Remember those old Energizer commercials with the pink bunny? The battery company is still using the bunny, but they’ve ditched the famous tag line: “It keeps going and going and going and going…”
Now, Energizer might consider replacing the bunny with Vortex’s new red dot. The SPARC Solar is rated for an incredible 150,000 hours of battery life, triple what most other high-end red dots can manage. For those counting, that’s 17 years of battery life from a single CR2032.
There are a few caveats (more on that below), but the SPARC changes the expectations for red dots, and I’d bet my house we’ll see other manufacturers follow Vortex’s blueprint.
Dot Color: Bright Red
Dot Size: 2 MOA
Eye Relief: Unlimited
Adjustment Graduation: 1 MOA
Travel Per Rotation: 42 MOA
Max Elevation Adjustment: 100 MOA
Max Windage Adjustment: 100 MOA
Parallax Setting: Parallax Free
Length: 2.6 inches
Weight: 5.9 oz
Street Price: ~$280
It’s tough to stand out in the red dot world. Some are more durable than others. Some feature a clearer dot or hassle-free turrets. But for the practical purposes of most gun owners not fighting the Taliban, let’s be honest: all red dots are more or less the same.
Battery life is the one exception to that gross generalization. There’s nothing worse than taking a rifle out of the range bag to discover a dead red dot battery. If you don’t have a backup or iron sights, it’s probably a wasted trip.
The SPARC Solar helps gun owners avoid that situation with a few great features. The solar panel is the most obvious. When the red dot is exposed to sunlight—even just ambient light—it runs the red dot using the solar panel rather than the battery. That gives the regular ol’ CR2032 battery a whopping 150,000 hours of battery life on brightness setting 6 (out of 12).
The battery life does depend on usage. Vortex told us that if a gun owner only uses the red dot indoors, the battery life goes down to about 50,000 hours. But most gun owners who shoot at outdoor ranges can expect the full 150,000. With enough sunlight, the red dot can also be used without any battery at all.
Motion activation also keeps the red dot from wearing down the battery when not in use. If the optic doesn’t move for 14 hours, it will automatically shut off. It turns on when it’s moved again and reverts to the brightness setting it used when it shut down. I found that this feature works flawlessly. The optic turns back on even when moved a few centimeters, and I didn’t notice any flickering or flashing.
And if you’d rather turn the optic on and off manually, the optic can be set to do that.
Here’s a quick comparison between the SPARC Solar and some other common red dots. Aimpoint and Trijicon’s cost at least double what you’ll pay for the SPARC Solar.
The SPARC Solar comes with a lower 1/3 co-witness mount along with a high-rise mount for AR-type firearms. The mounts secure tightly with two crossbars on the ends and a boss in the middle that engages with any 1913 rail, and I’ve had no issues with the mounting system so far.
Included in the box is a dedicated tool for tightening the mounting screws, so you don’t have to worry about over or under torquing.
I primarily mounted the Solar on AR-style rifles, but the low mount would be appropriate for AK-47’s or lever and bolt action firearms.
The optic can also be fitted with any of the aftermarket Aimpoint Micro mounts, like this quick-detach mount from Scalarworks. If you decide to swap mounts, the heli-coils in the body will keep the screws from stripping.
Clear as Glass?
With 150,000 hours of battery life, you might expect Vortex to have used lots of blue tint to conserve power in the red dot emitter. While I did notice a slightly blueish tint, especially around the edges, I can only see it when I’m looking for it.
At the Range
When I got to the range, the first thing I noticed was the SPARC’s simple, snag-free design. The vertical reticle turret is integrated into the solar panel and the brightness control buttons are integrated into the left side of the optic. The right side of the optic houses the battery and the horizontal reticle turret, which protrude from the sight and could get caught on clothing or gear. But overall, the unit is far sleeker than other red dots in this category.
The brightness control buttons were tactile and easy to press. At the low end of the brightness scale, the SPARC can be adjusted to be compatible with night vision gear. At the high end, the red dot can be seen with the naked eye even in the brightest sunlight. When the highest brightness setting is reached, the red dot flashes three times.
The reticle turrets adjust in one-MOA increments (about one inch at 100 yards). This is more than enough precision for most red dot applications, and I found that one-MOA increments make the optic easier to sight in. The turrets can be adjusted with a flathead screwdriver, coin, or the lip of cartridge brass.
The SPARC Solar also has a wider viewing window than many other red dots in this category. Most companies don’t publish the width of an optic’s viewing window (unless you’re Trijicon, which can’t stop talking about the MRO’s “viewing area”), so I can’t verify this across the board. But the SPARC Solar definitely features a wider window than the Primary Arms SLx, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same applies to other red dots as well.
I have zero complaints about the SPARC Solar. It turned on every time I picked up a rifle, and it held its point of aim even after removing and re-mounting the optic. Its rugged waterproof, shockproof, and fog-proof design protect it even in the harshest elements, and its battery life means it’ll keep going and going and going no matter how long you use it.
If you’re in the market for a new red dot, I’d give the Vortex SPARC Solar a look.