The AK SBR reviewed herein started as a Romanian 7.62×39 AK Draco pistol imported by Century International Arms. Certain weapons evolve over time as a user searches for best utility. Experience with a 5.45×39 Krinkov led to an appreciation of what a SBR offers in terms of portability and handling. Almost immediately after the economical Draco AK pistol was uncovered the quest to maximize it began.
The Draco SBR quest began in earnest upon reviewing a Suarez International Warrior Talk forum discussion about adding a rear sling point on a Draco AK pistol. The work involved with the rear sling attachment was not significantly less than what would be involved to just alter the existing rear trunnion of the Draco to accept a stock. Red Jacket Firearms was turned to in assisting with the Draco SBR project. 7.62×39 Krinkov style rifles or kits are currently scarce and the Draco SBR seemed a good alternative.
The Draco was fired in its original pistol configuration before converting it into a SBR. The Draco AK pistol, while interesting, lacked much in terms of accuracy past normal handgun ranges with added negatives of weighing 5.5 pounds and muzzle blast of a rifle round. Draco is the Latin word for dragon. The Draco AK certainly lived up to this vision of a fire breathing apparition with substantial amounts of muzzle blast and flash. While definitely categorized as a fun firearm, the Draco in its pistol form is limited in its effectiveness. A Krebs Custom Quad Rail was added to the Draco while still in its pistol form in an effort to increase its accuracy and effective range potential. An Insight Technology M6x laser/light and various red dot sights were utilized to no avail with the AK pistol. The results still were not satisfactory.
Century International Arms imports the Draco AK pistol. The Draco AK pistol utilizes the same forend length as a standard AK. This simplifies finding accessories for it compared to the more specialized Krinkov versions with reduced length forends. The piston length is not the same. Yes, the 11inch barrel length is longer compared to an 8.5inch barreled Krinkov, but this is a viable compromise considering alternatives are slim when searching for a 7.62×39 Krinkov kit. The Draco has a unique front gas block and sight compared to other full size AKs and the rear sight is modified for shorter ranges expected from a pistol.
Turning the Draco AK pistol into a SBR transforms it into a more serious firearm. Yes, the 11 inch barrel sacrifices some performance versus 16 inch barrels, but this is the price for any SBR. Increased handling and portability more than compensates for any velocity lost. The 7.62×39 is less affected in this regard than 5.56 or 7.62×51 chamberings. Lessons rediscovered in Iraq and Afghanistan about terminal ballistics further enhances 7.62×39 AK credentials. However, the lack of a rear stock nestled in your shoulder impacts effectiveness. This is based on multiple points of contact represented by a shoulder stock as compared to a handgun. This consists of shoulder, cheek, and hands spread further apart for more stability compared to a handgun.
Three performance upgrades were sought in converting the Draco AK pistol into the Draco SBR. The first, and most important, involved modifying the rear trunnion to add a stock. Second, based on previous experiences with a 5.45×39 AK SBR, was foregoing the standard wood forend by replacing it with a Krebs Custom Quad rail. Lastly, wanting to take advantage of the first two improvements, an Aimpoint T1 optic was added to the Krebs Quad rail, which is a vast improvement over the standard open sights. This only reinforced correctness of decision to add a stock to the Draco to better take advantage of 7.62×39 potential and AK handling characteristics.
