Impact tools drivers have many uses around the home. The advancement of battery power has made it possible to use a tool like an impact driver without an expensive air compressor or another fuel type. Milwaukee has been at the forefront of pioneering these new tools, and they have several models for sale.
We’ve chosen 10 different Milwaukie impact drivers to review for you so you can see what some of the differences are between them and decide what features you would like to have in the model you choose for your home.
Is Milwaukee the Best Tool Brand?
Milwaukee Tool was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by A.F. Seibert in 1924. They are well known for manufacturing electric and power tools, and have recently expanded into other product lines like hand tools, pliers, screwdrivers, knives, and tool combo kits, among other products.
Milwaukee seeks to be a “solutions provider,” and they charge into new markets with a disruptive ferocity. Their philosophy for the M12 cordless system has been to provide user-friendly alternatives to hand tools, and their expanding M18 system offers all the core tools pros and demanding users might need, plus many trade-specific options.
Milwaukee Tool cordless power tools can carry premium pricing, but they regularly offer very aggressive promotions in the form of free tool or battery bonus bundles.
While not the market-leader in every category, Milwaukee is an easy recommendation. Quite simply put, you can’t go wrong with Milwaukee cordless power tools.
If I absolutely had to choose a “Best Cordless Power Tool Brand Overall” winner, Milwaukee would face off against Dewalt in a battle too close to easily call.
WHAT ARE IMPACT DRIVERS USED FOR?
Pros typically use impact drivers to drive screws using bits such as Phillips, Torx, or even hex head bits. For our purposes, we drive screws up to 1/4-inch diameter. While you can use an adapter to use sockets and work with larger nuts and bolts, an impact wrench is typically a better tool for that.
They have a rotational impact that comes from a hammer and anvil mechanism. This keeps the screw moving forward when it starts getting tougher to move. The mechanism works without transferring rotational torque to your wrist. It makes these tools easier on your wrists for hard stop driving applications.
In general, they’re lighter and more compact than drill drivers or hammer drills. Many Pros use them in tandem with a drill driver to drill a pilot hole and then drive a fastener without switching bits.
Impact Driver vs. Drill
Impact drivers and drills look similar at a glance—and manufacturers often bundle them together in a single package—but each has its own purpose.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHILE CHOOSING THE BEST MILWAUKEE IMPACT DRIVER
Milwaukee offers a wide selection of impact drivers that have different performance capacities which make them suitable for different applications. High-end models usually generate more than 1500 in/lbs of torque, and they are usually aimed at professional users. However, torque isn’t the only feature you should be looking at while choosing an impact driver, as it only indicates how powerful the tool is.
You should also keep in mind that models that can operate at high speeds are more expensive than those that run at speeds lower than 2500RPM. Here are some of the most important aspects you should pay attention to if you want to get a Milwaukee impact driver.
First, consider impact drivers with brushless motors. Brushless motors are more expensive then their brushed motors counterparts, but they have longer lives and require less maintenance. Moreover, brushless motors run more efficiently, produce less heat, and support smart electronics. Smart electronics, or smart tools, are general terms we use to describe tools whose battery and motor communicate to optimize performance and prevent thermal overload. Smart electronics also allow even higher tech features like Milwaukee’s One-Key or DeWalt’s Tool Connect. It’s not the end of the world is you go with a brushed motor, though. You’ll save money and still get Pro-level performance, but give up some benefits.
Impact drivers are available in both 12V and 18V versions. By way of torque comparison, 12V impact drivers generally match the inch-pounds of torque found in 18V drills. You’ll get several hundred more inch-pounds from 18V Impact Drivers. We’ll talk more about torque below. It’s very likely that you’ll be able to do 80% of your job with the smaller and lighter 12V tool, but for the Pros or anyone else needing some extra muscle, 18V is the way to go.
Trigger and RPM
Even though the impact driver is meant to deliver brute force, you don’t always need all of it at once! So today’s tools generally have three RPM ranges. For instance, the Milwaukee 18V Impact Driver features 0-850, 0-2100, and 0-3000.
