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Federal agents say they have several "really good' leads in the theft of a laser-sighted, briefcase machine gun.

The weapon, like something imagined in a spy novel, was en route from the Salt Lake offices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobbacco and Firearms to agents in San Francisco when thieves filched it from a Federal Express truck.The gun can fire dozens of .22-caliber slugs through a barrel tucked in the bottom of an ordinary-looking briefcase. The shooter activates the deadly spray of lead via a button on the handle and can aim it with a red-dot laser.

ATF uses the gun for displays and training. California agents were planning a show-and-tell with it this week.

"I don't think there is another one like it . . . that's why it's so unique, so exotica," said Ed Gleba, ATF spokesman in San Francisco.

The burglars apparently were after computer equipment, not a gun, when they followed the FedEx truck, Gleba said. They ended up with six boxes of computer hardware and the seventh box carrying the briefcase.

"I'm sure they were shocked when they opened that baby up," Gleba said.

The gun did not contain a bullet clip when it was shipped, so the thieves will probably have a difficult time making it operational, he said.

He said agents may be close to finding it, but he would not provide further details.

The weapon or at least a facsimile of it was displayed frequently in several gun shows across the West. On display, it contained a circular-type magazine that carried as may as 100 rounds.

Local agents seized the one that was stolen from the FedEx truck during an 1986 raid on American Arms International Inc., a West Valley company. The raid also yielded about 1,200 other machine guns and components.

"This kind of gun could be used for anything . . . I mean your imagination is the limit here. People really get into exotica and that's what this is," Gleba said.

Salt Lake ATF spokesman John Minichino said the gun was in one of three boxes shipped from Utah. The boxes contained a total of 18 weapons, including shotguns, handguns and other machine guns.