A gun smuggling investigation hampered by murders, information leak and tensions has been handed over to the Hawks and is back on track.

Investigators are now said to be focusing on, among other aspects, gunmen who carried out more than a thousand murders.

However the investigation, which sources with knowledge of say is the biggest in the country and which they say was initially being handled by Gauteng and Western Cape organised crime policing units, still faces hurdles.

Several sources say during a period when the future of the probe was uncertain, some suspects were murdered and others fled.

Gunmen have therefore become the focus of the investigation, but tracking them could prove tricky as firearms pass many hands. 

Over months sources have said the investigation, which included probing how guns stolen from police were sold to gangsters, was set to lead to high level arrests in at least three provinces.

High profile arrests in the investigation so far include that of Rondebosch businessman Irshaad "Hunter" Laher, Vereeniging arms dealer Alan Raves, and ex-police colonel Chris Prinsloo, who has since been convicted.

They are linked to the alleged selling of firearms, meant to have been destroyed by police, to gangsters around the Western Cape.

In June 2016, Prinsloo was sentenced to 18 years behind bars after entering a plea and sentence agreement with the State.

Prinsloo was in charge of the police armoury and stole 2 400 guns over almost a decade.

These weapons had to be kept locked in sealed steel boxes at the confiscated firearms store in Silverton, Gauteng, before being destroyed.