6 Best Heavy Duty Hammer Drills 2020

Occasionally you realize the tool you have isn’t the tool you need.

So let me share this.
Forget about the, ‘if you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with‘ nonsense.
You can persevere only so much before you know (or should) realize somethings just not right.
And when it comes to tools, consistent and premature destruction of blades & bits will hasten the demise of your tool. We take it for granted all too often. Just ‘a few more minutes’, or the ‘that’ll do’ attitude. Its a risk.
A risk that ultimately screws up the relationship between man and machine. Sure, reminisce about the few good times at the beginning but prepare for the inevitable, ‘what might have been’ had you maintained the levels needed for success and longivity.
Of course, it’s easy for the penny to drop in hindsight however selecting a specialist tool should never be intimidating nor put you off believing a job is too difficult. Uncharted territory perhaps, but view it as a challenge.
Grab the bull by the horns. Pick up the gauntlet and do whats needed but importantly, and for success you’ll need the right tool.

With that said, I’ve put this list together, specifically for heavy duty corded drills and also briefly touch on my inspiration for this post. 
If anyone gets something from its, the undue stress on myself and all around will be minimized at worst. 

An example of what not to do

My confidence (stubbornness) and dogged adherence scheduling (impatience) resulted in my Bosch being coerced into territory  it wasn’t designed to be in. The end, in 20/20, clearly did not justify the means, deeming the overall process not good enough thus enduring unnecessary drama that accompanied the task.
It’s something I never wish to repeat.

What was needed was a tool fit for purpose. One with more bite, more aggression and certainly more power.
One to simply complete a task the Bosch couldn’t achieve without constraints. 

The task itself was straight-forward; laying armored & CAT6 cable from my house to a newly built music studio, 25ft away. So had to be achieved safely, securely, and more importantly within building regulations.
This meant creating a 24″ deep channel from source to the destination for the cable to lay. Most of the upheaval was soil, (my back still creaks), which was far from enjoyable but the real challenge presented itself as I moved closer to the house…and was caught out big time.
The size of foundations for my conservatory stuck out a good 2ft further away from the wall than I’d anticipated.
Great for solid foundations. Not so when circumnavigation of cabling isn’t an option.
After frowning at the site and assessing zero alternatives I accepted my fate. 
I deployed my corded Bosch to pen-test the concrete for integrity. It was literally rock solid. 

I angle-ground a channel as far as deemed ‘reasonably’ safe then started drilling. And drilling…and drilling…and…
Let’s just say the whole episode, with several intermissions for sustenance, re-evaluation of life, checking the football scores and further self-assessing was a fiesta of colorful cursing, shedding blood, sweat and eventual tears of relief. 
I could easily have buried myself with that bloody cable I was so exhausted. 

After testing, testing and testing again I laid the cable to rest, replaced the soil and from my photographic memory repositioned the paving slabs with 99% accuracy. Forensics would have been puzzled for weeks.

That night, as the cooling beer bottle swung loosely in my bloodied, cramping hand I reflected wryly on the day that was.
Aside from unexpected encounters, the glaringly obvious was that simple.

Why didn’t I just get the right drill!

Without doubt, I would have knocked around 2-3 hours of the job.  And thats significant. 

Not just drilling but everything else hanging off it. Less fatigue for starters. It would have smashed through the concrete, removed the potential for burning out the hammer-drill and generally made the experience less of a chore.

Moral of the story?

Buy an economy ticket, and you’ll get to where you’re going.
Just don’t expect champagne at check-in, a comfy seat or politeness from the crew. 
And prepare for a long flight…

Hammer Drill vs Rotary Hammer Drill

The main difference between the two drills is force produced.

The Hammer drill hammer-action works by having two discs with teeth (one fixed) come into contact causing the chuck to move forwards and backwards. The disc connected to the chuck rotates. This motion is the hammer action.
You can switch off the hammer action by engaging a clutch to separate the discs.

Other jobs require more destructive power and simply need rid of the obstacle in front of you, quickly and without compromise.

The Rotary hammer drill is best for this purpose.
It achieves successful execution by sustaining a pounding action that will obliterate all and sundry.
A piston-cylinder mechanism creates air pressure to drive the hammer mechanism thus providing far greater impact energy than standard hammer drills.

As I type, my back is starting to ache as a harsh reminder. 

SDS Chuck

When you put standard drill bits into a chuck the usual method is to lock them is via the keyless chuck ‘twist & lock’ mechanism or using a chuck key.
Most standard drill bits you purchase will have a round shank. You slide the drill bit into the chuck then lock it into position by tightening the 3 jaws. As you tighten, they fix the drill in place but, and heres the big but…when you are drilling into concrete the resistance on the drill bit is far greater than when drilling into other masonry such as brick, cinderblock, cement, and can this resistance frequently loosens the drill bit especially when you hit stubborn aggregate, causing all sorts of problems. This is where the SDS standard comes into play!

