Mini Draco Review: The Romanian Candle

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The Mini Draco is a Romanian-made AK pistol and, like its namesake, the mini barrel spews forth fire.

Sometimes you just want as much firepower as you can get in the smallest package available. Forget all the talk about 9mm, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum or even 10mm—those are all pistol calibers, and as the axiom goes, “The only good use for a pistol in a firefight is to fight a path to your rifle.”

No, what I’m talking about is rifle calibers. If things go south, most people would prefer a rifle; it’s just not practical to carry one. So, we resort to handguns with all of the limitations of handgun calibers.

But what if your pistol is your rifle? It’d negate the limitations that handguns possess. That’s the intent behind the Mini Draco from Century Arms. It’s an AK pistol chambered in the AK’s legendary cartridge: the 7.62x39mm Soviet.

Cugir Mini Draco
The Mini Draco is Built in Cugir, Romania, and imported by Century Arms. Equipped with the Wolverine PBS-1 suppressor, it’s a fun plinker.

The Mini Draco is a Romanian-made AK Pistol—made in the Cugir Arms Factory that’s famous for the WASR series rifles—a close copy of the Russian AKM. Per the original Kalashnikov design, it has a stamped sheet metal receiver and incorporates rivets to secure the front and rear trunnions in place. Overall length is 17.5 inches, and it weighs 5.6 pounds without a magazine. Despite the small size of the Mini-Draco, the receiver is the same size as a standard AK.

AK receiver comparison
Despite being mini size—and classified as a pistol by the ATF—the Mini Draco (top) has the same receiver as a full-size Kalashnikov rifle.

The rear sight block looks the same as those found on standard-sized AK rifles, but aside from that, everything forward of the receiver is different from the norm. And that’s expected from an AK variant that’s so small. Naturally, the barrel and gas tube are shorter, but to make up for the lack of real estate up front, the front sight and gas block have been combined into one piece. It’s longer (measuring fore to aft), so many AK front sight windage adjustment tools will not work with this.

AK front sight comparison
The gas block and front sight from a full-size AK rifle (left) have been combined into one part for the Mini Draco.

The muzzle device isn’t the typical slant brake found on an AKM rifle, but it’s instead a compensator (though the Century Arms manual calls it a flash hider) of the same basic design as the government-issue one used on an AR-15, except with different thread (14×1 LH, common to AK rifles) and with three notches at the base.

Mini Draco Muzzle
The Mini Draco comes with an AR-15-style compensator, but it has different threading and three notches at the base. The notches secure it onto the muzzle via the front sight spring-loaded retaining plunger. Which notch you use determines the direction the muzzle blast is directed.

The receiver internals are standard for an AK of Romanian design, with the exception of the modified rear trunnion and the gas piston (which I’ll get into in a moment). The bolt carrier, bolt assembly and recoil spring assembly are the same as a standard-length AK rifle. To compensate for the short gas tube, the gas piston rod has been removed and only the piston rod head remains. In design, the head has been cut from the piston rod and attached directly to the bolt carrier. In reality, the head isn’t actually cut from the piston rod; it’s a separate machined part.

AK piston comparison
The Mini Draco has the same size bolt and bolt carrier (bottom) as a full-size AK rifle, but the gas piston rod is gone, only the head of the piston rod remains.

A hard polymer part called the recoil buffer is positioned in front of the rear trunnion to dampen the impact of the bolt carrier during cycling. Probably the most important function, though, is that it keeps the bolt carrier/gas piston from over-stroking. The recoil buffer looks like it’s from a 3D printer and is a little rough around the edges, so to speak. A piece of hard rubber would’ve probably had better longevity. During disassembly, the recoil buffer will need to be pulled out (it’s not attached) before the bolt carrier can be removed from the receiver.

Century Arms usually uses U.S.-built Tapco triggers in its AK rifles, in part because they’re better than what comes stock, but mostly for 922(r) parts compliance. The trigger in this Mini Draco doesn’t read Tapco, so it looks like a Romanian “government” trigger. It’s pretty good for being a stock trigger, though. It averaged a 5.1-pound pull weight, and it had a crisp break. I’ve pulled many worse Combloc triggers.

There’s no stock since it’s classified as a pistol, so the only furniture is a polymer pistol grip and the front handguard. The handguard is made of blond plywood and has a pretty nice-looking finish, in an industrial kind of way. It doesn’t have a top portion of handgrip, like most AKs, only the bottom.

Mini Draco Feature
The Mini Draco is an AK pistol with a 7.75-inch barrel. Here it’s sporting a Wolverine PBS-1 suppressor from Dead Air Armament.

