An intense lobbying effort by the National Rifle Association has derailed, at least temporarily, new legislation being considered by the Reagan administration to outlaw so-called "plastic guns" that can escape detection by security equipment, according to NRA officials and administration sources.

The effort to block the legislation was directed at Attorney General Edwin Meese III and Vice President Bush, among others, the sources said.

A package of gun control legislation that included the plastic-gun measure had been approved by top officials at the Justice Department and the Treasury Department, which is responsible for enforcing gun laws, sources said.

But after lobbying by the politically potent rifle association, Meese suddenly withdrew the legislation last week from final consideration at the Office of Management and Budget, the sources said. Justice Department spokesman Patrick S. Korten said the bill was "pulled back" and "put on hold" pending a meeting with the NRA and law enforcement groups to discuss whether a compromise measure can be hammered out.

Police groups and others supporting the legislation are attempting to prevent the spread of weapons that have low metal content and are primarily made of plastic. They argue that terrorists could carry the weapons without triggering metal detectors and X-ray security machines used in airports and elsewhere.

Stephen E. Garmon, deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service, testified in July in support of a similar measure introduced by Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio). "We feel that the threat{s} posed by nonmetallic handguns are significant and could potentially have a devastating impact on our protective mission," he said.

Two guns currently being manufactured contain less than 8.5 ounces of steel, which is the minimum metal content required in the proposed legislation. The rifle association argues that the weapons can still be detected by existing equipment, and that instead of banning them, airport security efforts should be intensified.

"If any article posessed by the public should be banned just because a terorist may also possess it, that misguided argument will very shortly be made against rifles and shotguns, too," James Jay Baker, director of the NRA's governmental affairs division, testified in July.

Sources said Meese approved the idea of banning plastic guns in a bid to mend fences with law enforcement groups, which were infuriated last year by his support of the McClure-Volkmer bill weakening the 1968 Gun Control Act. The bill restricted federal inspections of gun dealers, eased rules on their record-keeping and required evidence of "willful violations" in prosecuting them.

The decision to pull the legislation back came after Meese met with lobbyists for the rifle association Oct. 6. Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, Baker and Tom C. Korologos, a lobbyist hired by the NRA, met with Meese to express the group's vigorous objection to the legislation, Justice Department spokesman Patrick S. Korten said.

"Meese had not given it his personal attention up to that point and is giving it his personal attention now," Korten said. The NRA "made some reasonable arguments that deserve further attention," he said.

OMB Deputy Director Joseph R. Wright said the NRA also "made the pitch" to him against the legislation. LaPierre said he also contacted T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., a top White House adviser on domestic policy and former senior aide to Meese.

The rifle association also sought Bush's aid in blocking the legislation. When he was running for president in 1980, Bush was criticized by then-candidate Ronald Reagan for his 1968 vote, while a Texas congressman, in favor of a bill to prohibit mail order sales of guns to individuals unless they were arranged through sportsman's organizations.

Bush, once again a candidate for president, has frequently insisted that he opposes gun control legislation, and in a speech last year to the group declared, "Whatever the good intentions, depriving Americans of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms is wrong."

LaPierre said that before lobbying Meese, he contacted two Bush assistants about the proposed legislation: Lee Atwater, Bush's campaign manager, and Phil Brady, the vice president's liaison to outside groups and a former Justice Department official.

Atwater said he subsequently urged Bush's chief of staff, Craig Fuller, to give "all consideration" to the NRA. Brady refused to return phone calls. Justice spokesman Korten said Brady made several calls to department officials to ask about the status of the proposed legislation.

Stephen Hart, a Bush spokesman, said Brady did not advocate rejection of the bill but made a "routine" call to see if the rifle association's views had been heard. Korten said Bush and his aides did not affect Meese's decision to put the bill on hold.

Bush also was lobbied personally by Sen. James A. McClure, (R-Idaho), a leading opponent of gun control legislation. LaPierre said he had alerted McClure to the draft legislation. Hart said Bush asked his aide, Brady, to look into it.

"I think what we did was simply relay the facts of the issue and the fact that this would be an important issue with firearms owners in the country," LaPierre said of the effort to lobby Bush. "I don't think telling someone the truth is leaning on them."

"We oppose this legislation, wherever it comes from," said Baker, the other NRA representative. "We'll do whatever we have to do to make that position known . . . I don't think it would be improper to let somebody know the political ramifications of supporting what is perceived to be antigun legislation."Staff researcher Colette Rhoney contributed to this report.