The Cugir Draco: When Demand Outweighs Supply

Gun News

From Dracos to WASRs to PSLs, Cugir Arms imports have long been a staple of the U.S. gun market. Now that the demand for Dracos is higher than the supply can provide for, what does the future hold for this little Romanian pistol that punches above its weight?

Dracos-What Are They?:

  • Semi-Automatic 7.62x39mm AK Pistols From Century Arms
  • There Are Four 7.62x39mm Variants-Three Made In Romania And One Made In The U.S.
  • Romanian Draco Variants Differ In Three Major Ways-Barrel Length, Handguards, And Rear Sight
  • New Ones Have Not Been Imported In Several Months, Very Hard To Find One Currently [May 2021]
Cugir made Draco Pistol, imported for the US market by Century Arms
Cugir made Draco Pistol, imported for the US market by Century Arms.

As an importer as well as manufacturer, there are many AKs for sale with “Century Arms” in the name. All the imports are good to go, but the domestically produced models should generally be avoided if you are looking for a serious rifle with the famous reliability of a Kalashnikov.

The Draco AK pistol, manufactured in Romania by Cugir Arms Factory and imported by Century Arms, is ubiquitous enough that “Draco” is now used by many as a generic term for any model of AK pistol. For years they were bought and loved by a variety of people. Military history buffs bought them to make PM md. 90 clones. People looking for a truck or backpack gun bought them for their compactness. Gangster-rappers flashed them as status symbols.

Now in 2021, AKs of all kinds are as popular as they’ve ever been in the United States, but the once abundant Draco is sold out everywhere you look. As I write this, there are multiple Draco guns listed for auction on Gunbroker, with active bids going for well over $1,000. From the best I can tell, the last time Romanian Dracos were in stock and being sold new online was five months ago and they were listed for $699.

Did the supply and demand really become so skewed these past few months that these guns have doubled in price? A year ago they were less than $600, so what happened? Full sized WASR rifles have been imported more recently and sold for relatively normal prices for the times, so why no more Dracos? Before we dive into that question, let’s briefly talk about the history of the Cugir Arms Factory and the weapons they have to offer.

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Cugir History

Located in Cugir, Romania, the Cugir Arms Factory can trace its weapon manufacturing roots back to the late 18th century during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today they are a subsidiary of ROMARM, the state-owned defense conglomerate.

After the second world war, Romania became a socialist republic and member of the Warsaw Pact. During the early 1960s, the Soviet Union encouraged all Warsaw Pact states to domestically produce their own assault rifles chambered in 7.62x39mm. Romania accomplished this in 1963 when they produced their first AK variant, a clone of the Russian stamped AKM that they called the PM md.63. The underfolding variant came as the PM md.65 two years later. They would eventually also develop a side-folding carbine variant with a shorter barrel and combination front sight and gas block (as opposed to standard AK variants where the front sight is a separate piece from the gas block) called the PM md.90. This variant is what became known in the United States as the Draco, although it was obviously imported as a semi-automatic pistol for legal reasons.

Romanian Military PM md.63
Romanian Military PM md.63. Photo:Wikipedia

The first Romanian AKs to be imported were during the Federal Assault Weapons ban of 1994 to 2004. Skirting prohibitions in the law, they lacked several features found on standard Kalashnikov rifles. Without getting too bogged down in the convoluted history of different variants, the first imported Romanian AK you should know about was called the ROMAK-1 and it became available in 1999. This is the model that eventually became known as the WASR-10, but it was also imported under the names CUR-1, WUM-1, and SAR-1.

Cugir SAR-1 semi-auto AKM
Cugir SAR-1 semi-auto AKM. Predecessor to the WASR. Photo: Wikipedia

Romanian AK … Worth A Dang?

The reputation of imported Romanian AKs in the U.S. has been all over the place since they first started coming in. Some of the criticisms are warranted, while others are not. The fact of the matter is that there have only ever been two significant and real problems with these guns, one of which was caused by Cugir and the other the fault of Century.

