Best Hammer Drill Buying Guide. We cover cordless and corded models. Which one is right for you?
If you’ve been wondering which, out of the countless machines on the market, is the best hammer drill? This article is for you. There’s a lot to consider and there is an amazing selection of hammer drills available. They range from really cheap to hammer drills that cost so much that you really need to be serious about your tools to pay for these high-end machines.
Intro | Best Hammer Drill
Our list of the best hammer drills will cover tools that are not just affordable, but great quality too. We’ll be reviewing the best (at least the most popular) cordless hammer drill, the DeWalt DCK299D1T1. Then we’ll look at the best cheap hammer drill, the Skil 6445-04. Finally, we’ll look at the best rotary hammer drill, that’s still affordable to most people, the Bosch GBH2-28L – this is a legendary tool, combining affordability with durability and the working capabilities of a powerful rotary hammer drill.
No toolbox is complete without an electric drill/driver. Even most small electric drills have a hammer function for drilling into masonry and concrete, so we can say that the majority of electric drills are hammer drills. A basic hammer drill, whether a corded model or a battery-powered one, is an indispensable part of any tool arsenal. This is why we’ve decided to review three of the best hammer drills in order to give you a good idea of what to choose next time you need to go out and buy one of these handy tools.
It’s true that the rotary hammer drill is the king of all drills. These are, however, large heavy machines and are not always the first choice for the occasional user. Notwithstanding that these drills cost more than a regular hammer drill. But more about that later, after reviewing the best hammer drills, we’ll go into some detail on the topic: Hammer Drill vs Rotary Hammer Drill. We’ll also take a look at drill bits, these are just as important as the drill that you’re using. We’ll take a look at everything from the types of drill bits, to the materials used to make drill bits and which are the best for different drilling applications. A very important thing that many people have difficulty with is sharpening the drill bit point – so we’ll help you with this too.
As you can see, there is plenty to learn about in this article and I think the useful information that you’ll get will help everyone. We will all use a hammer drill at some point in our lives – often on a regular basis. Of course, a hammer drill is not the only type of drill that we use and we’ll touch on this a little as we discuss drill bits and how they are used.
Though we’re going to have to start somewhere and this will be in form of our review of the best hammer drills.
DEWALT DCK299D1T1 FLEXVOLT
20V MAX* 1/2″ 3-Speed Hammer drill and DCF887 20V MAX* 1/4″ 3-Speed Impact Driver.
Includes: 60V MAX* Flexvolt lithium ion battery, one 20V MAX* XR lithium ion compact battery and fast charger.
- DCD996 20V MAX*1/2″ hammer drill — 3-speed, high performance (0-2,000 rpm), all-metal transmission optimizes tool-to-task for fast application speeds and improved run-time
- DCD996 20V MAX*1/2″ hammer drill — 0-38,250 BPM for fast drilling in masonry materials
- DCD996 20V MAX*1/2″ hammer drill — has a compact size (8.4″ front-to-back length) and lightweight (4.7 lb) design to fit tight areas
- DCD996 20V MAX* hammer drill —includes 3-Mode LED providing lighting in dark or confined spaces up to 20X brighter than previous model
- DCF887 20V MAX* 1/4″ impact driver — provides 1,825 in-lbs of max torque at fast 0-3,250 RPM speed and 0-3,600 impacts per minute
- DCF887 20V MAX* 1/4″ impact driver — has a compact size (5.3″ front-to-back length) and lightweight (3.4 lbs) design
- DCD996 20V MAX* XR 1/2″ 3-Speed Hammer drill
- DCF887 20V MAX* XR 1/4″ Impact Driver
- DCB203 20V MAX* XR 2.0AH Lithium Ion Battery
- DCB606 20V / 60V MAX* Flexvolt 6.0AH/2.0AH Lithium Ion Battery
- DCB118 20V / 60V MAX* Fan-Cooled Rapid Charger
- (2) Belt Hooks
- 360 Degree Side Handle
- Contractor Bag
This hammer drill and impact driver kit proudly displays the FLEXVOLT trademark in all its promotional material. Though I want to set the record straight from the outset, the DeWalt DCK299D1T1 does not form part of new FEXVOLT 60V range of tools, it is from the older 20V MAX range. The reason why they include the FLEXVOLT branding is that you get a FLEXVOLT DCB606 20V/60V MAX 6AH/2AH battery as part of the kit. You also get a DCB203 20V MAX 2AH battery and a charger (DCB118 20V/60V MAX Fan-Cooled Rapid Charger) as part of the kit. This means a total of 8AH battery time for the hammer drill from both batteries – that’s some good working time.
