The Metropolitan Police Department confiscated 281 handguns — 40 percent of which were converted from model guns — last year, marking the highest number seized in five years, officials said.

The figure — between 20 percent and 30 percent of all handguns confiscated across the country — marked a big jump from the previous four years due to the large quantity of converted toy guns seized, MPD officials said Monday.

The MPD seized 119 converted toy guns last year, about four times the number in previous years. The number of handguns seized by the MPD varied from 200 to 275 a year between 1994 and 1997, MPD officials said.

According to MPD firearms experts, plastic model guns can easily be converted into lethal weapons, and, at about 10,000 yen a piece, are only a fraction of the cost of a real gun.

MPD officials said seven converted model guns were confiscated at the house of a Nakano-kai underworld leader in September. Police initially did not suspect the weapons to be real because the barrels were plastic.

The mobster later admitted the plastic barrels were a guise, and metal barrels to be attached to the model guns were concealed elsewhere, MPD officials said.

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