When you test more than 50 drills in a 4-week period, you get a feel for who makes the best cordless drill. After testing all those tools we also really understand how each one of the Milwaukee Tool drills fits into the line. The best Milwaukee drill for you may not be the most powerful or the most compact. It really just depends on what you plan to do with the tool and what kind of work you want to accomplish.
Our recommendations come after hours of torque and run-time testing as well as after giving the tools lots of real-world use. In the end, we may recommend a different Milwaukee drill for a journeyman electrician than someone starting out in construction. Recommending a single tool for everyone never works—so, hopefully, this article helps you find the model that fits your application and gives you the performance, features, ergonomics, and value you need.
Best Milwaukee Brushless Drill
Based on our testing, the Milwaukee 2803-20 steals the show for the best Milwaukee brushless drill. Our pick comes as a result of several factors. First, we have a separate (but similar) pick below for the best Milwaukee hammer drill, so this pick assumes you don’t really need that function. Secondly—we wanted to save the $50 premium by not including Milwaukee One-Key technology. If you want One-Key, just grab the 2805-20 instead.
Now, the Milwaukee 2803-20 brushless drill has 1,200 inch-pounds of torque. More importantly, however, it optimizes that torque for speed. This is one of the very few drills that can drive a 2-9/16″ wood boring bit at High speed. That means you gain some serious productivity during rough-ins. We also like the 5-year warranty—which you’ll see on all our recommended Milwaukee tool picks.
Best Milwaukee Hammer Drill
It’s not a far leap to go from the above recommendation to the 2804-20 for the best Milwaukee hammer drill. After all, you simply add the hammer function, increment the model number, and Bob’s your uncle. Perhaps. However, we honestly love the fact that Milwaukee has a solid 12V offering in this category. With that said, we have two great recommendations depending upon the power requirements and applications you have in mind.
Best Milwaukee 12V Hammer Drill
Starting small and working up, we find the Milwaukee 2503-20 hammer drill hard to top. This M12 series hammer drill offers tons of power for its size. Milwaukee redesigned the line in 2019, making it even more compact while not sacrificing any power. We tested this as part of a Milwaukee M12 FUEL impact driver and drill review. This tool puts out a “hard stop” torque of 27.1 ft-lbs (325.2 in-lbs). We even like the handy belt clip design.
If you want enough power to tackle up to 1/4-inch holes in block or brick, but don’t plan on spending all day with your drill, this M12 series tool saves some serious weight. We know several MRO, HVAC, and electrical Pros who choose this line for their primary tools.
Best 18V Milwaukee Hammer Drill
If you need the most power Big Red has to give, the 2804-20 is the best 18V Milwaukee hammer drill bar none. This tool drops a full 1.5-inches in length from the 2704-20 while losing none of the power. What’s more, the hammer drill adds nothing to the tool length—matching the drill-only model in size. It also weighs just 4 pounds 12.8 ounces with a 5.0Ah battery installed.
After extensive testing and use, we love the performance it delivers. When measured under load, the Milwaukee 2804-20 hammer drill maintains 84% of its speed—so it continues to drive fasteners quickly.
Concrete drilling also impressed, and Milwaukee scored third in a large group of heavy-duty hammer drills. This hammer drill tackles 2-9/16″ wood boring bits in High-speed—a feat very few hammer drills can match.
Best Milwaukee SDS Drill
It wasn’t that long ago that the thought of a cordless Milwaukee SDS drill seemed impossible. Now, not only do we have battery-powered Milwaukee SDS-Plus rotary hammers, but we also have SDS-Max models with support for bits up to 1-3/4-inches. Milwaukee has several models to choose from, and the difference has to do with how much power you need and what size holes you anticipate drilling.
Make no mistake, a Milwaukee SDS drill will drill holes an order of magnitude faster than any traditional hammer drill. If you frequently drill in concrete, you want to own one of these tools.
