There are so many red dot sights on the market that it’s difficult for any individual product to stand out. However, the Vortex SPARC Solar does just that by bringing a sophisticated design that is incredibly easy to use. I hunted with the SPARC through turkey season and found that it allowed me to focus on shooting rather than fidgeting, especially when a gobbler strutted into range.
Vortex SPARC Solar Specs and Features
- Dot color: red
- Dot size: 2 MOA
- Eye relief: Unlimited
- Adjustment graduation: 1 MOA
- Parallax free
- Length: 2.6 inches
- Weight: 5.9 ounces
- Battery: CR2032
- Solar panel power supply
- Includes lower 1/3 co-witness mount
- Tethered lens covers
- Auto shut-off after 14 hours
- motion activated
- Lifetime warranty
Everything about the Vortex SPARC Solar is designed to make shooting easier. An in-depth look at the components shows how each feature emphasizes the user’s ability to focus on shooting and makes this one of the best sights for turkey shotguns.
The Vortex SPARC Solar comes standard with a low 1/3 mount and also includes a 1/3 co-witness mount that elevates the sight for AR style rifles. The buttons for the red dot adjustment graduation eliminate the guesswork when you need to dial in the brightness among the 10 illumination settings (I found setting seven to be the sweet spot). It also has an auto-shutoff after 14 hours of activity. The Vortex SPARC Solar automatically kicks back on once it detects motion. Though, it only powers back on through motion detection after the auto-shutoff. In other words, it won’t power on through motion detection if you manually turn the red dot off (for obvious power preservation reasons).
One of the best features about the Vortex SPARC Solar is the solar panel that powers the red dot. During normal lighting conditions, the solar panel powers the SPARC Solar instead of utilizing the CR2032 battery. This feature not only saves battery power (Vortex claims you can get 150,000+ hours with the solar panel/battery combo at setting 6), but it also ensures that even if your battery fails, the solar panel will keep your red dot working, given adequate light conditions. Though, this feature is meant to preserve battery life more than it is to power the optic.
To test this at the range, I removed the battery from the Vortex SPARC Solar and then turned it on. The red dot fired up as usual. I even adjusted the brightness to the max setting and didn’t notice a difference in the dot’s brightness compared to running it with the battery. It’s worth noting that I tried this at first legal shooting light and at midday with bluebird skies. While the red dot didn’t have an issue firing up at midday, it wouldn’t power on without the battery at first legal shooting light. So, when Vortex says the SPARC Solar panel needs adequate light to power it, they mean it. But unless you constantly forget to turn off the sight, I don’t see this as a major issue.
For an enclosed red dot, the Vortex SPARC Solar doesn’t feel as bulky as other options, which often sport large, raised turret caps. But the SPARC has entrenched turrets that make it a streamlined optic. So, you don’t have to worry about it snagging on trees or brush while you run-n-gun.
Testing the Vortex SPARC Solar in the Field
I’ve always been a bead-or-bust hunter, and I still possessed a tinge of skepticism as I mounted the Vortex SPARC Solar on my Remington 870. But after hunting with this setup for the tail-end of Mississippi’s spring turkey season and Indiana’s opening week, I think I’ll leave it on a little while longer.
The mounting process, from unboxing the red dot to sighting it in, only took about 20 minutes, and I never had to touch the windage. After five rounds of Winchester Longbeard XR, I had it dialed in. Twelve hours and some 500 miles later, I roosted a bird that evening for Indiana’s opening day of turkey season. The next morning’s hunt played out perfectly, and shortly after fly down I had the Vortex SPARC Solar on a tom at 23 yards. The 2 MOA red dot is just the right size and won’t cover up a turkey’s head even at 40 yards.
As I mentioned earlier, I found setting seven to hit the sweet spot of brightness and dot size. And this brightness setting worked brilliantly during the first minutes of legal shooting light. It was also bright enough during midday sunny conditions, and I didn’t notice any glare when I faced toward the sun. The multi-coated exterior lenses also help reduce the chances of glare. The view through the sight had a slight green tint, but it wasn’t a hinderance. So, as long as you keep the lenses clean, expect this red dot to provide a clear view during dusk/dawn conditions.
I mounted the Vortex SPARC Solar with the low 1/3 mount that comes standard out of the box. Even on top of my UTG saddle mount, which provides sight access to your gun’s bead underneath, I still formed a decent cheek weld to my stock and didn’t feel like I had to compensate for this height.
What the Vortex SPARC Solar Does Worst
Performance wise, I found little to gripe about the Vortex SPARC Solar. Some might like to see multiple reticle options, but I think there’s something to be said about simplicity.
I also found the brightness settings nine and 10 to produce a fairly large dot bloom during a midday shooting session. While this didn’t impede target acquisition for me, it’s worth noting. I wouldn’t say these last two brightness settings are unusable, but they’re kind of unnecessary, at least for turkey hunting. And with the brightness levels of settings six, seven, and eight, I can’t imagine needing the last two.
What the Vortex SPARC Solar Does Best
Unlike some other red dots that look like they came out of a cereal box, the Vortex SPARC Solar just feels like a rugged, durable optic. And when you’re run-and-gunning in the turkey woods, you want a red dot that doesn’t shift when you bang it around. As soon as I made it to turkey camp, my gun, the SPARC included, slid out of the case and took a decent drop on a gravel drive. Obviously that didn’t affect the next morning’s hunt. Also, the SPARC held its zero even after taking the recoil of stout turkey hunting loads. This speaks volumes to the sight’s durability. But even if something happens to your SPARC Solar, Vortex’s awesome VIP warranty has you covered.
I also appreciated the subtle, but significant tethered lens covers that conveniently clasp to the battery cap while you’re using the red dot. Though this feature might seem insignificant, it makes a huge difference when you’re trying to keep your lenses clear, especially since turkey hunting sometimes requires crawling through mud, brush, and whatever else can scratch or muddy your lenses. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about losing the cover or keeping up with it in your pockets. This also speaks to Vortex’s attention to detail.
When you’re turkey hunting, there’s plenty of variables at play at any given moment. And fidgeting with your optics, which should ideally make your shooting more efficient and confident, only adds to the list of things that can work against you when you’re trying to pull a tom into range. Thankfully, the Vortex SPARC Solar simplifies this process with intuitive controls and red dot size/brightness that’s right on target. So, when it comes time to pull the trigger, that’s all you have to think about.
Final Thoughts on the Vortex SPARC Solar
If you’re thinking of upgrading the optics on your turkey gun (or adding some in general), the Vortex SPARC Solar is a heck of an entry into the red dot game. Sure, this red dot costs more than I paid for my 870, but when you consider the features this optic offers, Vortex’s lifetime warranty, and its versatility, the SPARC Solar’s price seems more and more appealing.