Since the launch of the FLEXVOLT system late in 2016, we’ve reviewed this battery system and the incredible range of DeWalt FLEXVOLT 60V and 120V battery-powered tools in some detail. This is one of the biggest revolutions in battery technology to come our way. For the purposes of this review, I’m just going to say that the most notable function of the FLEXVOLT system is its dual voltage capabilities. The FLEXVOLT battery can power any of the new DeWalt 60V tools and, using two batteries in series, it can power their 120V DC tools too. At the same time, it will automatically detect when it’s plugged into one of the older 20V MAX tools and adjust the voltage accordingly. If you want to know more about the FLEXVOLT battery, take a look at this article that we posted earlier this year: DeWALT FLEXVOLT System — Battery & Tools Review
Now onto the DeWalt DCK299D1T1 which is considered by many to be the best cordless hammer drill available. It may seem a little expensive at first glance. Battery-powered tools always cost more but, even then, this kit seems to cost more than many other similar battery-powered hammer drills. You have to look at what all you’re getting. I’ve already mentioned that you get an additional FLEXVOLT battery which, in itself is a bonus. You also get the DeWalt DCF887 20V MAX ¼” Impact Driver alongside the DeWalt DCD996 20V MAX ½”, 3-speed hammer drill. So you’re going to get a big box full of goodies. It will feel like Christmas when you open it!
The DeWalt DCD996 is a robust and powerful cordless ½” hammer drill with an all-metal transmission. It is designed for optimized performance with improved runtime from the battery. This means a variable control of between 0 and 2000 RPM with three speeds. The hammer action works from 0-38250 Beats per Minute (BPM). So you’re not compromising on power in any way, despite having the advantage of a compact cordless drill. By compact, I mean a total length of 8.4”.
It’s also a very lightweight hammer drill, at 4.7 LBS. The combination of its size and weight makes it one of the best hammer drills for working in a tight area. The DeWalt DCD996 hammer drill also has an LED light with three operating modes. Yet another advantage when working in difficult situations. While many hammer drills have an LED light these days, the three modes of this light means that you can optimize your battery life. You can choose to lower the power of the light or even switch it off entirely when you want to conserve the battery.
Your bonus extra with this kit, the DeWalt DCF887 20V MAX ¼” impact driver, is an amazing little tool to have around. It uses the same battery as the DCD996 hammer drill which is pretty convenient. It’s also a very powerful machine in an incredibly compact and lightweight form. For a tool that weighs 3.4 LBS and is only 5.3” long, the little DeWalt DCF887 packs quite a punch. It delivers 1825 inch-pounds of torque with a variable speed up to 3250 RPM. The impact action pounds out between 0 and 3600 impacts per second.
VIDEO | See the DeWalt DCD996 Hammer Drill in Action
The whole kit packs neatly into a tough carrying bag which is yet another bonus item that you get with your purchase. You’ll see the insignia “MADE IN THE USA WITH GLOBAL MATERIALS” displayed boldly on this product and its carrying bag. This is because DeWalt has a select range of premium products that are made in one of their 7 US factories, located around the country. Many of their cheaper tools are outsourced to factories in other countries. I’m not sure if the US made DeWalt tools are that much better, they have strict quality control standards for all their production facilities around the globe. They do, however, take great pride in their US made products and reserve this privilege for their high-end tools.
When it comes down to it, you’re getting a fantastic selection of quality products when you buy the DeWalt DCK299D1T1 package deal. I’m always going on about DeWalt quality and their great service, so I will refrain from rambling on about this too much. Let’s just say that I think this is one of the best tool brands and this hammer drill and impact driver combo is an amazing deal. As with all DeWalt products you have the advantage of their 3-year warranty, 1-year free service plan and 30-day money back guarantee.
