Vortex Optics has been making waves in the sights and optics industry with its lineup of high-end scopes and red dot sights. Their main appeal is the combination of a premium product and excellent lifetime warranty, with a highly competitive price. We will take a look at the SPARC AR red dot and Spitfire AR prism scope, Vortex’s dedicated AR platform sights, and see how they hold up.
By the time you reach the end of this article, you’ll not only be able to more confidently decide between the two options, but also gain a deeper understanding of what to look for in a high-quality sight. We also explore the differences between conventional red dot sights and prism sights, as well as their pros and cons.
Vortex SPARC Red Dot Review
The SPARC AR Red dot sight has been one of the most popular AR platform red dots ever made. With the resounding success of the first model, the new generation has a clear goal of being better in every way. An excellent red dot matched with an affordable price is a rare combination, but that’s exactly what the SPARC is.
The optical prowess of the Vortex SPARC red dot sight is evident by the clarity of its lenses. To achieve the best visibility, the lenses are fully multi-coated to increase light transmission, while anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces eliminate lens flare. The unlimited eye relief gives you more liberty with the mounting position and provides rapid target acquisition.
By nature, every red dot and holographic sight will exhibit a small amount of parallax, an occurrence that affects the position of the reticle depending on the view angle. Vortex Optics follows the current industry standards and keeps the parallax of the SPARC to a minimum. This amount of parallax will not affect the performance of the shooter in any way, which is why SPARC can be called a parallax-free red dot sight.
The Vortex SPARC red dot has daylight bright 2 MOA red dot reticle that is fast to acquire in close-quarters, but also precise at longer range. The minute of angle, or MOA for short, refers to the accuracy potential of your weapon. A 2 MOA dot gives you a grouping potential of 2 inches in diameter at 100 yards, or 4 inches at 200 yards, which can only be beaten by holographic sights with their 1 MOA reticles.
We were very impressed with the range of features SPARC comes with. Elevation and windage can be adjusted in 1 MOA increments by hand using the texturized knobs, to a maximum of 90 MOA. This is a far better solution than the flush knobs that require a special tool to operate, even though it contributes slightly to the overall size of the sight.
The ten brightness settings manage to keep the red dot visible in any lighting condition and you shouldn’t have problems with the dot fading. The lowest two settings are also night-vision compatible, which is a nice addition and adds more value to the package. If it was any other sight, I would complain about the lack of automatic brightness setting, however, the large buttons on the SPARC allow for quick adjustments.
The issue that often holds back an otherwise great red dot sight is the battery life. Getting to the range only to find that your red dot’s battery has been drained is one of the most frustrating feelings. Buying uncommon flat batteries can be a hassle furthered by the need to take the red dot off the rail to change the battery on certain models.
The Vortex SPARC does away with all of these issues with a simple compromise. SPARC is a slightly taller sight to accommodate the AAA batteries. This height in no way affects its effectiveness on an AR platform but allows you to use the most common battery available. Replacing it is as easy as unscrewing the knob on the front of the sight and swapping it with the drained one.
With a battery life of 50,000 hours on lower brightness settings, we can estimate that the higher settings will drain the battery in a few hundred hours. You won’t need to worry about changing the battery often, and having a couple as a backup in your gun case is a good way to be sure. Should you forget to turn off the SPARC, an automatic shutdown will occur in 12 hours to preserve battery life.
Durability & Dimensions
The Vortex SPARC red dot comes in a compact package, weighing just 7.5 ounces. Excluding the mount and battery compartment, it is just 1.09 inches tall and 2.9 inches long. The single-piece chassis provides better durability and lighter mass, with high resistance to recoil and impact.
O-ring seals prevent dust, debris, and moisture from affecting the performance of the sight, making it completely waterproof. Lastly, the matte anodized finish protects against corrosion and wear damage, and provides a low-glare matte surface for better camouflage.
What you’ll really appreciate with the Vortex Optics products is their VIP unlimited lifetime warranty. Fully transferable and without the need to keep the receipt, it’s one of the best policies on the market, and another testament to the Vortex’s dedication towards rising to the top of the optics industry.
The application of prism technology has become increasingly more popular among red dot manufacturers. What makes it different is that it establishes an image using a glass prism rather than a series of lenses commonly seen on a magnified scope. This allows a prism scope to be very compact and even have low power magnification built into it.
The Vortex Spitfire is a great option for a shooter who wants to get the accuracy and speed of a red dot but has issues with starburst effects in red dots due to common astigmatism. This is one of the key selling points that Vortex has put an emphasis on, and I quite like that they did, as it helps those suffering from this problem get an issue-free sight.
One of the drawbacks of a prism sight is limited eye relief, which isn’t an issue for a typical red dot. Spitfire has an eye relief of 3.8 inches, which will give you a feeling of using a scope more so than a sight. Another thing to consider is that this is a non-magnified scope with no compatibility with magnifiers.
The optical quality is what you’d expect from one of the best manufacturers in the business. Air-to-glass surfaces have been multi-coated both for the increase in light transmission and to make them anti-reflective. The field of view is 79 feet at 100 yards, which is perfectly fine for a 25mm objective lens diameter.
The Spitfire comes with a reticle you’re bound to love, as it solves the issues red dots have been struggling with since their inception. How do you pick the ideal reticle on a red dot? Go too big, and you lose out on long range accuracy, but take the smallest one, and it may affect the speed at which you can acquire a target. Wouldn’t it be better if you could have a mix of both?
