The right hammer drill ensures that you can power through cement just as easily as sheetrock. It gives you the oomph to tackle large jobs, but the portability necessary for small ones. Whether you’re embarking on a whole-home renovation, or are just sick of dealing with the limitations of your rotary drill, our selection of the best hammer drills on the market will ensure that you’re always ready for the occasion. Our handy chart below lets you choose the best hammer drill at a glance.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Best Hammer Drills
- 2 Bosch 11255VSR SDS-Plus Bulldog Xtreme Rotary Hammer
- 3 DeWalt D25263K D-Handle SDS Rotary Hammer
- 4 DeWalt DW511 1/2” (13mm) 7.8 Amp VSR Hammer Drill
- 5 SKIL 6445-04 7.0 Amp 1/2” Hammer Drill
- 6 DeWalt DC725K-2 18-Volt NiCad 1/2” Cordless Compact Hammer Drill
- 7 Makita XRH01ZVX 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Brushless 1” SDS PLUS Rotary Hammer
- 8 DeWalt DCH 133B 20V Max XR Brushless 1” D-Handle Rotary Hammer
- 9 DeWalt DCD996B Bare Tool 20V MAX XR Lithium-Ion Brushless 3-Speed Hammer Drill
- 10 Porter-Cable PCC620B 20V MAX Lithium-Ion Hammer Drill
- 11 Milwaukee 2702-20 M18 1/2” Compact Brushless Hammer Drill/Driver
- 12 Beyond the Best Hammer Drills
- 13 What’s a Hammer Drill?
- 14 So, what’s it all about?
- 15 How Can Hammer Drills Benefit You?
- 16 Hammer Drills vs. Rotary Drills vs. Rotary Hammers
- 17 Which is right for you?
- 18 Key Considerations When Comparing Hammer Drills
- 19 The Importance of the Right Drill Bits
- 20 In Conclusion
The Best Hammer Drills
Now that we’ve gotten a bird’s eye view of the topic, it’s time to see what each of the models in our chart above brings to the table.
Bosch 11255VSR SDS-Plus Bulldog Xtreme Rotary Hammer
If you’re looking for a great all-around performer, then look no further than the Bosch 11255VSR SDS-Plus Bulldog Xtreme Rotary Hammer. Note that this is a rotary hammer, not a hammer drill, which means that it is a little larger than other models on the market. However, that size increase just means it’s that much more capable. This model can reach 1,300 rpm, with up to 58,000 bpm (hammer). While this is a corded model, the cord features an interesting rotating turret that protects it against bend-related damage, and also ensures tangle-free use. With 36 different locking chisel positions, you can optimize your work angle to suit any needs (ergonomics, tight spaces, etc.), and you will even find that there’s equal power in both forward and reverse. Choose from three modes of operation – rotary, rotary hammer, or hammer only. Bosch also backs this rotary hammer with one of the best guarantees in the industry – you get a full 1-year warranty, a 1-year service protection plan, and a 30-day money-back guarantee to offer peace of mind and protection. With that being said, this is one of the heavier models on our list, weighing in at 11.4 pounds. That means it’s better suited for those with good upper body strength, particularly for prolonged use periods.
D-Handle SDS Rotary Hammer
Another excellent performer, the DeWalt D25263K D-Handle SDS Rotary Hammer delivers plenty of power, good ergonomics, and even includes anti-shock technology to help reduce the impact of use on your body to prevent overuse-related injuries (think carpal tunnel, and/or nerve damage from using the hammer mode for prolonged periods). It is also one of the few rotary hammers on our list to be made available with two different chuck sizes. Opt for the 1-inch chuck for standard jobs, or go with the 1 1/8-inch chuck for heavier duty needs. This rotary hammer creates three joules of impact energy, transforming even the toughest jobs into quick solutions. The motor is an 8.5 amp, high-performance affair designed for reliability and performance, even in demanding conditions. Like the Bosch rotary hammer we discussed previously, the DeWalt also provides full power in both forward and reverse. It also features an integral clutch to help reduce the potential for high-torque reactions. The 360-degree side handle ensures that you always have a firm grip, as well as the ability to bear down while working, and the carrying case hides a depth rod, as well. This tool also comes with a three-year limited warranty. It doesn’t cover as many potential issues as the Bosch warranty, but it is certainly longer.
