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Vortex Sparc Red Dot Sight [REVIEW]

Today, I will be reviewing the Vortex Sparc Solar Red Dot Sight. This is the slightly pricier version of the Vortex Sparc AR Red dot.

In full transparency, I bought this optic with my own money and without my wife’s knowledge. I do this out of a love for firearms and the constitution. Lastly, the ammo used in testing came out of my child’s college fund (just kidding).

I hope this helps you find the tools that you are looking for, so that we may all be better armed and equipped.  

Vortex Overview

Vortex has made a lot of waves and claims within the gun and optics industry, largely for introducing feature rich equipment at a price point lower than their competitors. Enough to be considered a staple on the shelf at your local sporting goods store.

Vortex Sparc Solar mounted

They have made their name within the realm of rifle scopes and are now entrenched in the battle of the red dot. The never ending search for the balance of affordability, durability and features has resulted in the introduction of the Vortex Sparc Solar Red Dot from our Wisconsin friends.

Carrying the venerable VIP warranty, and some impressive features for your modern red dot, it’s got a lot to offer without taking out a new loan. 

Specs & User Friendly Features

As far as pedigree goes, the Vortex Sparc Solar is the progression of the Sparc red dot line with a new twist. It’s claim to fame is a dual fuel-esk approach to running this optic. Of course this is not the first time this has been done, though this may be the best execution of it I’ve seen yet.

Battery Life & Solar

The Solar panel on a sparc solar red dot sight

A solar panel on the top that will fully power your optic when enough ambient light is detected, and fun fact, it will work even without a battery so long as the sun is out. But unfortunately I wasn’t able to get it to work inside without a battery.

When used as intended with a battery it won’t leave you blind if you step behind a tree, but if the sun sets on your evening coyote hunt the industry standard CR2032 battery takes over and keeps you seeing red.

Vortex Sparc solar panel for daytime use

Shake Awake

In the past, this combination of solar and battery powered combo-dot would be difficult to formulate with a true “shake awake” feature, but Vortex has done it. After 14 motionless hours the Vortex Sparc sight will shut off to conserve battery. Pick it up out of the dark gun safe, and it flips on, then walk outside with even modest daylight, and the panel takes over, saving your battery for larping in the basement.

If you are an old school stick transmission driving kind of person, the Vortex Sparc does have a manual on/off setting as well. With a claim of a single battery providing you 150,000+ hours, you might as well leave it on. I’m not really sure how they came up with that number.

Shake awake feature for Vortex Sparc red dot

As I understand, the solar panel will not charge your battery back up, but it does sound as though it will go on partial duty in twilight or with indoor lighting. So it’s not quite an all or nothing system which is probably where the (+) comes in.

But regardless, there are 8760 hours in a year. Meaning I can put a battery in my Vortex Sparc Solar and change it out when my infant child finally turns 18 and moves out. In other words, I could teach them to shoot with this red dot for the entirety of their childhood before changing the battery. 

MOA & Adjustments

2 MOA dot on Vortex Sparc

The reminder of the specs are all what you would expect from a solid red dot. Boasting a daylight bright 2 MOA red dot with 2 settings for night vision compatibility, that is “parallax free” (we all know that is mostly true, but not completely) consistent with industry standard. 1 MOA adjustments for windage and elevation, and a total adjustment window of 100 MOA for each. 

Lightweight Form Factor

The Vortex Sparc Solar is 2.6 inches long about 1.5 inches tall before any riser but one is included for you, with a right sided easily accessible battery compartment and brightness controls on the left.

Lightweight form factor of Vortex Sparc Sight

I would like to bring some attention to the design of the housing and the inclusion of the adjustment turrets. Although there are no screw-on covers for these, they are recessed into the housing body, and have a convenient cut that allows you to use a case rim to dial your dot. They do that by making the angle from the front, slanting towards the rear, so you don’t have a bulbous protrusion from the top or side of your optic.

I don’t consider myself highspeed or an operator by any means. Probably because I have had enough straps and knobs hang up and get caught on various things when taking tactical rifle classes, or just walking in the deer woods to make me feel like Barney Fife. This attention to detail of the shape of the nitrogen purged, fog proof housing is a big win in my book, and might help me avoid the embarrassing moment of getting caught on a seatbelt.  

Vortex Sparc red dot

My Experience

I had ordered the Vortex Sparc, because the marketing worked. I wanted something that I could completely forget in the back of the safe and not worry about the battery dying. I also have started to get behind the craze of dots on shotguns.

I’m not sure about you but I spend enough time in the turkey woods ducking in and out of shadows trying to get a modern day raptor to fight me. I thought this would be perfect. Much to my surprise, it is. I liked it so much that I couldn’t wait for turkey season and put it on a Ruger Mk IV tactical.