The Vortex Spitfire prism sight has a Dual Ring Tactical, or DRT reticle, which consists of – you’ve guessed it, two rings, with a dot in the center. This layout improves target acquisition without affecting the precision of long-range shooting. The best part is, this design is directly etched on the prism so it can be used even with the illumination turned off.
The scope-like features of the Spitfire allow for some serious precision shooting, with adjustment graduation of 1/2 MOA per click. The 5.56 BDC turret lets you dial your AR up to 700 yards, which might come in handy in limited division 3-Gun matches or when you just want to shoot long-range, without limiting their short-range accuracy. The maximum windage and elevation adjustments are 120 MOA respectively.
Twelve brightness options give you plenty of room to choose the ideal setting, with the last two being ultra-low for use with night vision equipment. You can illuminate the reticle either in red or green by momentarily pressing both brightness buttons. This is a nice addition that lets you adapt to the conditions, or simply use your preferred color of the reticle. To preserve the battery, Spitfire has auto-dim and auto power-off features built into it.
The battery life isn’t the greatest, as the battery can last up to 250 hours on the highest brightness setting, or up to 3000 hours on the lowest. However, Spitfire makes up for it by using AAA batteries that are quick and easy to replace, and are a far better option than the coin batteries, especially for a larger AR scope.
Durability & Dimensions
The Vortex Spitfire is a very compact scope, at just 1.29 inches high and 4.3 inches long. Because it doesn’t use lenses like a conventional scope, it also manages to keep the weight down to 11.2 ounces. Vortex specifies that the Spitfire uses a 1/3 Co-witness mount type, which makes perfect sense.
The one-piece rugged construction with matte anodized finish gives the Spitfire not only high resistance to impact and recoil shock but also corrosion and wear. O-ring seals keep the whole unit waterproof and protected from moisture, dust, and debris. Once again, Vortex manages to create a very durable product, and with their VIP unlimited lifetime warranty to back it up, it’s certainly one of the best prism scope options.
Vortex SPARC vs Spitfire
Both sights left a strong impression, which made me review them individually so that all of the great features get highlighted. But now it’s time to put them head-to-head and see which one comes up on top. Since they’re made by the same company, they’ll naturally share a lot of similarities, so we can focus entirely on the differences.
First, let’s look at the shared features. The multi-coating is the same and provides a true-to-life picture. Single-piece construction, O-ring seals, and external coatings are also nearly identical, providing equal protection, and you’ll get the VIP policy with either model. Both models are charged by a single triple-A battery which is easy to replace and lasts roughly the same.
Now that we’ve gone through a quick overview of what SPARC and Spitfire have in common, we can take a look at what sets them apart. The main differences can be found in the reticle design, dimensions, and weight, as well as the price. Spitfire has a higher MSRP of $349.99 compared to the $274.99 for the Spitfire, a price difference you should definitely consider as we proceed.
Reticle & Target Acquisition
As the quality of glass does not vary between the two models, the picture clarity will be the same between the two models. However, prism technology does have different qualities compared to a red dot. Although Spitfire has slightly slower target acquisition compared to the SPARC, in my opinion, the etched reticle provides benefits that more than compensate for it.
With an etched reticle, you can use the sight even when it’s out of battery power, albeit not in lower light conditions. The contour is also sharper than on a red dot, and the dual ring design is very pleasant to use. If you’re suffering from common astigmatism, then the Spitfire is a clear choice as it will not hinder your performance.
Aside from the faster target acquisition, the SPARC one-ups the Spitfire with the ability to use magnifiers. Placing a low power magnifier behind a red dot grants you a lot more flexibility and range of precision, as the flip-scope allows you to quickly toggle magnification. This of course requires additional investment, and even if you don’t get one immediately, it’s nice to know that the option is there.
Dimensions and Weight
Despite the efforts to bring the Spitfire’s weight and size to a minimum, it’s still considerably larger and heavier than the SPARC. The prism technology simply requires more volume, as it is more closely related to scopes rather than red dot sights. This of course plays an important factor in deciding which sight to go with, as every ounce of extra weight matters. If you’re trying to keep your setup as light as possible, go with the SPARC AR red dot sight.
Whichever option you go with, you can be certain that you haven’t made the wrong choice. The Vortex lineup has become one of the strongest in the whole optics market, with the SPARC AR and Spitfire AR capable of competing with any other sight available. When you combine all of this with one of the best value-for-money propositions, you know you’ve truly struck gold.
The VIP unlimited lifetime warranty is one of my favorite things about the Vortex company. It shows not only how much they care about their customers, but also the faith they have in their products. The majority of optics manufacturers do not have deals as good, despite making premium products themselves.
If you’re buying your very first sight upgrade, take the SPARC AR. It’s a light and the compact red dot that gives you a nice 2 MOA dot, and plenty of brightness options. A premium product with a very nice price tag, it can easily be the only sight you will ever buy.
As stated a couple of times before, common astigmatism will affect your aim with conventional red dots, a problem you won’t face with a prism sight like the Spitfire. For a higher price, you’re getting a more advanced reticle that is also etched in the glass. Vortex specifies that the Spitfire can be dialed up to 700 yards on an AR-15 platform, which is more than impressive for a non-magnified scope.