Civilian ownership of semi automatic pistols, such as the Glock, is to be banned under a new move by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.
There are currently 1,900 legally held handguns, up from a handful in 2004. The number of handgun licences has mushroomed in recent years, following successful court challenges by shooting groups.
Mr Ahern told the Dail last night that he would bring forward legislation to deal with the handguns issue.
A source close to the minister stressed today: "This is not a measure to tackle gangland crime. It's a totally separate issue.
"The Minister understands there is no connection between gangland crime and legally held handguns. But he is concerned about the proliferation of handguns in society. There are nearly 2,000 legally held handguns, and in a year's time there could be 5,000."
The ban will hit semi automatic pistols such as the Austrian made Glock, which has also featured in many gangland murders in Dublin and Limerick.
However, the source said there could be some room for exemption for "lower calibre" handguns used in Olympic sports, such as .22 pistols.