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Tracing Firearms and Explosives

NCJ Number
Date Published
5 pages
The National Firearms Tracing Center (NFTC) and the National Explosives Training Center (NETC), both operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), are useful sources of weapons data that can assist in local police investigations.
The purpose of the NFTC is threefold: to identify a crime suspect by linking that person to a firearm, to establish the stolen status of the weapon, and to establish proof of ownership of a weapon. When the NFTC receives a request for a firearms trace, efforts involve contacts with both arms manufacturers and wholesale and retail outlets. All pertinent information related to trace requests are transmitted in a fixed format that enables both tracer and the manufacturer's representative to respond to the request as quickly as possible. Records of the trace request and information from the trace are confidential. Requests for a trace may be made by mail, telephone, code-a-phone, the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, or through the nearest ATF agent. Whenever possible, request should be made on ATF Form 7520.5. The first part of the form includes requestor information, request priority, and special instructions; part 2 includes information related to the firearm itself. Firearms terminology used by the ATF is provided. As a general policy, firearms coming into police possession should be traced. The NETC provides for the tracing of explosives and explosive materials and for related technical assistance. Trace requests are made by telephone and should include information on the manufacturer's name, product name or nomenclature, product characteristics (weight, size, caliber, etc.), and date/shift code or lot number and date-loaded designation. Questions and answers based on materials in the training key are provided.