SDS originally comes from the German phrase ‘Steck-Dreh-Sitz‘ meaning ‘Insert-Twist-Stay‘ though in the English lexicon of construction the SDS abbreviation means Slotted Drive System. More-or-less the same thing…ish .
Its a brilliantly simple method to ensure the specifically designed drill bit is unable to rotate within the SDS type chuck.

The SDS chuck comes in two common systems – SDS Max and SDS Plus
These type of drill bits have a predominantly round shank however as you get to the end that fits into the drill the shank is squared off with slots. Simply slide the SDS bit into the SDS chuck and it clicks into place. NO tightening with jaws required; they don’t exist in this particular chuck, and more importantly NO opportunity for the drill to loosen and twist inside of the drill.

SDS Plus accepts a 10mm diameter shank and is the most common type of SDS used. Designed for hammer drills
up to 4kg, it is capable of handling the majority of building work needs and so has become the most common type.

SDS Max system uses an 18mm diameter shank and is designed for larger hammer drills (5kg and more) best used for more aggressive drilling.

SDS Plus Shank
SDS Max Shank

Key Features

SDS hammer drills incorporate multiple modes of operation.
Almost all have the ability to switch off the rotary or the hammer function typically providing the user with three modes of operation:

  • Rotary action (wood, metal and plastics)
  • Rotary hammer action (masonry, concrete and other hard materials)
  • Hammer action (power chisel)

On most rotary drills, a flick of the switch is all thats needed to tackle specific tasks.

Speed

The RPM is relative to the work assigned to the drill.
Lower speeds are applied for penetrating harder materials such as masonry, while higher speeds are used for softer materials like timber. The majority of drills deployed for masonry work will have lower overall maximum speeds.
Multi-purpose hammer drills have higher overall speeds, usually with a speed regulator.
The higher the blows per minute (BPM) the greater energy transmitted thus providing more efficiency and often a cleaner finish.

Weight

Weight is important.
You’ll likely be deploying this drill at all angles, on all materials and for varying durations so you’ll need to be as comfortable as possible. Working with any tool for extended periods of time takes its toll on your fitness and endurance levels. The SDS hammer drill is certainly no exception. Take breaks, stay safe and wear the correct PPE.

Safety

Another common feature of hammer drills comes in the form of their safety characteristics.
Hammer drills generate high levels of torque therefore corded SDS hammer drills usually include a slip-clutch or torque limiter preventing control issues potential injury due to drill bit binding.
The slip-clutch or torque limiter ‘detaches’ the rotary action of the drill bit from the drill motor.
If the drill bit jams in the substrate it prevents the whole drill rotating around the stuck drill bit.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome – HAVS

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a condition affecting those who regularly use vibratory equipment.
People exposed to the risks of HAVS are spread through various industries such as construction, utilities, engineering, landscaping and manufacturing.
HAVS causes damage to nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hand, wrist and arm potentially causing extreme pain and distress.
A loss of dexterity is also something effected by overuse – resulting in daily tasks becoming very difficultHAVS can be prevented.
The operator and employer can minimize the risks from over exposure. Once Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome has been onset it is impossible to cure so is essential individuals know the risks.
Take regular breaks when drilling.

6 BEST HEAVY DUTY HAMMER DRILLS 2020

#1 Milwaukee 1-1/8″ SDS Plus Corded Rotary Hammer Kit (5268-21)

Milwaukee are making a huge global push in bringing their vast range of exceptional quality tools to consumer and professional markets. TTI, who own Milwaukee as well as other established US brands such as Hoover, Dirt Devil and Ryobi are muscling their way into the competition. Established power houses like DeWalt, Makita and Bosch need to sustain their high levels of quality. Milwaukee are worthy of their place at the top table.

This Milwaukee SDS Plus produces up to 85% Faster Drilling and 85% Harding Hitting while reducing Vibration to only 10.6 m/s2.
With a powerful 8 amp motor, it delivers 0-1,500 RPM, 0-5,500 BPM and 3.6 ft-lbs of impact energy. This tool also has an all metal gear case and mechanical clutch to provide maximum durability.
This tool is a very powerful and lightweight 1-1/8” 3-mode rotary hammer. There is no trigger lock on this model
The kit includes a side handle, depth rod and carrying case.

Key Features:

 – SDS Plus 1-1/8″ chuck
 – Max hole diameter – 1-1/8″
 – 8 Amp motor
 – No load speed rpm = 0-1500 
 – bpm 0-5500
 – impact force = 3.6 ft-lbs
 – weight 7.5 lbs
 – drill length = 12.5″
 – bit capacity = 1-1/8″
 – 3-Mode: Rotary Hammer, Hammer Only, Rotation Only
 – 5yr warranty

Who’ll use this drill?
Prosumers & professionals needing to take on tougher but not massive jobs requiring a beefier yet lighter drill. Excellent for the shop or for use on site due to combination of power and low weight

Whats in the box?
 – 1 x SDS Rotary hammer drills
 – 1 x depth rod
 – 1 x side handle
 – 1 x carrying case

Summary
Again, this drill is a winner for me mainly due to its low weight, solid construction and thumping power.
Compact & ergonomic for tighter spaces is a huge plus (drill length is 12.5″), and combined with the balance of the tool allows the operator more control.  

