Jarrod Barr founded Crossfire Elite Inc. with faith that he could make a safer gun holster.
The company's widening distribution suggests Barr's confidence was justified. Since Barr started the business in 2009, Crossfire has gained a foothold in the gun industry and is now sold in the Sportsman's Warehouse chain and other stores, including Boise Gun Co. and Mid-Star Firearms in Middleton. Barr recently signed a deal to sell holsters in 120 Fred Meyer stores that sell outdoor items, bringing to 323 the number of stores carrying Crossfire products in 41 states.
"That's a big deal for us," Barr said.
Barr's headquarters for now is in a business park on Cortland Place just north of Interstate 84 in Nampa. Inside, 10 employees work sewing machines and assemble nylon, memory foam and other components into holsters that they box with bright black-and-yellow packaging for shipment. Barr said he's chosen a larger site in Caldwell if business grows as he expects in the next three years.
Rob White, a salesman at Mid-Star Firearms, said Crossfire sales increased at his store about four months ago when customers started asking for the brand. White said Crossfire offers safety features other nylon holsters lack, and at $28 to $60, Crossfire holsters cost the same as flimsier ones.
"It's priced in the same range with a much better quality," White said. "It's a USA product. We've had no complaints from customers whatsoever."
27 YEARS IN THE MAKING
Barr got the idea for the business at age 14 after his father was accidentally shot during a camping trip.
It was 1982 in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana. Barr's father left camp to investigate nearby gunshots, fearing others had run into a grizzly.
Barr says his father was an old-school cowboy with a Stetson hat, cowboy boots and a Ruger Blackhawk revolver resting in leather holsters on each hip. Barr's father tripped as he walked. A revolver fell out of its strapless holster and discharged when it hit the ground, sending a bullet through one knee.
Barr's father lived, but the accident spurred Barr to think about holster safety.
"Believe it or not, even clear back then, it got me thinking that there's got to be a better way to design safer gear, and especially holsters," he said.
His ideas have spawned more than 300 Crossfire holsters and gun accessories. Most are built around a few patent-pending ideas. One is the use of nylon with memory-foam lining that molds to the gun and allows each holster to fit a range of weapons instead of being model-specific.
Other innovations address design flaws with traditional thumb breaks, the buttoning straps that secure guns in their holsters. Traditional thumb breaks can catch on brush or other hip-catching snags, making the gun susceptible to falling out. Unsnapped thumb breaks can get lodged against triggers as the gun is holstered, causing the weapon to fire.
Those accidents are virtually impossible with Crossfire holsters, Barr said. Some Crossfire systems have spring-loaded thumb breaks that snap away from the gun and rest at the side of the holster after being unbuttoned. Others replace the buttons with elastic bands that can't get stuck in the trigger guard.
AN EARLY PLAN
Barr took an unusual course load when he went to Rexburg to attend Ricks College, now Brigham Young University-Idaho, for three years in the early 1990s. Each class taught Barr skills he knew he'd need to one day create a holster company, such as marketing, economics, industrial design, commercial art and software courses to learn design.
He also took a sewing class. He was usually surrounded by women sewing dresses. The college brought an industrial sewing machine into Barr's class so he could assemble heavy outdoor gear.
Barr worked nearly two decades as a salesman for some Treasure Valley companies and as an outdoor-gear designer. During free time in 2009, Barr designed what would be Crossfire's first holster on a desktop computer in the corner of his bedroom. He hired a seamstress to assemble the first holsters. He printed product literature on his personal laser printer and hand-stuffed his literature into envelopes.
Barr sold more than $20,000 worth of gear in 2009, selling to a handful of stores. He started building a roster of distributors. He moved into an outbuilding at his in-laws' house in Nampa for a few months after the business outgrew the bedroom. He moved to Cortland Place when it outgrew the outbuilding.
The company originally rented one tenant space at Cortland Place and now rents four, as well as a warehouse building. Crossfire employs 18 people, including eight who sew in the Portland area. Barr said he will bringing those jobs to the Treasure Valley.
Terry Christensen, a vice president of Benchmark Construction in Meridian and a lifelong gun owner, watched Barr make a presentation to a group of prospective local investers. Christensen decided to invest in Crossfire, which was struggling at the time, because he liked Barr's ideas and attitude.
"I call him the human cockroach," Christensen said. "For someone who maybe should have just given up, he didn't; he kept on swinging. Usually, persistence pays off. After watching his presentation, I decided to put in an investment just because of his tenacity and personality."
Barr won't disclose revenue. He projects Crossfire to top $25 million in sales in three years. He plans to move to a 20,000-square-foot building in Caldwell by then and hopes to hire dozens more employees, maybe eventually topping 100.
"We have more orders than we can fill most of the time, which is a nice place position to be in," Barr said. "Now, we're really just in a position of managing that growth. I'm very much a made-in-the-USA, made-in-Idaho guy. I'm very focused on how we can help the community and provide more jobs."
Christensen said it'll take a few more years to realize returns on his investment, but he's confident in Crossfire's trajectory because he's confident in Barr.
"He's kind of the Steve Jobs of the holster industry," Christensen said. "He's always thinking how to improve those products. It isn't from getting market data or from opinions from other people. It comes right out of Jarrod's head."
Zach Kyle: 377-6464