Gun found in Trevor search was wrapped up in plastic
The firearm recovered by gardaí searching for missing man Trevor Deeley's remains was a handgun.
The weapon was found by officers in a three-acre site at Chapelizod in west Dublin on Tuesday evening.
Since its discovery, the weapon has been the subject of ballistic and forensic tests.
It emerged last night that the weapon had been wrapped in plastic and partially buried.
It is still not known if the handgun was used in Trevor's suspected murder or when exactly the firearm dates from.
The weapon may have been dumped there by criminals who had no involvement in the alleged murder of Mr Deely.
Gardaí have now spent almost a week digging at the search site in Chapelizod since they announced the search operation last Saturday.
On Thursday, it emerged that the Irish Aviation Authority and the Department of Justice have prohibited drones from flying over the Chapelizod woodland.
Mr Deely, a Bank of Ireland employee, was last seen in the early hours of December 8, 2000, in the Haddington Road area of Dublin city centre.
The last known images of him were captured by a CCTV camera at the junction of Haddington Road and Baggot Street at 4.14am.
A man dressed in black, who gardaí believe also spoke to Mr Deely outside his place of work minutes previously, can be seen following him in the direction of Haddington Road.
This footage was only made public earlier this year after a specialist unit, set up in Pearse Street garda station to review the case, secured improved CCTV images.
Earlier this week, it emerged that an informant came forward due to a guilty conscience and has alleged that a member of a dysfunctional crime family shot and buried the missing man.
The criminal told investigating detectives he had no interest in the €100,000 reward being offered for any significant information in relation to Mr Deely's disappearance, but instead said he cannot keep the information a secret any longer.
The alleged suspect, who can not be named for legal reasons, is a well-known criminal who has been involved in various forms of criminality over several decades.
This man and his associates were suspected of involvement in the drugs trade, particularly heroin, in the south inner-city and south Dublin area throughout the 1990s.
Trevor Deely's sister Michelle has described the difficult years following her brothers disappearance.
"The past 16 years have been a relentless nightmare," she said.
"We never gave up on Trevor. We knew he could not have disappeared into thin air and we owed it to Trevor to keep trying.
"If the position was reversed, Trevor would never have given up on us."
She added: "We are grateful to the public for all the information we have received to date but there are still some glaring gaps".