Three teenage boys, armed with what police thought were handguns and an assault rifle, were arrested in what police call a high-risk takedown early Sunday morning in Campbell River, B.C.

Campbell River RCMP responded with guns drawn at 2 a.m. PT after a member of the public reported seeing a man dressed in black carrying a machine gun along the roadside.

RCMP found three boys, aged 13, 15, and 16 carrying pellet guns. The clear plastic and orange muzzles had been blacked out, says Cpl. Poppy Hallam.

"These toy guns look realistic to us as police officers, especially at night, and especially when the orange muzzles have been blackened out. We can't tell the difference. And if we come across somebody who's carrying a firearm like that, they are going to be challenged."

Hallam makes no apologies for the full-force police response. He says police can't afford to take chances.

"It's nothing that I would ever wish on anyone, to be taken down, high-risk, at gunpoint. I mean it's absolutely scary and it's not something that anybody should have to go through but we need to let people know that we have to treat these toy guns as real unless we know otherwise."

The three boys were arrested for possession of weapons dangerous to the public and possession of imitation firearms.

It's the second high-risk takedown involving a pellet gun in Campbell River in the last month.