Vortex SPARC Solar First Impression | Box To Bullseye
- January 12, 2021
- By Jared Daub
The Vortex SPARC Solar: Is this an epic up and comer, or just another budget dot that is nothing special? Let’s figure that out.
We are in the unique position to get our hands on some awesome gear. This is part of why we decided to create a series called “Box To Bullseye” where we dive into new-to-us gear and share information and tips to all of you on how to use it in your training. We are driven by a desire to equip our supporters with tools and ESPECIALLY information so they can make better decisions with their time and resources. That is what we are about here at TA Targets.
Recently my friends over at Vortex Optics reached out and asked us if we would be willing to help them release their new SPARC Solar red dot. Now, I will be the first to say this: I don’t look at our company as a gear review source per se. Our primary focus is equipping you all with the best steel targets money can buy. These targets will help you become more efficient and make range days more enjoyable. Quality targets can help you get more out of each range session. As we have grown as a company, it has really been on my heart that we should be reaching you all in different ways. We need honest, truthful voices in the industry promoting freedom and shedding light on new products that we feel are legit. Will TA Targets review products all the time? Nope. Honestly, that’s why I built my YouTube page, KeystoneCarry. But I do think TA has a role to play. So today, we talk about a brand new optic that just hit the market: The SPARC Solar red dot from Vortex Optics.
I’m going to be a bit all over the place in this article, I apologize ahead of time for that fact. The simple fact is, Vortex really did something cool here in our opinion. For that reason, I can’t really just speak on the SPARC solar, I need to compare it to the older SPARC AR and the Crossfire red dots. Bear with me, this optic is pretty neat.
A few years back I purchased my SPARC AR red dot. I threw it onto my Burnt Bronze 16″ 5.56 NATO AR15. I ran that for years. It was a pretty solid optic. I had no issues at all with it as I was running it. Battery life seemed ok. It used AAA batteries which, on one hand is very nice, on another hand all my other optics ran 2032 batteries. The downfall of the SPARC AR in my opinion is the fact that it was a one piece body. You either had to choose the absolute co-witness setting (no spacer installed) or add a thin shim/spacer and then it was lower 1/3 co-witness. That is perfectly fine for an AR15 (I mean, “AR” is in its name, right?), but if you had a lever action, scout rifle, or something like an AK47 variant, the optic would be too tall to use well. I quickly realized that as I got into other rifle and pistol variants and I started searching for another optic. I ran across the Crossfire red dot and although it was less expensive than the SPARC AR, it had the features I was looking for. The Crossfire quickly became my all time favorite budget red dot sight and you probably have seen a ton of them on our pages (TA Targets and KeystoneCarry). The crossfire red dot comes with a low picatinny mount and a lower 1/3 mount. Run it on an AR15 with the riser, or run it on a lever action or AK with the low picatinny mount. Simple, inexpensive, effective. I’ve always loved traits from both of these optics and wished Vortex would blend the two together. Well…they did. What comes from that is the NEW SPARC Solar red dot!
Upon first glance the SPARC Solar looks very similar to the Crossfire. When you compare them side by side, they are, in fact, very similar. The main difference is the solar panel that is integrated in the top of the SPARC Solar and the fact that the solar has buttons on the side instead of the wheel/dial to adjust brightness. Here’s a run down of the specs:
- Auto D-TEC Technology: The optic will use the solar backup whenever it is able to capture light. It can automatically switch between solar and battery power.
- Motion Activation: The optic is able to “Wake itself up” when you move the rifle. This means the dot is on when you need it and can power off when you don’t. You can also disable this feature according to the instructions
- 12 illumination settings (including 2 nightvision settings)
- Black Anodized Finish
- 1x magnification
- The box states that the optic is shock proof, waterproof and fogproof.
