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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
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):
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
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
- 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