Quality red dots from the major brands can be just as pricey as a quality AR15. But the Vortex SPARC AR gives you an inexpensive option for your plinking, hunting, or defensive rifle.
Battery Life: My Aimpoint and Holosun have spoiled me into not having to remember to turn optics off. Fortunately, the SPARC AR has a time out feature expanding battery life and after 12 hours it will turn itself off. The AAA battery will last from 300-5,000 hours depending on which of the ten brightness settings you have it on. In ambient daylight most users will probably keep it around 7-8 brightness. Assuming it will last 1,000 hours with the time out feature it would give us 83 uses before we need to think about the battery draining. So even if it is used once a week that nearly gives you two years on one AAA battery. Not too shabby. However it would be nice if it had a low battery warning such as a blinking reticle, but I suppose we can’t get too picky for a sub $200 optic. Just proactively changing the battery every year will prevent any problems.
Mount: The SPARC AR mounts on any picatinny/weaver rail with the option of two heights and will give you either a lower 1/3 co-witness or an absolute cowitness for your iron sights. The mount secures with a single torx screw to your rifle which I found to either be a bit soft since the finish showed signs of stripping a tad when I torqued it to 30 foot pounds. But I was able to find aftermarket QD mounts from both American Defense and Midwest Industries that would eliminate this issue.
Durability: The SPARC AR feels rather robust although I didn’t submit it to any torture tests I believe it would fair well. Adjustment turrets are protected by the body having a tapered ramp. It also ships with a rubber armor that has integrated lens caps that also mate to each other keeping them out of the way. Occasionally the caps would disconnect from each other but they kept out of the way naturally and never blocked my aim.
Reticle: Adjustments are made for the 2 MOA reticle by using the protective turret caps upside down. Although a flathead screwdriver or edge or coin would work if you somehow misplaced both caps. Each click moves the dot 1” at 100 yards. And while the dot has a slight bloom it seems more rounded than my Aimpoint H1 reticle. But having 2 night vision capable settings is an excellent extra in case you ever need that option.
The view is clear through the optic, but seems a bit obstructed due to the thick walls and projector protrusion at the 5 o’clock position. Removing the rubber armor didn’t make much of a difference in enhancing field of view around the outside of the optic.
Activation: Pressing the up arrow on the SPARC AR instantly turns it on after which adjustments are made with either button. Holding the down arrow for 3 seconds powers down the optic.
Summary: While the SPARC AR isn’t perfect, it gets the job done without breaking the bank.
I would consider the SPARC AR is a viable option for a budget optic or a perfect choice for a backup rifle. As with all electronics I always recommend backup iron sights since I’ve been able to break even high end optics such as Aimpoint and Trijicon over the years. The price of less than $200 definitely makes it attractive. I’ve found the Vortex SPARC as low as $129 here.