Milwaukee is a name that always features prominently in independent reviews of leading drill manufacturers. The company has a tremendous reputation for high-quality construction, competitive performance, and outstanding durability. Milwaukee drills are frequently the choice of professionals, and the range of products covers the entire spectrum from lightweight compact models to heavy-duty SDS Max demolition hammers.
There is no drilling task that isn’t covered by a Milwaukee model, but the extensive list of current products can make picking the right one a bit daunting. So we checked out each tool in detail to make it easier for pro contractors and DIY enthusiasts alike to make a smart choice of the best Milwaukee drills for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Milwaukee 2803-20 M18 FUEL 1/2″ Drill/Driver
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Milwaukee Electric Tools MLW2504-20 M12 Fuel 1/2“
- BEST HAMMER: Milwaukee 2804-20 M18 FUEL 1/2 in. Hammer Drill
- BEST CONTRACTOR: Milwaukee 2505-22 M12 Fuel Installation Drill/Driver
- BEST SDS: Milwaukee M18 FUEL Rotary Hammer 1″ SDS Plus
- BEST COMBO: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless
- BEST DEMOLITION: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Drill
- BEST RIGHT-ANGLE: Milwaukee M18 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless 3/8 in.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Milwaukee Drill
Any search for the best Milwaukee drill should begin with a good understanding of the capabilities of different models and the proprietary technology used for many of the company’s outstanding tools. The following section looks at specifications in detail, providing valuable background information before moving on to our top picks.
Milwaukee makes drills of all types. The lightweight 12-volt cordless drill drivers are the entry-level models. Though typically considered DIYer drills, many pros appreciate their compact size and impressive power-to-weight ratio. Milwaukee’s 18-volt drill drivers are perhaps the more regular choice for tradespeople and contractors, with many offering class-leading performance.
Milwaukee hammer drills are available with both 12-volt and 18-volt motors. These make short work of drilling in concrete, cinder block, and other tough materials.
For heavy-duty drilling and light-duty demolition work, there are a variety of Milwaukee rotary hammer drills. These range from a remarkably light and compact ⅝-inch 12-volt SDS Plus through a variety of different sizes up to an extremely powerful 1¾-inch 18-volt SDS Max.
Impact drivers are often considered alongside these tools, but while they are capable of drilling, it is not their primary function. We have a separate article on their performance.
Size, Weight, and Chuck Size
Milwaukee’s lightweight, compact drill drivers are both easy to handle and great for working in tight spaces. As power increases, drills inevitably become larger. Milwaukee drills are often less bulky than many rivals but with literally dozens of different Milwaukee drills available, it is still worth comparing weight between similar models. This becomes particularly important to defer fatigue if the tool will be used for extended periods.
Chuck size is usually a good indication of the power available. Many manufacturers start with ⅜-inch models, whereas almost all Milwaukee’s 12-volt drill drivers have ½-inch chucks, frequently reflecting superior performance. The ½-inch chucks are also used on the 18-volt drill driver range (with the exception of the right-angle drill). Milwaukee rotary hammers have a different type of chuck that accepts either SDS Plus (10-millimeter shank diameter) or SDS Max (18-millimeter shank diameter) bits.
Torque, Speed, and BPM
As is common on power drills, the speed on Milwaukee drill drivers is controlled by trigger pressure. Typical maximums are anywhere from 1,400 rpm to 2,000 rpm. This makes Milwaukee drills among the fastest available, which in the hands of a professional often results in increased productivity. Some Milwaukee hammer drills come with two speed ranges, offering added versatility.
Torque refers to twisting power, usually given in inch-pounds (in-lbs). This defines the amount of power the drill applies to turning a drill bit in the chosen material. While modest torque is required for drilling a hole in sheetrock, for example, drilling in concrete requires much more power. Milwaukee consistently ranks among the leading performers. Milwaukee rotary hammers often don’t quote torque, but instead give the impact energy of the hammer action. This is measured in foot-pounds (ft-lbs).
