Training for ATFE Agents

The special agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF or ATFE) are responsible for investigating a number of federal crimes related to explosives, alcohol and tobacco, firearms, and arson. Their work involves conducting investigations, interviewing suspects, making arrests, and searching for physical evidence.

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The job of an ATF agent, although often rewarding, can be mentally and physically taxing. Therefore, the ATFE ensures that all new agents are extensively trained, both physically and mentally, to handle the demands of this career.

Training for ATFE Agents

All new ATFE agents must complete a two-part training program:

  • Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP)
  • Special Agent Basic Training (SABT)

Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP)

The first part of any ATF agent training program is the Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP), which occurs at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia.

The CITP, which lasts about 12 weeks, includes 48 students, with about half of these being ATF trainees. The rest of the class usually consists of trainees from other federal law enforcement agencies.

This basic training program provides study in the techniques, concepts and methodologies of criminal investigations, which includes a number of topics, including:

  • Crime scene management
  • Driving techniques
  • Federal court procedures
  • Firearms
  • Handcuffing
  • Interviewing
  • Photography
  • Physical techniques
  • Surveillance

If new ATF agents have already completed the CITP with another agency, this training program may be waived.

Special Agent Basic Training (SABT)

Special Agent Basic Training (SABT), the second part of ATF training, lasts about 15 weeks and includes 24 student trainees. This intensive and demanding training program covers advanced study in a number of areas, including:

  • Alcohol and tobacco diversion techniques
  • Close quarter countermeasures
  • Firearms and ammunition identification
  • Firearms and tactical training
  • Firearms trafficking
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Physical conditioning
  • Report writing

All trainees, during SABT, must learn about the Special Agent General Orders, which are designed to set a foundation for a career as an ATF agent.


All ATFE agents are extensively trained on the safe and effective use of Bureau-issued weapons, including handguns, shotguns, and long guns. Firearms training, which lasts about 100 hours, includes study in the areas of marksmanship and tactical and judgment shooting. Topics include: tactical marksmanship, tactical marksmanship, concealed carry, flying armed tactical shooting, and low-light tactical shooting. All ATF trainees must achieve at least 80 percent on the ATF Practical Pistol Course.

Arson and Explosives

Arson and explosives training provides trainees with a basic foundation of knowledge in these areas. ATFE trainees will learn to identify the criminal misuse of fire and explosives. Just a few of the areas of study include:

  • Fire scene investigations
  • Gathering and preserving fire scene evidence
  • Identification of commercial explosives
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Multiple live burn scenarios
  • The effects of explosives
  • The effects of explosives
  • Processing bomb scenes

Tactical Training

The SABT curriculum involves tactical training, which provides students study in:

  • Felony vehicle assaults/extractions
  • The use of proper judgment and the use of proper force when encountering suspects
  • Proper tactics involving breaching a structure

All trainees must be able to successfully complete the Final Tactical Practical at the conclusion of tactical training. This time exercise includes successfully completing:

  • An obstacle course, which includes scaling a 6-foot wall and a chain link fence
  • A shoot/no-shoot exercise
  • A half-mile run in full tactical gear
  • A simulated agent extraction involving dragging a dummy 25 yards

Physical Training

Physical training, which includes physical conditioning and close-quarter countermeasures, is an integral part of SABT training. All trainees must complete at least 56 hours of physical training and 72 hours of close-quarter countermeasures training.

Physical training involves weight training, running long distances, calisthenics, and a number of obstacle courses. Trainees must be able to score at least a 25 percent in all three areas of the Physical Efficiency Battery (PEB) test, which include a 1.5-mile run, bench press, and an agility run.

Training in close-quarter countermeasures includes: ground avoidance and ground escape; proper defensive pressure points; and proper arrest and handcuffing techniques.


In addition to extensive physical and tactical training, trainees receive classroom training in federal criminal law, legal issues, and the Gun Control Act. SABT academic training involves passing 7 tests with a minimum score of 80 percent:

  • Arson/Arson Regulations
  • Explosives/Explosive Regulations
  • Field Operations/Undercover Regulations
  • Firearms Technology
  • Firearms Trafficking/Firearms Regulations
  • Legal Issues
  • Report Writing


Training for ATFE Industry Operations Investigators

The ATF Industry Operations Investigator Basic Training (IOIBT) program is an 8½-week program designed for newly hired ATF industry operations investigators. The IOIBT program involves study in conducting firearms and explosives investigations and assisting other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Topics of study in the IOIBT program include:

  • Business entities
  • Conducting firearms and explosives compliance and qualification inspections
  • Explosives and firearms identification
  • Firearms and explosives laws and regulatory requirements
  • Firearms and explosives safe handling
  • How to safely conduct inspections in accordance with all federal laws and regulations
  • Interviewing techniques
  • Procedures for obtaining permits and licenses to import, manufacture and sell regulated products
  • Report writing
  • Research skills

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