There was a time when Lisa Looper wouldn't touch a gun. Now, the only gun she won't touch is a pink one.
Pink guns are insulting to a serious shooter like Looper, the Oklahoma City mom who had the crazy idea for a bra holster that found its way to Hollywood.
The Flashbang holster created by Looper fits on the bra under a woman's bust line. The producers of the television series NCIS Los Angeles saw a YouTube video of the holster and included it in the season-ending episode last year.
“We probably got 1,000 new Facebook friends after that,” Looper said.
The holster also has gotten a lot of attention within the industry and from national media. Looper, 33, has been profiled by several trade publications, interviewed by CNN and MSNBC, and last week Forbes Magazine called wanting to know her story.
Looper, the mother of three young children, is the leading force behind a popular line of firearms holsters called Flashbang Holsters, which are designed exclusively for women.
The 1998 graduate of Putnam City West also is a competitive pistol shooter. Last year, she started an Oklahoma chapter of a nationwide women's only shooting league called “A Girl & A Gun.”
The group meets twice a month at the H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City for “trigger therapy” as Looper calls it.
And this is from a woman who several years ago was a manicurist and frightened by guns.
“My dad really tried (to teach me how to shoot),” Looper said. “I was a little bit scared of guns.”
Her attitude about guns changed after she realized it would be part of her livelihood. She met at married her husband, Bart, while they were students at the University of Oklahoma.
Bart Looper's grandparents were the founders of Looper Leather, located just south of downtown Oklahoma City, which has been in business since 1938.
For years, Looper Leather made Western belts and purses for TG&Y until the store closed. They also manufacture and repair holsters, gun belts and duty gear for law enforcement officers.
In 2005, Bart and Lisa Looper became the third-generation of Loopers to operate the family business. Lisa decided that if she was going to own a company that manufactured holsters, she should learn how to handle a gun.
She asked a friend, who is a Moore police officer, to teach her how to properly handle a handgun.
“I realized they were not as scary as I thought they were,” she said.
When Looper started carrying a handgun, she discovered that it wasn't very comfortable. Most holsters are designed by men and made for men, she said.
“The basic, general problem is you are taking a large straight chunk of metal and you are strapping it to a petite curvy body,” Looper said. “Those aren't made to go together.
“Some of the problems we (women) run into are like with the curve of our hips. The holster will tuck the butt of the gun in tightly against the ribs so there is no way to physically draw it without running into your rib cage.”
Looper kept encountering problems with carrying a gun on her hip, so she designed a holster for a bra. Her husband built it to specifications.
“I was just trying to find a way that I could carry my gun,” she said. “I never considered that anybody else had the same issue that I did.”
Looper's gun-toting girlfriends all wanted the holster as well. She took her bra holster, called Flashbang, to the National Rifle Association's annual convention two years ago to see if it would sell. She sold 42 in three days.
Now Flashbang Holsters is a subsidiary of Looper Leather, specializing in an entire holster line for female shooters. The company is selling 42 holsters every hour the business is open.
The women's line includes holsters that be attached inside a bra strap like a shoulder holster, on a belt and inside a waist band. Even some men are carrying them.
“I will never forget the Facebook post from the first man who was bragging about wearing a Sophia (the name of one of the holsters for women,” she said.
The number of women who own guns and participate in the shooting sports is growing.
Miles Hall, owner of the H&H Shooting Sports Complex, said 47 percent of his store's customers are women, a percentage that has doubled in the past decade.
“Women know more about guns than most men give them credit for,” Hall said.
Many women initially get a handgun for reasons of self-defense then discover they actually enjoy shooting, he said.
Looper noticed a similar progression with female shooters.
“They start out buying a handgun. They do that for self-defense or sport reasons,” she said. “Then they build an AR (assault rifle). Then they want to go hunting. It works that way every time.”
Twenty-two women showed up at the first organizational meeting last year of
the “A Girl & A Gun” club in Oklahoma City, a women's only shooting club for pistol, rifle and shotgun sports. Membership is now 150.
The club welcomes beginning shooters. Many women find it easier to learn to shoot from a female firearms instructor, Looper said.
“The gun world is still primarily a man's world,” she said. “But more and more women are becoming part of that world.”