When used for driving, it’s important not to have too much torque. Milwaukee drill clutches offer as many as 24 settings for torque control, reducing the chances of overtightening or damaging the screw head.
Milwaukee hammer drills and rotary hammers also have a BPM (blows per minute) rating, anywhere from 16,000 to 40,000. This increases drilling ability in tough materials and also provides faster chipping and breaking when using a Milwaukee rotary hammer in hammer-only mode.
All Milwaukee drills use either 12-volt or 18-volt motors, with the latter obviously providing greater power. However, how the power is delivered can vary dramatically between drill drivers, hammer drills, and rotary hammers. It is important to look at speed, torque, and BPM when choosing a Milwaukee drill for particular tasks.
That said, there is one aspect of motor specification that can have a major impact on choice: whether to buy a Milwaukee drill with either a brush or a brushless motor. Brush motors were developed for use with corded tools, then also used with early cordless models. Though proven, reliable, low-cost technology, it doesn’t make the most efficient use of the battery charge available. Brushless motors were developed specifically for cordless tools. They are highly efficient, virtually maintenance free, and more durable than brush motors—as well as significantly more expensive.
Milwaukee drills are available with brush motors for those looking for greater economy, or brushless for improved performance. Milwaukee’s “Fuel” range products all have brushless motors.
Milwaukee’s RedLithium batteries are the latest technological development incorporating dedicated circuitry that manages power output, extends runtime between charges, and prevents overheating and overcharging.
They come in two power options, 12-volt and 18-volt, and the two are not interchangeable: 12-volt batteries only fit 12-volt Milwaukee drills, and 18-volt batteries only fit 18-volt Milwaukee drills. However, the amp-hour (Ah) rating can vary. A higher amp-hour means a longer runtime, and Milwaukee batteries range from 1.5 amp-hours to 12.0 amp-hours. While maximizing this aspect will be important to professionals in particular, high amp-hour batteries are usually significantly more expensive.
It should be noted that like most power tool manufacturers, Milwaukee often sells “bare tools,” meaning without a battery or a charger. Users who already own other compatible Milwaukee tools needn’t buy the battery and charger, while those who don’t must consider the price of these essentials.
Grip can have a major impact on both usability and comfort. Milwaukee drills have rubberized areas that help prevent the drill slipping. This is particularly useful when working at odd angles or above head height.
An auxiliary handle is often provided, particularly on Milwaukee hammer and SDS drills. This allows both hands to be used for added security. These larger models also have plenty of space around the handle for gloved hands, and some have extended triggers for the same reason.
Our Top Picks
Now that you’ve had the chance to read up on differences in specification, it’s now time to look at some real-world examples. By assigning categories, we give an indication of what we believe are the best Milwaukee drills for specific purposes.
Picking a single best Milwaukee drill from among the best Milwaukee tools is no easy task, but the brushless 18-volt Milwaukee 2803-20 drill driver offers outstanding performance. It is popular with both professionals and DIY enthusiasts who appreciate the reliability and durability provided.
It is a relatively compact drill, with a ½-inch chuck. The drill’s peak torque of 1,200 inch-pounds means it can drive large diameter bits with minimal effort. There’s an auxiliary handle so it can be gripped with both hands, which underlines the power delivered, but its 14 torque settings let the operator fine-tune that force when driving. Milwaukee’s integrated RedLink Plus technology manages power for more efficient battery use and prevents overload.
At 1,200 rpm, the drill is fast, though it only has a single speed range. There is an LED work light and a useful belt hook. While the drill itself weighs just a fraction over 2 pounds, the addition of a battery (not included) will add between 1.1 or 1.7 pounds, depending on size.
- Motor: 18-volt brushless
- Speed/torque: 2,000 rpm / 1,200 inch-pounds
- Weight: 2.02 pounds
- Powerful, durable motor
- RedLink Plus battery management
- Auxiliary handle included
- Battery and charger extra
- Single speed range
Get the Milwaukee 2803-20 drill on Amazon or The Home Depot.
