What’s Up With the Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill?
My phone, email, and social media inboxes have been filling up with the intriguing question – What’s up with the Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill?
I’ll admit, I’ve mostly ignored them. We’re a Pro-focused magazine and Harbor Freight, while they do have some consumables worth buying at their respective price points, tend to turn out disposable tools. But then sources I consider reputable started talking about the new drills and our friend Stuart over at Tool Guyd spoke with one of their engineers about several different topics, including the Hercules line. Click here to check out his article—it’s worth the read!
So now it’s my turn to take a closer look at the Hercules 20V Drill from Harbor Freight.
There are a lot of comparisons between the Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill and the DeWalt DCD780 20V Max Drill. Even Harbor Freight is making that comparison in some of their advertising. The form factor is definitely similar. But it isn’t quite a perfect clone. Personally, I’m a fan of Makita’s, Hitachi’s, and DeWalt’s ergonomic handle designs, so I can hardly blame any manufacturer for following the spirit of the same design.
The internal workings of the Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill either are or aren’t identical to DeWalt’s, depending on which internet source you look at. Keep in mind that appearances can be deceiving. Just because the guts of tool look the same doesn’t mean they are. Two motors, for example, can look nearly identical in size and shape, but when you dig further into their design, you find they’re very different.
There are only a handful of choices when it comes to making a lithium-ion battery slide pack. Milwaukee, Makita, Hitachi, DeWalt, Bosch, and Ridgid all have their own unique housing and button locks. But essentially it’s going to be a question of putting the button in the center front or the two sides. Unless you’re Metabo. Then you put the release on the back of the tool. No matter which brand of battery you’re looking at, the pack design has to work to help dissipate heat, so there are going to some similarities.
To keep the battery price down, you’re looking at 18650 lithium-ion cells coming most likely from Panasonic, Samsung, or LG. There just aren’t a whole lot of options. Some manufacturers are moving to 20700 cells for more potential and Milwaukee is looking to move into 21700 cells to go even further. But for a typical drill or impact driver, there’s nothing wrong with 18650.
So does the Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill look a lot like a DeWalt from top to bottom? Yeah, but there are enough slight differences there to cause at least some doubt as to whether it’s a straight-up knock-off.
The two main specifications I’m looking at are speed and torque. The Harbor Freight Hercules 20V drill specs out to 2000 RPM – that’s solid. RPM’s in that range will quickly drill holes and drive smaller screws with the top models on the market.
On the torque side, you’re looking at 576 inch-pounds. That’s enough to get a lot of jobs done and not at all out of the range of Pro-level compact drills. It’s not going to keep up with premium heavy-duty models like Makita’s 1,096 inch-pound or Milwaukee’s 1200 inch-pound models. But it’s still a useful performance level.
Considering the motor, you’re looking at a 4-pole brushed motor, not brushless. That’s not a surprise at this price point. In fact, I’d be more concerned about the quality if it did have a brushless motor at this price.
From what I can tell, the Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill is a decent start. It has specs that come out in a good place for a Pro-level compact drill. And the form factor looks like it will a comfortable tool to use if the overmolding pairs well with it.
The design and specs are close enough to that DeWalt drill to make us wonder if Stanley Black & Decker might be manufacturing Hercules for Harbor Freight. They certainly have the ability. We can’t say for sure and most of those manufacturing relationships (there are a lot of them between brands!) tend only be spoken of behind closed doors, so your guess is as good as mine.
But let’s remember that Harbor Freight – and every other manufacturer – are in business to make a profit. And Harbor Freight’s niche is to sell a high volume of tools. So even though you see a sales flyer that claims you’re saving $70 or more over suggested retail or “compares to” price, you have to ask “who set that MSRP or comparison?” If a drill is worth $180, you sell it for $180 and drop the price $10 if you’re having trouble moving stock. The whole idea of putting a much higher price on and then comparing it to another product that may not be in the same class is marketing – and it’s effective. But you still need to see through that and realize you’re looking at a $100 drill kit.
Not that it’s a bad price. It’s an excellent price so long as you realize that you’re getting just one compact battery with the kit and that you’ll need an hour to charge that 2.5 AH pack. And not having the tool in my hand, I have to go with what Stuart said in his article that “they’re not bad. They’re not perfect, either…”
Harbor Freight only warranties this model for 90 days. Even the lowest Pro warranties are a year, but most stretch 3 to 5 years and Ridgid gives you a Lifetime Service Agreement. Pro models aside, the better comparison right now might be to see what Ryobi has to offer. They’re also reaching into Pro-level performance on some of their latest tools without quite as fine a fit and finish along with a low price point. And you’ll get a three-year warranty from them.
Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill Manufacturer’s Key Features
- 4-pole motor delivers maximum performance and durability in a compact size
- 2-speed transmission covers all drilling and fastening applications
- All-metal gear construction built to withstand job site abuse
- Bright LED light illuminates the work area
- Jacobs 1/2 in. ratcheting chuck provides ultimate bit retention
Harbor Freight Hercules 20V Drill Specifications
- Name: Hercules 20V Lithium Cordless 1/2 In. Compact Drill/Driver Kit
- Model: Harbor Freight Hercules HC91K1
- Battery capacity: 2.5 Ah
- Battery type: Lithium-Ion
- Voltage (volts): 20
- Charge time: 60 minutes
- Speed (max): 0-600/0-2000 RPM
- Maximum Torque (ft. – lbs.): 576 in. lbs.
- Chuck size (in.): 1/2 in. keyless
- Height:9-1/2 in.
- Length: 7-3/8 in.
- Width: 3 in.
- Shipping Weight: 8.75 lb.
- Contents: 1/2 in. 20V compact drill/driver, (1) 20V 2.5AH compact lithium battery pack, fast charger, belt clip, (2) Torqpoint™ power bits, (2) 1/8 in. Starterpoint™ drill bits, heavy-duty storage case
- Price: $109
- Warranty: 90 days