This SBR project would not have been possible without the involvement of Red Jacket Firearms. Red Jacket has established itself as a major resource for U.S. AK devotees. A quick phone call to Red Jacket owner Will Hayden discussed expectations for the Draco. Red Jacket modified the rear trunnion and added a DPH folding stock with ACE folding hinge. The Draco was given the once over by the experienced Red Jacket gunsmiths while it was in Louisiana. It would have been foolish not to take advantage of Red Jacket’s experience with AKs while the Draco was there for the rear trunnion modification. Red Jacket tuning included checking magwell dimensions, function of action, polished and smoothed rails along with removing any machine marks from the bolt head and carrier. The front sight and gas block were checked for alignment, which is a common AK issue. During assembly after paint, Red Jacket noticed a discrepancy with the standard Romanian fire control group hammer and sear engagement. Red Jacket installed a G-2 unit which is a proven trigger group with Red Jacket projects. Further inspection revealed the safety lever barely caught the hammer and had the possibility of an accidental discharge. This was repaired by extending the contact point of the selector with a weld, shape to fit handwork and refinishing to match. The metal surfaces of the Draco received a Gunkote application. Upon the Draco’s return it measured 32.5 inches with the DPH stock deployed; 24 inches folded, and weighed slightly over 8 pounds. These measurements included Krebs Custom Quad rail, Aimpoint T1, offset Troy vertical grip, and YHM Phantom flash hider.
Red Jacket Firearms has been a Class 7 manufacturer for over a decade. What started out as private projects involving AK type of weapons quickly evolved into a main product line for the company. The ZK model and Saiga shotguns, including integral suppressed versions of the Saiga shotgun, being the most sought after firearms from Red Jacket along with a relatively new offering involving accuracy enhancements to Saiga rifles. Not wanting to oversimplify, Red Jacket is a true custom gunsmith with many types of weapons available. Will prides himself on producing weapons that are capable of hard use with a reputation for ruggedness, reliability, and accuracy.
The Krebs Quad Rail was simple to install securely to the Draco, thus multiplying potential options for adding accessories to the rifle. As expected from Krebs, the Quad Rail was well made and did not move once installed on the Draco SBR. Another benefit of the Krebs Quad Rail is that it allows for better ventilation around the barrel, thus cooling it down faster after long strings of fire. The Krebs Quad Rail could be considered just as essential to getting the most out of the Draco SBR as adding the rear stock; without the Krebs Quad Rail it would have been impossible to forward mount the Aimpoint T1 sight or any other optic for that matter.
Many will find the Krebs Custom Quad Rail as an invitation to accessorize the Draco with lights, lasers, vertical grips, etc. Individuals will have to judge for themselves what is necessary kit without compromising handling. A vertical forward grip was added to the Draco SBR via Kreb’s offset rail adaptor. The AK47 magazine’s curvature can interfere with a vertical forward grip during magazine changes impacting reloading efficiency. The Kreb’s offset rail adaptor eliminates this likelihood and allows for a vertical grip to be positioned per individual shooter preference. The vertical foregrip has fast become a standard accessory on any rifle or carbine equipped with a forward accessory rail. The increased leverage and control offered by the vertical foregrip aids in weapon manipulation and stability when firing. The vertical foregrip’s advantages are further magnified with the ever increasing amount of accessories being placed on weapons equipped with Picatinny 1913 or similar rail systems. Loading up a weapon’s forend will effect handling. An Insight Technology M6x tactical light/laser illuminator was chosen due to it combining both a high intensity light and laser aiming module in one compact housing. The Insight M6x was configured with the long arm remote pressure pad switch for activating the laser and/or light with the support hand without having to alter firing grip. Another vertical forward grip used with the Draco SBR was the Police Ordnance Company MTL 225 distributed by Century International Arms. The MTL-225 combines a vertical grip with a high intensity 225 lumen LED tactical light all in T6 aluminum housing weighing in at slightly less than 16 ounces. The MTL-225 requires mounting fully forward on the Draco SBR so as not to interfere with magazine changes. A review of weapons appearing in the hands of our troops fighting overseas or domestic LE tactical teams will confirm popularity, utility, and appeal related to vertical foregrips and tactical lights and lasers.
