Few tools can match the versatility of an air hammer. These handy tools are invaluable for auto work, enabling the user to free frozen nuts, split stubborn joints, or cut off rusted old mufflers. They can speed up the laborious process of chiseling wood or make short work of tile removal by grinding away mortar. Metal shops use air hammers to cut sheet metal or even shape aluminum and steel.
An air hammer consists of a pistol-shaped tool with a barrel between 7 and 12 inches long. These powerful tools use compressed air to fire a piston, engaging a chisel tip that punctures, chips, or grinds through hard materials ranging from stone to metal.
In this guide are factors to consider when shopping so you can discover some of the best air hammer options on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Ingersoll Rand Air Hammer 114GQC
- BEST BUDGET: Chicago Pneumatic CP7150 Air Hammer Kit
- BEST PROFESSIONAL: Astro Pneumatic 0.498” Shank Super Duty Air Hammer
- BEST SHORT BARREL: Dynamic Power Short Barrel Air Hammer
- BEST LONG BARREL: SUNEX SX243 Hd 250-Mm Long Barrel Air Hammer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Air Hammer
Ahead, learn about the most crucial factors to consider when shopping for an air hammer.
Power and Air Compressor
Air hammers, true to their name, use compressed air to power the piston that creates the hammering action. They require about 90 psi (pounds per square inch) of air pressure to fire the piston and at least 4 cfm (cubic feet per minute) of pressurized air to operate continuously.
With that in mind, the size of the air compressor is a significant factor in how well an air hammer will perform. Air hammers will operate with a compressor that produces 4 cfm at 90 psi. While a 4 cfm air compressor is suitable for most home workshops, a 4 cfm air compressor may not produce enough compressed air to meet heavy-duty jobs, forcing the operator to wait periodically as the air compressor recharges.
A large air compressor that can produce 13 cfm at 90 psi will allow an air hammer to run at peak performance, allowing the operator to use it continuously without delays.
Stroke Length and Size
An air hammer’s power directly correlates to the barrel’s length. The barrel houses the piston, which creates the hammer impact. A longer barrel allows for a longer stroke length for each blow the piston makes. That longer length gives the piston more time to reach a higher velocity, resulting in a more powerful blow. Shorter barrel air hammers have a shorter stroke and thus a less powerful impact, but can produce more blows per minute.
A short barrel air hammer is best suited for light-duty jobs that require precision and control, such as cutting through sheet metal or body panels of a car and removing wheel studs. Long barrel air hammers, in comparison, can handle heavy-duty jobs, such as chiseling out corroded nuts, grinding out mortar, or removing a ball joint on a car.
Air hammers include a set of attachments that allow for chiseling, cutting, and shaping metal or mortar. Some air hammers will come in sets with four or five attachments. The chisel shank size determines the type of chisel attachments the air hammer can take. Most air hammers for DIYers feature a chisel shank of 0.401 inches, while pro-level air hammers found in auto shops feature larger chisel shanks of 0.498 inches.
Blows per Minute
Blows per minute (BPM) delineates how many impacts the hammer can deliver in 60 seconds. An air hammer with a higher BPM will allow for more precision cutting. Shorter barrel air hammers tend to generate more blows per minute because they have shorter stroke lengths. A quality air hammer with a 2⅝-inch barrel might produce 3,500 BPM, whereas a quality long barrel air hammer with a longer 3¾-inch stroke might produce 2,200 BPM.
Size and Weight
Air hammers range in weight from 3 pounds for the lightest and shortest models to 6 pounds for longer barrel models. Air hammers range in size from 7 inches long for short barrel models to 12 inches long for long barrel air hammers.
Shorter air hammers are suitable for use in the small nooks and crannies of cars, helping free up frozen nuts, while longer air hammers provide the power needed to cut through exhaust pipes.
Our Top Picks
The list of the best air hammers below takes into account the above considerations to include some of the best products in their class. These top-rated air hammers will suit the needs of both home and pro workshops.
