Red Dot optic technology is increasing battery life by the thousands of hours with every new generation.  This year, Vortex Optics significantly raised the bar by equipping their updated SPARC optic with solar capability.  The original SPARC AR red dot boasted a 50,000 hour battery life on setting 6 (which provides ample brightness for aiming in well-lit indoor conditions or outdoor aiming in overcast daylight).  The SPARC Solar has tripled that to 150,000 hours at the same setting.  On top of that,  in most outdoor lighting conditions, the solar cell takes over and provides exclusive power for the dot, saving the battery for indoor or darker outdoor conditions.   The SPARC Solar is also equipped with a 14-hour automatic shut-off and motion-activated “wake-up.”


The SPARC Solar includes two Picatinny rail-compatible bases. One is a 22mm high mount that enables the optic to be mounted at a lower 1/3 co-witness on AR style rifles. The other is a low mount that facilitates mounting the SPARC Solar on pistols or more traditional rifles with less mechanical offset. The semi-elastic front and rear lens covers attach to the battery compartment. The windage and elevation adjustments on the SPARC Solar are exposed tool-adjustable knobs flush-mounted to the optic to prevent them from being bumped off Zero.   Some reference lines with a paint marker might be a good idea once you are zeroed to provide visual verification that the knobs are still where they belong, that said, clicks are firm and positive and once adjusted they should be very resistant to any unintentional adjustment.   Adjustments are full MOA per click, which reduces the number of adjustment clicks necessary over 1/2 or 1/4 MOA clicks when sighting in at 100 yds or less.  Adjustments can be made easily with a coin or the rim of a 5.56 or similar cartridge.


The SPARC Solar uses buttons to change through the 12 brightness settings. The first 2 are night-vision compatible settings. When scrolling upward through the brightness settings, the dot flashes 3 times to indicate the top illumination setting has been reached. When scrolling downwards, the dot flashes twice to indicate the illumination is off.


Even in bright New Mexico sunshine at over 8000′ in elevation on a clear winter day in the mountains, there is ample dot brightness. Notice how when in use, the front and rear lens caps are nested, snapped over the side-battery compartment. Most red dot optics have some level of chromatic distortion, usually a slight blue-ish tint.  The SPARC Solar has this, but only minimally.  It is slightly better than the Vortex Crossfire Red Dot, and much better in this area than similarly-priced competitors.



OPTICAL CLARITY: 4.5/5  –  The SPARC Solar uses fully-multi coated lenses and is nitrogen purged for fog-proof performance.  For a budget-friendly optic made in China, it has very good clarity and sharpness.  The little bit of chromatic distortion that is present is almost as good as one would find on high-end compact red-dots with double the price-tag of the SPARC Solar.   I really wrestled with this, and almost gave it a 5/5.

BRIGHTNESS: 5/5 – Brightness settings are more than adequate for a variety of environments including very bright, clear days with full sunshine.

SIZE: 5/5 – Size and weight is just right on this optic, and an improvement over the SPARC AR with the battery integrated in the mount that limited it to a high-offset mount.  Using a smaller CR2032 button-cell battery has opened up its ability to use lower-profile mounts where desired.

TRACKING: 5/5 – Adjustments were crisp and accurate.

USER FRIENDLINESS: 4/5 – This was the only area where I had a few things I wish had been done differently.   The scope caps are not see-through, so the optic necessitates removing both the front and back lens protectors to use it.  The lens protectors can be nested and pressed over the battery compartment to keep them out of the way, but this isn’t a rapid-deployment system.  It takes time.  See-through caps would give more ability to rapidly deploy a firearm equipped with the SPARC Solar optic.  The illumination buttons are fairly easily accessible for right-handed shooters, but left-handed shooters have to reach over the scope to adjust the brightness levels.  Both buttons feel the same, so there is no tactile differentiation between brighter and dimmer settings.  These things probably aren’t a big problem with a little practice with the optic.  The mount is adequate, but I wish Vortex offered a throw-lever or other QD mount.  Mounts of this kind take periodic checkups.  I have seen more than one optic with a screw-on mount like this fall off rifles in training classes, a QD mount would add expense, but would be worth it in my opinion.

TOTAL: 94% Excellent

This optic earns this rating solidly, it is a good performer with long battery life, ample brightness, clean lines, adequate glass, and should be rugged enough to withstand a fair amount of rough use.  Of course, the Vortex no-hassles warranty is famous.  If you need a budget-friendly red dot with ultra-long battery life, you won’t approach the features and quality present in this optic in other brands without spending a few hundred more dollars.

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

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By Michael Lake

Writer Michael Lake is a Benefactor Life Member of the National Rifle Association and has been actively involved in a variety shooting activities since 1989. In addition to being a certified range safety officer he holds several NRA instructor ratings and armorer certifications. He has received training from the US Army Marksmanship Unit, the US Marine Corps Rifle Team and some of the finest private training facilities in the nation. In 2013 Michael co-founded Adaptive Defense Concepts, a Northwest Ohio-based Training organization. currently a contractor for the Department of Energy managing safety for the National Homeland Security program in Eastern Idaho, an instructor for Badlands Tactical Training Center, and is an accomplished Freemason.

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