Vortex SPARC AR
The Vortex SPARC AR is suitable for hunting exploits and target-shooting. It is similar in grade to military-grade precision. The Vortex Optics SPARC AR Red dot is compatible with many firearms such as the 10/22 Raptor, H & R 1871 (Pardner Pump) Shotgun, AR22s, AR-15s, and more.
When looking for quality red dot sights for an Armalite Rifle, the SPARC AR is among the best options available. The battery is simple to get to and the set up for the optic is at the correct height.
Zero the optic and it is ready to go. It has a crisp, parallax-free dot. The multi-coated lenses transmit light extremely well. The electronics return automatically to the last intensity used when turned off and back on again.
- Battery included
- Built-in brightness intensity memory function
- Easily zeroed, holds zero well
- Easy on the eyes
- Mountable in four ways
- Wide range in night vision and brightness
- Astigmatism may distort red dot slightly
- Staring at the dot may seem to be slightly pixelated
The battery life is 285 to 300 hours on full brightness. It can last up to 5000 hours when used on the lowest setting. While the battery life is not bad, it is significantly lower than some of the newer budget-friendly optics that have come to the market. To help extend the battery life, it has an auto shutoff feature after 12 hours.
The lens cap covers are a cool feature. They can be clipped together to be kept out of the way. Clipping the caps together stops flopping in the breeze The edges are useful in adjusting elevation and windage, which are sleekly hidden on the right top of the unit under the twist caps,
The lens caps is not a favorite of all testers. Some would prefer something magnetic or spring loaded to prevent the caps from getting in the way without the process of meticulously snapping them together.
It is nearly impossible to snap them together with one hand. There is also a rubberized armor that protects the sight similar to the older Aimpoints. The rubberized armor can be taken off if so desired.
The compact device has intuitive rear-facing controls for instant adjustment visibility for dot brightness. The automatic shutoff feature automatically returns to the intensity level last used when re-powered. It is an excellent optic for every rifle in every situation.
It has a useful memory function that returns the intensity of brightness to the last level used when it turns off and on again. There are ten brightness settings, with the two lowest compatible with night vision.
The sight is nitrogen purged which keeps it from fogging. The dot in the SPARC AR is a very crisp 2 MOA. A crisp 2 MOA dot means the dot covers a two-inch diameter circle at a distance of 100 yards
That coverage doubles at 200 yards to four inches. A 2 MOA is an excellent size for a precise aim point. It can be picked up when shouldering a rifle. The easy to use controls maintain the sight picture.
The glass is very clear for an optic in this price range. All air-to-glass surfaces have multiple anti-reflective coatings to increase light transmission.
The red dot display is extremely visible in daylight. All holographic and red dot sights exhibit small amounts of parallax. According to the current practice of the industry, the small amount presented by the SPARC AR is considered parallax-free. It makes a negligible performance difference.
The non-critical eye relief is unlimited for rapid target acquisition. The night vision settings are used when putting the device on a hog rifle or using it for defensive ops or HD. The middle setting is preferred by many for all around use. Very bright settings are used for direct sunlight. Very low settings are for low-light loadouts.
They also function as the on and off switch. Hold the ‘up’ arrow for five seconds to power up and the ‘down’ arrow for five seconds to turn it off. The windage and elevation turrets have caps that can be used to adjust the dot easily. The red dot is highly accurate.
The adjustments are in one-MOA increments. The adjustment is one inch at 100 yards, which is a little more than similar sights that have a ½ inch at 100-yard increments. It is adequate for the type of optic it is and the practical applications for which most people use it.
Vortex uses a ubiquitous triple-A battery for the sight. Nearly every household has one. Should the battery die, no trip to Walmart to find an oddball battery is necessary. For reliable performance under any conditions, the O-rings seal prevents debris, dust, and moisture from penetrating the sight.
It is advertised as waterproof. So a liter of water was poured over the design to see if water would cause it to malfunction. It passed the test without issue. The O-ring seal was put to the test with a submersion test.
A container was filled with water and the SPARC AR was given a bath for a couple of hours. The water had no effect on the device. The dot was still on and everything functioned as it was supposed to do.
The third test was finding out how well the battery hold up to the freeze test. Freezing tested the entire build of the sight and the electronics. It causes the entire sight to contract a bit, then expand while it is thawing.
