Hercules Impact Driver Cordless Drill Reviews & Impact Drivers

20V Hercules Impact Driver Review


20V Hercules Impact Driver’s Budget-Friendly Design Impresses Against Pro Brands

Tons of people shop at Harbor Freight. Between their low, low prices and the store’s general accessibility, Harbor Freight and its daughter brands have gained a lot of traction with a lot of people. But because the tools are so cheap, questions arise about their tools’ power and long term quality. Tools like the 20V Hercules impact driver are part of a line with that’s targeting users willing to spend a little more to get a better tool.

Hercules Impact Driver Shootout Results

  • 18V Ranking: 3rd place out of 16
  • Speed Under Load: 565 RPM (3rd place)
  • Fastening Torque: 1498 in-lbs (14th place)
  • Nut-Busting Torque: 3000 in-lbs (tie, 6th place)
  • Decibels: 101 dB(A)  (tie, 6th place)
  • Weight: 2.1 pounds bare, 3.1 pounds with 20V battery (6th place)
  • Footprint: 5.8″ head length, 7.5″ height without battery (9th place)
  • Feature Set: Bare bones (16th place)
  • Value: $99.99 kit with one battery (1st place) 

Takeaway

It’s safe to say that the Hercules impact driver pleasantly surprised us with its performance against the big boys. Not only did it finish in an overall 3rd place in our 18V category, but it also won outright for our DIY competition. Ultimately, this is where we see its sweet spot: in the hands of the DIY/weekend warrior or backup for a Pro. It’s got enough power to get the job done and it’s under $100.

The problem is that there’s more heat build-up in this model than any of the others and no way to assure you it will last longer than its 90-day warranty. It’s probably not a big deal if you only use it occasionally, but seriously consider the extended warranty if you have your mind set on this one.

* Results as of February 11, 2019. Head over to our Best 18V Impact Driver page for updated results as new models hit the market.

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Performance

The two main performance areas we test impact drivers are speed and torque. Head over to our Best Impact Driver main page to get the details of our testing methods.

Speed Under Load

Making a strong start, this Harbor Freight impact driver pushes all the way to 3rd place in speed under load. Driving a 1/4″ ledger screw, it holds onto 565 RPM.

Hercules Impact Driver

Fastening Torque

While the Hercules does drive quickly, it does more speed work than strength training. Ranking 14th, the Hercules impact driver averages 1497 in-lbs of torque. To put that number into perspective, the leader in this test puts out 2656 in-lbs of fastening torque.

Nut-Busting Torque

When it comes to breakaway torque, the Hercules improves its position considerably. It is able to consistently break 3000 in-lbs of torque, placing it in a 6-way tie for 6th place.

Something’s Amiss

We definitely put all of our impact drivers under some load, but nothing that we consider abusive. We noticed that the Harbor Freight impact driver ran hotter than the rest by a pretty significant margin.

I ran through just the torque tests again to see what kind of heat our FLIR One Pro LT picked up. With less than 2 minutes of use, it pushed over 120º F. Bosch’s IDH182 (another brushed model) barely touched 100º after the same treatment.

Weight and Footprint

Weight is an important consideration when it comes to most tools, even though most of the impact drivers we tested aren’t overweight. Hercules is one that doesn’t overburden us. Without the battery, it weighs in at 2.1 lbs. Attaching the 2.5 Ah battery only adds a pound – good enough to settle in as the 6th lightest.

As far as footprints go, this Harbor Freight impact driver measures 5.8″ from tip to tail, and 7.5″ high (without the battery attached). It’s a bottom half finish in 9th, but it really doesn’t feel bulky.

Hercules Impact Driver

As far as the actual ergonomics go, we can sum it up like this: do you like how the last generation of DeWalt impact drivers felt?

Essentially, that’s what you’re holding onto with the Hercules. It’s close enough to make us wonder if Stanley Black & Decker is making these for Harbor Freight.

As a matter of fact, with a little finagling, we were able to attach the DeWalt battery pack to the Hercules driver (though it wouldn’t fire up). Point being, the ergonomics of the two brands is strikingly similar… which is to say that the Hercules is pretty comfortable to use.

Decibels

All impact drivers are loud and obnoxious – kind of like Managing Editor, Kenny Koehler talking about the in and outs of copywriting violations and social media. Like Kenny’s rants, some are better than others, though.

Hercules Impact Driver

The Hercules impact driver sounds off at 101 dB(A), which put it right in the middle range of impact driving loudness. It earns a 6th place finish, tieing with 4 other models.

Feature Set

As you move down in price, you expect fewer features… and there’s not much to talk about in that department for Hercules. This model is pretty much the definition of “bare bones” at this level. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Brushed motor
  • Single speed with variable speed trigger
  • No special modes
  • LED light
  • belt hook
  • No bit ejection
  • No one-hand bit insertion

 

Hercules Impact Driver

Value

The Hercules impact driver, just like we’d expect from all Harbor Freight brands, excels in the value category. The kit includes the tool, one 2.5 Ah battery, and charger for a cool $99. This is the cheapest impact driver in the 18V class to still hold some ground against Pro models.

There is one downside here though – it only comes with a 90-day warranty. This doesn’t instill a whole lot of confidence in us about the tool’s long term build quality, though it’s probably fine enough for the guy who isn’t using it day in/day out. You can pay to extend the warranty to 2 years if you like. At that point, you’re at a price that other brands with longer warranties come into play.

Also keep in mind that you can’t use Harbor Freight coupons on the Hercules line.

Hercules Impact Driver

 

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The Bottom Line

It’s safe to say that the Hercules impact driver pleasantly surprised us with its performance against the big boys. Not only did it finish in an overall 3rd place in our 18V category, but it also won outright for our DIY competition. Ultimately, this is where we see its sweet spot: in the hands of the DIY/weekend warrior or backup for a Pro. It’s got enough power to get the job done and it’s under $100.

The problem is that there’s more heat build-up in this model than any of the others and no way to assure you it will last longer than its 90-day warranty. It’s probably not a big deal if you only use it occasionally, but seriously consider the extended warranty if you have your mind set on this one.

Hercules Impact Driver Specs

  • Model: HC81K1
  • Power source: 20V
  • No Load Speed: 0-2800 RPM
  • Maximum Torque: 1500 in-lbs
  • Impact Rate: 0-3200 IPM
  • Bare Weight: 2.1 lbs
  • Weight with Battery: 3.1 lbs
  • Length: 5.8″
  • Height: 7.5″
  • Warranty: 90-Day
  • Price: $99, Check on Amazon kit

18V/20V Max Impact Drivers

Speed Under Load
Measurable Torque
Weight
Feature Set
Value
Final Thoughts

It's safe to say that the Hercules impact driver pleasantly surprised us with its performance against the big boys. Not only did it finish in an overall 3rd place in our 18V category, but it also won outright for our DIY competition. Ultimately, this is where we see its sweet spot: in the hands of the DIY/weekend warrior or backup for a Pro. It's got enough power to get the job done and it's under $100. The problem is that there's more heat build-up in this model than any of the others and no way to assure you it will last longer than its 90-day warranty. It's probably not a big deal if you only use it occasionally, but seriously consider the extended warranty if you have your mind set on this one. 

Overall Score 4.2 Shootout Results

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Mike

There are a number of things I do buy at HF – zip ties, foam floor mats, some hand tools. I would not buy any tool with a cord or battery. It’s not just because of questionable reliability, but also because the prices are not that great.
For $99 on sale, I bought a Milwaukee brushless impact with 2.0 battery and charger. Same price as the Hercules. I’m a DIYer who is not hard on his tools, but this was not a difficult decision.