1/2” (13mm) 7.8 Amp VSR Hammer Drill
The first pistol grip model on our list, the DeWalt DW511 is also our first actual hammer drill (the other two models we’ve discussed thus far are rotary hammers, which are very similar, but slightly different). This model offers a few interesting features and capabilities. One of those is the pistol grip for easier handling. It also includes a depth rod to ensure that you don’t drill/hammer too far into your substrate, as well as a 360-degree side handle for better grip security and weight/bearing while using the tool. This hammer drill features a 1/2-inch chuck, so it will work with most standard bits and other accessories used with household rotary drills. To ensure that you’re able to work on whatever you want, whenever you want, the DeWalt comes with variable speed settings, allowing you to drill or hammer faster or slower depending on substrate strength or toughness, as well as other considerations. The unit comes with a 7.8-amp motor for outstanding performance, rivaling some of the more expensive models on our list. It also features a lightweight design, coming in at just 4.3 pounds. Note that while this model offers a dual mode, it does not offer a hammer only mode. You can turn it to rotary mode, or rotary/hammer mode. Also note that this tool is designed primarily for use with light-duty concrete, masonry, tile and other hard materials (for hammer mode).
7.0 Amp 1/2” Hammer Drill
The SKIL 6445-04 7.0 Amp 1/2” Hammer Drill is a powerful, lightweight tool designed for both homeowners and professionals. It features a conventional 1/2-inch keyed chuck, so that it can use most drill bits and other accessories designed for household power drills and similar tools. However, this also makes it a bit more light-duty in design, and should not be used on heavy-duty masonry, concrete and other hard materials. The SKIL hammer drill comes with a handy depth rod, as well as a pivoting 360-degree side handle to ensure a comfortable, firm grip and the ability to bear down easily while working. The trigger offers variable speed functionality so that you can customize your efforts to the materials you’re working on, and other considerations, and the 7.0 amp motor offers excellent performance for light-duty jobs. At just five pounds, this is one of the lighter hammer drills on the market, although it definitely weighs more than the DeWalt model we discussed immediately above. It also comes in under the DeWalt in terms of warranty protection – the SKIL only benefits from a one-year limited warranty. Of course, the price difference between the two models might be all you need to convince you that this is a worthwhile investment.
18-Volt NiCad 1/2” Cordless Compact Hammer Drill
Looking for a lightweight, compact hammer drill that offers good performance without being tied to a power outlet? If that sounds like you, then the DeWalt DC725K-2 Hammer Drill is a great option. It’s made right here in the USA, and it features an 18-volt battery system. It actually ships with two batteries, as well, so you can keep one in the drill and one on the charger, and then hot swap when you deplete the charge in one. This hammer drill combines the functionality of a conventional rotary drill with hammer capabilities – you get 17-settings, plus a drill setting and the hammer function. Note that this drill rotates even in hammer mode – there is no non-rotating mode. The 1/2-inch chuck is a great fit for all standard bits, chisels and other accessories, and the unit only weighs 4.9 pounds with the battery installed, which helps reduce fatigue during use. The LED light on the front of the hammer drill helps provide better visibility in low-light situations, and the drill can actually reach 1,700 rpm and 29,000 bpm. In addition to two batteries and the drill, this also ships with a handy carrying case, as well as a battery charger.
