Two Dublin men caught with loaded handguns near the home of a rival criminal have been jailed for ten and 12 years.

39-year-old Paul Zambra, from Inagh Road in Ballyfermot, and 45-year-old Anthony Callaghan, from Millrace Road, Phoenix Park, were arrested last May following a surveillance operation involving specialist garda units.

The Circuit Criminal Court was told Detective Inspector Gerard McGrath from the Drugs and Organised Crime Unit acted on confidential information and set up a surveillance operation on Zambra and Callaghan.

The two men were monitored in two falsely-registered cars on consecutive days last May in a housing estate in Clonshaugh in north Dublin.

On 29 May armed gardaí stopped Zambra in a BMW and Callaghan in a white van.

Zambra tried to drive off but gardaí blocked him and found two loaded handguns in his car.

Both guns were "ready to fire" and had their serial numbers drilled out, making them impossible to identify.

Detective Garda Glen Summers also testified that a scarf, newspapers and a five-litre container with petrol were also found and Zambra was seen on CCTV footage buying the petrol.

Both men were arrested and remained silent when questioned, but both pleaded guilty to possession of firearms with intent to endanger life.

The court heard Zambra, a separated father of a five-year-old child, has had a serious drug problem since the age of 16 and has served ten years for a serious assault.

Callaghan has convictions for drugs and firearms offences.

Their defence lawyers today stressed there was a clear distinction between intent to endanger life and intent to kill.

However, Judge Melanie Greally said the men were caught red-handed and the guns were loaded and at the optimum readiness for use.

She sentenced Paul Zambra to ten years in prison and Anthony Callaghan to 12 years.

The head of the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has said it is one of the most significant convictions in years.

Detective Superintendent Tony Howard said there was no doubt someone's life was in imminent danger.