As far as anyone could tell, it was an Uzi.

It was the same size. It had the same weight and design. Its barrel seemed to be the right size to hold a bullet. It even had working sights.

But as Stratford Police officers discovered after giving it a much, much closer look, it wasn’t really a submachine gun.

It was a replica – an extremely realistic replica, identical in virtually every area except that it fired pellets instead of bullets.

“This is the first I’ve seen that has been so, so authentic,” Insp. Sam Theocharis said in an interview.

Replica Uzi

The gun was seized Monday following a police search of a home on Cawston Street.

Three people were arrested. Police also found a knife and baton – both prohibited weapons for people under court orders not to possess such items – and what Theocharis calls a “small amount” of meth.

It’s the gun that came as the biggest surprise, though.

When police officers find a gun, they treat it as if it’s real until they’re absolutely sure it isn’t.

“If we’re ever confronted with a situation with an individual with a firearm … we would actually draw our pistols,” Theocharis said.

This past summer, Stratford Police dealt with an incident in which a man was seen putting a handgun in his pocket and walking toward a busy apartment building.

That gun turned out to be a replica, and Theocharis says police have seized nearly 10 such firearms in recent months.

In Waterloo Region, police officials say replica firearms aren’t anything new – and while they’re still turning up relatively often, there doesn’t seem to be any significant uptick this year.

“We’ve had a couple of significant seizures in the recent past, but it’s not something that is increasing at all,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Lobsinger.

While replica weapons like the one seized in Stratford may not fire bullets, they are still capable of causing serious injuries.

Police say they’re typically not purchased to be fired, but instead for intimidation purposes – because the person looking at the other end of the barrel will likely think it’s a real weapon.

For the vast majority of people, there’s nothing illegal about owning a real or replica gun. But while replicas might be less deadly, Lobsinger says, using one to commit a crime won’t mean lesser consequences.

“A robbery is a robbery, whether it’s an imitation firearm or a real firearm,” he said.

With reporting by Allison Tanner