Be sure that any tool you consider has a variable speed trigger. This spreads out the RPM over a much larger range than just three or four static speeds. You’ll appreciate the extra control a variable speed trigger grants you as you slow down when the fastener is almost home. The impact driver can also avoid stripped screw heads on the way out if it’s not going full bore at the start.
Torque and IPM
Torque is the showcase feature of the impact driver category. As we mentioned, for long, thick, or stubborn fasteners going into or coming out of hard material, you just can’t beat the impact’s utility. It packs a wallop that other tools can’t match. Expect 12V impact drivers to be in the 800- to 1,200 inch-pound range. Their 18V big brothers will boast 1,350 to 2,250 inch-pounds, with the average Pro model settling in around 1,800 inch-pounds.
By way of comparison, our recent 18V drill shootout featured a torque range of about 750 – 1,200 inch-pounds, or the equivalent of the 12V impact torque range. Even then, we’d probably give the edge to the 12V impact with it’s hammering mechanism. And that brings us to Impacts Per Minute (IPM) – or how many blows the hammer and anvil will make against a tough fastener. Rapid pulsing can really help complete a stubborn job, so consider IPM in addition to torque. Expect a no-load IPM of 2,200 to 3,500 IPM with 12V and 1,750 to 3,750 with the 18V impact drivers.
The impact driver will have a forward/reverse switch and trigger reminiscent of its drill cousin. You should be able to easily toggle direction with the thumb and index finger. Some tools will have a neutral that locks the trigger, too. This ensures that the battery doesn’t drain if the trigger is pressed inadvertently, for instance, in a toolbag or toolbox. That’s unlikely – and you can always remove the battery if your impact doesn’t have a neutral switch.
Many of today’s lithium-ion batteries have fuel gauges on the pack but some, like Hitachi, have the gauge on the tool. If it’s on the tool, that means the battery must be inserted to register its discharge status. It’s not quite as convenient as having it on the battery.
Overmold and Ergonomics
Impact Drivers have an ergonomic leg up on drills due to their smaller sizes and lighter weights. Of course, the tool must still feel good in the hand. Ideally, a rubber overmold around the handle should extend up and under the base of the motor housing. This provides some extra comfort for the soft area between your thumb and index finger.
Also look for that same rubberized overmold around the sides of the motor housing. It protects the tool plastic housing when the impact driver is laid (or more likely falls) on its side. This is especially important for 12V impacts because their batteries are less likely to form a base upon which the tool stands upright. Therefore, a 12V’s default position can be laying down instead of standing up.
Our Top Picks: 10 best milwaukee impact driver of 2021
We measured, weighed, and timed dozens of variables but also looked for tiny details such as the usability of the bit holder as well as the pattern and effectiveness of the target lights. We subjectively judged the comfort and ergonomics of each driver, but we also beat the heck out of them by effectively maxing out their torque capabilities.
The Milwaukee 2853-20 M18 FUEL Hex Impact Driver is our pick for the best overall Milwaukee impact driver. It’s a battery-powered tool that uses an 18-volt battery to deliver up to 2,000 inch-pounds (in-lbs) of torque, which should cover most jobs in the workshop. The brushless molder reduces friction and heat and allows you to work up to 30% longer on a single charge. The 4-mode drive control allows more control over the tool’s speed and torque, and its compact design allows you to get into tight-fitting spaces.
The Milwaukee 2853-20 M18 is the most pleasurable impact driver to use on this list, but it’s not without some flaws. Like most battery-operated tools, it does not come with a battery or charger. It also doesn’t come with a carrying bag, so you’ll need to find somewhere safe to store it, and there is no manual, so if you’re not familiar with how this tool works, you’ll need to look up some instructional videos online.
Reaching the screw you want to tighten isn’t always easy, but the Milwaukee 2857 M18 Fuel18™ Hex Impact Driver certainly makes work in tight spaces easier. This hand tool is just 4.59 inches long and it is remarkably lightweight so that anyone can handle using it with just one hand.
