As a firearms seller, you have a lot on your plate. Besides the nuts and bolts of running your business, you have to remain compliant with ATF rules and regulations, keep accurate records of transactions, and stay on top of administrative tasks — all while trying to remain organized.
And this can be a Herculean effort, especially when you’re selling at volume, handling hundreds or even thousands of firearms transactions each month. Fortunately, there have been some major advances in FFL software in recent years, and there are a wide array of features that can help you run your business more efficiently.
Here are 11 specific features of FFL software that are complete game changers that you should look for when considering a platform.
1. A Secure, Cloud-based Infrastructure
First off, you only want to use a product that’s fully cloud-based and that comes with high-level security. As you’re probably well aware, gun sellers are required by law to maintain records for at least 20 years. Using a cloud-based infrastructure makes it easy to keep records on file for an extended period of time and allows you to conveniently access your database 24/7 on any desktop, tablet, or smartphone with internet access.
Note that all updates will automatically be initiated (something we’ll discuss in more detail later) so you don’t have to worry about it like you would with a traditional hard drive that requires manual updates. This, in turn, frees up more of your time and makes your database location independent.
2. Electronic FFL Bound Books
If you’re used to managing traditional bound books to maintain A&D records, you know how painstaking it can be. As the ATF states, bound books “must follow the format prescribed in the regulations and the pages must be numbered consecutively.” Using physical bound books like was done in the past can be meticulous and time-consuming, and records being lost or misplaced is always a concern.
Electronic FFL bound books, however, allow you to conveniently process transactions and store them digitally for easy reference. Ideally, an FFL software will have the option of creating unlimited bound books for transfers, consignment, pawn, or whatever you want. This makes it incredibly simple to store and retrieve records and can free up a ton of store space.
3. Electronic 4473
According to the ATF 2020 fact sheet, some of the most common reasons for violations had to do with either not completing Form 4473 or not filling it out correctly.
And it’s understandable. There’s a lot of room for error on this form, and there’s plenty that can go wrong when storing traditional paper documents in cardboard boxes. But choosing FFL software with electronic 4473 means you can transform any computer, tablet, or smartphone into a fully compliant 4473 without any special hardware requirements.
You can use it to capture digital signatures and store everything electronically so you don’t have to sift through mountains of documents. Besides that, it saves money on printing because you don’t have to continually buy paper and printer cartridges, which can add up in a hurry.
4. Automated Backups
Like we touched on earlier, storing forms digitally tends to be the best move for most of today’s businesses. But there’s a caveat. You only want to use a system that offers automated backups.
Otherwise, it can quickly become laborious (and mentally draining) if you have to remember to manually perform backups on your own. Automating the process helps you stay compliant and allows you to focus on more pressing matters like growing your business.
I think we can all agree that filling out info like addresses, licenses, numbers, expirations, and so on can be a little exhausting. This is especially true for larger firearms sellers who record a huge number of transactions. That’s why autocomplete is such a nice feature in FFL software. It will automatically fill out key information and will even offer suggestions if, for example, you enter an expired license number.
6. Streamlined Background Checks
Given how essential background checks are to firearms selling, you definitely want an FFL platform that automates the process and keeps you compliant. FastBound, for example, automates NICS and many state background checks, making your life much easier, while providing peace of mind that it’s done correctly. Even if you live in a phone-in state like Nevada, you’re covered.
7. EZ Check Integration
Another helpful feature to have in FFL software is integration with the ATF FFL EZ Check database. As you probably know, this tool lets you enter an FFL number to quickly verify that it’s valid and makes the process quick, secure, and accurate. Choosing a software that offers EZ Check integration saves you a step and lets you conveniently check the ATF’s database without having to jump from platform to platform.
8. Built-in Compliance Warning
In 2020, the ATF performed 5,827 firearm compliance inspections. Of those inspections:
- 22.1% resulted in a report of violations
- 13.8% resulted in a warning letter
- 5.3% resulted in a warning conference
- 1.6% resulted in a seller’s license being suspended or going out of business
Here are the full details.In 2020, the ATF performed 5,827 firearm compliance inspections. Click To Tweet
Although the majority of inspections (56.2%) didn’t result in any violations, it’s certainly not a situation you want to find yourself in. That’s why you want an FFL software that warns you about potential violations right away. This can spare you from unnecessary headaches and keeps you above board with compliance.
9. User-Friendly Search
If you’ve ever had to search through an extensive database, you know how big of a pain it can be without an efficient search function. It can seem like finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately, many of today’s FFL products include user-friendly search so you can zip through your database with no problem.
FastBound’s smart searches, for instance, allow you to quickly find a 4473 based on criteria like:
- Serial number
You can also save custom searches to customize the process exactly the way you need it.
10. Audit Trail
Say you’re concerned that you forgot to log something in your database and need to see a list of changes. Or, say you’ve recently hired some new team members so you can focus on core business operations and need to make sure they’re inputting information correctly. With an audit trail, you can easily see who did what to your books for a complete bird’s-eye view.
If anything was input incorrectly or something seems suspicious, you can trace it back to the source to ensure you’re always compliant.
11. Guaranteed Legal Defense
Let us wrap up our list by saying being backed by legal defense isn’t a common feature offered by most FFL platforms. In fact, FastBound is currently the only one on the market that offers it. That said, it’s an incredibly important feature because it guarantees that an FFL law firm has your back in the event you ever need it.
As we mentioned earlier, the ATF performed their fair share of inspections in 2020, averaging over six a day across the US. And while staying on top of your bound books and being organized should keep you on the right side of the ATF, it’s nice to know there’s guaranteed legal defense in place just in case.
Choosing the Perfect FFL Software for Your Business
Today’s firearms sellers have it much easier than those in the past because of the robust technology that’s now available. In particular, FFL software streamlines what have historically been tedious tasks and leverages cloud-based storage to maintain a highly organized database. While there are countless features that can be helpful, the 11 we’ve mentioned here should be top priority and should help you run your business at a high level.