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5 Best Practices for Firearm Serial Number Reservation

Written by Orchid


March 30, 2016




The core of a manufactured firearm is the frame or receiver; according to the regulations, it must be marked with a serial number. The process of marking the firearm efficiently and in a well-controlled manner requires a solid understanding of the following sub-processes: Firearm Serial Number Reservation, Application, Tracking, and Recording.

In this post, we’ll focus on the first sub-process, Firearm Serial Number Reservation (or “reservation”). Maintaining best practices in reservation—from production through point of sale and a possible ATF trace—is the first step in ensuring firearm compliance.

1. Integrate Your System
A simplistic way to manage the reservation process is with a paper log book whereby the production operator records the last number used and the next number available. Unfortunately, paper-based methods, even when systematized into a tool such as Microsoft Excel, can lead to higher degrees of error. Today’s modern manufacturers rely on a centralized database (usually in SQL or Oracle) to maintain the full history of every number used. These tools can be designed to feed automatically the serial numbers used in production and, when paired with an optical camera, actually verify both human readable and 1D / 2D barcodes.

2. Reserve By Multiple Attributes
The serial number is but one attribute of the reservation table. Those who operate in a manufacturing environment understand that the true identity of the product is the Part Number. And, many manufacturers vary the serial number architecture by model. For example, one model may use a 3-alpha; 4-numeric serial number (i.e., ABC1234) and a different model may use a 2-alpha; 7-numeric serial number (AB1234567). Attributes such as Part Number, Serial Number Architecture as well the status of each number (Available, Reserved, Used, Theft / Loss, Scrapped), etc., play a critical role in the overall reservation system.

Know Your Process – Firearm Serial Number Reservation

3. Track Third-Party Reservations
A reservation table or database can also be used to track the reservation and use serial numbers manufactured by your subcontractors. Expanding the reservation database to include Vendor Number and ATF Variance can provide you with immediate alerts during the receiving function, for example, should any of your suppliers accidentally wander outside of a desired (or ATF-approved) sequence.

4. System-Related Controls are Key
Those who work in this industry know that the A&D Book is the master record and purity is critical. Integrating a reservation table with Engineered Part-Master data and a computer controlled Laser or Dot Peen machine can significantly increase your level of control. For example, the reservation table should never permit saving a new record or sequence of numbers without a Part Number. Because the Part Number bears the firearm-specific information that flows to the A&D (i.e., Model, Caliber, Type, etc.), it’s critical to rely on system-based controls for accuracy.

5. Limit Reservation Database Access
Whatever database you’re using to reserve serial numbers for your product, it should not be available for just anyone to update, though all departments should have the ability to view it and suggest updates. We recommend that your compliance team be in charge of overseeing all changes to the database since serialization is such an important part of their job. Engineering may also be able to update the database, but should only do so with compliance oversight and permissions.

Reserving serial numbers used in the manufacturing or subcontract process is the first step in the serialization process, which might make it the most important. Today’s industry best practices mean integrating emerging technologies with manufacturing and ATF record-keeping.

Don’t miss out on the next post in this series, where we’ll discuss serial number application and how to manage it best in your facility.

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By Jon Rydberg
CEO, Orchid Advisors

Orchid Advisors assists firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers in achieving compliance and operational excellence through education, technology, software and consulting solutions that reduce risk, cut costs, and provide expert guidance to make our client’s business more successful and efficient.