Review: Milwaukee Tool’s New 2nd Generation M12 Hammer Drill and Impact Driver

 MIlwaukee Tool's Gen 2 M12 Fuel Impact Driver (left) and Hammer Drill (right)

MIlwaukee Tool's Gen 2 M12 Fuel Impact Driver (left) and Hammer Drill (right)

Back in 2013, Milwaukee Tool released the first generation of their 12-volt drills and drivers.  Those tools have since been a staple in many tool bags, especially for mechanical, electrical, and service technicians, because of their relatively light weight and compact size. 

At Milwaukee’s New Product Symposium in June of 2017, the company then showed their commitment to the 12-volt platform with the announcement of the Generation 2 M12 Hammer Drill and Impact Driver. The hammer drill and impact driver were since released in January 2018 and we’ve had the opportunity to test the tools for ourselves. The drill/driver is yet to be released as of the publish date of this article.

Gen 1 vs. Gen 2

First, let’s start with the difference between Generation 1 and Generation 2. 

¼” Hex Impact Driver

The most obvious difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 2 is size.  Milwaukee took around an inch off of the length of the Gen 2 and also removed close to 0.2 pounds.  Gen 2 also got an upgrade in max RPM (2650 vs. 3300) and torque (1,000 in/lbs vs. 1,300 in/lbs).

Gen 2 also added two more mode options, for a total of four, whereas Gen 1 only had two speed options.  Now with 3 different speeds and an additional self-tapping screw mode, Gen 2 gives you more control for different applications.  The self-tapping screw mode starts slow to keep the screw from walking, then ramps up to full speed, and eases up again after the screw sets to reduce overdriving. 

In total, you’re getting a smaller, lighter, more powerful impact driver as compared to the previous version.

 Gen 2 Impact Driver (left) and Gen 1 (right)

Gen 2 Impact Driver (left) and Gen 1 (right)

½” Hammer Drill/Driver

The hammer drill didn’t get quite as many updates on performance, but gen 2 did also get a size reduction of about an inch in length. Torque remained the same at 350 in/lbs and max RPM stayed at 1,700. 

In order to cut additional length off of the gen 2, Milwaukee made a change that users may or may not like. Gen 1 had a separate mode selector ring behind the clutch, which allowed the user to quickly switch between drilling, driving, and hammer drill modes.  Gen 2 combined the clutch with the mode selector, so you won’t be able to move between drilling and driving as quickly.  I don’t believe this will be a huge problem for many users, unless you opt to purchase only this tool without also buying a driver.

The Gen 1 tools were a favorite for many for good reason, so, unless you need the smaller size, these upgrades don’t necessarily mean you should drop your Gen 1 tools and immediately buy Gen 2. However, if you’re in the market for a new kit, I believe that the slight upcharge for Gen 2 is a worthwhile expenditure.

 Gen 2 Hammer Drill (bottom) and Gen 1 (top)

Gen 2 Hammer Drill (bottom) and Gen 1 (top)

12 Volt vs 18 Volt       

Why exactly would a user, especially a construction professional, choose a 12-volt tool over an 18-volt tool?  The first reason is obvious: size.  Compared to the M18 Surge Impact Driver with a 2Ah battery, the M12 Impact Driver weighs over a pound less.  The overall length at the head is relatively the same, but the size of battery saves a lot of space below the handle, allowing you to fit into much tighter spaces. The M12 hammer drill is over 1.5 pounds lighter than the M18 hammer drill (2706-20).  That can make a big difference over the course of a work day.

Price can also be a deciding factor.  An M18 Fuel Hammer Drill & Impact Driver kit (2897-22) will cost you $399.  The new M12 Hammer Drill & Impact Driver kit (2598-22) retails for $229.  That’s a $179 price difference.  If you only expect to use these tools in predominately light to medium duty tasks, there’s little need for a full performance tool.

With 18 volts versus 12 volts, you should expect a much greater performance in 18 volt tools.  As we discussed in our review of Milwaukee’s M18 Hackzall, smaller tools are starting to bridge the gap between size and power.  With regards to the M12 impact driver and hammer drill, I believe the new impact driver made much bigger strides to catch up with the 18 volt tools.  You won’t notice a lack of power in the driver unless you try to push it with very long, large diameter fasteners.  A large majority of users will never need more power than this driver can handle.

The Hammer Dill/Driver is a good option for light and medium duty tasks.  In wood, you won’t want to use it with a bit larger than 1” very often.  In concrete, a ½” bit will push the drill to its limits.

Target Users

As mentioned above, the target audience for the M12 drill and driver platform is mechanical, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, home remodelers, and service technicians. Many in these fields will value the convenience of size and weight over the ability to drill large diameter holes and drive large fasteners.

For a more direct perspective on the subject, I reached out to Mechanical Hub’s Eric Aune, who is not only a successful mechanical contractor, but also an Instagram All-Star:

"The original M12 Impact driver has long been a favorite of mine; its compact size somehow houses aggressive power that works all day for me thru nearly every task in the boiler room. Sheet metal, appliance venting and pipe hanger hardware are where the Gen-2 impact shines for me," Aune told us. "My work has me bending, stretching and reaching in all directions all the time which makes heavier, bulkier full-size impacts a pain, in addition those larger drivers are almost always over-powered for my work. The third speed and self-tapping mode are a welcome addition to this super compact impact. If you’re worried about runtime Milwaukee has that covered too, just pair the Gen-2 Impact or drill/driver with a 4.0 or 6.0Ah battery pack for even better performance."

Specifications

M12 FUEL 1/2" Hammer Drill (2504-22) - $119 bare tool

  • RPM: 0-1,700
  • 350in-lbs of Peak Torque
  • ½” All Metal Chuck (include)
  • BPM: 25,500
  • Length: 6.6”
  • Weight (w/ battery): 2.8lbs

M12 FUEL 1/4" Hex Impact Driver (2553-22) - $129 bare tool, $169 for kit on Toolbarn.com

  • 1300in-lbs of Torque
  • RPM: 0-3,300
  • IPM: 0-4,000
  • 4-Mode DRIVE CONTROL™
  • Length: 5.1”
  • Weight (w/ battery): 1.76lbs
  • Single-Handed Bit Insertion

M12 FUEL 2-Tool Combo Kit (2598-22) - $229

  • M12 FUEL™ Hammer Drill (2504-20)
  • M12 FUEL™ ¼” Hex Impact Driver (2553-20)
  • M12™ REDLITHIUM 2.0 Compact Battery Pack
  • M12™ REDLITHIUM XC 4.0 Extended Capacity Battery Pack
  • (2) Belt Clips
  • Charger
  • Contractor Bag