New Vortex optics for 2021
Vortex products have established a good reputation as durable and reliable optics for law enforcement use – the new SPARC SOLAR and SPITFIRE HD Gen II red dot sights promise to carry on that tradition
We’ve previously discussed the case for optics on law enforcement firearms, and particularly on long guns. A good optic not only enhances the operational performance of a duty firearm, but can also accelerate a shooter’s learning curve and reduce the training burden to maintain proficiency with the weapon.
Vortex Optics has been a strong player in the optics market, offering intelligent designs that are manufactured to high standards, yet also managing to keep them affordable. An agency looking to buy a large quantity of optics, or an individual officer who has to procure their own equipment, can get great value for their money with a Vortex product.
Vortex has enhanced some of its favorite optics for 2021, to include a pair of optics that will be of interest to officers equipped with patrol rifles: The SPARC SOLAR red dot and the SPITFIRE HD Gen II prism scope. Let’s take a quick look at each of these enhanced designs.
The Vortex SPARC AR has been a popular, compact red dot optic for many years, and will continue in the Vortex lineup because it’s such a good optic. However, beginning in 2021, Vortex will now offer a solar-powered version of the SPARC called the SPARC SOLAR, which is normally powered by a solar panel located on the top of the optic.
The SPARC SOLAR’s panel will power the optic when light is available, but when it’s not, the optic’s “Auto D-Tec” system will switch the power source to the optic’s CR2032 battery. The solar panel does not charge the battery (it only powers the optic) but by relieving the battery’s workload, Vortex estimates that a user could achieve as much as 150,000 hours of battery life (up from about 50,000 on the SPARC AR), depending on conditions such as the amount of sun exposure, the brightness controls and the rate at which the battery naturally decays.
The SPARC SOLAR has an automatic shutoff that turns the optic off after a 14-hour delay to help preserve battery life. If the SPARC SOLAR’s automatic shutoff feature turns the optic off, the optic will come back to life when motion is sensed again, by virtue of the optic’s motion activation system. When the motion activation system turns the optic back on, it will come on at the previous intensity setting. These features are particularly useful for an officer to ensure that the optic will be powered when it’s needed. If the optic is turned on prior to a shift, the 14-hour delay will keep it on for the vast majority of duty periods, and if it happens to go to sleep while the officer is still working, it will come back to life when sufficient motion is sensed.
Honestly, with an estimated 150K battery life, an officer could turn the optic on at the beginning of the year, and never have to power the optic down again for the rest of the year. This doesn’t relieve the officer of the responsibility to check their equipment prior to each shift and replace batteries on a reasonable schedule, but it does reduce the concern about dead batteries unexpectedly ruining your day.
The SPARC SOLAR has a larger window than the SPARC AR, which increases the user’s field of view – a feature that will be useful to police officers who need to maintain situational awareness in rapidly changing situations. The SPARC SOLAR also features a 2 MOA red dot that can be illuminated at one of 12 different settings, to include 2 settings that are compatible with night vision goggles (NVGs). The body of the SPARC SOLAR is low profile, with several features designed to prevent snagging, to include flush-mounted elevation and windage turrets with a gently-sloped fence around them to protect the settings.
Whereas the older SPARC AR has an integrated, fixed base that holds the optic at an AR-compatible height, the new SPARC SOLAR has a detachable base that allows the optic to be mounted directly to the receiver of shotguns or other long guns with a traditional stock. The detachable riser will also allow the SPARC SOLAR to be lower-third co-witnessed with an AR’s fixed sights when attached to the optic. The mounting footprint of the SPARC SOLAR is the common Aimpoint standard, which allows the use of popular aftermarket mounts from other vendors, such as elevated mounts for NVG use or offset mounts for use in conjunction with low power variable optics (LPVOs).
The SPARC SOLAR’s body is fully covered for protection from the elements, and the optic ships with tethered covers for the front and rear lenses, to keep them clean and free from damage.
The SPITFIRE HD Gen II differs from its predecessor in several ways. To begin with, the optical system has been redesigned with high-definition (HD) glass to increase light transmission, improve optical resolution, and reduce aberrations (particularly near the edges of the lens). This new HD optical system not only improves the image of this prism scope, it also helps to cut size and weight from the original SPITFIRE AR design (up to about 0.8 inches and 1 oz., depending on configuration).
The SPITFIRE HD Gen II also adds magnification to the SPITFIRE platform. Whereas the older SPITFIRE AR is a 1X prism scope, the SPITFIRE HD Gen II offers the user a choice of a fixed-3X or 5X model, to improve the optic’s capability at longer ranges.
With the etched, AR-BDC4 reticle, the optic is designed to offer both a rapid, short-range index, as well as bullet drop compensating (BDC) holdovers for distances up to 650 yards with most 5.56mm loadings. The red dot in the reticle is surrounded through the upper 270 degrees by segmented red arcs that provide rapid sight acquisition at CQB distances, but the area below the red dot includes marks for both holdover and windage (windage out to 600 yards), arranged in the typical “Christmas tree” pattern. The BDC marks are simple and uncluttered, but allow the user to reach out with the HD Gen II at distances far beyond the capabilities of a typical reflex optic.
Like the SPARC SOLAR, the SPITFIRE HD Gen II is designed to avoid snags with low-profile wind and elevation turrets and a low-profile battery cap. The optic has flush-mounted digital buttons on the side to adjust the intensity of the dot through 12 different brightness settings, including two that are night-vision compatible.
The SPITFIRE HD Gen II has a multi-height riser system that allows the optic to sit high for AR-style rifles, and low for long guns with a traditional stock. The 5X version of the HD Gen II also has a mount for a micro red dot on the top of the optic, for those users who want an alternative for CQB distances.
These two new optics from Vortex offer significant improvements on products that were already excellent designs. Vortex products have established a good reputation as durable and reliable optics for law enforcement use, and the new SPARC SOLAR and SPITFIRE HD Gen II red dot sights promise to carry on that tradition.
If you’ve been thinking about adding a reflex sight to your patrol rifle or shotgun, or a prism sight to your patrol rifle, check out these new 2021 offerings from Vortex. While you’re there, make sure to look at the company’s law enforcement discount program, which will save you a few valuable dollars.
Stay sharp, and be safe out there.