7.0 Amp 1/2″ : Best Hammer Drill if you’re on a budget
- Powerful 7.0 Amp motor for tough applications
- 1/2 In. Keyed chuck to accept large diameter bits designed for woodworking and cutting
- Side-assist handle for controlled, accurate drilling
- Variable speed trigger lets you control drilling speed
- 2-Finger trigger with lock-on for increased control
Six years ago I set out on one of my biggest DIY projects, building myself a new workshop and converting the old shop into a guest cottage. To accomplish this in a reasonable amount of time, I had to get a bunch of casual laborers in. The thought of letting some guy, whose abilities I have no knowledge of, handle my precious tools, frightened me. So I bought a few extra cheap tools for the help that I hired to use. While I prefer brands like Makita, DeWalt, Metabo and (in some cases) Bosch, I wasn’t going to buy tools of this caliber for just anyone to use.
One of the tools that I bought was a Skil ½” drill, the predecessor to the Skil 6445-04. My thinking was that, for the price, it may or may not make it through the project but I certainly wasn’t spending a lot. I’ll tell you that the little Skil took some punishment. I did most of the heavy duty drilling myself, using a Bosh rotary hammer drill (we’ll be reviewing that drill next). Even then, the casual guys had to drill some ¾” holes through 10” solid brick walls, using the Skil which was not designed for this type of work. Despite this, that little hammer drill got through the walls. It took some time and the guys built up quite a sweat doing it, but the Skil got the job done. That tough little Skil is still with me today. It has fallen from roofs and taken a lot of punishment in its time but is still going strong.
The point of this rather long story is that if I’m ever going to buy a cheap drill again, it’s going to be a Skil. In fact, if I’m going to buy any cheap tool, I’ll only buy a Skil. If you want a multipurpose drill to do quick jobs around the home, the Skil 6445-04 is by far the best drill in the lower price category. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with it.
This is a powerful 7A hammer drill with a ½” chuck that still uses the old-fashioned chuck key. I know that keyless chucks are much more convenient. How many times have you misplaced the chuck key? Though I’ve found that keyless chucks, even on expensive hammer drills, start to slip over time and need to be replaced. A chuck that uses a key generally lasts much longer. You just need to make sure you don’t strip the key teeth. This usually happens when you over-tighten the chuck. So this is a basic hammer drill with no fancy features. This also means that there’s less to go wrong and it’s wonderfully cheap.
When it comes to drilling into hard walls and floors, the Skil 6445-04 can proudly hold its ground amongst the best hammer drills. It has a maximum rotation speed of 3000 RPM and has a hammer capacity of 51000 BPM. You control the power of the drill with a variable speed trigger. It can start really slow if you need it to (like when drilling through metal) or you can pull the trigger all the way to make use of its full power. The rated drilling capacity (drill bit size) for the Skil 6445-04 is 1” for concrete and 1⅝” for wood (I presume that this would also apply to steel).
It’s a pretty standard size for a ½” corded hammer drill. The Skil 6445-04 is 13.75” long and 3.5” wide. It weighs 7 LBS and has a side handle that can be mounted in any position to suit left or right-handed users. It also has a depth stop, though I always seem to lose these in the first month – regardless of what drill I’m using.
You’re not going to get a better hammer drill at this price and my prior experience leads me to believe that Skil tools refuse to die. So even though it only has a 1-year warranty, the Skil 6445-04 should keep going for many, many years to come.