Build Quality


Century Arms has taken some dings in the past on the roughness of their Romanian AKs, and in general, Romanian AKs have taken some online bashing for being “entry level.” They can be a little rough, but I’ve heard excellent things about reliability, which is the hallmark for AKs.

The Mini Draco that I have has pretty decent build quality. The rivets look good; they’re flush with the receiver surface. I don’t see any creases or bends in the sheet metal. There are no machining marks on the exterior surface of any parts, and even the internal parts/surfaces appear to be pretty good. The magazine well doesn’t have any burrs, nor do any of the other sheet metal edges. The safety selector on mine is very tight and hard to take off safely; it’s the tightest I’ve found on an AK. But hey, any problem that can be solved with a bench vise and a hammer isn’t a problem at all.

Draco Magwell
The Mini Draco magwell is unadulterated by Century Arms since as a pistol it is allowed to be imported from the factory with a standard double-stack magwell, as opposed to the WASR rifle's single-stack one that must be opened up.

There are, however, three things I can see that are negative. The first is the receiver end plate has sharp corners, right where the web of the grip hand rests when shooting. The second is the finish. The finish has a semi-course feel to it that’s typical of what I’ve seen on AKs from the Cugir/ROMARM factory, which is fine with me, but it appears to show wear pretty easy. I haven’t had mine for very long, and there’s quite a bit of wear already. It doesn’t bother me, but it might bother some people, especially those who like to keep their “safe guardians” looking mint.

Mini-Draco Receiver
The Mini Draco has a stamped sheet metal receiver, like the AKM it was derived from.

All of those things are forgivable—the AK was never meant to be pretty. But the most egregious issue is the use of the fragile recoil buffer that broke on mine. It goes against the entire ethos of the AK rifle to have a fragile 3D-printed polymer part. I’m pretty sure Mikhail Kalashnikov is rolling over in his grave. As much as I don’t like this fragile part, it’s inexpensive and easy enough to replace. It definitely isn’t a deal breaker.

Mini Draco buffer
For such an important part, the Recoil Buffer is fragile. It looks like it’s from a 3D printer and is very brittle. It’s cracked all the way through (bottom right), and the top is chipping away. The author hasn’t even put 300 rounds through it.

Performance


In regard to performance, the Mini Draco isn’t going to replicate or replace a rifle. For starters, it’s only going to be effective at close ranges—think 50 yards.

In the accuracy department, it has a lot working against it. The barrel is only 7.5-inches-long, not much longer than a competition-length handgun such as the Glock G34 with a 5.31-inch barrel.

Despite these factors, the Mini Draco was more accurate than expected. Between the five different loads tested at 50 yards, they averaged 4.74-inch five-shot groups. Red Army Standard was the best with a 3.0-inch group, and G2 Research was the worst with a 6.0-inch group. (Incidentally, the G2 Research improved significantly at 25 yards, with a 2.01-inch five-shot group. I didn’t include this in the data set for this article, because I couldn’t test all of the loads at this distance).

In addition, three upgrades would drastically improve accuracy: night sights, a red-dot optic and some sort of stabilization, like a sling or pistol brace. These upgrades would make it a pretty accurate little AK.

Draco Receiver with bolt

I was a little surprised I had some malfunctions with the Mini Draco, but all were magazine related. I had ten malfunctions during my testing phase, and then a buddy had eight malfunctions in the 30 rounds he fired using a South Korean-made steel magazine (I’ve never had issues with this magazine prior to this). All were instances where a round was loaded, it’d fire, but the next round wouldn’t feed properly. My feed issues were from the South Korean mag and one of the X-Tech magazines. I’ve used other magazines, including Tapco, Polish surplus and Russian steel surplus, and had zero issues with those.

MagPump AK mag loader
MagPump magazine loaders have become almost a necessity for the author, especially for range trips during winter months. This one is the AK magazine model and includes a magazine “unloader.” It loads magazines effort-free, prevents sore and/or frozen fingers, and the best part: It doesn’t matter which way the cartridges are loaded into it.

The Mini Draco is more shootable than one would initially think. For me, the AK recoil impulse is fairly mild, and it’s more of a slower recoil that’s spread out over time, whereas other rifles, such as the AR, even though recoil is milder, it’s more of a sharp crack.

The Final Scoop


The Mini Draco is a very fun gun to shoot, and from the “fun gun” aspect, there’s not a lot of downsides. In fact, range time doesn’t get much more fun—the 7.5-inch barrel means it’s loud, and it shoots flames like it’s a vintage WWII flame thrower. If you’re looking for a practical reason to buy one … don’t. If you like AKs and you like to have fun, it’s hard to beat the Mini Draco. It’s small, it’s loud…and it weighs only about a pound more than a Desert Eagle.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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