Aug 25, 2015

Vortex Optics SPARC II

According to Vortex Optics the "SPARC II (Speed Point Aiming for Rapid Combat) is equally at home mounted on an AR-15 or shotgun. Digital rear facing controls for powering on/off and adjusting the 2 MOA daylight bright red dot brightness at ten intensity levels—automatically returning to the last dot intensity used when powered up. Rugged single-piece body machined from aircraft grade aluminum is o-ring sealed for waterproof and fogproof performance.  The versatile multi-height mount system accommodates most firearms including AR-15s needing absolute or lower 1/3 co-witness heights, and mounts on standard Weaver or Picatinny base. A modular three-piece base offers four separate mounting heights for user- and weapon-specific customization: 18.0 mm (.709 inches), 21 mm (.823 inches), 37 mm (1.457 inches), 40 mm (1.575 inches)."  The SPARC II is cheaper alternative to get into the red dot sight (RDS) market.  This RDS offers a 2 MOA red dot with two low variable settings for night vision compatibility.  Only the 2 MOA version is available, it comes with front and clear covers and it comes with several mounts of different heights.  I paid $200 shipped through Amazon Prime.

Reason for purchase:
I wanted to purchase a cheaper optic to use for a two day rifle class.  Not because I want a cheap optic but because I had several rifles that I had built and they needed optics.  One of which was an 10.3" Daniel Defense barreled SBR.  I had a SamsonMFG 3.5x Magnifier which I got through OperationX so I wanted to get an RDS for use in conjunction with it.  I have long been reading about Vortex Optic's record and function in various optics they produce and have had the opportunity to check their stuff out at SHOT this year, so I figured I would grab their Aimpoint competition, the SPARC II.  Since I had an Aimpoint H1, I figured the use of the SPARC II would be similar but lacking in some way to the, more than twice the price, Aimpoint H1.  I was pleasantly surprised.

First Opinion:
I received the SPARC II and immediately was surprised at the construction.  I thought it was going to be plastic or cheap feeling like the PrimaryArms RDS I had before, but it was not.  The optic is heavier than it looks and slightly larger than the H1, sporting a button design you would find an Eotech.

It came with covers that snap in place and open, which I immediately took off (not pictured) because I have no time to mess with plastic parts.  In the box there were two bases, one is a low mount (not pictured), which you would use for a shotgun, bolt action rifle or AK47 type platform where you are naturally closer to the bore.  I took the "high" mount which is an absolute witness mount and installed it to the optic.  In the box you get two sets of screws (for short and high mounts) as well as a wrench to use to attach the screws via the mount to the optic.  Same wrench is used to tighten the optic to the rail, I hand tightened it and had no issues with the zero walking.

I zeroed the optic to 100m per F2S's "Zen of the 100 meter zero" which was fairly easy.  The knobs are covered by screw caps which are attached to the optic by wire, same caps have the tab required for adjustment, a pretty thought out adjustment solution similar to Aimpoint.  The battery cover is attached with the same wire system and there was one battery included in the box.

The optic also has anti-reflective coating but is still distinctively reflective in direct light.

Below shows the red dot at low power magnified through the rear objective lens, captured by a camera right at the ideal eye relief distance for the lens while focused at the rear of the sight.  Gives an idea of how the red dot looks like blown up.

In the Field:
I used this optic in one weekend class where I shot a little bit over 800 rounds and several other training sessions which brand the total rounds spent with this optic in the area around 1500, over the last 5 months.  (Optic was purchased early in March, 2015)

The optic was very to use and functioned just as expected.  I was basing my expectations off my experiences with the Aimpoint H1 and I can say that I was very happy with its performance.  I turned the optic on at the beginning of the class on each day and it stayed on the entire time throughout the day, I believe it turns off automatically after 12 hours, which is fine.  Personally I want to be able to turn my optics off and on at will, but of course the 50k battery life of the H1 is appealing, and this optic does not even remotely touch with something like 300 hours at maximum and maybe around 5k at lowest brightness but it will not stay on consistently.  

The optic functioned very well in conjunction with the 3.5x Samson magnifier.  I was able to mount the magnifier very closet to the optic as you can see from the photo above, so there was not any light distortion.  

I continued to use the optic in various training sessions as well as dryfire/non-shooting training.  The optic held up well and I confirmed zero at the range after various training sessions to make sure the impacts to the optic did not adjust it or move it off line which may have affected its zero.  The optic did not have any such issues, which is good.  The red dot did not have the same issues I had with the H1, such as "cometing" or "snaking" but I chalked that up to the 4 MOA red dot of the H1 and the smaller, more crisp 2 MOA red dot of this optic. 

Above shows a comet or snake of the red dot.  I had to mess with the brightness settings to get that as well as angles of the camera.

Above is how the red dot looked at maximum brightness, gives off a little "star" shape but that's at max, indoors without sun-glare or contrast.  When shooting outside at IPSC style targets or steel the red dot performed well and did not "star" or "comet."  

Above is a photo is of the LED emitter at the bottom area of the optic through the front objective (would face forward towards the target).

Ownership and Usage: 
Depending on light conditions and application switching between brightness settings is required.  This was similar on the H1 but I believe the H1 had more fine brightness adjustment settings.  In full sunlight wearing polarized sunglasses I found myself jumping between the top four brightness settings to find the most appropriate one.  Adjusting the brightness settings by pushing the button up or down became difficult with gloves on as you had no tactile feel of the button and you had to be looking down the optic to see if it did actually adjust the brightness.  The placement of the brightness settings on the left side are good and well thought out but also means for right handed shooters you might slap them on kit and end up adjusting the brightness settings inadvertently.  I did this several times slinging the rifle to transition to pistol and/or when slinging the rifle to and from the prone position.  The cable system for the caps is a good idea, except I had it catch on a piece of loose hook/loop which opened a pouch.  Since I took the lens caps/covers off I have no experience with them.  The red dot was very easy to find when bringing the rifle up during "up drills" when mounted in the absolute/high mount, it naturally came up to your eye's level without having to fish for the red dot.  I zeroed the red dot at 100m using the top most point of the red dot.  At 2 MOA the dot became very crisp and easy to use accurately.  I took the red dot out to 300 yards and had no issue ringing IPSC steel.  

Final Thoughts and Recommendations:
This optic offers a lot of bang for your buck, but lacks the niche requirements of the higher end optics.  The Aimpoint T1 is about 3oz without a mount, Aimpoint T2 is about 3.4oz and this sight comes in at about 5.9oz.  Though the SPARC II offers an objective lens diameter of 22mm to the 20mm of the T1/T2.  Of course the Aimpoint's are 2x the price used and 3x new.  Looking forward the Trijicon MRO offers a 25mm objective lens diameter and weight of 4.1oz (w/o mount), of course its street price will be 2.5x(ish) the price of the SPARC II.  So what are the its direct competitors?  Primary Arms red dot sight is one, but is around $170, so that's not much savings over the Vortex Warranty backed optic, which I would happily pay $30 more for.  Even the new Aimpoint H2 new comes in at nearly 2-3x the cost of the SPARC II.  HoloSun released a "micro" style optic and it looks pretty good but its nearly the same price and warranty of it is pretty unknown.  So this optic sort of fills that cheaper than Aimpoint but still good spot that a lot of people are looking for that do not want to commit to a hefty investment of an optic.  My suggestion would be to really figure out what you want out of an optic and it involves anything relating to actual use against people (even as a home defense gun) I would consider a better/more expensive optic. 


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