I don’t recall where I first saw one of these little units. It may have been at SHOT or on a forum. However when I did see it I was quite intrigued with some of the design features and the price point. Sadly not everyone can afford Elcan Specter Dr’s or Aimpoint T1’s so I figured after hearing some praise on the unit I would give it a try. I have had mine since sometime early on in the summer and it has had a few thousand rounds of .223 through it. Do I think the SPARC (Speed Point Aiming for Rapid Combat) is the be all and end all of optics… No. However I do think it has its purpose its just not on a gun your life depends on. The SPARC makes a great optic for a pistol or rifle your using for plinking or hunting however. I still haven’t replaced it on my VZ-58 which I use fairly often. The following review is from a Police or Military standpoint and not that of a hobbyist. The reason I wrote this article in that method is so that Military and Police members don’t go uninformed into their purchase for an optic that they plan to use at work. If this is something that is going on your fun gun then by all means pick one up they are rugged and work well. Some of my gripes are ones that will effect hobbyists too.
-One of the best warranty’s in the business
-Compatible with Aimpoint T1 mounts
-Holds zero really well
-Comes with two mounts and a shim to allow proper height for co-witness
-Night vision button for those who have NVG’s
-Uses CR2354 batteries which are hard to find
-Power button does not require being held to turn the unit on
-Night vision mode is a single button press and is too easy to activate
-The bikini covers break a lot
Before I get into the review I just want to say that the issues highlighted above have been brought up to Vortex. The company seemed very receptive to my concerns and said that future versions of the SPARC should have some of those changes. So at the time of writing the 2012 and earlier SPARC suffer from these issues.
On to the review of the sight where I will cover all of those highlights in detail. The Vortex Sparc is part of the semi recent trend of micro red dot rifle sights. These sights are intended for both eye open shooting allowing the shooter to avoid tunnel vision. The small size of the units also allow less of your vision to be blocked. The Sparc is only 3″ long and just a hair over 1″ tall (ignoring the mounts) and I would say roughly 1.5″ wide due to the controls on the left side of the unit. The unit comes with the red dot, 2 mounts and a spacer along with various screws, a 2x screw in magnifier, bikini cover and 2 CR2354 batteries. The bikini covers for these tend to snap fairly often though. I didn’t find the magnifier useful due to the location on my rifle that the SPARC is mounted. However it does screw onto the back of the unit and has adjustment for those of you who have aging eyes.
Mounting the Sparc is quite easy and only really has two steps. You first need to screw the four mounting screws into the mount of choice attaching it to the red dot. These screws come with thread lock on them however a little more can never hurt. I would only recommend to use the blue stuff on the threads. Speaking of thread lock you should apply it to the screw as your about to put it in the hole. On finely threaded aluminum parts if you try to prep several screws at once the thread lock on the other ones may dry and damage your threads. Also remember a little goes a long way you don’t need to drench the screws. Once you have the combo of bases and risers bolted to the red dot you just place it on your rail, and tighten the Allen bolt to keep it on the rail. If you plan to remove and replace your optic semi regularly then you’re in luck. The SPARC is compatible with the mounts for the Aimpoint T1 giving you a wide variety of QD mounts like Larue and ADM.
Now that the SPARC is on your rifle you need to turn the unit on. This is done by pressing the circle with a line going through the top of it or as most see it the universal symbol for the power button. You do not need to press and hold this button in order to turn the unit on which is a bit of annoyance. This thing pretty much turns on from a stiff breeze. I have yet to take it out of my gun locker or rifle bag without it being turned on. The unit does have an auto shutdown feature if no buttons are pressed in the past 6 hours. I firmly believe this unit should have a press to hold operation or the power button moved to a better location. All this does in its current position is eat your battery prematurely. I will speak more about the battery in a later paragraph. If you press the power button and the red dot does not appear press the up arrow on the rear of the device to see if perhaps the brightness is too low to see. If that doesn’t work press the NV button which should make your dot appear. Other things to check are if the battery is placed in correctly or the battery case is put on tightly. The dot should be there in your rifle and if your iron sights are set you can feel free to co-witness the rifle to the irons. If not take it to the range and do the whole sighting in song and dance. If you need to adjust where your rounds are hitting the top and right side of the unit have small cylindrical cover that unscrews for the up and down and left and right adjustments. The cover has a nice grip patter on it and if flipped over doubles as a screw driver to make the adjustments with. You can even take the battery cap off this way if you have herculean fingers.
