Plenty of renowned optics manufacturers have small tube sights in their offer. The manufacturer that popularized this form factor is Aimpoint; most modern small tube sights are based on the original design of theirs. With so many similar devices on the market, manufacturers are looking for new ways to make their products competitive such as different housing materials, various colours of illumination, and extras on the housing. One of such extras is a solar cell; sights with a solar cell have been gaining in popularity in the last couple of years, and it seems that Vortex has recognized the potential of such devices. In January 2021, they presented their first solar red dot sights named Sparc Solar.
As the name suggests, the illumination on the new Sparc Solar is powered by a solar cell when the ambient conditions allow it. If there is plenty of ambient light, the illumination is powered solely by the solar energy, you do not even need to have a battery inserted for it to work. If there is insufficient light, the battery takes over. Vortex promises up to 150.000 hours of battery life. This, of course, depends on the extent to which the solar cell contributes to powering the illumination.
The design of the solar cell truly stands out as the lines within it form the Vortex logo, adding to the modern appearance of the sight.
Auto shutoff function
You probably forgot to turn off the illumination on your red dot sight at one point and then came back a few days later to find it still running, or even worse, not running at all. Vortex knows how valuable the battery life is to a red dot sight user, which is why they have come up with an auto shut down function for such occasions. If the illumination is left powered on, it will turn off after 14 hours to prevent the unnecessary battery drain; the sight basically goes into sleep mode. If you pick it up while it is in sleep mode, the illumination will power back on instantly. This feature works similarly as Shake Awake by Holosun.
The red dot is of the small tube type with a standard 22-mm objective lens. It is made of a single piece of aluminium. The elevation and windage adjustment screws are flush with the housing, preventing the user from bumping them against something and damaging them. The CR2032 battery compartment is on the right side, located under a round shaped cover. The sight weighs around 170 grams with the battery inserted and high mount attached. For the protection of glass, a bikini cover is supplied in the box.
Flexibility of use
The Sparc AR model which has been in Vortex’s offer for quite some time has an integrated high-mount which indicates that it is aimed towards AR-15 users. The new model’s high mount is removable and can be replaced with the also supplied low mount. Once the sight is detached from any of these mounts, an Aimpoint Micro footprint can be observed on its underside. The low mount makes the Sparc Solar compatible with any standard rifle that has a Picatinny rail on its receiver.
There are 12 illumination intensity settings to choose from, two of which are NVD-compatible. The reticle is a central 2 MOA dot, a fine aiming point for shooting at mid-range distances. You switch between levels of illumination by using the two buttons on the side.
If you value the benefits of a solar cell on a red dot and are tempted by the extra battery life, give this one a go. You can never go wrong by purchasing anything from Vortex as they provide great value for money, not to mention the phenomenal warranty terms of their products. Sparc Solar is expected to cost around 340 €, 120 € more than the standard, Sparc AR model.