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Preview – Vortex SPARC II

The Dot That Would Not Die

For decades now there’s been a huge gap between high-priced, high-quality optics from companies like Schmidt & Bender, Nightforce, Trijicon, Aimpoint, or Leupold and the cheap, Chinese junk you commonly find at gun shows and on eBay. Certainly, there have been optics in the medium price range, but oftentimes their quality was only marginally better than the cheap junk, or their price point was such that it was worth saving your pennies to hold out for a higher-quality optic from one of the aforementioned companies or their peers.

Vortex Optics has recently and effectively filled that gap in the market by providing a large range of great-quality optics at prices that let you keep both kidneys. Maybe. Every one of their products that we’ve shot with and finger banged — from simple 1x red-dots to precision-rifle optics for even the largest of calibers — have been well thought out, well made, and often boast a clarity better than some much more expensive glass. But since Vortex hasn’t been in this game as long as their competitors, there isn’t as much empirical data on the durability of these attractive sights. We’ve beaten up our S&Bs, Nightforces, Aimpoints, and EOtechs way more than is reasonable, and it’s easier to break rocks than an ACOG. Trust us, we’ve tried.

But what about Vortex? Can its optics take a hit or will it have a glass jaw? Well, we figured it would be a good test to take Vortex’s cheapest optic, the Sparc II, hand it to a Marine, and just let nature take its course.

Now, before we set off on our path of destruction, let’s talk about this optic and its short, agonizing future. It’s made in China. There, we said it. Although roughly the same size and shape as an Aimpoint T1, it’s also only one-third the cost. To be honest, the country of origin did concern us a little because we had fears the Sparc II wouldn’t hold it together long enough and force us to write a one-sentence article like this, “When attaching the Sparc II to the Picatinny rail, the mount broke, so we just ended up drinking beer and stalking people on Instagram.” Fortunately, our fears were way off base.

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Layout
The Sparc II’s controls are on the left-hand side of the objective lens, where they can be easily accessed, even when used in conjunction with a magnifier or night-vision devices. Two buttons cycle through eight visible red-dot intensities and two IR levels, and turn the optic on and off. The commonly available CR2032 battery is rated at 300 hours on the brightest setting and a whopping 5,000 hours (208 days) on the lowest brightness setting. The Sparc II turns itself off after 12 hours, further extending battery life.

Its 2 MOA dot has a rather slow refresh rate, so it will appear to have a slight trail when transitioning between targets. This was more of an annoyance than a hindrance, as we’re not robots or Jerry Miculek and couldn’t shoot fast enough to catch up with it.

Apart from the dot trail, the Sparc II is well thought out. The windage and elevation covers are captive and can be used to adjust the turrets, as could the rim of a case. The adjustments are well marked, tactile, and audible. The sight ships with two mounting bases of different heights so it can be mounted on inline designs such as ARs or firearms with a lower comb, such as shotguns or AKs. An additional spacer is provided for shooters who prefer to use a lower one-third co-witness with iron sights. It can also be used in conjunction with the lower mount, depending on the height needed. The one-piece aluminum body is finished in an even matte black anodizing. All of the tools for mounting, an extra battery, and scope caps are included in the box.

To the Torture Chamber!
So…attractive packaging, convenient controls, lots of brightness levels, and excellent adjustability. None of that matters if this thing can’t take a beating.

So let the destruction commence! For reasons not totally clear — there may have been moonshine involved — we packed our Sparc II in ice, zeroed it, and produced a number of acceptable groups. Once we were satisfied, the optic was submerged, rifle deep, into 60-degree swamp water for an hour. This had no effect, which soon became something of a theme.

We dropped our rifle onto rocks — multiple times — optic down, from shoulder height. With the dot still shining we turned up the heat, literally. We built a fire and subjected the Sparc II to the flames, only removing it for fear the melting scope caps would stick to the coated glass. Then, taking a cue from Monty Python, the Sparc II was then immediately submerged, like a witch. Now all of this seems like aimless torture, but there’s some reasoning here. Most of the optics we have seen fail do so because of exposure to temperature extremes, moisture, shock, or some combination of these factors. If an optic survives unreasonable levels of abuse, then it should endure lesser strains.

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 For the rest of this article, click Vortex Sparc II – The Dot That Would Not Die

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