Mounting

Vortex Sparc mounted on a Ruger Mark IV pistol

This dot, only 5.9 oz, seated on top of my little .22 gave me flashbacks to Han Solos blaster. The packaging comes with a lower 1/3rd riser for all of your AR needs. But it also has a low mount assembly that was quick and easy to change with 4 torques screws and the included allen wrench. A quick addition of a Silencerco Sparrow, and it was off to the races.

Zeroing

I did my best to zero it off hand and was hitting a 4 inch steel plate at 25 yards more often then not. Luckily the rim of a fired .22 was ideal for twisting the windage and elevation turrets. I did consider that without caps these might twist inadvertently, but after having to dial these myself, I can’t imagine them getting messed up in normal day to day life.

Vortex Sparc adjustment knob and lens cap

They were crisp and simple, no caps to worry about. Although the optic did come with a bikini style rubber lens cover that is held on by attaching around the battery housing. I found this to be frustrating and just kind of in the way.

I will give it to Vortex for seeing that this may be a problem and building them so that they click together and stack on the battery compartment to keep from flopping all over. But I appreciated the clean look of the angled housing, no turret caps, so I quickly removed the lens cover as well. It may serve a purpose for some, just not for me at the current moment.

Closed Emitter Dot

It also helps that the Vortex Sparc is a closed emitter dot, meaning dirt and debris aren’t going to be coving up where the dot is getting projected from. That is historically a larger issue with dots on pistols, but something to keep in mind as you set up your 45 degree canted red dot with your LVPO scope.

Closed emitter red dot vortex sparc optic

I say that because I set my rifle in the dirt with an RMR on top of it and ended up needing an air compressor to get the muck away from the emitter. Of course that is after I took it off and changed the battery and it still wasn’t working. After that experience I changed it out for a closed emitter system. If i had the Sparc Solar at that time, it would have won that honor. 

Pin Point Accuracy

The dot is crisp, as crisp as my below average astigmatism can see. I tried to watch for that point when this dot was switching between battery and solar power, but I never noticed it.

Zeroing the Vortex Sparc

Even when taking it from dark rooms of the basement to outside in the July sun. As far as the claim of daylight bright, I have used a lot of different red dots from Bushnell to Aimpoint and the only one I can remember that got washed out by bright sunlight was the solar powered trijicon RMR from a dark room to a bright backdrop. That’s a story for another time, and a problem that this dot doesn’t face due to the ability to switch back and forth seamlessly.

I even sat back in a corner of my house and looked out to the yard in full sun, while walking forward, in that awkward half sun/half gloom of the doorway the dot stayed bright enough for me to see. I didn’t even have to squint for it.

Shooting with the Vortex Sparc

I spent around 200 rounds of .22lr ammo introducing a couple friends to the world of shooting and another 600 letting them start to love the experience. I know that the addition of the dot to this pistol had made one of them a little more hesitant, strictly because it was more that they didn’t understand or were not familiar with.

Vortex Sparc mounted on Ruger 22 pistol

But after a few magazines of .22lr with such a simple red dot, I had a hard time getting them to call it quits. Ultimately the limiting factor was having them start loading their own magazines, and their thumbs could only take so much. 

Those times with new shooters is a delicate one. If this dot had started to flicker, or was too dim to see, or had rattled itself loose it would have changed the tone of the time from being sure about the equipment and confident in their actions. To unease and more uncertainty. The last time you did something you felt uneasy about, is probably the last time you will ever do it. So do us all a favor when introducing new shooters to the world of firearms, and use safe and effective gear with reliable performance. The Sparc Solar meets and exceeds that standard. 

Cost

The Vortex Sparc has an MSRP of $399.99, but a quick internet search led me to find one for $279.99. For that price, a feature packed dot with a lifetime warranty is a no brainer.

vortex Sparc solar

Cons

The only drawback I could identify with the Vortex Sparc is just me being picky.

I would like some selection in the reticle, much like the Holosun line of optics that allow you to select a circle, circle dot, or just dot.

The Verdict

The Vortex Sparc Solar is my new favorite red dot. In due time I will be picking up two more. One for the shotgun that never got to try it on, and another as a backup, because there is always a project in the works.

I change out all my red dot batteries on presidential election day. It’s a good solid reminder that I have a hard time forgetting. If I left this one alone for 4 election cycles, it would still be working. I feel like I could trade some of that for a 32 MOA circle to help out my shotgun aiming.

Vortex Sparc mounted on a 22 pistol

Either way, if you are in the market for a red dot to mount to your rifle, shotgun or even your Ruger MkIV, the Vortex Sparc Solar or the Vortex Sparc AR Red Dot is a premium option without the premium price tag that will deliver reliable performance. If nothing else Vortex is continuing to pressure their counterparts in the industry to innovate.

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