18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Brushless 1” SDS PLUS Rotary Hammer
One of only two battery-powered rotary hammers on our list, the Makita XRH01ZVX is definitely one of a kind. It combines the power and performance of a rotary hammer with the portability of battery power to deliver the ultimate in convenience and capability. Like the DeWalt unit we discussed above, the Makita features an 18-volt battery system. It features a 1-inch chuck (the industry’s first on a battery-powered rotary hammer), so it is designed for use with larger bits and chisels. However, note that both the battery and the battery charger are sold separately and are not included with the rotary hammer (which is one reason it didn’t rank better on our list!). It does come with a handy vacuum attachment with a HEPA filter, though, to help dissipate the debris from your hammering project. That’s an important consideration, particularly for jobs taking place within a fully-constructed building, rather than in new construction where cleanup is performed after the build is finished. The rotary hammer weighs in at just over 14 pounds, making it one of the heavier options on our list, but that weight does include the vacuum unit. Note that this hammer drill does include both a depth rod and a 360-degree side handle for more secure operation.
DeWalt DCH 133B
20V Max XR Brushless 1” D-Handle Rotary Hammer
The second battery-powered rotary hammer to make our list, the DeWalt DCH 133B is an interesting tool. It features a 20-volt battery system for better performance, a longer-lasting charge, and higher rpms during use. It also features the conventional D-shaped handle for a more secure grip in operation. The depth rod helps keep you on track with your project, and the 360-degree side handle ensures that you can keep a firm grip on things while adding weight to the hammer operation. Note that DeWalt’s unique 2.6 joule motor actually offers faster hammering operation than most corded models can claim, and the compact size means that this tool is easy to fit within restricted areas. This rotary hammer also features a 1-inch chuck, so it’s designed for use with larger accessories, and it is also rated for use with heavy-duty concrete, masonry and other materials. This rotary hammer only weighs five pounds (without the battery), which means you get high-quality performance and professional results with less arm and hand fatigue. Maximum speed (no load) is 1,500 rpm, with up to 5,550 bpm for hammering. Note that while this is a battery-powered item, it is not sold with the battery or charger. Both are additional costs, which is one reason it ranks lower down our list.
Bare Tool 20V MAX XR Lithium-Ion Brushless 3-Speed Hammer Drill
The DeWalt DCD996B features 20-volt battery technology combined with three speeds to help ensure that you can complete your project quickly and easily. This hammer drill comes with two 20-volt batteries, as well as a charger, and is able to reach 38,250 bpm in hammer mode. The newly designed motor offers outstanding performance, with 57% more operating time than older designs, and the compact form factor means that you can go anywhere, even into tight spots. The unit is also equipped with a three-mode LED light on the front for better visibility. Spotlight mode is a nice touch, and helps to illuminate the entire work area in low-light conditions. With two batteries, hot swapping is possible, allowing you to keep one battery on the charger and one in the drill, and then swap out when the charge runs low. Fast charging technology means that the depleted battery needs only a short time to be usable once more. This is also one of the lighter hammer drills on our list, which means reduced arm and hand fatigue during use. However, note that this unit does not have a depth rod, and it does not come with a 360-degree side handle.
PCC620B 20V MAX Lithium-Ion Hammer Drill
One of the more capable hammer drills on the market, the Porter-Cable PCC620B features 20-volt battery technology for longer operation, higher rpm and better overall performance. It features a two-speed gearbox, and can reach as high as 1,600 rpm in drill mode, or 27,200 bpm in hammer mode. The chuck is 1/2-inch, so it will fit well with conventional drivers, bits and chisels, and there are 23 total clutch settings to ensure that you can get the job done quickly and easily. Like the DeWalt we discussed above, this hammer drill features a handy LED light on the front to act as a spotlight during low-light operation. With a weight of just 3.6 pounds, this unit is both capable and lightweight, helping to reduce stress and strain during operation. Note that this hammer drill is rated for light-duty concrete and masonry only. It’s also important to note that this hammer drill ships without a battery or battery charger. It also requires two lithium ion batteries in order to operate. Batteries and chargers are sold separately, and will incur an additional cost. However, it does come with a three-year limited warranty, which is more than many competing models on our list can claim.
