Owning and operating a Retail FFL can be a fantastic business, but like any other business, retail FFL ownership comes with its ups and downs and notable headaches. In addition to managing the ebb and flow of consumer demand while balancing that with inventory availability you’re tasked with the responsibilities of Type 01 federal firearms licensee. Amongst the many “fun” things that are required of you is the processing of 4473 transactions, the filing of completed form 4473s and retention in accordance with ATF regulations. Even if you utilize an electronic 4473 such as Orchid eBound, current federal law requires that you print and retain a paper copy of the document.

In the Spring of 2018, the experts at Orchid obtained the first ever digital storage variance for a retail gun store. Since then, other entities under our direction have pursued and obtain variances to the same effect. The benefit of which is the ability to eliminate, with minor exception, the long-term retention of paper-based 4473s. Recently, a new company by the name of 4473 Cloud LLC emerged as the leader in the digital storage area, offering the most robust and cost-effective solution for eliminating paper-driven headaches. Integrated with Orchid eBound, 4473 Cloud and the underlying concept of digital storage offers the following benefits. 4473 Cloud is on target to go live in the near future. Those interested in learning more are encouraged to reach out to sales@4473cloud.com.

Eliminating Paper and Reduced Cost
Recently, we visited one of our newest retail gun store clients. During our ATF mock-inspection walkthrough, we were introduced to their filing room where our team witnessed 35 legal storage boxes dating back 10 years (since the start of their FFL). Inside those boxes were reems of 4473 documentation taking up facility space and representing tens of thousands of dollars in paper costs and far more than that in labor costs. The driver – maintaining historical 4473 documents to comply with ATF regulations.

The most obvious benefit of digital storage is the ability to eliminate paper printing which, especially for larger retailers, can add up to a significant cost.

Improved ATF Compliance and Lower Risk FFL Inspections

Best-in-class 4473 digital storage applications permit easier internal audits. Top-notch software allows easy search of high volumes of electronic documents making the self-inspection process highly effective. If you’re a well experienced FFL you know that there’s an obligation to correct 4473 errors in the prescribed manner but that doing so can also pay dividends prior to your next ATF FFL inspection.

Regardless of the reason, the need for electronic vs paper documentation is obvious. The benefits far outweigh any possible negatives and is worth considering. FFL owners need to know, however, that with digital storage comes additional rules imposed by the ATF. And, that an ATF approved variance is required prior to the use of any home-grown systems or 3rd party applications. The contents of the variance of fundamental and “make sense” but are not easily implemented by the average person without technical expertise. In fact, one of the required features, at least as of the most recent prevailing variance was the ability to permit ATF electronic access with an electronic auditing tool for the identification and reporting of potential violations.

Digital 4473 storage is no joke and yields significant benefits. If you have any questions about the process or about getting a variance, please consult with an expert.