You shouldn’t judge its power by its size, as this impact driver features a POWERSTATE™ motor that can generate up to 2000 in/lbs of torque which enables it to drive screws or drill holes at remarkable speeds.
Besides, the Custom Drive Control features enable you to adjust the tool’s speed to the application for which you want to use it.
REDLINK PLUS™ Intelligence technology prevents you from overloading the impact driver so that you can utilize it for a demanding task without having to worry about damaging it. The compatibility with the One-Key™ technology lets you track or customize this tool as you see fit.
This cordless tool is only 5.25 inches in length and 2.1 lbs in weight. Anyone can carry this around a house or a work site while completing a project. The improved ergonomics provide a nice feel in the hands. The small size means that it can be used in tight spaces and held at odd angles with no issues.
The brushless Powerstate Motor is highly efficient. It can deliver up to 1,800 inch-pounds of torque to make jobs a breeze. This makes it the most powerful tool in its class. No job is too big or too small for this compact device. You won’t need to reach for a larger driver as this can tackle the majority of tasks.
Switch between tasks effortlessly using the 4-mode drive control. Each mode corresponds with a certain output speed and power for better precision. Mode 1 goes from 0 to 850 rpm, Mode 2 goes from 0 to 2,100 rpm, and Mode 3 goes from 0-3,000 rpm.
Mode 4 is the most interesting among them as it is a combination of all these with automatic adjustments. It is called the self-tapping screw mode and is activated in three stages. The first stage is a controlled start where the speed ramps up to 3,000 rpm to reduce walking. Next is the fast driving stage where it spins at 3,000 rpm to go through the material quickly. Finally, it slows down to a controlled finish of up to 750 rpm to minimize the incidence of breaking and stripping.
The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553-20 is the best cordless impact driver that we’ve found in the land of 12-volt battery-powered tools. This impressive little driver essentially fits in your pocket. Not only is it compact, but it’s also lightweight, easy to use, and comfortable to hold. Our favorite thing about the M12 Fuel is that it kept up with (and in several instances, outperformed) drivers with substantially more girth and voltage. To top it off, Milwaukee offers a fantastic array of tools built on the M12 Fuel platform, so you may only need to buy one battery and charger for a fleet.
The M12 is not without its flaws. Despite its light weight and tiny size, it is still very loud. Also, this model is far from the most affordable cordless impact driver that we tested. If you don’t mind a tool that’s a little more cumbersome, it might be worth it to get a cheaper model that may not be able to squeeze into the tight spaces that this one can, but ultimately offers the same performance.
In our 12V testing, it took another M12 Fuel product to finally knock the M12 Fuel 2553 off the top of our charts. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge did it with the highest torque numbers of all our 12V impact driver reviews. It also had significantly less noise than any other impact driver we’ve tested.
One of the features that stands out on the Milwaukee 2553 is the self-tapping screw mode. It’s something we see in the 18V models, but it’s not so common in the 12V class. When you kick into it, you start the drive quickly and automatically back down in power to avoid shearing off screw heads in metal fastening.
The Milwaukee 2656-20 M18 Hex Impact Driver is another model that features a convenient LED headlight to help illuminate your work area. Its textured handle enables you to maintain a firm grip and a variable speed trigger allows you to get the correct RPM for your project. The powerful 18-volt battery allows the motor to run at a speed of 3,450 RPM, and RedLink technology helps prevent the unit from overheating by drawing too much current.
The Milwaukee 2656-20 M18 Hex Impact Driver is a very capable impact driver. Our only problem with it was that it didn’t have as much torque as many other models (1,500 in-lbs), particularly in the 18-volt category.
If you are looking for a model that won’t make too much noise while you are using it then the Milwaukee 2760-20 M18 Fuel™ Surge™ hex hydraulic impact driver is a great choice for you.
The tool’s Fluid-Drive hydraulic powertrain reduces the vibrations by three times when compared to other Milwaukee’s models and it cuts its noise level down by half. The 2760-20 impact driver has a POWERSTATE™ brushless motor that can develop speeds that vary from 0 to 3000 RPM.