2702-20 M18 1/2” Compact Brushless Hammer Drill/Driver
Just because it falls at the end of our list does not mean that the Milwaukee 2702-20 M18 is not a contender. It features an ergonomic pistol grip, as well as a brushless motor for 50% more run time and twice the durability of older models. The chuck on this model is 1/2-inch, so it fits with consumer-grade bits, chisels and accessories, and the unit itself only weighs three pounds, which means that arm and hand fatigue are minimized. It’s interesting that this model offers outstanding torque – 500 inch-pounds, in fact. It can also reach 1,800 rpm. It features built-in overheat protection in the form of the Redlink Intelligence system, which helps avoid damage from abusive use and overheating (and will automatically shut the unit off if an overheat condition occurs). Note that the battery and battery charger are not included, and will require an additional charge. This is an 18-volt system, and will require 18-volt batteries and a compatible charger. It ties in with other 18-volt Milwaukee products. Like most other battery-powered hammer drills on our list, this model does not offer a hammer-only operation mode. It can be used in rotary, or in rotary/hammer mode only.
Beyond the Best Hammer Drills
Now that we’ve covered the 10 best hammer drills available on the market today, let’s take things a step or two farther. What does a hammer drill really do? Do you need a hammer drill? A rotary hammer? A regular old power drill? These are just a handful of questions that we’ll explore in our in-depth guide in order to help you make the most informed purchase decision possible. So, without further ado, let’s get started. We’ll begin with the basics. What the heck is a hammer drill, anyway?
What’s a Hammer Drill?
It’s no secret that the right tools help you get the right results. Whether you’re trying to drill through heart pine to create that to-die-for wall cladding in your soon-to-be in-home library, or powering through a portion of the concrete slab under your home in a bathroom renovation, the right tool makes a massive difference. In many of these cases, you’ll need a hammer drill. Wait. A what?
A hammer drill is pretty similar to a regular rotary drill. You might actually hear these tools called rotary hammers – that moniker is a nod to just how closely related these two power tools are, although true rotary hammers are larger than conventional hammer drills and are better suited for (and usually found on) large-scale, professional construction and demolition jobs, whereas hammer drills can be found everywhere from a DIY enthusiast’s toolbox to the construction site.
So, what’s it all about?
Really, the crux of the matter is obvious in the name – HAMMER drill. That’s what it’s all about. A hammer drill combines rotary motion with back and forth motion to hammer the drill bit’s tip into the material you’re working with.
Hammer drills are very similar to other handheld power tools. They look almost exactly like rotary drills, too. However, in addition to rotary action, the bit is also hammered forward, which is necessary when working with a number of harder materials, including:
- Other masonry surfaces
The mechanics behind this action are relatively simple. There is a weight, which acts as the hammer. It is pulled back via a spring during operation, and then a trigger releases the spring, sending the weight forward, where it hammers into the back of the chuck. This process repeats over and over again during operation, and it happens very quickly (bpm is the measure of how quickly different hammer drill models can operate in this mode – the higher the bpm, the more times it hammers per minute).
How Can Hammer Drills Benefit You?
There are actually quite a few benefits to using a hammer drill, most of which can be found by using other tools too. It’s the hammer drill’s ability to combine those benefits into a single unit that is important, combined with the ability to drive or drill into harder substances than what you’d be able to handle ordinarily. The key uses for hammer drills (and rotary hammers, to an extent), include the following:
- Drilling into hard materials
- Breaking up hard materials (rotary hammers)
- Removing hard materials, such as tile (rotary hammers, primarily)
Hammer Drills vs. Rotary Drills vs. Rotary Hammers
There are several power tools that share a similar form factor. These lookalikes also share some operating characteristics, but they’re far from being the same thing. You need to know the key differences so that you can choose the right tool for the job and avoid potentially destroying an expensive tool in the process.
Rotary Drills: If you’ve ever used a power drill, then you’re familiar with rotary drills. You put a bit in the chuck, tighten it completely, select the speed that you want, place the tip of the bit where you want to drill, and then pull the trigger. The drill spins the bit, which bores into the surface, creating a hole (there are, of course, many additional accessories that can be used with rotary drills, from sanding discs to chisels). These tools are primarily made for use with lighter materials, like wood, plastic, and sheetrock. You can buy specialty masonry bits to use them on brick and block surfaces, but the going is slow.
