Starting a collection of Curios & Relics (C&R) firearms is a rewarding hobby. Collecting surplus and vintage guns will introduce you to firearms from the history books, and can also pave a path into several other enjoyable hobbies, such as firearm restoration and reloading.
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.
The appeal of C&R firearms to collectors is relatively simple: They are functional pieces of history, oftentimes available for reasonable prices. Add to that the fact that many C&R guns have spent decades caked in cosmoline protected from the elements, and its possible to find pristine firearms amongst decades-old military surplus.
The C&R market is very interesting to follow. Collecting certain firearms is often a matter of checking various distributors at the right time and catching an item while it's in stock. A wealth of surplus-themed wholesale distributors such as AIM Surplus and Southern Ohio Gun have emerged online over the past two decades, and locating inventories of C&R-eligible firearms has never been easier.
Since the supply of USA-made military surplus rifles has largely dried up in recent years, the majority of C&R-eligible rifles on the market now are of foreign origin, made circa-WWII. Firearms such as the Chinese SKS, Russian Mosin Nagant, Mauser M48 and Swiss Schmidt-Rubins are currently available from several online distributors.
The author's first C&R eligible firearm was a Mosin Nagant M44 Carbine. This rifle cost approximately $150 shipped, and fires the 7.62x54R cartridge—which many consider the "poor man's .30-06". Currently, 7.62x54R ammo is readily available for around $0.20 per round—compare that to roughly $0.70 or more per round for similar-quality .30-06 ammo.
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:
1. Have been manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof; or
2. Be certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; or
3. 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."
For more information, see the BATFE's complete list of C&R-eligible firearms and FAQs.
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.
Getting your C&R license is a relatively painless task that breaks down into the following steps:
Download the Application
Download the form to apply for a C&R License. This form is available here
You will notice that this form is essentially the same application twice, with the payment information blanked out on the second copy. This is because you are required to submit the second copy of the application to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in your area.
Fill Out the Application
Questions 1-7 deal with your basic information. List your full name, address, the county you will be collecting from, telephone number, and the name of the business which will be collecting, if any. Finally, list whether you are applying as an individual, corporation, partnership or other.
Question 8 deals with your payment information. Supply the information for your payment and sign on the line. The fee for a 3-year C&R license is $30.00.
Question 9 deals with the information for each person appearing on the Federal Firearms License.
Fill out the information honestly and completely. If you are applying as an individual, it's commonly suggested to define your 'position ' as 'collector '. Also, be sure to list all addresses where you have lived in the past five years.
Question 10 deals with non-U.S. Citizens. If this section does not apply to you, skip to questions 11-13.
YES / NO Questions
Read questions 11-13 carefully and answer them honestly. Provide an explanation on a separate sheet of paper for any 'Yes ' answers to these questions.
Question 14 lists four items you must acknowledge with your initials. Consider researching your local laws to be sure you are in compliance.
Chief Law Enforcement Info
Indicate the CLEO in your area, then read and sign the certification and your application is almost complete.
Download and complete a 'Certification of Compliance with U.S.C. 922 (g)(5)(B)
' for each person applying for the C&R License.
This form may look complicated, but it is actually relatively simple — just fill in your information and sign the document if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are not a U.S. Citizen, it's unlikely you qualify for a C&R license unless you can provide valid documentation under question 6.
Mail both copies of your application. The CLEO copy goes to your Chief Law Enforcement Officer. It is suggested to include a simple cover letter indicating to your CLEO what the application is and letting them know that no action is required on their part.
Mail the BATFE copy to:
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
P.O. Box 409567
Atlanta, Georgia, 30384-9567
The hardest part is over. Now just sit back and dream about all the awesome rifles you can collect when your C&R License arrives in the mail — such as this excellent-quality Mosin Nagant M44 Carbine from Southern Ohio Gun Distributors
. The author's license arrived in just under one month.
This is a good time to check out the BATFE's C&R-approved firearm list and familiarize yourself with the various distributors selling Curios and Relics firearms.