REDLITHIUM batteries enable you to use this impact driver for the most demanding applications without having to recharge them, but you should keep in mind that the batteries and the charger must be purchased separately.
The Drive Control technology provides you with complete control over the impact driver’s power and speed as it enables you to choose one of four modes that is best suited for the task you want to perform.
Unlike the pistol grip models, the Milwaukee 2667-20 M18 Fuel Cordless 2-Speed right angle impact driver can offer accuracy even when used in a limited space. This impact driver is a specialist tool that is designed to help users reach screws they wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.
Besides the tool can function in two different modes, as it produces 350 in/lbs of torque and as well as 1500 RPM and 2400 IPM while in Mode 1. Activating Mode 2 will grant you access to 675 in/lbs of torque, 2250 RPM, and 3400 IMP.
This impact driver also has excellent safety features, since the REDLINK™ Intelligence technology protects it from overheating or overloading. Moreover, the 2667-20 model has a LED work light that illuminates that area on which you want to perform a fastening or drilling job.
Designed for tough working conditions, the 2606-22CT is your best bet if you are planning to do a lot of hard drilling and driving jobs. It has a couple of advanced features that are sure to make your work more comfortable, relatively easier, and so much faster.
It is equipped with Milwaukee’s Redlink Intelligence that protects the tool against overheating and overloading.
No more worries about burning the tool while operating it for an extended time. This model may be heavier than the others, but the weight is evenly distributed and is well balanced for easy control.
You will enjoy having a multiple speed setting with this Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver leaving you with an option to change the speed torque for smaller jobs then to readjust the setting to expel more power and force for the tougher jobs. You also don’t need to worry about reactionary torque as you would if you bought a cordless drill reducing the risk of injury or causing fatigue to your wrist from all the twisting.
This driver was also built with user friendly conveniences in mind. There is a built-in LED fuel gauge that allows the user to keep track of how much energy is left. The gauge is really user friendly as it has been placed in the front of the tool where the charge availability can be read birds eye view from the operator.
How We Tested These Impact Drivers
We started off by narrowing down the pool of contenders. We researched the market, surveyed user reviews, interviewed product managers and engineers, and relied on our own experience operating these tools. Once we had our testing batch, we used each impact driver to repeatedly drive and remove numerous types of fasteners in different materials. We evaluated them on performance, price, comfort, value, and versatility to determine which we believe will best serve the needs of anyone looking to add one to their tool box.
How Does an Impact Driver Work?
An impact driver senses when you need additional torque and creates rotational impact force with a spring, hammer, and anvil. As the motor turns the shaft, the spring compresses and then releases forcefully, driving the hammer rotationally against the anvil. This action happens rapidly.
What is the strongest impact driver in Milwaukee?
The M18 FUEL™ 1/4″ Hex Impact Driver is the most powerful tool in its class. This hex impact driver provides up to 3X longer motor life, 50% more runtime, and proprietary Milwaukee® 3-Mode DRIVE CONTROL™ for better control over the power and speed required for specific applications.
Is Milwaukee fuel worth the extra money?
Yes, it is worth it. I have used Milwaukee for the past 20 years and I will use nothing else. The Fuel line can take a beating. I have the 18V Hammer and I have no problems drilling into tilt walls.
12-Volt vs 18-Volt Tools: Do I Need Both?
It’s obvious that 18-volt tools have more power than their 12-volt brethren. However, 12V vs 18V isn’t just about power. You simply may not need all that torque.
What? Blasphemy! Yeah, well…you don’t always need the most power. Sometimes you just want to drive screws.
A professional carpenter or installer can likely use a 12-volt tool all day long without needing an 18V tool. Thanks to lithium-ion technology, today’s 12-volt drills and impact drivers perform a lot like yesterday’s 18-volt tools. Some even seem to fall somewhere in between the two categories.
However, what if you’re in production performing heavy-duty, high-stress tasks? Then an 18-volt platform might be better suited for the job. For many users, however, that 12-volt power tool gives you plenty of power for most of the work you might toss at it.