Hammer Drills: If you have a lot of hard-surface drilling to do, you should invest in a hammer drill, rather than struggling with a rotary drill and masonry bit. These tools combine hammering action with rotary movement to make quick work of chewing through tile, brick, concrete and the like.
Many of these tools can also be set to rotary only mode, and can be used in place of a standard rotary drill. You’ll find both corded and cordless hammer drills on the market, and both tend to be rated for lighter-duty materials, rather than thick, heavy-duty material.
Rotary Hammers: Rotary hammers are the bigger brothers of hammer drills (both in terms of capabilities and price). These tools are designed for heavier duty use, and play important roles in the construction and demolition industry. They’re usually found more on the professional side of things, rather than the DIY side, but plenty of homeowners choose to purchase them if they have the need for this type of investment.
Rotary hammers are larger and more capable than hammer drills, and are usually used for drilling larger holes (they most often have 1-inch or 1 1/8-inch chucks). They can also be found in cordless or corded varieties. Rotary hammers are often equipped with a depth rod to help prevent drilling too deeply, as well as a side handle that swivels so you can hold the tool more securely, while also putting more weight against it during operation.
Which is right for you?
For most DIYers, the best choice is going to be a hammer drill, but a rotary hammer can be an excellent investment at the same time. You’ll see from our list of the best hammer drills on the market that our own options are split between hammer drills and rotary hammers, simply because they can both be excellent investments.
Key Considerations When Comparing Hammer Drills
Make no mistake – a hammer drill is an investment, and whether you opt for a corded or cordless model, a light-duty model or a rotary hammer, you need to ensure that your investment pays off. The key to doing that is buying a tool that fits your needs now and down the road. Below, we’ll touch on some of the most crucial areas of consideration when making a purchase.
Motor power is a very important consideration. In fact, the entire equation hinges on it. The stronger the motor, the better the performance will be. It also tends to correlate with the durability and longevity of your tool, as well. Choose a model with a motor strong enough to handle your heaviest foreseeable needs. Otherwise, you might find that your hammer drill bogs down or even cuts out during heavy use.
Cordless hammer drills are widely available on the market. These offer a host of advantages over corded models, although portability is probably the key consideration. They’re also usually lighter, which means they’re easier to tote with you, and they don’t wear out your hand and arm muscles as much during use. However, you need to balance those advantages against some disadvantages. Cordless hammer drills are usually more expensive than corded models, for one thing. They also have the downside of needing charged batteries in order to operate. Finally, some cordless models are sold without a battery or charger, so you might need to make a larger investment than you initially think.
Corded hammer drills tend to be stronger than their cordless brethren (note that this is not always true). They generally last longer and are cheaper to purchase, as well. However, you’ll find that corded models have a few downsides of their own. One of those is that you’re tied to a power outlet. You’ll need to stay connected at all times, which can be a pain. Even an extension cord may not give you enough length for some tasks. Another drawback here is that corded models tend to be heavier (again, this is not always true), which means there’s more stress and strain on your hand and arm muscles. With that being said, you never need to worry about whether or not your battery is charged.
Chuck Size and Type
The chuck is located at the end of the hammer drill and is what holds the bit, chisel or other accessory in place. There are several different chuck sizes on the market, as well as different chuck types. The most common chuck size for a hammer drill is 1/2-inch. With rotary hammers, it is 1-inch, although some models are available with a 1 1/8-inch chuck. Other sizes on the market include 3/8-inch, 1 3/8-inch, 3/4-inch, and 1 3/4-inch, although these are less common than 1/2-inch and 1-inch chucks. The size of the chuck will dictate the size of the accessories you can use, as well as the size of the holes that you can drill.
Chuck “type” generally refers to the securement method by which it holds your accessory in place. Spline chucks are the most common, and have been around the longest. You’ll find these in sizes ranging from 3/8-inch to 1 3/8-inch. Two interlocking splines and a key are used to tighten the grip on the bit and hold it securely. SDS-plus and SDS-max are both Bosch inventions that have been adapted for use by other brands, and are for use with larger bit sizes, from 1/2-inch to 1 3/4-inch.
