We all love a good tape measure, and Stanley Fatmax has been cranking out great ones for a while now. Specifically, I’m talking about the Stanley FatMax Auto-Lock tape measure (FMHT33338). It’s a popular choice amongst tradesmen, and for more than a few good reasons. Its price point isn’t unreasonable, it has a solid amount of standout and throw, and it has a solid feature set. While all these things are great to know, we have to know how it measures up against some of the other top models that industry Pros use these days.
Editor’s Note: Think you know everything about tapes? Check out our article on how to read a tape measure and we promise you’ll learn something new!
In the tape measure market, Milwaukee rarely disappoints and DeWalt’s XP tape is a solid winner. And then, there are some other brands we brought in as well. Lufkin has a unique design, Ryobi products always provide great value, and of course, there is a slew of other brands on the market that could be legitimate contenders. But ask people to weigh in on social media and it’s a good bet the majority of users will tell you they carry a Stanley FatMax tape measure.
Comparing Stanley FatMax vs Other Tape Measures
So, we recently finished our best tape measure reviews article. We looked at accuracy, durability, features, standout and throw, visibility, and value. Every model we tested performed well enough for us to consider it Pro-quality, but like anything else in life, some models perform better than others. So, how did the 25′ Stanley FatMax tape measure handle the competition?
Let’s take a look.
Like almost all of the tape measures we looked at, the Stanley FatMax tape measure didn’t disappoint in the accuracy department. We checked it against the Lixer Master calibration tool, which has an accuracy rating of +/- 0.0005″. The Stanley FMHT33338 gets a 100% accuracy rating, as the Lixer Master verified for us.
Stanley FatMax Tape Measure Feature Set
The first notable feature that will stand out, partly because it’s printed front and center on the housing and partly because you can’t use this model without noticing, is that the FatMax employs an auto-lock system. Rather than extending the blade and using the thumb lock to hold the blade in place, this Stanley model will lock the blade in place automatically (just like the name suggests). The thumb lock, in this case, is actually a thumb release. Pressing the button allows the blade to retract.
The Empire model we looked at employs this feature as well, though the Stanley FatMax auto-lock feature can be disengaged. By pressing the button down and then sliding it up, the tape measure will cease to lock at all, allowing for quick extension and retraction of the blade.
Most people either hate auto-lock or love it. Even at the PTR headquarters, we’re divided. All we can say is try it for a couple of days and see if it’s a good fit for you.
Dual Hook Design
The second thing that stands out for us with the FatMax model comes down to the hook design that Stanley employs. It is legitimately interesting. The 25′ FatMax comes with an additional, larger hook that clips onto the existing hook.
This feature helps a lot with hook grab from the side, which is almost non-existent without the attachment hook. The attachment stores onboard for when you don’t need it. Although there aren’t too many scenarios where you’ll need to switch back and forth, you might appreciate the versatility.
The AutoLock version of the Stanley FatMax tape measure features a 1-1/4″ blade for better visibility and standout. Stanley claims 11′ of standout with this model and we measured it to 126″, just 6″ short of the claims. That’s still well above our minimum expectation of 8′.
For throw, the FatMax also does well. We managed 116″, 4″ shy of the 10′ mark. Again, our minimum expectation is 8′, so it exceeds the mark handily.
Stanley’s BladeArmor coating on the first 3″ increases durability on the bit of the tape that will take the most abuse. A mylar polyester film coats the rest of the blade for reduced friction and longer blade life.
We went out of our way to try to break every model we had, partly because breaking things is fun, but also because it helps to know how durable any particular model is. So, we dropped 9 different models from the top of a 10′ ladder onto concrete 36 times. Some survived, others did not.
The Stanley FatMax, unfortunately, did not survive the entire testing process. However, it did last for 24 drops before was no longer unusable. By the time it checked out with a blade that would no longer retract, the housing had split and cracked and the button had disappeared into the proverbial ether. All that said, we have no concerns over whether the FatMax would survive multiple drops from normal use heights. The high-impact ABS casing will protect it from the vast majority of impact-related damage.
This version of the popular Stanley FatMax tape measure lives up to its reputation. It’s accurate, reasonably durable, has excellent standout and throw, and a feature set that will make the auto-lock fans out there happy.
It comes with a premium price that doesn’t quite hit $25, but that’s no surprise to FatMax fans, either. In the end, it’s another fine example of why so many Pros turn to FatMax for their tape measures.
For more information about the “hows” and “whys” of how we arrived at our shootout rankings, take a look at how we ranked the best tape measures.
Stanley FatMax Auto-Lock Tape Measure Features
- 11′ blade standout
- 1-1/4″ wide blade for easy readability
- BladeArmor coating on the first 3″ maximizes durability of the blade
- Mylar polyester film extends life of entire blade
- High-impact ABS case with durable rubber-holds up to heavy use
- Top-forward blade lock makes locking and unlocking easy
- 16″ and 19.2″ stud center markings simplify framing jobs
- Cushion grip provides comfortable, slip-resistant hold
- Specially designed multi-catch hook grabs on top or bottom for versatility
- Three-rivet, corrosion-resistant Tru-Zero end hook for accurate measurements
Stanley FatMax Auto-Lock Tape Measure Specs
- Model: Stanley Fatmax FMHT33338
- Blade: 25-ft Mylar-coated
- Standout: 11-feet (10 ft. 6-in. tested)
- Blade Width: 1-1/4 in.
- Color: Yellow/Black
- Stud Markings: 16, 19.2 in.
- MSRP: $22.47
The Stanley FATMAX Auto-Lock 25′ “FAILS” This auto lock is a great idea if it would work. Second day on the jodsite the lock failed. It Slowly retracts. This tape measure was tossed into a BFI bin where it belongs.
The only issue I have is that when the hook grab is attached, it binds on the tape so that the true zero end hook can’t move.
This tape’s auto-lock feature fails! It won’t lock at all once past 14′. Which renders any tape measure useless. It’s overpriced gimmicky garbage that can’t perform the simple characteristics of a basic tape measure. FAIL!
This has been my go-to tape measure for years, solid all around.