It can cause the sight to lose zero in the process. The Vortex SPARC AR was placed in a container of water and placed in a freezer for 15 hours. The device shuts off automatically after 12 hours. It was not on when removed from the freezer. After thawing, it came on and held zero.
Since the SPARC AR is intended for use primarily for an AR platform, the primary weapon chosen to test the spark was the primary weapon system of the Mark 1 Mode 2. It performed extremely well.
It was also tested on an HK UMP and, to see if it could be knocked off its game, it was tested on a Fostex Original 12 shotgun to see how well it took the recoil of a 12-gauge. It performed well on all platforms. It took the 12-gauge abuse without a problem.
The rubberized armor may have helped with the next test, which was impact testing. For this test, the device was thrown ten times into the air approximately 12 to 15 feet and allowed to hit the ground.
It was done at the Green Ridge Shooting Range in Cleveland, Alabama, where the ground is primarily rock with mud mixed in. After the drop portion of the test, the dot was still on and was still working. It was tested to determine if it maintained zero - it did.
The next test was the battery life. It is the most important feature of a red dot sight to many shooters. On the highest setting, it is 300 hours. It extends to 5000 hours on the lowest setting. It likely lasts somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum.
To test the battery life, the tester tried to kill the battery by turning it on every time he went shooting or took the primary weapon systems AR out of the safe for fondling. It was also turned on before putting it back in the safe. After several months’ use, the tester was not able to kill the battery.
The last of the torture tests was to shoot it with 7½ dot from ten yards with a 12-gauge shotgun. If an optic can be shot with a shotgun and still work it is amazing. After the impact, the device was mounted to a weapon. It was still working and held zero. The SPARC AR is amazingly tough considering the price point.
A spacer shim is included that can be used to provide mounting heights of 37mm, which is absolute co-witness, and 40mm for lower ⅓ co-witness. With the upgrade, the ability to mount low on the rail or remove the base entirely was lost. There is little need for a low mount on a free-floated rail or on the receiver. The comb on all stocks is too high for usable eye height.
In design, Vortex has greatly streamlined the profile by putting the battery compartment light intensity controls in what would normally be the riser or wasted space. It is a great design in which the battery compartment and controls do not hand off the side.
The sight has a slim, compact design. The only downside is the battery controls under the optics makes low mounting like that needed for an AK or similar rifles impossible. That is why it is called an AR and not a KK.
The windage and elevation turrets are somewhat protected by the contour of the body of the device. Another thing to consider with the SPARC AR is the size. It is a little larger than micro sights like the Aimpoint Micro, smaller than sights like the Aimpoint Pro Trijicon MRO.
Its rugged construction withstands impact and recoil, making it shockproof. A hard anodized matte finish is highly durable and low-glare. A water-resistant compartment houses the battery. It is a simple and needed evolution of the SPARC II optic.
The improvements are mostly superficial. The battery used is a triple-A battery instead of the CR2032. The 2032 was quarter-size and required placement in the turret compartment that was the size of the tube. The triple-A battery integrates into the base.
The sides of this optic are cleaner and more compact. The body of the sight is kept slim as possible by the battery compartment being built-in to the base. The 12-hour shut off is meant to prevent accidental rundown of the battery.
Controls were moved to the base instead of the left side, which helps to keep the body compact and sleek. Brightness controls were also moved to the base from the left side, making the optic body slimmer overall.
The VIP warranty is a Very Important Promise to the customers. They will repair or replace their product for one in perfect working order. The warranty is a lifetime warranty that is fully transferable.
There are no cards to fill out or receipts to keep. It shows Vortex is willing to stand behind their products. The VIP warranty does not cover cosmetic or deliberate damage, theft, or loss. For the money, it is among the best red dots available.
The MSRP is $259.99, but it sells for about $200 by many retailers. For some time the Vortex SPARC was the champion of below $200, quality built optics with red dot. It is still a leader in the optic world with the updated SPARC AR that specifically caters to modern sporting rifles such as the AR-15.
* 2 MOA Dot
* 300 to 5000-hour battery life
* Aluminum alloy chassis
* Fog proof
* Fully multi-coated lens
* Multi-height mount system
* Operating temperature range -4° F to 158° F
* Rear-facing controls
* Single dot reticle
* Unlimited eye relief