At first glance, Milwaukee’s 2504-20 looks like a very compact drill driver, ideal for DIY tasks and great for use in tight spaces. While this is true, the tool is also a hammer drill capable of delivering 25,500 blows per minute (bpm). It is a remarkable combination in a device that measures just 5.1 inches front to back.
The 12-volt brushless motor uses Milwaukee’s RedLink Plus system to manage power, and the tool provides terrific versatility. There are two speeds—0 to 450 rpm and 1,700 rpm—plus 350 inch-pounds of torque and 16 clutch settings.
At 2.3 pounds, the Milwaukee 2504-20 is very light for a hammer drill, and batteries add just 7 ounces. There’s an LED work light and a belt clip, although the latter is a bit close to the hand and could snag on work gloves; fortunately the clip is easy to remove.
- Motor: 12-volt brushless
- Speed/torque: 450 rpm or 1,700 rpm/ 350 inch-pounds
- Weight: 2.3 pounds
- Compact and versatile
- Rapid, powerful hammer action
- 2 speeds
- Slightly awkward belt clip position
- Battery and charger extra
Get the Milwaukee 2504-20 drill on Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
Milwaukee’s 2804-20 18-volt cordless hammer drill is based on the 2803-20 model that is our top pick. Despite adding hammer action, it is physically the same size, and Milwaukee claims it is the most compact in its class. While the weight does increase, at 4.5 pounds with a 5.0 amp-hour battery fitted, it remains very maneuverable.
The 2804-20 model has a ½-inch chuck, and the motor offers a single speed of up to 2,000 rpm plus 1,200 inch-pounds (in-lbs) of torque. However, driver torque settings go from 14 up to 24 with this model. The high-performance hammer action is rated at 32,000 blows per minute. RedLink technology, an LED work light, an auxiliary handle, and a belt clip are all included.
The Milwaukee 2804-20 hammer drill is a very powerful tool and is competitively priced. However, to maximize performance it is recommended to use 5 amp-hour batteries or larger, and these will make a significant cost difference if not already owned.
- Motor: 18-volt brushless
- Speed/torque: 2,000 rpm / 1,200 inch-pounds
- Weight: 3.2 pounds (without battery)
- High-performance hammer action
- Same compact size as the drill driver
- Competitive price
- No charger or battery
- 5 amp-hour or higher battery is recommended
Get the Milwaukee 2804-20 on Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Walmart.
Milwaukee’s 2505-22 installation driver demonstrates the brand’s renowned focus on tools for professionals. It comes with four interchangeable heads, providing drilling and driving capabilities in the standard in-line position, offset, or at 90 degrees.
The chuck is a ⅜-inch model, and the hex drive is standard ¼-inch. These combine with a unique configuration to provide access to tight locations. It is just 5.12 inches long and weighs a mere 2 pounds (without battery).
Milwaukee’s efficient 12-volt brushless motor delivers up to 1,600 rpm, and 300 inch-pounds of torque. RedLink management maximizes the output of the two RedLithium batteries included. The Milwaukee 2505-22 installation drill driver is not a heavy-duty tool, but is indispensable for drilling and fixing tasks in hard-to-reach places.
- Motor: 12-volt brushless
- Speed/torque: 1,600 rpm / 300 inch-pounds
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Unrivaled versatility
- Highly maneuverable
- Comprehensive kit with case
- Somewhat specialized
Get the Milwaukee 2505-22 drill on Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
Milwaukee’s 2912-20 1-inch SDS Plus rotary hammer has impressive specifications for a comparatively lightweight tool. The 1-inch indication pertains to the size of a solid bit it can use, and it can also drill up to 2½ inches in diameter using a core bit or a hole saw. The brushless motor has a maximum speed of 1,300 rpm.
Hammer action is a key feature, and the Milwaukee 2912-20 delivers 2 foot-pounds of impact energy at up to 4,800 blows per minute. It has drill-only, hammer-only, and hammer-drill modes, each one is easily selected from a large dial. It weighs under 9 pounds when fitted with a 5.0 amp-hour battery.