RPM stands for revolutions per minute, and is a measure of rotary speed – how fast the drill can spin. The faster the rpm, the faster you can drill the hole. However, high-speed operation on hard surfaces may damage some drill bits.
BPM stands for beats per minute, and is a measure of hammering speed. The higher the bpm rating, the more hammer blows fall per minute, and the faster you can drill or cut through hard materials.
Many modern hammer drills are equipped with supplemental lighting on the front. These are usually LED lights, and some designs feature multiple functions depending on your usage needs. They’re more common on cordless models than on corded options.
A depth rod is precisely what it sounds like – a rod that affixes to the front of the hammer drill that can be preset to specific depths and prevents you from drilling beyond a particular limit.
360-Degree Side Handle
This is a handle mounted near the front of the hammer drill that folds out to allow you a more secure hold, and the ability to place more weight behind the drill.
Variable Speed Triggers
A variable speed trigger is an important benefit, as it allows you to change the rotational and hammer speed to suit your needs by incrementally pressing or releasing the trigger.
The Importance of the Right Drill Bits
Hammer drills might be similar to rotary drills, and they can use the same drill bits for work on softer-surface materials. However, if you are going to be using your hammer drill for the purpose it was intended for, you’ll need specialty bits. There are quite a few different bit types, styles and material options on the market, some of which are discussed below:
- Clay Spades: Clay spades are specially designed bits used for dealing with clay and clay-like materials. It actually looks a bit like an actual spade, thus the name. In most instances, these are used not only for hard materials like concrete (usually loose for this material), but also for hard clay and dirt.
- Cold Chisels: Cold chisels are made from cold forged steel and they are usually used for cutting through metal in conjunction with the hammer drill’s hammering motion. They are available in a range of widths, as well as tip types to suit different needs.
- Tile Remover: A tile remover has a flattened head specially designed for getting under tiles and helping to remove them from the floor or wall surface. These work with the hammering motion to speed up the removal process compared to what is possible if you were to remove the tiles by hand.
- Bull Point Chisel: A bull point chisel is used for light-duty work where you need to chip or chisel through mortar, tile and other masonry material. In most cases, these are made from hardened steel to ensure a longer use life and better performance.
- Scaling Chisel: A scaling chisel is used primarily for removing concrete spatter that has dried, although it may also be used for removing scale and rust, as well as other corrosion in some instances.
- Speed Clean Bits: A speed clean bit is a self-cleaning style of drill bit designed specifically for use with masonry. These types of drilling projects often create considerable amounts of masonry dust, which can clog the bore hole. Speed clean bits remove the dust as the drill spins, preventing the hole from filling with debris.
- Full Head Carbide Bits: Any drill bit that you use with a hammer drill should be a full head carbide bit. This is an indicator of the bit’s construction material. Bits made from carbide can offer up to four times the lifespan of conventional drill bits.
- Rebar Cutters: As the name implies this is a heavy-duty bit made for use with thick concrete applications where rebar might be present within the masonry material. A rebar cutter is a bit like a chisel, but the blade portion is specially designed for use with iron rebar. The hammering motion of a rotary hammer allows the bit to cut through rebar.
- Stop Bits: Stop bits are actually exactly what they sound like – bits designed to allow you to penetrate only so far into a material before being stopped. These can be used in place of a depth rod in some instances.
Whether you need to work through concrete, drill into cinder block, deal with aging brick, or fight with old tile that you need to remove, a hammer drill is the tool that you need. However, if you will be drilling through wood, plastic and other softer surfaces, you may not need a hammer drill – a regular rotary drill will be sufficient. Additionally, if you’ll be doing a lot of work with masonry materials, it might be worth considering a rotary hammer, rather than a hammer drill, as they tend to be larger, more powerful and more capable.
By this point, you should have a good idea of the most important features to look for in a hammer drill or rotary hammer, as well as the type of bits and accessories you need. Of course, our rundown of the best hammer drills and rotary hammers on the market will give you access to the options you need to get the job done, whether you’re remodeling your bathroom, or starting your own contracting business.
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