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Mains Hill Rifle Range

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Mains Hill Rifle Range lies on the moors to the north of Helensburgh with the 1,000 yard firing step just north of Blackhall Wood.

Old OS maps suggest the range was constructed in the last quarter of the 19th century as it does not appear on the 1868 map, but can be seen on the 1898 edition. The range extended for 1,000 yards, with firing steps at 200 yard intervals. Two flagstaffs were associated with it, and would have flown red warning flags when the range was in use.

The range is said to have been in use during World War II, which would be consistent with its appearance on the 1958 OS map.

The range extent was 1,000 yards, and appears to have been re-developed once or more, with the the 200 yard firing step repositioned to the east of the firing line.

Although the range is no longer shown on dating later than the 1950s, evidence of the targets and butts remains on the ground.

Site Visit

A site visit was carried our in April 2011, when the butts and target area were found to be intact but the target lifting apparatus had been lost. The area below the targets was flooded to an unknown deoth. The target wall had been made from poured concrete approximately one foot (30 cm) thick. An earth bank revetment was evident on the north facing side facing the range. There did not appear to be any additional protection for personnel operating the target lifts.

The butts behind the target were formed by a large earth bank which had been formed using material excavated from the target area, with further excavation evident in the areas behind the bank, to the northwest. Spent bullets can still be found lying around the area, mostly of .22 calibre.

Several of the firing steps could easily be identified as areas of taller grass. Closer inspection showed these to have been constructed using wooden frames which had been filled with local earth and stones. On the target side of each step a shallow depression showed where this material had been taken from.

The 200 yard step, noted to be off the main firing line, was constructed in a similar way to the others, but had a shallow rectangular depression to the south, which may have been the site of a small hut. This location is quite far off the firing line, and may have been used by a range control officer who called the fall of shot, possibly with the aid of a sighting scope.

The 100, 200, 400, and 500 yard firing steps were also found. Further steps may lie in the ground, but the final 1000 yard step no longer exists, destroyed by the subsequent construction of a water treatment building on the ground.

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