VIDEO | Informative Discussion on Hammer Drills
1⅛” SDS-plus Bulldog Xtreme Max Rotary Hammer
- Robust 8.5 Amp motor – delivers 2.4 Ft.-Lbs. of impact energy for reliable Bulldog performance
- KickBack Control – uses an integrated sensor to stop tool rotation during bit bind-up situations
- Counter-balanced vibration control – improves user comfort during drilling or chiseling applications
- Vario-Lock – rotates and locks chisel to optimize working angle
- Variable-speed trigger with reversing – offers accurate bit starting
- HammerHook – allows quick tool storage during the job
- D-handle design – ideal for overhead and downward drilling applications
- Multi-function selector – three modes of operation: drilling only, hammer drilling and chiseling
- SDS-plus bit system – tool-free bit changes with automatic bit locking
When discussing the best rotary hammer drill, some of you might be wondering why we’re not including a brand like Metabo here. The reason is simple, compare the price of the Bosch GBH2-28L to any other similar rotary hammer drill and you’ll see why this is the number one choice for so many.
Commonly known as the Bulldog, the Bosch GBH2-28L has a reputation for being a tough and reliable rotary hammer drill. This is a truly fantastic machine with loads of power for a drill of its size. The 8.5A electric motor provides 2.4 LB-FT of torque, 0 – 1300 RPM and 0 – 5100 BPM. This means that the Bosch GBH2-28L can chew through concrete with a bit size of up to 1⅛”.
VIDEO OVERVIEW | Bosch GBH2-28L Rotary Hammer
What many people don’t like about a rotary hammer drill is their size, weight, and high vibration levels. Working for long periods with a rotary hammer drill can become quite agonizing. Bosch has done a lot to make the Bulldog a really comfortable and easy tool to use. It weighs only 6.9 LBS. It’s 17.4” long and 3.5” wide. You’re never going to get away from vibration entirely when using a hammer drill, but the counter-balanced vibration control on the Bosch GBH2-28L goes a long way to help reduce this. It also has kickback control. If you’ve ever been powering through reinforced concrete and hit steel rebar, you’ll know how helpful this can be. The dual handles make it easy to hold the growling Bulldog when drilling or chiseling in any position.
The Bosch GBH2-28L has simple and easy to use controls. You can toggle between drill only, hammer drill or chisel with the flick of a switch. The variable control trigger has a smooth and sensitive action both forward and reverse. In addition to this, it has a Vario-Lock positioning system for the auxiliary handle for the best chisel angle. The SDS-Plus keyless chuck is as great as the best of them with an automatic bit lock and can handle the tough conditions of the professional and home user. A handy hammer hook makes for convenient storage when on site.
VIDEO | Get a Closer Look — Bosch GBH2-28L
The Bosch GBH2-28L comes with a carrying case for storing the drill, bits and other accessories. The entire Bulldog range of rotary hammer drills are machines with a stellar, one could say legendary, reputation. I think the only other rotary hammer drill that comes close to this one in the same price range would be the DeWalt D25263K which is quite a bit larger and this is probably why so many prefer the Bulldog. It’s one of the easiest and most comfortable rotary hammer drills to use and is as tough as nails. Bosch offers a standard 1-year warranty on all their power tools.
And for those of you who have unlimited funds and appreciate the fine German engineering, then consider : Metabo SB 18 LTX-3 BL Q — (602357620) 18V Cordless Hammer Drill
Professional-grade Cordless hammer drill
- Metabo “Quick” System: Quick change of tool holder and bits, ideal for fast and convenient change of applications
- Selectable “impulse” mode for removal of damaged screws and for spot-drilling on smooth surfaces
- Unique Metabo brushless motor for quick work progress and highest efficiency when drilling and screwdriving
- Precision Stop: Electronic torque coupling with increased precision for precise, delicate working
- High-performance impact mechanism for optimum drilling performance.
- Spindle with hexagonal recess for screwdriver bits for working without chuck
Collar (Ø 43 mm) for versatile use
- Integrated working light to illuminate the contact area
- Robust die cast aluminum gear housing for optimum heat dissipation and durability
- With handy belt hook and bit case, can be fixed either on the right or left side
- LiHD battery pack for ultimate performance and extremely long service life with minimal temperature generation
- Battery packs with capacity display for checking the charge status
- Ultra-M technology for highest performance, gentle efficient charging, optimum energy utilization and long service life
Hammer Drill vs Rotary Hammer Drill
Drilling into masonry or concrete with a masonry bit is aided by the hammer action of the drill. This means that the drill bit moves backward and forward rapidly and pounds against the hard surface, breaking it as the rotation of the bit grinds away at the edge of the hole. So the hammer action helps the drill move forward into the hole. The hammer action that makes this possible can be achieved through two different methods.