Best Milwaukee SDS-Plus Drill
By far, the best Milwaukee SDS-Plus drill falls to the 2715-20 with its 3.3 foot-pounds (4.5 joules) of impact energy. It delivers 5000 BPM and 1350 RPM topping even the Makita 18V X2 (36V) model. We tested the Milwaukee 2715 SDS-Plus rotary hammer on several jobs including dropping bolts into concrete for sign installation. Since we had several tools on-site, it also bested the Bosch 36V SDS-Plus model our Pros normally used.
Note that this tool works with the optional Milwaukee Hammervac dust extractor attachment (2715-DE). That means you can have a truly dust-free solution for drilling into walls or even overhead.
Best Milwaukee SDS-Max Drill
Moving up to the Best Milwaukee SDS-Max drill, you find support for larger bits and hole sizes. Our pick here falls squarely on the Milwaukee 2718 SDS-Max rotary hammer. This monster tool puts out 8.1 foot-pounds of impact energy—more than doubling Milwaukee’s best SDS-Plus rotary hammer drill.
On top of the sheer power, we love the 2718-20 because it adds several key features. The AutoStop E-Clutch stops the tool quickly when it runs into a bind-up situation (like hitting rebar, for example). You also get a nice trigger lock, and AVS shock absorption reduces vibration to your arms.
Use it with a Milwaukee High Output 12 Ah battery and this tool runs much cooler than the 9.0HD battery that came with the previous model. Lastly, you get One-Key integration that lets you track the tool and provide inventory control. Keep in mind that if you don’t need quite this much power or One-Key features, the Milwaukee 2717-20 SDS-Max rotary hammer might also fit the bill.
While we love these two SDS-Plus and SDS-Max models, we don’t particularly recommend the M12 SDS-Plus rotary hammer (2416-20) unless you’re exclusively using 12V Milwaukee tools. If instead, you already use M18 tools, the extra $100 or so gets you into a more robust product with greater drilling capacity.
Best Milwaukee Compact Drill
Sometimes you don’t need the maximum amount of power. If saving some money without sacrificing quality makes sense to you, check out the Milwaukee 2801-20 compact drill. Available as a kit with an impact driver (2892-22CT), the 2801 offers plenty of power, runtime, and speed. It also costs much less than an M18 FUEL drill.
Aside from the price, we named this our best Milwaukee compact drill primarily because of its size. In fact, this tool is one of the most compact in its class. It also has the features we expect from a tool in this category. You still get a brushless motor, full metal chuck, and a tool that weighs just 3.4 pounds with a 2.0 Ah battery. Pair it with the 2850 impact driver and you have a killer starter kit for any Pro.
Best Milwaukee 12V Drill
We really feel the best Milwaukee 12V drill is the 2503-20 FUEL model listed above. The problem is that, often, pricing on the 2504-20 hammer drill often matches the standard drill model. On top of that, you tend to only save around $10 picking up the 3/8″ model—if you can find it. We recommend looking for a deal on a kit. From time to time you can pick up the hammer drill and impact driver for a great price.
Best Milwaukee Drill Sets
Milwaukee tools are often best bought as kits. For the most part, we find that the batteries become much more affordable when you get them with some tools. As such, the best Milwaukee drill set could fall into the M12 or M18 category depending on what you need. We also see a difference between a simple 2-tool kit and what we define as a “starter” kit that includes enough tools to launch your career (or perhaps even switch platforms).
Best Milwaukee 18V Drill Combo Kit
The Milwaukee 2997-22 M18 combo kit makes for such a great deal we can’t recommend it enough. This 2-tool kit includes the latest M18 Fuel hammer drill and the Milwaukee M18 impact driver. It also tosses in a pair of 5.0 Ah battery packs and an M12/M18 Rapid Charger.
These tools have everything except One-Key, but for most Pros, we think the blend of power and compactness matters most. At around $399 for the kit, you can spend less, but electricians, plumbers, and general contractors should find it a great value. The 5-year tool warranty also helps seal the deal.
