Armasight Spark Core - The poor mans PVS 14?


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Armasight Spark Core, the poor man's PVS14?

Over the last couple years I had countless conversations with people who had an interest in something that can allow them to engage targets at night but without the high pricetag of a Milspec unit such as a PVS-14.
Generally the answer invariably was "You gotta pay to play" or "Such a thing does not exist"
Recently I had an opportunity to experiment with just such a unit and compare it to my existing milspec PVS-14
The goal was to assemble and test a complete configuration with tube, laser IR light, helmet etc for 1300 dollars or less.

This is what I got (all prices approx. retail. If I secured a sale price for any item I will list a good retail price instead so as to not skew the numbers):

-Armasight Spark Core $485
- OTAL (milspec IR laser) $340-390. So less than half the price of a DBAL or PEC2 type unit that features IR laser AND visible Laser. This features ONLY IR laser. But that is our high pay off feature so I judged the OTAL sufficient for an economy set-up.
- Armasight mount #170: $185. I also purchased from my vendor on Armasights recommendation their #70 mount . But this seems designed as an adapter for a regular PVS14 mount w/ JArm. This may give me better fit according to Customer Service.
- Inforce Weapons Mounted Light, w/ IR option, usually priced between $140-160 dollars. I found it on sale for 100 bucks but I believe this low price cannot be relied on for cost planning and "count" it as $150 cost.
- Lancer FAST (Bump) Helmet for $85 shipped.
Total system cost approx. $1250

In order to test I exercised this unit by duplicating to the best of my ability the environment encountered in light patrolling and also night time live-fire.

First the Bad:
- No gain control, Brightness comparable to lowest third gain setting on a PVS14, so is not terribly bright
- A little bulkier and heavier than a PVS14 tube
- The Armasight Mount #170, is clearly intended to mount this unit on a shroud equipped helmet... it works but just barely. While the mounting seemed reasonably secure. The adjustments in general were a bit iffy. I was able to make it work but in the end even with the adjustments maxed out for distance (mostly by where you screw the "arm" onto the Spark Core) the unit was still too close to my eyes. I had to take off the eyecup). The "Steps" of flipping down the unit cannot be changed via the screw that backs up that bearing. As a a result the tube was perfectly level in front of my eye. Adjustments to the helmet padding were able to overcome this.
Mount is serviceable but needs improvement. Customer service says they have an adaptor which can make a regular PVS14 JArm mount work. I have this adapter and may try it in the future for better fit ( but not now since I do not have a spare PVS14 mount)

The good:
-Picture surprisingly clear and free of distortions.
-Has both diopter (-5 to +5) and distance focus adjustments. (So for most folks who wear glasses they could use the monocular w/o wearing them).
-Used it in a moderate rain with no ill effect on the unit afterwards (though raindrops on the lens interfered with vision at some point...but this would be same for any other unit regardless of price so it doesn't count as a negative)
-Was able to engage targets with IR laser without resorting to InfraRed Light illumination from my weapons mounted light. IMHO this is a KPP (Key Performance Parameter) for nearly everyone.
-Responds real well to an IR WML and this extends engagement distance to maybe 90m.. Without Active IR WML I observed being able to see (and engage via IR laser) a man sized target at 30-40m.
- Price! Priced in the high 400s this is an incredible Value. Also now one doesnt have to stress so much about the units well being anymore.. If its gets stolen/lost.. sure thats bad... But its not 3k+ bad!

In summary I can give it a qualified recomendation.

Just understand that it is not a PVS14 and do not except Milspec performance out of it.
What you can expect though is to have a moderate but practical and useful Nighttime engagement capability with this unit and this arrangement is dramatically superior over mounting a sight on your weapon direct ( as most other affordable units are used)

JRH Enterprises helped me put this kit together.
They usually focus on milspec stuff and this unit is not on his site.. but Robert said he would do special order as long as the buyer is educated to not expect a PVS14.
Robert also has good deals on OTALS:
OTAL-Classic with Class 1 IR pointer

Can't say enough good things about Robert from JRH. He comes out to train and is simply one of us.
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Used it again.

This time unlike last time there was plenty of moonlight.
(last time was overcast and raining)
No Active IR illumination needed at all to make it work under these circumstances.

Of course those are ideal conditions..

Still it was too dark to shoot w/o NVG and the combination Armasight Spark Core and my OTAL IR laser worked w/o any IR light illum needed under these condtions.

I did notice a lot more distortion though under this less dark night than the previous test.


Super Moderator
I thought this thread would engender more discussion....

Interesting review. But I wonder how many of us could/would spend that kind of money on night vision equipment. I bought a cheap Gen 1 or 2 night vision monocular. Not the greatest piece of equipment.

I may someday look into a NV scope.


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Interesting review. But I wonder how many of us could/would spend that kind of money on night vision equipment. I bought a cheap Gen 1 or 2 night vision monocular. Not the greatest piece of equipment.

I may someday look into a NV scope.

This is set up above extremely cheap for what it does.. provide agenuine night fighting capability..

The basic idea was to take the best of gen 1 and use it like a NVG.
Of course the viewer itself is not the only expense..
It has to be mounted as well hence the helmet and mount...

It also needs a IR laser for aiming..and the OTAL is the cheapest I am ware of.
A IR light is also helpful especially for Gen 1s.

Thinking about SHTF:
Fun Fact most high end units that use this tech are sloppy and leave their IR laser on instant of using instant on.

You will be able to see those reflections with this unit off the branches doors. etc..
Also there various other waysto use basic NVG tech such as Gen1 against a better equipped foe and still win if one is msart.

A milspec NVG kit costs much more.

Tube: a minimum of 3k
Everthing else I listed can be used on the PVS14 tubes except the armasight mounts.

So this kit is IMO a good starter.

How many of us own 10 or even 20 firearms?
But those dont help us truly fight since its your best modern rifle you carry into the fight .

I had an epiphany a couple years ago.
I owned about 15 AR.
What good are they to me when I dont even own a PVS 14.

So I sold a few rifles and had most of the money together and as my combat powerr greatly improved at night..
Night is 50% of the day (on avg depending on season)

I encourage anyone who is serious about being armed for more than just hunting to get night fighting gear.
The set-up described reaches the threshold.. of not just nightvision but night fighting... :)


Super Moderator
It's been so long since I messed with them I forgot what I actually had. I bought a set of Bushnell 26-3150. They are night vision binoculars with an IR emitter. I don't even know what generation they'd be considered. Pretty grainy when not using the emitter. I imagine they'd be better with moon light.


New member
I remember using nods in the military . . . the ones I had where fairly shitty on resolution, but they did allow you to see in the dark so to speak.


Super Moderator
It would be nice to have a wearable set that leaves both hands free. I'll start puttin' pennies in the piggy bank and save up for something similar to what Bluez has described.

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