A standard hammer drill usually has two modes of operation. It can be used as a non-hammer drill for wood or steel and, by using a mechanical switch-over, one is able to engage the hammer action for masonry and concrete. These drills use two discs with ridges to push the chuck back and forth as the ridges push against one another. The two discs have a spring-loaded clutch between them that only allow the ridges to make contact when pressure is applied to the drill. This clutch prolongs the life of the drill.
While a hammer drill is fine for drilling a few small holes into walls for screws, they’re not that powerful. When you’re drilling many holes or want to drill large diameter holes through a thick wall, especially when doing plumbing and wiring, you’ll want something more powerful.
Rotary Hammer Drill
The primary difference between a hammer drill and a rotary hammer drill is in the way the hammer action is achieved. A rotary hammer drill replaces the discs of a standard hammer drill with a piston. The piston compresses the air inside a cylinder. This is a bit like a mini-air compressor. Compressed air gives a much more powerful hammer action and is far more durable. The friction on the discs of standard hammer drill causes them to wear out if used for too much for heavy duty work.
So we can basically say that a rotary hammer drill is a heavy-duty hammer drill. But there are some other differences that make a rotary hammer drill a superior machine for working with concrete and masonry. One is the hammer only or chisel function. This uses the piston only and does not rotate the chuck. This function is great for breaking into walls, removing tiles or any other job where you would otherwise use a chisel and hammer.
Another advantage to using a rotary hammer drill is the SDS-Plus chuck (used on smaller rotary hammer drills) and the SDS-Max chuck (used on large rotary hammer drills). These chucks accommodate a drill bit with grooves in the shank. This means that the drill bit secures properly into the chuck and is able to move freely inside the chuck. So SDS drill bits can move backward and forward independently of the chuck. Standard chucks that basically clamp the bit into position using three clamping claws are prone to losing their grip on the drill bit as the vibration of the hammer action works them loose. This doesn’t happen with an SDS chuck. You also get many other SDS attachments, like chisels that make the rotary hammer drill a versatile tool to have.
The only disadvantage to using a rotary hammer drill is their size and weight. These will always be bigger and heavier than a standard drill. Rotary hammer drills are also more expensive.
Tips for Masonry and Concrete drilling
Use the correct drill bit. Bits that are designed for masonry, stone, and concrete don’t have a sharp tip like those used for steel and wood. Instead, these bits have a ridge that runs across the tip of the bit. This ridge works like a mini-chisel and helps break the way for the drill to push into the hole.
Even then, not all masonry bits are the same. If you’re drilling through standard masonry walls a carbide drill is sufficient. However, reinforced concrete is another story. Reinforced concrete is used in most structural applications like floors and support pillars. To make the concrete more tensile, rebar or wire mesh is used. This is made up of steel rods or wire that is cast into the concrete. A carbide drill bit is not going to do anything when it comes into contact with steel reinforcement – it’s just going to cause a whole lot of sparks. A rebar drill bit (Tungsten Carbide) is going to cost more, but it’s the only way to get through reinforced concrete.
VIDEO | Which Drill Bit to Use?
Ream your hole regularly. All drill bits have a helix flute. This is the spiraling curved line that runs along the length of the bit. The flute is designed to extract the debris from the hole that you’re drilling. Even with this design, the flute will collect dust and it can become clogged. By pulling the drill back and forth, you’ll assist in removing the debris from the hole more efficiently. So every now and then, pull back on the drill a few times – it makes things go a lot quicker.
Don’t drill further than you have to. If you’re drilling a number of holes, it’s going to take a bit of time and your drill bit wears down as you use it. To save time and money, only drill as deep as you need to. Just about all drills have a depth stop that you can set to stop the drill when it reaches the desired depth. You can also use masking tape to mark how far you want the drill bit to go into the wall. I always lose the depth gauge soon after buying the drill, so masking tape is the way I do it.