Best Milwaukee M12 Drill Kit
We picked the 2598-22 M12 FUEL 2-tool combo kit as our best Milwaukee M12 drill kit. For starters, you can get larger kits—but they all have flaws. The 3-piece kit tosses in a mediocre LED light that drives up the cost while the larger kits add tools that you may find helpful—but at the expense of dropping to a 3/8″ drill. This kit gives you exactly what you need to get started and pairs you with the excellent 2553-20 impact driver. You can also find this kit in a Milwaukee Packout case.
Best Expanded Milwaukee M18 Drill Kit
Unlike the M12 2-tool kit above, we have different thoughts about the best Milwaukee M18 drill kits. The reason has to do with the application. For many Pros starting out, they need to ramp up their system quickly. We see no better way than to purchase a comprehensive Milwaukee starter tool kit. It won’t be cheap, but it gets you up to speed quickly with the tools of the trade.
Our favorite kit is the M18 FUEL 7-tool combo kit (2997-27). It includes a suite of some of the latest M18 FUEL tools. You get a hammer drill, impact driver, Sawzall, 6-1/2-inch circular saw, 1/2-inch mid-torque impact wrench, angle grinder, and LED work light. The price is no joke at $999, but you won’t need much else in the way of power tools to get up and running.
Best Milwaukee Drill Bits
A drill doesn’t do much good without the proper bits. We can make some recommendations on the best Milwaukee drill bits, but it really depends on the material you intend to drill.
Best Milwaukee Drill Bits for Wood
For wood drilling, we like the Milwaukee Shockwave titanium bits. The titanium coats these bits to reduce friction. The advantage is they fly through wood. The downside is you eventually wear away the coating and don’t really benefit (as much) from sharpening these when they go dull. These bits also feature a hex shank so you can use them with an impact driver.
Best Milwaukee Drills Bits for Steel
For drilling in harder metals, check out the Milwaukee Red Helix Cobalt Drill Bits. These bits drill faster than standard 135° split point cobalt bits and feature a Quadedge Tip that reduces heat. Since you can sharpen these bits, they can last a good long time. We LOVE these bits…but hate the case they come in (they are a tad difficult to remove).
How We Tested
Speed Testing Under Load
To see how fast each drill could work, we put them through a series of relevant tests in high and low speeds.
We measured the RPM once the bit is fully engaged in each test to see how fast it could drill and see how much of its no-load speed it maintained.
The higher the RPMs a drill maintains, the faster the bit moves through the material.
On the other hand, the closer a drill is to its no-load speed, the more efficiently it’s working and the lower the strain on the motor. A balance of both gives you optimal performance and motor life, and we use both to calculate our scores.
In some tests, we also measure the time it takes to drill to a specific depth or through a specific thickness.
Matching the Accessory to the Power Tool
Each class of drill has a different amount of muscle. You shouldn’t expect a compact drill to do what a heavy-duty one can. We ensure that each bit type and size are within the design intent of the drill we’re testing.
We test soft torque by chucking each drill up to a rig that uses the front spring from a Ford Ranger to provide resistance. We let it drive as far as it will go on one trigger pull. Once the drill stops, we back the socket off by 90º.
Next, we measure how much torque it takes to get the socket back to the position the drill stopped.
Using a digital scale, we measure the weight of the bare tool and the tool with the battery that comes kitted with the tool or is recommended by the manufacturer.
Using a digital caliper, we measure the head length and tool height without a battery installed.
The comfort of each drill’s grip is subjective based on size and does not affect the score. We hold and use the tool with a bare hand to see if there are any uncomfortable seams or other oddities that might affect every user regardless of preferences.
In general, here are the features we look for on each drill:
- Brushless or brushed motor
- Number of standard modes
- Smart controls
- Smart tracking/inventory
- Clutch design
- Drill/driver/hammer drill selection design
- LED light design
- Chuck size/type
- Belt hook
- Unique features
Value is more than just the price of the tool. We consider the whole picture of what you get for the price you pay. That includes the performance, feature set, ergonomics, warranty, bare tool price, and kit price.
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