or (408)738-8400, or email to cpu_upgrade@weitek.COM
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