The new Milwaukee M18 1/4″ Hex Compact Impact Driver (2650-22) delivers impressive torque for its size. The new 4-pole frameless motor not only reduces the size of the tool, it also maximizes its efficiency to increase battery life. This is an incredibly nimble tool that will prove itself to be invaluable in the field for professionals; though its higher price tag will make it a bit of a stretch for the average consumer.
Impact drivers are seemingly set on world domination. The newest models are almost unbelievably compact and are quickly becoming categorized as the next “necessary” tool. Cordless Impact drivers all but eliminate stripping screw heads since they deliver thousands of impacts per minute as they drive in screws with their 1/4″ hex shank bits. How an impact driver works is that the impacts ensure that the bit stays in the groove and we’ve actually been able to drill screws in while maintaining the drill at a 30 degree angle to the head – something that would result in a completely stripped screw with a standard driver.
One thing we liked right away was that the M18 2650-22 came with a molded plastic case which held the impact driver, both XC lithium-ion batteries, and the 1-hour charger. It’s a nice durable case that could handle being tossed about in a work truck. For a tool like this we felt it was the best solution for long-term storage. We love the XC batteries. Not only do they cause the tool’s charge to last longer, they provide extra torque to some tools like the Milwaukee Hammerdrill. Like all XC batteries, there is a button that can be pressed to activate the test light that tells you how much charge is left.
The Milwaukee M18 1/4″ hex impact driver is attractive, with the signature red glass-filled nylon housing and lots of black overmold to ensure the tool doesn’t slip out of your hand (gloved or not) during use. The tool includes a belt clip (which is also available for purchase for your other Milwaukee drills and drivers) and a bright LED light which activates when the trigger is depressed even slightly. You can get it to come on before meeting the threshold to engage the drill. Speaking of the trigger, it was easy to control the speed of the tool by varying the pressure of the trigger and switching from forward to reverse was easily accomplished with subtle movements of the hand during use.
Bit changes, as expected, were quick and easy with the industry standard quick-release 1/4″ hex drive. Though this tool provides over 1400 peak ft lbs of torque, its weight doesn’t match its power. It’s quite light (just over 3 lbs) and feels perfectly balanced in the hand. This is largely due to the reduced size of the motor, which results in the weight of the tool pushing mostly down, rather than tipping it forward in the hand.
Testing and Use
In our labs the laser tachometer put the “no load” max motor rotation speed at 2150 RPM which is very close to the specified 2200 RPM. Noise output is minimal and our standard 3-foot SPL test recorded just 78 dB SPL at no load and at full speed. When driving a tough screw into PT (fully activating the impact mechanism) the noise level increased to an average of 97 dB SPL. Noise will, of course, fluctuate based on the material you are working with and the fasteners being used. The good thing is that since it drives the fasteners in so fast, the overall noise seems to be less.
We demoed this impact driver while building a small deck off the back of a home where we also utilized the new Tiger Claw TC-G fastener system. When the deck boards approached the side of the home it was impossible to use the custom Tiger Claw nailer, so we needed to resort to using the Milwaukee M18 Impact Driver to finish the job. The last line of screws were so close to the wall that the impact driver was only able to grab each screw at about a 30 degree angle, the Philips bit not fully entering the screw head. Even with this impossible angle, the M18 impact driver sent each screw home, thanks to its rapid impact mechanism. After using this tool you’ll soon find that it all but eliminates stripped screws and changes the game in terms of how effectively you can drive, and even remove, semi-stripped or otherwise difficult screws.
While the ability to drive oddly-angled screws impressed us, the really impressive stuff happened during the structural framing phase of the deck. That was when we drove 3/8″ x 4″ lag bolts into the pressure treated ledger board in order to secure it to the base of a house. While we pre-drilled these holes with a 3/16″ bit to avoid splitting the wood, we successfully drove the lag bolts down far enough to make them recess and make the heads nearly flush with the wood. This was also accomplished with an impressive amount of speed. We also took these lag bolts and test drove them into a couple of pieces of pressure treated 2×8 material and they sank in quickly and without difficulty. That’s quite a bit of torque and certainly more than we would see from a 12-volt impact driver. One thing that constantly irked us was the lack of bit storage on the driver, which is available as a separate accessory – something we frankly think is silly given the price and convenience of such a feature.
The Milwaukee M18 1/4″ Hex Compact Impact Driver is not an inexpensive tool, but it is one that you will likely be able to use for years without hassle – at least 5 years, in fact, based on their excellent warranty. Milwaukee’s M18 2650-22 Compact Hex Impact Driver Kit is designed and intended for construction professionals. While consumers would benefit from such a tool, it’s steep price will keep it out of reach for most. We found its speed and consistency to be exceptional and it has the weight and balance advantages of an Olympic gymnast. Build quality is above par and the overall feel of the tool is comfortable and elegant. For this, we gave it a performance rating of 9/10. The tool is expensive (typically with a street price around $300), but priced well within the range of comparable tools. Since it performs so well, we set the value rating at 7 – well above average, but acknowledging that there is a lot of competition in this area.