The first of these problems that you may have heard about were canted sights, meaning that the front sight post was not installed on the barrel at the correct vertical angle. The result of this is generally a fully functional rifle that will likely need the front sight drifted to the extreme right or left in order to obtain a proper zero. In the most serious cases the rifle is unable to be zeroed. This was mostly a problem in the early 2000s when Cugir was having some quality control issues. When shopping for a Romanian AK, especially an older import, this is certainly something you should check for. Since then, Cugir has improved their QC and this has not been an issue with their new rifles for years.

The second issue was caused stateside by Century during the importation process. For legal reasons, foreign AKs can only be imported into the U.S. with non-standard magazine wells sized to fit single-stack magazines. Once imported, Century completes some light modifications to bring the rifle into standard spec. One of these modifications conducted by Century is the opening up of the magwell to accept standard double-stack AK mags. Once upon a time, like the canted sights, this was an issue. The magazine well would either be opened up too much or too little, resulting in magazines fitting in the rifle too tightly or too loosely (some amount of mag wobble is normal for AKs, but too much is bad). Again, this ceased to be an issue quite some time ago.

Small, But Mighty Draco

Cugir produces three 7.62×39 Draco variants for the U.S. market, the Mini Draco, the Micro Draco, and the standard Draco with a 12.25 inch barrel. The standard version is the most desirable for its ability to take standard AKM pattern handguards, unlike the Micro or Mini versions. The 7.62x39mm cartridge performs extremely well out of shorter barrels, only losing a couple hundred feet per second of velocity when compared to a standard 16.3 inch barrel. That being said, the 12.25 inch barrel still results in better ballistics than the 7.75 or 6.25 inch barrels of the Mini or Micro, again making the standard Draco the preferred variant. Furthermore, as civilian shooters often like to emulate what militaries do or use, the 12.25 inch Draco is much closer in form to several military AK variants than either two of the other models.

As they come out of the box, Dracos in their pistol format are essentially range toys. They can be used to blast for fun, but without any proper way to utilize the sights one can’t expect to make good hits with it outside of a few yards. This may be fine for the casual shooter who just thinks little AKs are cool, but many people who purchase these intend for them to be serious fighting rifles if the need ever arises.

Because of this, the single most important modification that can be performed to a Draco is the installation of a pistol brace or rifle stock following proper ATF approval to register it as an SBR. With the additional point of contact provided by the brace or stock, the Draco’s standard AK rifle sights become usable again. This is what brings the Draco out of toy territory and makes it a truly functional weapon.

When it comes to modifying the rest of the pistol, it accepts any standard pattern trigger, handguard, dust cover, safety selector or magazine that can be installed on a normal AKM. The barrel is also threaded for 14×1 LH so it can take a wide variety of common muzzle devices. Once SBR’d, Dracos can be transformed into handsome military clones such as the original Romanian PM md.90 it was developed from, or the Russian AK-104.

Romanian Military PM md.90 Short Rifle
Romanian Military PM md.90 Short Rifle. Photo:Wikipedia

The Romanian Draco AK pistol is a versatile little gun ideal for a variety of applications. When combined with a folding brace or stock they have nearly the same firepower and usability as any full-sized AK variant but in a package small enough to be stowed under a car seat or in a backpack. It is easy to see why this gun is desirable enough that many people are willing to shell out twice as much as they would have a year ago to get one today. But where are the new ones?

Are They Avialable?

I reached out to Century Arms about the status of more imports hitting American shores, but have not heard back yet. If they respond I will update this article with their answers. In the meantime, it unfortunately seems that Draco pistols will continue to sell for ludicrous prices on the second-hand market until more are imported, if ever. Until that day, I recommend that you keep an eye out for any fairly-priced imported AK, Cugir or otherwise.

Century Arms’ AK Offerings

Imported Models Domestic Models
WASR-10 VSKA
WASR-10 UF VSKA Synthetic
AES 10B C39
WASR M C39V2
PSL 54 RAS47
Draco (Romanian Made) Draco (U.S. Made)
Mini Draco
Micro Draco
Draco NAK9

For more information on imported Cugir AKs and Dracos, please visit centuryarms.com.

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