ARMED police arrested four men in a series of early morning raids as part of a crackdown on the sale of illegal firearms over the internet.
Police officers swooped on homes in Masseyfield Road, Barons Close, Cheltenham Crescent and Victoria Road in Runcorn - at about 6am on Tuesday last week.
The offenders, aged 53, 33, 26 and 21, have all been questioned and released on bail without charge until February 24.
The arrests form part of a high-profile police investigation involving intelligence gathering and collated information between police forces across the country.
The national crackdown is being led by the Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO), in order to dismantle criminal gangs involved in the firearms trade.
The investigation centres on selling and buying illegal firearms from Europe over the internet.
Officers have confiscated illegal stun guns, dangerous swords, other weaponry and firearms equipment during raids throughout the UK.
More than 400 firearms have been recovered by police throughout the country since the operation was launched at the beginning of November.
Det Insp Nigel Wenham, of Runcorn CID, said: 'We have conducted our investigations as part of a national operation and discovered that individuals in Halton had used the internet to purchase, or try to purchase, weapons from Europe.
'In response, we have executed a number of search warrants against four addresses and recovered items including prohibited weapons.
'They have mainly been handguns that can be converted into firearms.
'If converted, they are the same as a lethal weapon on the street.
'It is very worrying and quite disturbing when people have the means to go out and shoot someone.
'It is also quite worrying the scale that people go into to recover these weapons, and although some might be ordering them through their own relatively harmless interest, others clearly buy them with criminal intent.'
One resident, who does not wish to be named, witnessed a swarm of police officers remove boxes of weapons and a computer from one of the named addresses.
He said: 'Our dog and all the dogs in the street were barking and going mad before it started getting light, because the police had arrived with dog handlers.
'There was a lot of activity going on all morning and they were taking things out in plastic bags and boxes.'
Anyone with any information regarding the prohibited weapons investigation is urged to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.