I was looking for an affordable red dot (not the Aimpoint, EoTech or Trijicon ones), but my not-so-pleasant experience with cheap reflex sights below $100 taught me that I should look for something of higher quality.
I stumbled upon this Vortex Sparc AR, which has the Vortex VIP warranty and I thought to myself “Vortex offers lifetime warranty on electronics when even Aimpoint offers only 10 years?” Councluding that it could be a steal I purchased it.
Today I’ll be reviewing this 2 MOA Vortex Sparc AR in case fellow hobbyists would also be interested in getting one.
- Wide elevation and windage adjustment range (90 MOA)
- Auto shutoff in 12 hours
- Vortex Lifetime warranty includes electronics
- Protruding blob at bottom-right corner could slightly obstruct sight picture
- Low battery life compared to other red dots
- Cannot be mounted very low due to battery compartment
Who should get a red dot sight?
Red dot sights or reflex sights are made for shooters who prioritize on fast target acquisition and moving targets at close to medium range, as it offers no magnification.
One distinct feature for red dot sight is the parallax-free aiming where your head and eye (looking through optics) placement don’t have to be exact every time for accurate shots. Get a red dot sight if you normally shoot fast-moving targets within 200 yards.
If you decide to get a red dot sight, here are things you need to consider :
- Battery life – One of the most common thing to fail in a red dot is its battery. Unlike rifle scopes, once battery dies, you can no longer aim with the optics and can rely only on iron sights (or other alternative aiming system you employ).
- Dot size – There is a wide variety of dot size that you can select from. The smaller the dot, the more accurate. Bigger dots are for faster target acquisition.
- Size and weight – You also have to factor in size and weight of your sight, as it will add to the overall weight of your firearms. Size should be easy to handle.
- Housing configuration – Red dot sights come in two housing configuration, open style and tube style. Open style gives a more un-obstruct field of view, while tube style has a tube encasing the optics, making it generally more durable.
Imagine your red dot failing in the middle of your expensive Africa hunt, or worse yet, middle of your home defense. A good battery should at least last up to a thousand hours. Note that holographic sights use more power than reflex sights. So, if you choose a holographic sight, prepare backup batteries.
An insider view of the Vortex Sparc AR
Vortex Sparc AR is an improved version of the previous Vortex Sparc II. The Sparc AR uses the standard AAA battery instead of the previous CR2032 battery, making battery acquisition a much more convenient task.
Changes on battery don’t stop just at battery type. Battery compartment is also switched from side to base, making the Sparc AR sleeker but adding more to height. This feature fits well on AR platforms, where medium to high mounts are preferred. But might not be ideal for guns where you want to use low mount.
Glass Quality Showdown
To test the quality of the glass, I lined the Vortex Sparc AR up with Primary Arms MD-ADS and Sig Sauer Romeo 5. From what I’ve seen the Vortex Sparc AR is noticeably clearer as there are no blue nor dark tint like the Primary Arms MD-ADS and Sig Sauer Romeo 5.
However on the bottom right corner inside the glass, there’s a slight protruding black blob which was used to mount the laser. It obstruct your field of view a little, not something major, but some people get irritated by it.
Note that the Vortex Sparc AR is a bit more expensive compared to the other two benchmarks I used.
2 MOA (Minutes of Angle) dot with 10 brightness settings
Vortex Sparc AR has 2 MOA dot, making it suitable for short to medium range targets. 2 Night vision and 8 day brightness settings make it adaptable to varying environment. The up and down brightness buttons are securely located at the bottom for easier access.
In my areas, brightness settings level of 8 and 9 is enough for bright sunny days.
The Sparc AR is designed specifically for AR type rifles (as its name suggests). Included mount has a removable 3mm shim plate which you can use to adjust for AR absolute or ⅓ co-witness with ease.
Battery life is 300 hours at maximum illumination and 5000 hours at minimum illumination, which is similar to its predecessor (Vortex Sparc II).
To prevent the battery from accidental rundown, this sight has an automatic shut-off feature that turns off the battery after 12 hours.
Also included in the design are two tethered lens caps that are used to keep dust and particulates away. The two lenses (front and back) are designed to interlock into each other to keep them away from the glass when the red dot is in use.
The only problem is that it is hard to snap the lens caps together with one hand.
Some people get irritated by the lens caps. Common solutions are cutting the cap straps off to permanently remove them, or just wrap them together with a rubber band.
Wide Range of Adjustments and Easy to Use Turrets
Both elevation and windage turrets have 90 MOA internal adjustment, meaning that you’ll never run out of adjustments even if you mount the Sparc AR on a shim or an off-set mount.
Plus, the turrets caps can be used as a screwdriver head to adjust the turrets. No need to pack screwdrivers around anymore.
The Vortex Sparc AR is known for its superb durability. I’ve tested putting the Vortex a bowl of water and freeze it in the fridge for an entire day. Guess what? It still works. I tried throwing it up in the air for around 10 feet and let it fall to the ground (grass). With both tests, the Sparc AR still holds zero just fine.
Some people even tested shooting it with a shotgun and the Sparc AR still functions properly!
Vortex Lifetime warranty is also a blessing (electronics included), as even Aimpoint covers their products for only 10 years. And most lesser brands give 3-5 years warranty on electronics.
My verdict on the Vortex Sparc AR
The Vortex Sparc AR is an affordable, good qaulity red dot sight that fits well on an AR platform. With its included mount, you can easily make absolute or 1/3 co-witness depending on your preference. Furthermore red dot sights from Vortex enjoy Lifetime warranty, while most manufacturers offer only limited time warranty especially on the electronics.
Slight protruding blob on the bottom right corner of the sight and the not-so-optimal lens caps might be a deal breaker for some. But for me, they’re just minor stuffs that don’t affect the optics functionality.
|✓ Affordable||✗ Protruding blob at bottom-right corner could slightly obstruct sight picture|
|✓ Wide elevation and windage adjustment range (90 MOA)||✗ Low battery life compared to other red dots|
|✓ Auto shutoff in 12 hours||✗ Cannot be mounted very low due to battery compartment|
|✓ Vortex Lifetime warranty includes electronics|
In case you are looking for other alternatives to the Vortex Sparc AR, you can always check out the following options:
Bushnell Trophy TRS 25
The TRS 25 is a super budget friendly red dot. Dot is 3 MOA, larger than Sparc AR for faster acquisition. Glass quality, durability and functions just aren’t as good. But if your bank dries up and you need a good optics under $100, this is the one.
- Much cheaper
- Quality not as good
- Not as good warranty
- 1 year limited warranty
Sig Sauer Romeo 5
This one is slightly cheaper than the Sparc AR, but quality is almost as good and durability is on par. The Sig Sauer Romeo 5 has slightly less clear glass. But can also withstand shotgun shots. 2-min no motion auto turn-off feature is also present. It consumes CR2032 battery, but expected battery life is much longer at 40,000 hours.
- Slightly cheaper
- Less clear glass
- Longer battery life
- 5 years warranty
A much more expensive optics, but the EoTech brand is super reliable that many of its product is favored by the military.
65 MOA ring with 1 MOA dot reticle means that you can shoot with extreme precision and fast target acquisition.
This holographic sight technology will give you a sharp and crisp reticle even if you have astigmatism. But it does eat through batteries faster.
- Sharp reticle
- Reticle good for short to medium range
- Super durable
- High price
The Vortec Sparc AR is great optic that offers high quality performance at a budget friendly price. You may think that the cheap price equates to low performance, but that is not the case with this optic. The design may suffer a few hitches, but that’s just about it. It has great features that we have no option, but to overlook the few mishaps. I definitely recommend this optic.