One of the biggest problems in the past with red dot electronic sights is that they existed in exactly two categories. There was the super premium, salt water submergible, dust/ EMP proof, hostage rescue unit rated that cost roughly $800. It was a fantastic sight, but the price point for 1X magnification is about the same as buying a spare rifle. The other category was the sub $100 red dots, which may or may not hold zero long enough to drive home from the range. Known for their optics and high-quality products, Vortex has stepped in to fill the natural gap in this market with the Sparc AR red dot.
- Magnification: 1X
- Objective Lens: 22mm
- Eye Relief: Unlimited
- Adjustment Graduation: 1 MOA
- Max Elevation Adj.: 90 MOA
- Max Windage Adj.: 90 MOA
- Length: 2.9 in.
- Weight: 7.5 oz.
- MSRP: $259
- Manufacturer: Vortex
Is there a reason, in this day and age, that a red dot sight should cost close to $1,000? Considering that price point has been the same for close to a decade, I highly doubt it. Can you buy anything of quality for $100? Probably not. The iron sights on my pistol cost more than that. Somewhere in between, Vortex has capitalized at delivering a quality product for a fraction of the price of others on the market. The Vortex Sparc retails at an MSRP of $259, though street price is closer to $200.
Comparing the Sparc AR to the market leader in red dots is a bold move, considering you could buy four of the Vortex for the price of one of the more expensive red dots. Still, a gold standard is a gold standard. It sets the value proposition of everything else.
The Sparc is a bit bigger in every dimension, but not by much. Although this size difference is completely irrelevant if you are looking at this as a primary optic for your rifle. The elevation and windage turrets are protected by a sloping chunk of metal integrated into the housing of the unit, which should prevent you from sheering them off in all but the most unlikely of blows. You would have to swing your rifle in such a way as to hit a ½ inch wide obstacle perfectly to directly hit to the turret. The turrets feature a knurled removable cap to further protect them, with a slot cut into the top of the cap to make adjustments with. The Sparc is covered with a protective rubber outer shell, designed to absorb most to the abuse you throw at it. One feature I really liked was the lens covers are integrated into this rubber shell. When using the optic, they snap together and stay out of your way. This makes them nearly impossible to lose. What a great design feature.
Vortex designed this optic to run on a simple household AAA battery. This is a nice departure, now that Uncle Sugar doesn’t buy me CR-123 or CR-2032 batteries. This yields you 300 hours of use at maximum brightness or 5,000 hours at minimum brightness. The only downside, depending on your point of view is that this requires a fairly large battery housing, located beneath the optic. That takes us right into mounting options.
As a stand alone optic, the Sparc AR shines. Included in the box are an absolute co-witness and lower one-third co-witness option. Co-witness meaning it lines up roughly with your iron sights as height goes. Either of these works great, and it’s a matter of personal preference for a stand alone sight. This is the only drawback to the design though if you had other uses in mind. Because of the battery location, lower one-third is as low as you can get. Great for an AR-15, not so great if you wanted to use this as an offset optic at a 45 angle to your scope.
The dot brightness on the Sparc is fantastic. Using this in broad daylight in the desert is not an issue, and doesn’t even require full power. A 2 MOA dot is the most useful size to me, and the only option on the Sparc. Point Vortex. The dot is every so slightly fuzzy to me, but so are all red dots these days. As a method of contrast, it looks exactly the same to me as the much pricier option. I had no problem turning it down low enough to get a good zero, and turned up running drills, this is not something I ever notice. The only thing odd about the Sparc is the amount of space taken up by the laser emitter at the 5 o’clock of the optic. It looks like a big glob of glue in your lens, and is hard to miss when you first pick the optic up. I thought it was going to be a potential problem, but I never noticed it when I was actually shooting. Just a bit of buyer beware, it doesn’t mean you got a bad optic. A cursory search of forums shows that this is part of the design. Having tested this Sparc on several rifles, I don’t count this as a negative.
All in all, I give the Sparc AR an A+ rating. I truly appreciate that Vortex has built a high-quality, entry level red dot at a reasonable price. The Sparc costs about the same as a good set of folding iron sights, which makes it accessible to anyone with an AR-15. Is it as durable as its more expensive competition? Only time will tell, but I haven’t lost zero yet, and I have shot this quite a lot. And at a price of $200, I can afford to shoot it a lot more.
For more information about Vortex optics, click here.
To purchase a Vortex Sparc on GunsAmerica, click here.