When looking for something else entirely, as often happens, I stumbled on this! Here we have a 1915 newspaper advertisement for the Central Rifle Range at 126 Upper Abbey Street. It advertised the chance to fire at “stationary, disappearing and moving targets”, offering punters a “Short Lee Enfield, Long Lee Enfield, war office or Martini rifle” for the job:
The Abbey Street rifle range was advertised in The National Volunteer, a newspaper affiliated to the Redmondites who had supported the appeal for Irishmen to fight in the First World War, believing that it would help secure Home Rule for Ireland. When the Volunteer movement split in 1914, the vast majority of its membership followed Redmond, while a minority of the organisation opposed his call, some of whom later participated in the Easter Rising.
There was no shortage of guns in the hands of Irishmen in 1915, regardless of their political affiliations. As such, rifle ranges became quite popular, whether legal or otherwise. It was reported in October 1914 that following a meeting of the National Committee of the Redmondite Volunteers “arrangements were made whereby the Dublin [National] Volunteers will have facilities in the way of drill halls and rifle ranges, and a central rifle range will be ready for use by the Volunteers early in the coming weeks.” Given that the above advertisement was appearing in The National Volunteer early in 1915, I presume this is the referenced rifle range.
The Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army also developed their own (illicit) rifle ranges, providing members with required practice as much as recreation. Frank Robbins of the ICA remembered that the workers’ militia had a rifle range in Croydon Park, and that “a miniature rifle range was also constructed in a large room in Liberty Hall and was used extensively during the winter nights by those who could afford the charge of three shots per one penny, and believe it or not this small sum was too much of a financial strain for many of our members to endure.”
A trip to the Abbey Street rifle range would have offered men the chance to hold superior weapons to what many in the Irish Volunteers or the Citizen Army would have had access to. Those organisations remained largely (though not entirely) dependent upon what were popularly known as ‘Howth Rifles’, weapons which had been landed in spectacular fashion by the Asgard in 1914. Bulmer Hobson remembered that “the guns were Mauser rifles, old-fashioned and heavy, but were in perfect order. They were, I believe, the rifles with which the German Army re-armed after the Franco-Prussian War.” While “almost antiques”, even by the time of the Howth gun-running, Jonathan Bardon has correctly pointed out that “these single-shot weapons, loaded with black powder cartridges, were nevertheless deadly.”