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Michael Lake - Aiming for firearms safety and fun

A rifle and pistol competitor since high school, Michael A. Lake has since become an armorer, gunsmith, and range safety officer whose focus is on firearms safety and fun.
“Always treat firearms as if they are loaded, never allow a firearm to point in an unsafe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot and know your target and backstop. If you can’t follow these simple rules, then leave firearms alone.”

 

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Michael Lake poses with some historical firearms.

Aiming for firearms safety and fun

Dressed in camouflage and wearing safety glasses and hearing protection, Michael A. Lake of Industrial Safety and Hygiene (OSH-ISH) approaches a barrier with an opening just large enough to accommodate his scoped rifle. Taking a breath, Mike looks through the rifle’s magnified optic and quickly fires off two rounds at a target several hundred yards away before moving to another stage of this scenario meant to test precision marksmanship under stress.

“I’ve always had an interest in firearms, even though both my parents did not,” explains Mike. “When I was old enough, they got me involved in competitive shooting to ensure my interests took a safe, responsible direction.”

Mike lived in Ohio at the time, and he soon learned about Camp Perry, a National Guard training facility near Port Clinton. Only an hour from where he lived, Camp Perry not only boasts the largest outdoor rifle range in the world (after the Whittington Center, located in Raton, New Mexico), the facility holds a number of national rifle and pistol matches every year. Mike started off with small-bore and high-power rifle matches, where with every competition he grew in proficiency.

After college, while living in a more metropolitan area of Ohio, Mike found that there were few rifle ranges. “There were some indoor pistol ranges,” Mike says, “and soon I was participating in bullseye pistol and other competitions that strengthened my proficiency with handguns.”

Firearms repair on the fly

During shooting competitions, a well-functioning firearm is essential. As with all machines, firearms can and do malfunction, and it’s typically up to the shooter to make quick repairs on the fly to avoid forfeiting a match.

“The more I competed, the more comfortable I became with my tools,” Mike says. “I gained a deeper understanding of how firearms function, and I learned how to repair them quickly. If something goes wrong, you can’t just say, ‘hey, I’m out,’ because then you lose. It’s up to you to get your gear functioning correctly in a hurry and with whatever you have on-hand so you can get back into the match.”

Mike started off by honing his armorer skills—an armorer is someone who can assemble components, swap parts and make basic repairs. He then progressed into gunsmithing, which involves intricate fitting of parts and other types of metal work.

“It’s part art, part science,” notes Mike. “A good gunsmith knows not only how to assemble parts, but also how to adjust them so they make a firearm perform much better. Gunsmithing takes a certain level of machining skill, yet still with the armorer’s component, where you must have a solid understanding of how firearms work.”

For Mike, gunsmithing is not so much about making a firearm attractive to look at but rather to enhance its function. “Reliability and accuracy are critical,” he says. “A firearm that won’t work reliably or shoot accurately is of little interest to me. These qualities in a firearm are important both in competition or should you ever need it in a self-defense situation.”

Although Mike mostly works on his own firearms, as a firearms instructor he often brings to bear these skills when a firearm malfunctions at the range.

“When I’m teaching, I don’t want students to worry about their equipment; instead, I want them to be able to focus on the training,” Mike notes. “When something does go wrong, I am there to fix the issue and get things working correctly as quickly as possible.”

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Mike Lake uses his gunsmithing skills to enhance the performance of his firearms.

Firearms safety—it’s about mindset

“Always treat firearms as if they are loaded, never allow a firearm to point in an unsafe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot and know your target and backstop. If you can’t follow these simple rules, then leave firearms alone.”

Mike is currently a firearms instructor for Badlands Tactical Training Center, a facility located in Oklahoma. He teaches various courses for law enforcement and armed citizens alike. He also teaches locally and is a New Mexico Department of Public Safety concealed carry instructor.

“The techniques I teach must be simple and reliable,” Mike explains. “Each technique must work every time and for everyone. What I find I must teach to most enthusiasts is proper mindset. The shooter is responsible for every round fired, no matter where.”

Mike brings this mindset when he volunteers as a range safety officer. “There are rules for firearms just as there are rules for pretty much everything we do,” he says. “The results of breaking firearms laws or safety rules can be life-altering. As an instructor and range safety officer, my goal is to promote safe, effective and responsible firearms use.”

 

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Mike Lake serves as a range safety officer to make sure all firearms training is safe and fun for all those involved.


 

Michael A. Lake works for the Safety Programs & Services team of the Industrial Safety and Hygiene group (OSH-ISH).

 


Resources

Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club

Gun Safety Rules from the National Rifle Association



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.