The SPARC does have a night vision setting on it which lowers the brightness to the lowest possible setting which should only be viewable through night vision or if you eat far too many carrots. This is a cool feature to have if you have night vision however if I were to guess I would say less than 1% of SPARC owners are using it with NVG’s. So if you are part of that small portion of people you are in luck. However the cool guy night vision button is a big big problem in its current state. The button just like the power button only requires a push to activate. This means if while doing some random movement dive for cover etc you bump this and you go to bring your sight back up on target to fire surprise you no longer have a red dot. My suggestion to Vortex was to make the NV setting a dual button operation. By pressing and holding it and pressing the power button it would stop accidental activation. If the person using a rifle with the sight co-witnessed with the iron this is not a huge problem however it is something that does need to be addressed. Issues aside the NV button does turn the brightness down to a point where I can only see it with my PVS-14 and it does have a brightness level or two.
Note: This picture was taken with the upper rail removed from my VZ-58. The sight is also pointed at a mannequin please don’t ever point a rifle at another human being unless you have a good reason to shoot them. This shot was difficult to take due to having no clue what settings I should be using. I took a couple dozen before giving up and going with this one. The dot doesnt have nearly that much ghosting when viewed through night vision.
The battery compartment of the SPARC uses a coin or screw driver style method to unscrew. Once the cover is removed you will notice that the compartment is sealed by an o-ring to help prevent moisture from getting in. The batter is a CR2354 and is placed into the SPARC positive side out. I have some issues with the battery choice of this unit. I spent several hours and more gas then I cared to attempting to find a battery for the SPARC. I checked the Dollar Store, camera stores, 2 different electronic stores, Wal-Mart, Shoppers Drugmart and several other places and none of them have even heard of this battery. However at every one I found CR2032’s which the Aimpoint and several other sights run off of. I could only imagine the frustration of someone taking this thing on tour attempting to get batteries for it from their quarter master. I was told by Vortex that 1 x CR2032 will work with a shim of tinfoil or 2 x CR2032 batteries stacked in a pinch. I am not hugely comfortable stacking two batteries as that would double the voltage to the unit and may cause premature wear. They picked this battery for its run time however I know I would prefer a easier to locate battery. I think I ended up getting a pack of 10 off of Amazon or Ebay. Speaking of batteries they make a rail mounted battery holder that I got just to play around with. It was not really anything to write home about. It came with far too much cable holding the cap onto the rest of the unit and it did not stay on the rail well. I would suggest just wrapping a few batteries in saran wrap and tossing them in an admin pouch or in your range bag.
The other accessory I got with SPARC was the Killflash ARD that screws into the front of the optic. This is made by Tennebrex and consists of a plastic housing that holds a metal honey comb sheet. This helps reduce shine and glare from the front of your scope when viewed by someone down range.
I mostly picked it up to help protect the SPARCs lens from getting scratched since I didn’t want to rely on the bikini covers. Attaching a Killflash will make your target appear a little bit darker and is not recommended for low light engagements. During the day it works perfectly fine and I barely even notice it’s there.
As with most my reviews I ask myself a simple question. If I had a son would I feel comfortable sending him overseas with this piece of kit? In this case I would say no. It’s not that I think the SPARC is terrible however it has its issues that need to be addressed. It does have night vision settings for those who would use it, the glass is clear, the dot holds its zero well, and the price is right. If Vortex fixes the issues I highlighted above then my opinion might change. I do still believe this is a good sight for range use and have been nothing but happy using it to punch paper on the range. If I replace it with another optic on my VZ-58 it would likely sit in my drawer waiting for a shotgun to be mounted on. So for the budget minded range goer who wants a tacticool sight to mount to their gun give the SPARC a try. I look forward to see where Vortex goes with their future endeavors and have been eying a few other products they produce for later down the line. I can say one thing about Vortex that is hard to beat and that’s there warranty. If you do a Google you will see that they have the most hassle free warranty ever. As I said on Facebook as the economic slump continues companies that are willing to stand behind their products will be sure to see more business.