Milwaukee claims the tool can run all day on a single charge, though this depends on material, hole size, whether chiseling, and other factors. Nevertheless, the 2912-20 is a very impressive middleweight performer. For those who enjoy ice fishing, this is perhaps the best Milwaukee drill for ice auger use.
- Motor: 18-volt brushless
- Speed/impact: 1,300 rpm / 2 foot-pounds of impact energy
- Weight: 6.8 pounds (without battery)
- As powerful as a corded model
- Heavy-duty versatility
- Comparatively maneuverable
- Considerable investment
- Battery and charger not included
Get the Milwaukee 2912-20 drill at Acme Tools or The Home Depot.
Power tool combos often offer terrific value. In our view, the best Milwaukee combo kit pairs the powerful 2804-20 hammer drill with the Milwaukee 2853-20 impact driver. Both use Milwaukee’s highly efficient 18-volt brushless motor and RedLink technology. The kit includes a charger, two 5.0 amp-hour batteries, and a case. Having discussed the virtues of the 2804-20 as our best Milwaukee hammer drill above, let’s focus on the impact driver here.
Impact drivers are usually compact tools, but the Milwaukee is exceptional at just 4.59 inches long. With a top speed of 3,600 rpm, and up to 2,000 inch-pounds of torque available, it offers rapid, effortless driving of large screws and other fixings. Also impressive are the four speed modes, including one specifically for self-tapping screws. These modes offer greater control than rivals and dramatically reduce the chances of damaging either fasteners or workpiece surfaces. The Milwaukee impact driver is loud, but no more than competitors.
- Motor: 18-volt brushless (both tools)
- Speed/torque: Drill: 2,000 rpm / 1,200 inch-pounds
- Impact driver: 3,600 rpm / 2,000 inch-pounds
- Weight: Drill: 2.02 pounds
- Impact driver: 3.2 pounds
- Heavy-duty drilling and driving power
- Impact driver has multiple modes
- (2) 5-amp-hour batteries included
- Impact driver is loud
- Premium price
Get the Milwaukee M18 Fuel drill combo at The Home Depot, Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Acme Tools.
Milwaukee’s 2718-22 SDS Max rotary hammer kit delivers immense performance, with impact energy of 8.1 foot-pounds. Milwaukee claims it can chip a half ton of rubble with one 12 amp-hour battery, and the kit includes two. Even the fittest professionals will need a break before this tool does.
The Milwaukee 2718-22 SDS Max offers drill-only and hammer-only modes. Maximum solid bit size is 1¾-inch and while it isn’t fast at 380 rpm, it will power through concrete, block, stone, and other masonry. Hammer action is rated at 2,900 blows per minute.
If a rotary hammer bit jams, it can cause serious wrist injuries as the tool twists in the user’s hands. Milwaukee prevents this with its Autostop E-clutch technology that disengages if the tool rotates more than an ⅛ of an inch. Vibration suppression makes it more comfortable to use for extended periods.
Milwaukee’s SDS Max demolition hammer also comes with its One-Key digital tool management that can locate the drill within 100 feet via Wi-Fi, control various functions, and disable it remotely in the event of theft. This tool is smart, safe, and incredibly hard-working.
- Motor: 18-volt brushless
- Speed/impact: 380 rpm / 8.1 foot-pounds of impact energy
- Weight: 19.7 pounds
- Comparable with 15-amp corded rivals
- Autostop safety
- One-Key monitoring
- Very large investment
- Fairly heavy
Get the Milwaukee 2718-22HD drill at The Home Depot or Acme Tools.
The 2505-22 contractor drill we featured above is one solution for drilling and driving in awkward areas, but with its 18-volt power and 3¾-inch profile, the Milwaukee 2615-20 is both more powerful and is able to access even tighter spaces.
The ⅜-inch keyless chuck offers rapid changing between drill and driving bits. In addition to drilling, there are 11 torque settings for driving, a feature unique to the Milwaukee right-angle drill. Maximum torque depends on the battery chosen: 100 inch-pounds is available from the standard RedLithium model or 125 inch-pounds if the XC Extended battery pack is chosen.
