SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Metal darts that police say can pierce bulletproof vests were pulled off the market Friday, the chairman of the company that makes them said.

The needle-like, 4-inch-long ammunition for Mega Dart's MX-7 dart gun will be replaced with rubber ammunition ''that can't penetrate anything,'' John Turner said in a telephone interview from his office in Texas.

Retail outlets nationwide were being told not to sell the metal darts, Turner said.

The air-powered gun, advertised as ''hardhitting, accurate, silent,'' was criticized by area officials after it showed up in stores last month.

''These things are more dangerous than BB guns and kids aren't even suppose to have those inside the city limits,'' Assistant Police Chief Stan Horton said Thursday. ''This is a lethal weapon.''

Authorities issued safety bulletins to patrol officers, and asked the Santa Clara County district attorney's office to investigate the product, possibly to sponsor legislation controlling or prohibiting its sale.

Police Sgt. Dwight Messimer said he test fired the gun with metal darts and was shocked to find they easily punctured flak jackets designed to stop high- powered bullets and shotgun blasts.

One of the darts even pierced a three-quarter-inch piece of laminated plywood, Messimer said. ''It was really scary.''

Mega Dart used the slogan ''Strike Silent. Strike Fast'' in promoting the gun, which has a suggested retail price of $99.95.

Mega Dart, a subsidiary of the First Texas Co. in El Paso, has been making the guns for a year.

The product is recommended for adults or children under adult supervision, said Turner. While anyone can buy the gun, dealers are urged to sell them only to people over 21.

The company has not had any complaints about the guns aside from questions from California police agencies, sales manager Vic Baker said.