- Weight: 3.8 ounces
- Length: 2.6″
- Lens Diameter: 22mm
- Approximately 150,000 hour battery life at setting 6 (using solar and battery power)
- Battery: CR2032
- Mounts included: Low picatinny mount and lower 1/3 co-witness mount
The SPARC Solar is a very refined red dot right out of the box. You can tell that Vortex really cares about how the optics look. As soon as I unpacked the box, we got to work diving into it. Inside the box is a plastic tool that is meant to adjust the windage and elevation as well as remove the battery cover. I actually broke the tool (as you can see in the video). It could have been user error or the fact that it was really cold out. Either way, I don’t typically use the little tools included with optics. I suggest having another option on hand. I did also notice that the front lens is canted on the SPARC Solar. I confirmed with vortex that this is intentional and it has to do with the function and reflection of the diode/emitter. I do not know all the details, but they did confirm that it is as it should be.
Mounting the optic up onto my 12.5″ IWI Zion 15 was a breeze. I simply installed the lower 1/3 mount, found a good spot on my upper receiver and tightened it down. Simple, just like all of Vortex’s other red dots.
I immediately got to work zeroing the SPARC Solar at the 50 yard mark. The adjusters have a very audible click that can easily be felt. Some cheaper red dots are mushy and it’s hard to tell when you are making an adjustment. That is not the case here. Since I broke my plastic tool, I ended up using a shell to turn the adjuster. A small screw driver would work just as well too. I opted for a 50 yard zero for now with my 12.5″ Zion 15. Fun fact: This Z15 is named giggles. Clever, I know. Zeroing a red dot only shows part of the story. At this point, I at least new that all the functions of the optic worked. There was plenty of brightness adjustment to see the dot clearly and adjusting the turrets was easy. I also ran this optic with my micro 3x magnifier from vortex. That integrated smoothly and made the 50 yard shots much more precise. One of the only “cons” I have about the optic is there are no caps covering the turrets for windage and elevation adjustment. This really isn’t a negative, but I sort of liked the caps with the integrated adjustment tools on the SPARC AR and Crossfire red dots. The SPARC Solar is definitely more streamlined without these caps, but I’m still torn about this. Not a deal breaker, simply personal preference.
Now it was time to get to shooting on the flat range.
While I only have one range day under my belt with the SPARC Solar, I can say it feels very much like a highly refined Crossfire Red Dot. When presenting the weapon I did not see any flickering or weird reflections. It was very easy to press my Z15 out and get on target fast. Some of my friends complained about the original SPARC AR and stated that it flickered and it was noticeable. They all called it the “refresh rate” of the optic. I am unsure if that is the correct terminology or not. I never noticed this, but several people around me have. Maybe that was an early issue, regardless I did not see that at all with the SPARC Solar. Lots of folks like to talk about how crisp the dot is. I have an astigmatism so I cannot give you intel on that. Looking through the optic with my cell phone the 2MOA dot looks crispy and round. Through my eye: a cute starburst. I digress.
The beauty of a small Red Dot like this is the fact that it is incredibly small and light weight. They are also very intuitive and quick to learn. There are no reticles for new shooters to learn, nothing complex. Simply put the dot on the target, press the trigger without moving the red dot. Simple.
So where does the SPARC Solar stack up and who should consider it? First off, just keep in mind this is not an extensive review. This is simply my first impression of the SPARC solar. With that being said, I am extremely impressed with this optic. It appears rugged and very refined. Vortex took all the features I loved from both the SPARC AR and crossfire red dots and created a highly refined red dot that should suit anyone building any rifle or pistol platform. The MSRP is higher than both the SPARC AR and the Crossfire red dots landing at $399.99, but no doubt this is because of the extra capabilities. Ultimately I think it is a solid red dot and time will answer the durability and battery life questions. I do plan to do a full follow up review on the keystonecarry YouTube channel so definitely subscribe over there. If you are looking for a red dot
As I always state in any of my reviews, I can offer only one opinion. First impressions of this red dot are really solid. It seems to be a strong performer and I think that vortex made the right move with its design and functions. It’s a little bit of SPARC AR, a little bit of Crossfire, and a little bit more refined than both of those. While we know this is brand new to the market, we’d love to hear what you think about this optic. If you have questions or comments, please drop them below. A word on that: If you comment, our team will need to review and approve it. We do that daily to avoid spam and malicious links from spammers/bots. Just a heads up.
Thank you for tuning into this blog post. Please check out the full video on our YouTube page and subscribe while you are over there. We appreciate your continued support!
Thank you to Vortex for sending us this optic to play with!
Watch the full initial impression video here:
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