Never force the drill. I know that drilling into walls can become tiresome and we’re always tempted to speed things up by pushing hard on the drill. This doesn’t help very much to make the job faster. You just end up chewing through drill bits at an alarming rate. So in the end, you’re wasting your money on drill bits.
More about Drill Bits
There are so many types of drill bits and other accessories that can be fitted to a drill, making these tools incredibly versatile. Though not everyone knows which is best and for what type of material. We are now going to take a deeper look at the details of drill bits.
The Drill Shank
This is the part of the drill that fits into the chuck. Standard drills use a smooth shank and most rotary hammer drills have slots in the shank. You also get various widths when it comes to the shank. It is therefore important to use the correct shank for the chuck that’s fitted to your drill. Some shanks will only fit drills with a ½” chuck or larger.
The Drill Spiral
You’ve probably noticed that some drills have a very tightly spiraled flute while others have a long elongated spiral. There’s a reason for this. The purpose of this spiral is to remove the debris from the hole that you are drilling. A spiral that’s compact is designed for slow drills that remove high volumes of material like a benchtop press drill. A wider spiral is designed for high rotation speed, lower volume drills, these are the most common drill bits for handheld drills.
The Drill Tip
The most common drill bit that can be used for either wood or steel is the twist drill bit with an angled tip. These drill bits can be sharpened. In the next section, we’ll talk about sharpening spiral bits. Another common type of bit used for wood is the brad point or lip and spur drill bit. These bits have a very sharp center point that makes them very accurate and fast but can only be used for wood and plastic. A spade tip or speed cutter is a wide flat, spade-like drill bit and is used for drilling larger diameter holes through wood or plastic at a good speed.
I’ve already discussed masonry drill bits, but recap on this. Masonry drill bits have a flat ridge on the tip and are designed for hammering into stone concrete and bricks or masonry.
Sharpening a Twist Drill Bit
It’s not too difficult to sharpen a twist drill bit using a benchtop grinder. You just need to learn your angles and remember to keep the point centered. If your angle pushes too much to one side, the bit will be off-center and this makes it unusable. Drill bits come with standard angles, but you can adapt the angle of the tip for the material that you’re drilling. Some materials will burn if the angle is too low while others will be difficult to drill with the incorrect angle. Here’s a list of typical angles for different material types. Each side of the tip will have a different angle and will meet at the center of the tip. Remember that a masonry drill cannot be sharpened.
- Aluminum: 90°-135°
- Brass & cast iron: 90°-118°
- Mild & stainless steel: 118°-135°
- Plastic: 60°-90°
Materials used to make drill bits
The cheapest drill bits are made from low carbon steel and are always black in color. These bits are only suitable for drilling mild sheet steel (like auto bodies), plastic or soft wood. High carbon steel bits are similar to low carbon bits, just more durable and are used for the same applications. High-speed steel (HSS) drill bits are made from hardened tool steel and are the best for drilling through metal at higher speed and for hardwood.
Cobalt steel bits are used mostly for stainless steel. Carbide drill bits are most commonly used for masonry and concrete bits will use Tungsten Carbide. Drill bits can have different coatings to add to their strength. The common black coating found on cheap drill bits is the lightest duty. Drill bits that have a brass color have a titanium nitride coating and are highly durable. Other nitride coatings are used, these usually have a bright appearance similar to chrome and are also more durable
The most versatile of all hole saws has to be the uni-bit. This is a cone-shaped bit with flat ridges along the outside of the cone at different points as it gets wider. Each of these ridges allows you to drill a hole that matches the diameter of the cone at the point of that ridge. This means that one bit can drill many different size holes. These bits are used for mild steel, plastic, and thin wood sheets.
Standard hole saws for wood, plastic, and steel come in many sizes and have saw teeth around a fixed diameter. They come in various types of steel. The same steel types can be attributed to different materials as with drill bits. In other words, a low carbon hole saw will be used for the same material as low carbon drill bit.
Masonry hole saws can be either carbide or diamond coated. Diamond coated masonry hole saws are more expensive but are by far the best and most people prefer these. They come in many sizes and these include standard sizes for electric conduit and pipes.