The Meaning of ATF: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of ATF? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the abbreviation ATF, including its definition, usage, and more!

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What does the acronym ATF stand for?

According to ATF, the term ATF stands for alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. This term is used to refer to the federal agency which now includes explosives under the US Department of Justice, which is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  This law enforcement agency of the United States has many different tasks. They are responsible for the investigation and prevention of federal offenses involving the manufacturer, unlawful use, and possession of different firearms and explosives as well as acts of arson and bombings. They are also responsible for combating the illegal trafficking of tobacco products and alcohol products. The ATF also regulates the sale, transportation of firearms and possession of firearms, explosives and ammunition through licensing and interstate commerce. They work together with task forces of state and local law enforcement officers, like in Project Safe Neighborhoods. They also operate a unique fire research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland where they conduct full-scale mock-ups of criminal arson.

ATF’s activities include regulation of firearms and combatting acts of terrorism. This could be through public safety acts and federal laws like the National Firearms Act or Federal Firearms Act, or by criminal investigations into acts of terrorism, a raid against violent criminals or criminal organizations, the illegal diversion of alcohol, or other crimes involcing a rifle, illegal use or storage of explosives, machine guns, or similar devices. They are a federal law enforcement organization and tax collection agency of the Treasury Department, and maintain the federal register of gun owners and the like. They maintain regulations on every type of weapon and have control of a person who owns anything from an antique firearm to poison gas. 

The ATF also controls the regulations on the frame or receiver, according to Federal Register. These can include fire control components housed by the frame or receiver. These include any housing or holding structure for a hammer, bolt, bolt carrier, breechblock, cylinder, trigger mechanism, firing pin, striker, or slide rails. This can refer to the shot in the chamber or barrel of a pistol or the firing mechanism, incendiary charge or propellent charge on another such destructive device or similar type of ignition system. They particularly regulate guns which can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

According to The Free Dictionary, the term ATF can stand for much more than just the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (US Department of Justice). This term has a plethora of other definitions. While these meanings are still valid, they are far less common and should be used sparingly. If you do decide to use one of these alternate definitions, make sure that you provide the reader with proper context so that they can infer the correct meaning. This should be standard practice with any abbreviation that has more than one possible meaning.  Try making flashcards to quiz yourself on the many meanings of ATF.

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  •  Agricultural Task Force (various locations)
  •  All Things Fresh (website a la Facebook, Twitter)
  •  Aerodrome Traffic Frequencies
  •  Automatic Terrain Following
  •  Aquatics Training Facility (US Army)
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  •  Application Transport Failover
  •  Auxiliary Tug, Fleet (Auxiliary Fleet Tug)
  •  All-Time Favorite
  •  Advanced Title Format
  •  Activating Transcription Factor
  •  Architecture Task Force
  •  Automatic Track Following
  •  Aviation Task Force
  •  All Time Favorite
  •  Aircraft Torque Factor
  •  Acoustic Transfer Function
  •  Air Task Force
  •  Automatic Track Finding
  •  ASEAN Tourism Forum (annual travel convention)
  •  Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  •  Association Technique de Fonderie (French: Foundry Technical Association)
  •  Against the Flow
  •  Adirondack Theatre Festival (Glen Falls, NY)
  •  Architecture Textile Française (French textile company)
  •  Anti-Terrorist Force (fictional intelligence agency)
  •  Fleet Ocean Tug
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  •  Area to Free (Cisco)
  •  Application Transparent Failover
  •  Audit Transfer Files
  •  Across the Fence
  •  After the Fall
  •  Automatic Test Format
  •  Atari Talk Forum (computer forum)
  •  All Time Finest
  •  Associate Technical Fellow (various organizations)
  •  Autoload Overlay Trace Formatter
  •  Articulation Task Force (Arizona State University)
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  •  Association des Tunisiens en France (French: Association of Tunisians in France)
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  •  Allied Tactical Force
  •  Absolute Terror Field
  •  Astrometric Telescope Facility
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  •  American Type Foundry
  •  French Southern and Antarctic Lands (ISO Country code)
  •  Advanced Targeting FLIR (US DoD)
  •  Alcohol Treatment Facility
  •  Adaptive Tracking Filter
  •  Air to Torpedo Fire Control
  •  Automatic Test Facility
  •  As Trustee for (finance)
  •  Average Transaction Frequency (credit)
  •  American Track and Field (publication; Shooting Star Media, Inc.; Wisconsin)
  •  After the Fire (Band)
  •  Arrived to Find
  •  Acquire the Fire
  •  ALMA Test Facility (Atacama Large Millimeter Array)
  •  Adobe Type Font
  •  Advanced Technology Fighter
  •  Above The Fold (web/print advertising)
  •  All Too Flat
  •  Across the Flat (geometry)
  •  Automatic Tracking Feature
  •  Automated Target Folder
  •  Around the Fur (Deftones album)

Overall, the term ATF stands for alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. This refers to the bureau that is responsible for the United States code and gun laws. They are responsible for the protection of public safety and the regulations of the receiver of any such weapon or projectiles. Think about the ATF next time you watch the pull of the trigger.


  1. ATF – What does ATF stand for? | The Free Dictionary 
  2. What We Do | Bureau of ATF
  3. Definition of “Frame or Receiver” and Identification of Firearms | Federal Register