This air hammer boasts an impressive 3,500 BPM, making it an excellent partner for cutting through metal panels, performing repairs to the exhaust system of a car, and a host of other duties. With its high BPM and 2⅝-inch stroke, it’s capable of cutting through metal or handily chipping away at concrete. It connects to an air compressor via a ¼-inch air inlet and requires a 4 cfm air compressor for operation. This air hammer is easy to handle at just 4.1 pounds and 10-inches long.
This model comes with a three-piece chisel set, which includes a panel cutter, ideal for cutting through sheets of metal, a tapered punch chisel for penetrating metal or masonry, and a flat chisel for chipping. With its quick-change bit retainer, it’s easy to swap out chisels quickly. A steel alloy barrel and heat-treated piston ensure this air hammer will hold up to extended use.
This affordable air hammer kit comes with a long barrel air hammer and five chisels, making it an excellent deal for those looking for an affordable way to add an air hammer to their collection of tools. Don’t be fooled by its low price: This air hammer puts out impressive power with 2,100 BPM at a long stroke length of 3½ inches, making it suitable for scraping rust off a metal quarter panel or cutting out a muffler.
An easy-to-remove spring retainer makes changing out the bits a quick process. All internal parts and bits are made from heat-treated steel for durability. This air hammer also includes an internal muffler, which reduces exhaust sound while in use. Its 10-inch length and overall light weight of 4.2 pounds make this air hammer comfortable to use.
With a nickname like “The Big Nasty,” this air hammer better be able to deliver. And it does, thanks to its powerful 0.498-inch shank, a significant upgrade over the smaller 0.401-inch shanks found with most home-use air hammers. The larger shank size equates to a dramatic increase in hammering power, allowing it to take on tougher duties in the auto shop, such as driving out old ball joints on a truck.
This long barrel air hammer measures 12 inches long and weighs about 5 pounds. Just keep in mind that this high-power air hammer needs plenty of power. While this air hammer will work with smaller 4 cfm compressors for intermittent use, extended use requires a high-end two-stage compressor. This pro air hammer is also significantly more expensive than smaller air hammers.
At just 7 inches long and weighing just over 3 pounds, this short barrel air hammer by Dynamic Power is a worthy choice for chiseling or cutting jobs that require a higher level of precision. Its small size and high BPM of over 3,000 makes it ideal for auto bodywork such as cutting metal body panels or shaping metal. A built-in regulator allows for easy speed adjustment on the fly, while the bit retainer makes changing out chisels easy.
This air hammer comes with four chisels, including a ripper, bolt cutter, and flat and tapered punch chisels. An alloy steel barrel and heat-treated piston make this a durable air hammer. With its metallic bright-green color, this air hammer isn’t easy to misplace.
A lightweight design coupled with a long barrel makes this 10.5-inch air hammer powerful and easy to handle. It produces 2,200 BPM with a powerful 3¾-inch stroke, making it one of the better long barrel designs on the market. This makes it suitable for a variety of applications, such as grinding off rust or banging out corroded bolts. The chisel retainer opens easily to allow for quick bit changes.
A lightweight aluminum housing keeps the overall weight of this air hammer at just under 5 pounds while a hardened steel barrel ensures it will hold up to the rigors of a pro shop. A pistol grip makes for easier handling, and a regulator knob allows for easy power output adjustment.
If you’re wondering about an air hammer’s applications or how to operate one safely, then read on for answers to some of the most common questions about using an air hammer.
Q: What is an air hammer used for?
An air hammer is a versatile tool that can be used in many jobs. Metal shops use air hammers to cut or shape sheet metal. Auto shops use air hammers to cut exhaust pipes, free frozen bolts, or separate ball joints. In construction, air hammers are used to break up grout between tiles or remove mortar.
Q: How do I change the air hammer bits?
When changing the bit in an air hammer, remove the air hose first. Remove the spring retainer from the air hose, remove the bit, and insert a new chisel. Lock the chisel in place by reattaching the spring retainer over the bit and turning it clockwise. Make sure the bit is properly installed by pushing and pulling on it.
Q: Are air hammers dangerous?
Like any power tool, air hammers have the potential to cause injury. It’s essential to wear safety glasses when operating an air hammer to protect the eyes from debris. Since air hammers run at 90 decibels, it’s also a good idea to wear ear protection.