The long paddle handle makes operation easy at maximum reach or upside down, and an LED lights up dark corners. This is something of a specialist drill, and it isn’t cheap, but none of its competitors match the power and versatility provided.
- Motor: 18-volt brush
- Speed/torque: 1,500 rpm / 100 or 125 inch-pounds (see above)
- Weight: 2.78 pounds
- High performance in tight spaces
- Adjustable clutch
- Extended paddle switch
- Brush motor
- No battery or charger
Get the Milwaukee 2615-20 drill at The Home Depot or Acme Tools.
The Milwaukee 2803-20 M18 FUEL has wide appeal. It is a powerful, versatile all-around choice for the pro and within the price range of DIY users prepared to invest in quality and durability. The Milwaukee 2504-20 M12 Fuel is a tremendous compact hammer drill that offers outstanding performance for its size, and it’s very affordably priced.
How We Chose the Best Milwaukee Drills
Like many experienced DIYers, I have used a number of cordless drills. I am also an engineer by profession, with a thorough understanding of how these tools function. To support my own knowledge, the Bob Vila team investigated the latest Milwaukee lineup to make sure we had up-to-date information.
Most Bob Vila tool reviews compare devices from a variety of manufacturers head-to-head to find, for example, the best angle grinder. In this case, while individual performance is important, we also wanted to find solutions for as many different types of user as possible. While that task might seem straightforward, with over 60 different model combinations to choose from, it took many hours of research to arrive at our top picks.
The article above covered the technical aspects to consider when choosing the best Milwaukee drills for your needs, then followed it with specific descriptions of available models. While this provided a lot of information, we did come across others several related questions that readers may have, which we cover more fully below.
Q. Which is Milwaukee’s strongest drill?
Milwaukee claims that its M18 Fuel ½-inch drill is the most powerful cordless drill available. However, in terms of sheer drilling ability, the M18 Fuel SDS Max Rotary Hammer is the strongest Milwaukee drill.
Q. What does RedLink Plus Intelligence do?
RedLink Plus is the combined hardware and software system built into many Milwaukee drills. It monitors the battery to ensure best performance, has response circuitry that delivers more power when required, and protects the drill from overheating.
Q. What are Milwaukee RedLithium batteries?
RedLithium batteries are Milwaukee’s proprietary brand. They control discharge for longer runtimes and protect against overcharging. They can operate at temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit and last 50 percent longer than previous Milwaukee batteries.
Q. How do I remove drill bits from my Milwaukee drill?
Most Milwaukee drills have an easy-to-use keyless chuck. Simply grip the rear portion and twist the front to loosen or tighten. Milwaukee SDS, SDS Plus, and SDS Max have a sliding collar. Simply pull this back to remove the drill bit, then insert the new one and release.
Q. How do I change the chuck on my Milwaukee drill?
Removing the chuck from a cordless Milwaukee drill is a relatively straightforward process, though you should always check manufacturer instructions in case of changes. This method works for the current range:
- Disconnect the battery and where applicable switch the speed to its slowest setting. Make sure the clutch is set to drill, not driving or hammering.
- Open the chuck as far as it will go.
- At the rear of the chuck, inside, is a retaining screw. Use a Phillips screwdriver to remove this. It is reverse threaded, so it needs to be turned clockwise.
- Now fit the short end of a large Allen wrench in the chuck. Tighten the chuck around the wrench.
- Place the drill on the edge of a bench with the Allen wrench overhanging the edge. You may wish to clamp the drill body to prevent it from moving.
- Using either an extension bar for leverage, or by striking with a rubber mallet, turn the Allen wrench counterclockwise. Considerable force may be required. Once it starts to loosen, undo by hand and remove the chuck from the drill body.
- While not a complicated procedure, care is required. Turning either the retaining screw or the chuck in the wrong direction could result in damage to the drill itself. If in doubt, many hardware stores offer a professional repair service.