Milwaukee M18 Cordless SDS+ Rotary Hammer Review
Milwaukee tried to slip one by us earlier this year, but we caught it. As part of their April 1st push of the new RedLithium platform (which is no joke), the company leaked info on a new M18 Rotary Hammer with SDS Plus technology (2605-22). It’s a 7/8-inch model and comes with either 1 or 2 RedLithium XC batteries. We love it when reviews and projects collide. With the case of the Milwaukee M18 SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer, we couldn’t have asked for better timing.
The M18 Rotary Hammer represents one of those cross-over tools. It’s a cordless tool that really attempts to be a corded tool replacement. It’s not for chopping up large swathes of concrete, but it’s also a huge step above something you’d use for routine fastening into block walls. The 2605-22 Cordless SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer Drill Kit is light enough to be used overhead but strong enough to plow through high-density concrete with a 7/8″ bit.
Back to our aforementioned “collision”. Working with Parker Street Ministries, a local non-profit organization here in town, we help them on a fairly big drilling job. We needed to secure three brand-new bike racks into a concrete slab, do it securely, and accomplish the task in a short amount of time. That pretty much ruled out the conventional hammer drill – which would have done a number on our arm with the number and size of holes we were drilling. Before we get too far ahead, let’s talk a bit about the tool itself.
Milwaukee Cordless SDS Rotary Hammer Features
When we say the M18 Cordless Rotary Hammer is nimble, we mean it – but that doesn’t mean your 4-year old can one-hand a hole while holding the tool up over his head. But you probably could. The 2605-20 rotary hammer weighs just under 8 pounds with a RedLithium XC battery installed. It’s also balanced “properly”, which is to say that it makes sense – particularly when you are using the front handle to stabilize it. The tool is, as you’d expect, no different in appearance from any other red & black Milwaukee Tool. What it does have, however, is a unique (for the M18 line) D-handle and really rugged build quality where the anvil mechanism and motor structure are situated.
The kit includes the 2605-20 7/8″ Rotary Hammer, two RedLithium M18 XC batteries, charger, side handle, depth gauge rod, and a nice blow mold case.
AVS Anti-vibration System
Milwaukee touts its AVS Anti-Vibration System, which is largely a mechanical separation of the handle from the active anvil mechanism. The thing is, though – it really works. The rotary hammer doesn’t numb your hand as you’d expect it to, firing 4800 beats per minute at 1.8 ft-lbs of force. Use a conventional rotary hammer and you’ll encounter enough vibration that some organizations like OSHA have started studying the effects of it on the human body. With Milwaukee’s 2605-22 Rotary Hammer, the AVS system means you can drill longer without getting fatigued.
We liked the way Milwaukee ran the rubberized overmold from the battery base to the bottom and front of the tool body. The adjustable side handle was also very convenient and made the tool extremely easy to direct.
On the left side of the tool body is the Mode switch, which can alternate between Drill mode (rotary-only), Hammer Drill mode, and Hammer-only (chip) mode. The Hammer-only mode is perfect if you need to break up a small area of concrete or clear away a broken area in order to pour new cement and facilitate a repair. Normally rotary hammers of this class do not have this feature. The trigger is variable speed, as you’d expect, and can ramp up to 1400 RPM for extremely fast debris removal during drilling.
The SDS-Plus bit system is standard which allows access to a full range of concrete/masonry bits up to 7/8″ in diameter. The release collar is easy to use and allows simple tool-less bit changes. Attached to the side handle is the included depth gauge rod, which is easily adjusted by pressing down on the clamping lever and sliding the rod backward or forwards until it’s at the proper depth from the tip of the bit.
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Testing and Use
As we mentioned, the best way to test a tool is to get it involved in a real-world scenario for which it was precisely designed. Drilling twenty-four 3/8″ x 3″ holes into a concrete sidewalk to secure three bike rack supports to the ground seemed to fit the bill perfectly. When you support an inner-city organization like Parker Street Ministries, you never lack for opportunities to use tools. With this particular project, each bike rack support required four holes on each end for a total of 8 holes per rack.
To secure the rack to the concrete, we used Red Head 3/8″ x 3-3/4″ wedge anchors. These anchors are perfect in that you simply drill the hole, drop in the anchor, and then fasten down the nut to mushroom out the anchor and cause it to grab to the sides of the drilled hole. The required shear force to break these bolts makes them nearly impossible to break without running into the bike rack with a car. To drill the holes we grabbed the Milwaukee M18 Rotary Hammer and loaded it up with a Bosch SDS Plus masonry bit.
Drilling to Depth
The M18 Cordless Rotary Hammer enabled us to not waste any time in getting the job done, both by being efficient and also by giving us a depth rod to ensure we didn’t over-drill our holes and waste effort on an already potentially tedious job. On top of that, the company’s AVS Anti-Vibration System really stole the show and we didn’t tear up our arms getting the work done. In fact, with a freshly charged M18 RedLithium XC battery, we did all 24 holes and still had two bars of power left on the battery.
Confidence and Speed
Starting the holes was simple and the combination of the drill and the front handle allowed us to begin without fear of the bit walking on us. This was a precision job since the four holes had to be perfect or the supports wouldn’t allow the anchors to slip perfectly through into the concrete. The M18 rotary hammer drill really powered through the holes very quickly and we were constantly surprised at the general lack of vibration in the main handle – it was very noticeable.
Unlike some other products we’ve utilized, the the depth gauge rod and the clamping mechanism had a really sturdy feel, with minimal wobble. The adjustment lever consistently provided very positive engagement with the depth gauge rod. It just felt like you could use it without fearing you would strip it out or bend it by applying too much pressure during the end of your drilling cycles.
We didn’t use the chipping mode of the 2605-22 but felt it was a great feature that is often missing on cordless rotary hammers of this size.
Overall, we’d have to summarize that it was the size and dynamics of the tool that impressed us the most. It just got a lot of work done and it’s not very large. In that way, it’s deceptively powerful. The Milwaukee M18 2605-22 Rotary Hammer was really easy to use and comfortable to hold and it’s the kind of tool your professional friends want to have. We know because they told us… over and over… For Performance, the 2605-22 received an easy 9/10 and for value, well it’s still pretty good.
After all, this isn’t a DIY tool or something you’re going to pick up for the occasional job. If you’re doing a consistent amount of concrete drilling, this tool is very likely to save you both time and money and so it’s very much worth the ~$450 retail price. It’s also worth the 7/10 Value rating we gave it. There’s “expensive” and there’s “quality” – the Milwaukee Cordless Rotary Hammer is most certainly the latter.