Vortex Sparc AR Red Dot

For a while, the Vortex Sparc was the reigning champ of sub $200 quality built red dot optics. For those who couldn't afford an Aimpoint at over twice the cost, the Sparc and the later Sparc II was either their first red dot purchase, or their first upgrade from a budget Chinese imitation model. Since then Vortex is still a leading brand in the optics world, and has updated the Sparc product line to specifically cater to the AR-15 and other modern sporting rifles with the Sparc AR.

The Sparc AR is specifically designed for the next generation of AR-15 rifles and other modern sporting rifles.

The Sparc AR is a simple but needed evolution of the Sparc II optic, which was a much needed enhancement of the Gen I Sparc. Improvements over the Sparc II are mostly superficial, as Vortex went for a much more streamlined profile. This included a transition from the CR2032 battery to a standard AAA battery. The 2032 battery being quarter sized required placement in a turret compartment as big as the tube itself. The new AAA battery is integrated into the base itself, which leaves the sides of the optic more compact and cleaner.  

The AAA battery compartment is built into the base, keeping the sight body as slim as possible.

The AAA battery has a life of 300 hours at the maximum brightness, and 5,000 hours at the minimum brightness... just like the Sparc II's CR2032. Also just like its predecessor, the Sparc AR has 10 variable illumination settings—the lowest two settings are night-vision compatible. Another feature Vortex kept the same was the automatic shut off after 12 hours to prevent accidental battery rundown.

Moving the controls from the left side to the base also helps keep the body sleek and compact.

The up and down brightness controls have been moved from the left side to the base as well, which leaves the body of the optic much slimmer overall. Vortex incorporated a rubber cover with tethered lens caps. The caps help keep dust and dirt from getting on the lenses, and they can interlock into each other to stay out of the way when the optic is in use.

The lens caps suck. I'd prefer something spring loaded or magnetic to keep the caps out of the way without a meticulous process of snapping them together.

Its almost impossible to snap the caps together one handed, let alone in your peripheral vision. If you don't like them (which I wouldn't blame you) you could either snip the tethers and remove the caps from the soft armor, or pull the whole thing off entirely. Honestly, I'm disappointed it this design from Vortex. Standard small scope caps can't be used either, as the Sparc AR doesn't have any tubular objective or eye piece like the Sparc II did. Maybe someone else will design a rubberized armor cover with flip up caps as a third party option.

The Sparc AR is more Aimpoint-like than the Sparc II. Both still hold up as my favorite red dot sights.

Now back to the Sparc AR... it utilizes a crisp 2 MOA dot (so did the Sparc II). For those who don't have MOA burned into their brain, that means the dot will cover up a 2 inch diameter circle at 100 yards. At 200 yards that coverage doubles to 4 inches, and so on. 2 MOA is a good sized dot for a precise point of aim, but should be easy enough to pick up when shouldering the rifle. The controls are easy to use while maintaining sight picture, and the electronics automatically return to last dot intensity used when powered back up.

The 2MOA dot is crisp and perfect for precise, slow shooting or fast rapid shooting.

The Sparc AR still uses a removable 3mm shim plate to offer absolute cowitness height (37mm) or lower third cowitness (40mm) like the Sparc II did, however the ability to remove base entirely and mount low onto the rail was lost in the upgrade. Obviously the AR in the optic's name stands for AR-15, and there's little need for super low mount on the receiver or on a free floated rail, as the comb on any stock would still be too high for a usable eye height. For AK rifles, shotguns, and certain pistols this ability was a must. Hopefully Vortex doesn't discontinue the Sparc II anything soon. Its shared footprint with the Aimpoint Micro T-1, Micro T-2, Micro H-1, and Micro H-2 was also a huge benefit, as there were plenty of QD bases available.

The Sparc AR is just as at home on a bullpup like the IWI Tavor as it is on the AR-15.

With all the comparisons to the Sparc II, you'd think I wouldn't like the Sparc AR at all. Thats not necessarily true. One big plus over the Sparc II is the shutoff sequence. You wouldn't think pressing and holding two buttons at the same time would be difficult, but with gloved fingers it was a royal pain, and often I would just leave it on to shutoff automatically after 12 hours. With the Sparc AR you only have to press and hold the down button, much easier to do with gloves on and either hand.

Don't worry, the Sparc AR still works great with the Vortex 3x magnifier, if not even better than the Sparc II did because of the lack of cylindrical objective and eye pieces.

I really enjoy the sleeker design of the Sparc AR... especially atop my IWI Tavor bullpup. It is still very much compatible with the Vortex VMX-3T magnifier, however the repositioned rear controls are harder to use with the magnifier deployed versus when they were located on the side of the Sparc II. The slick sided profile and battery-integrated base are still worthy evolutionary traits of the Sparc AR though, and it's a great choice for anyone with and AR-15 or other rifle variant. I would say just be aware of the differences between the two generations, and don't hesitate to get both either, because 2 smart decisions are still better than one!


Claim to Fame:  Duty rifle - home defense—recreation, the SPARC AR is built to handle all your red dot needs.

Target Market: Modern Sporting Rifle / Modular Rifle owners (AR-15s, SCARs, etc)

FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):

  • Single-Piece Chassis

  • Hard Anodized low-glare matte finish

  • Unlimited eye relief and parallax free

  • Nitrogen Gas Purged

  • Waterproof, fogproof and shockproof

  • Sutomatically shuts off after 12 hours

  • Uses common AAA battery

  • Typical battery life 300 hours at maximum brightness and 5,000 hours at minimum brightness

  • Fully Multi-Coated

  • 10 variable brightness settings — lowest two settings night-vision compatible..

  • Operating temperature rated -4 degrees to +158 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Multi-Height Mount System Includes a spacer shim that can be utilized to provide two different mounting heights: lower 1/3 co-witness (40 mm) & absolute co-witness (37 mm)

What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Black Only

What others are saying?: "" Amazon User Review

Price point:

I need it now! Availability: Brownells or Amazon

Our Rating:


  • Sleeker, sexier design
  • Integrated lens caps
  • Soft rubber armor is removable
  • Easier to shut off than the Sparc II


  • Windage and Elevation caps are no longer tethered
  • Lens window is still small / narrow
  • Lens caps will dangle and obstruct your field of view if not snapped together
  • Snapping together of lens caps is difficult if in a hurry / focusing downrange
  • Position of the internal laser emitter protrudes into view, often appears with a black goo sealant that bothers a lot of people

Score: 7.5 Good


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