Shooters Got Vanity, Too

America is a nation of car owners, and many express their identities with their vehicles, from low riders to lifted pickups. They express their attitudes and values and politics in one-liner bumper stickers. Many more express their passions via their license plates, and who hasn’t sat in traffic and tried deciphering vanity plate abbreviations, and maybe appreciated a really clever one?

Competitive shooters are no different, and you can see their vanity plates at every match.

Some of our plates, like “65X284” or “TEN X” are a kind of coded message just for other competitors, something akin to a secret handshake, incomprehensible to anyone not in the shooting fraternity. Others I’ve seen, such as “308WIN,” are more universally understood by Average Joe Shooter, and only someone living a very sheltered life wouldn’t get “AK 47.”

Here’s a collection of vanity plates I photographed at a couple of matches last year.

Most of them need no explanation to you. One, however, is not about competitive shooting, but nonetheless belongs to a competitor. When I asked him if he’d really experienced 11 improvised explosive devices in Iraq, he smiled real big and said, “Yep. I survived ‘em all!”

“Welcome home,” I said. “I’m glad you made it.”

We were shooting, if memory serves, an M1 Garand match.

I’ve thought about paying the extra cost for a veteran’s plate or a vanity plate or even a vanity veteran’s plate, but when annual registration time rolls around, I always opt out for frugality. Trouble is, while some may consider guns and shooting to be my identity, my vehicle most definitely is not – it’s just a transportation device for my mountain bike and Highpower shooting gear.

But you know what? If I ever hit the X ring 20 consecutive times at 1,000 yards, you can bet yer sweet patootie I’d spring an extra 25 bucks a year for a plate that reads, “200 20X.”

Wouldn’t you?

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