Range T&E followed established protocol for combat rifles. After a quick verification of 25 yard sight zero, evaluation commenced with a function test involving firing several magazines in rapid succession at various steel man targets and vehicles that dot the range. While not unique, this is a good way to establish a baseline for reliability. Let’s face it; if an AK-type weapon does not have pristine reliability, its major attribute is nullified. A vertical forward grip is perfect for keeping your hand away from a hot barrel. A more comprehensive 100 yard sight zero confirmation took place after functionality was established. The Krebs Quad rail allows for the open sights to be viewed down the recess between rails system if one chooses not to mount an optic. The Aimpoint T1red dot sight offered the capability to engage multiple targets in rapid sequence compared to open sights. As many “maturing” shooters can attest to the single focus plane with the red dot is easier to shoot accurately than coordinating front and rear sights.
Brass cased Egyptian and Yugoslavian 7.62×39 surplus ammunition was used for the bulk of the testing with Wolf Ammunition Polyformance 122 and Military Classic 124gr loads also used in conjunction with Barnaul and Golden Tiger 7.62×39 loadings. Accuracy was acceptable for an AK, or any other combat rifle using iron sights or non-magnified optics, at 3-4 inches at 100 yards. One downside to most surplus ammunition is that it does utilize corrosive primers. Something the Russians and other ex-Soviet bloc states or clients insisted on using due to concerns with cold weather ignition and long-term storage capabilities offered by corrosive primers. The Egyptian ammunition is labeled as non-corrosive, but was handled as if it was corrosive to take no chances. Corrosive ammunition is not the destroyer of rifles many will lead you to believe as long as proper cleaning methods are followed to remove elements left over from the primer residue. During several range visits in both its pistol and SBR form, the Draco fired several hundred rounds downrange. The weapon was cleaned between range visits due to the use of corrosive ammunition.
Further range testing of the Draco consisted of repeating numerous drills and exercises experienced via training with Suarez International, Storm Mountain, and Tactical Response. Firing while moving as well as behind cover, reloading drills, transitions between shoulders depending on cover orientation, and engaging multiple targets arranged around “no-shoot” targets all helped put the Draco SBR through its paces. While not as subtle or tame as an AR-15 or AK74, the Draco’s muzzle blast and recoil was not prohibitive allowing for fast double and triple taps on selected targets, especially at CQB distances. The welded muzzle nut that comes on the Draco pistol was removed allowing for access to the weapon’s M14x1LH muzzle threads. Initially, a typical AK slant style muzzle device was added. A Yankee Hill Machine (YHM) Phantom flash hider quickly replaced this. The Phantom flash hider is not only effective at reducing muzzle signature, but allows for the quick mounting of a YHM suppressor if desired. This was done occasionally with no detriment to the Draco’s accuracy or reliability. The Aimpoint T1assisted in engaging targets at close distances with the red dot easy to pick up rapidly, while at the same time allowing for more than enough accuracy out to a couple hundred yards due to the red dot’s superimposing an aim point on the target while not totally obscuring the target due to the dot’s not being oversized.
The Draco SBR handled as expected from a SBR AK benefitting from a shortened barrel combined with AK reliability. Red Jacket’s tuning could be detected in smoothness of manually operating action and slickness of magazine changes. Targets of opportunity located around the range such as car hulks, manhole covers, and steel MGM Precision Steel targets were engaged repeatedly outside of designated courses of fire.
Some will question why go through the hassle for an SBR. The answer, as with most things related to firearms, is personal preference. This review should encourage readers to look outside the box when making decisions concerning weapon choices. Did the Draco, with added enhancements, turn out to be a good investment of time and money? Yes, in all aspects, including shootability, reliability, functionality, and lethality. Not much more can be asked from a rifle.
SITES OF INTEREST
14103 Mariah Court
Chantilly, VA 20151
Century International Arms
430 South Congress Ave., Suite 1
Delray Beach, FL 33445
9 Akira Way
Londonderry, NH 03053
Krebs Custom Inc.
1000 Rand Road
Wauconda, IL 60084
Red Jacket Firearms
9643 Mammoth Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70714
2438 Valley Ave
Winchester, VA 22601
PO Box 757
Placentia, CA 92871
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N2 (November 2010)