#2 Bosch 1-1/8-Inch SDS Rotary Hammer RH328VC with Vibration Control

Bosch need no introduction when it comes to hammer drills.
Their reputation is eternally galvanized, producing some of the best selling and most reliable tools on the planet.
The RH328VC Hammer Drill is no exception.
It boasts a 3 mode selector, integral clutch, variable speed trigger

Key Features:

 – SDS Plus 3/4″ keyless chuck
 – Max hole diameter in concrete – 1-1/8″
 – Max hole diameter core bit – 3 -1/8″
 – 8 Amp motor
 – No load speed rpm = 0-900
 – bpm = 0-4000
 – impact force = 2.4 ft-lbs
 – weight 7.7 lbs
 – drill length = 12.5″
 – 3-Mode: Rotary Hammer, Hammer Only, Rotation Only

Who’ll use this drill?
Prosumers & professionals needing to take on tougher but not massive jobs requiring a beefier yet lighter drill. Excellent for the shop or for use on site due to combination of power and low weight

Whats in the box?
 – 1 x Bosch RH328VC drill
 – 1 x depth rod
 – 1 x auxiliary handle
 – 1 x carrying case

Summary

Similar in design to the Milwaukee and only slightly heavier make this drill one for the short-list. 
I’ll be straight and say Bosch users know Bosch tools and what to expect. Same for Milwaukee, DeWalt, Makita, etc. 
All in all, you won’t have a tool that will compromise on toughness and quality.
Its should obliterate the stuff it’s designed to. 

#3 Bosch 11255VSR Bulldog Xtreme - Concrete/Masonry Rotary Hammer Power Drill with Carrying Case

Another formidable drill from Bosch, this time, the D_handled Bulldog Xtreme
The D-handle is an important consideration for anyone needing to work overhead or drilling below. This design is about safety and comfort especially in those scenarios.
Like moist modern rotary hammer drills it has 3 modes of operation – rotation only, rotary hammer and hammer-only.
Another great feature is the vario-lock, allowing you to rotate and lock the chisel into 40 different positions

Key Features:

 – SDS Plus 1″ keyless chuck
– Max. Capacity – Concrete: 1-in
– Max. Hole Diameter in Concrete-Thin Wall Core Bit: 2-5/8-in
– Wood Drilling: 3/4-in – 1-in
– Steel Drilling: 1/2-in
 – 7.5 Amp motor
 – No load speed rpm = 0-1230 RPM / 0-5460 BPM
 – weight 6.9 lbs
 – drill length = 17.25″
 – 3-Mode: Rotary Hammer, Hammer Only, Rotation Only
 – 2.4 ft-lbs impact energy

https://amzn.to/36jDg5P

Who’ll use this drill?
Prosumers & professionals needing to take on jobs requiring a beefier yet lighter drill that works well at awkward angles and height. Excellent due to portability and durability on site.

Whats in the box?
 – 1 x Bosch 11255VSR drill
 – 1 x depth gauge
 – 1 x auxiliary handle
 – 1 x carrying case

Summary

I’d not be far off the mark suggesting this is probably the most popular D-handle drill I’ve seen on site, and I’ve been on some big projects in the last 5 years. popular is one thing but popular due to excellence in something else as this drill ticks the boxes for reliability and versatility. Sounds cliched but its true of this tool.

#4 DEWALT Rotary Hammer Drill with Shocks, D-Handle, SDS, 1-1/8-Inch (D25263K)

DeWalt are certainly no slouches delivering top draw engineering, and being one of the best in the business their D-handle drill is a big challenger to the Bosch reviewed above. 
This DeWalt is a bit more powerful than the Bosch delivering 3 joules of impact power from an 8.5 amp motor.
And like most modern rotary hammer drills it has 3 modes of operation – rotation only, rotary hammer and hammer-only buts thats not all; this drill has some excellent features including:

SHOCKS active vibration control and regulation, resulting in reduced vibration felt in the handles – a Perform & Protect feature.
Rotating brush ring which delivers full speed/torque in forward and reverse.
Integral clutch that reduces sudden, high torque reactions if bit jams.

Key Features:

 – SDS Plus 1″ keyless chuck
 – Optimal concrete drilling 1/4 – 3/4 in
 – 8.5 Amp motor
 – No load speed rpm = 0-1450 RPM / 0-5350 BPM
 – weight 6.8 lbs
 – drill length = 17.5″
 – 3-Mode: Rotary Hammer, Hammer Only, Rotation Only
 – 3.0 joules impact energy

Who’ll use this drill?
Prosumers & professionals needing to take on jobs requiring a beefier yet lighter drill that works well at awkward angles and height. Excellent due to portability and durability on site. And additional power for tougher nuts to crack

Whats in the box?
 – 1 x DeWalt drill
 – 1 x depth rod
 – 1 x 360 side handle
 – 1 x kit box

Summary

A genuine alternative to the Bosch Bulldog Xtreme.
This DeWalt boasts more power, is superbly engineered with comfort and safety in mind and won’t compromise on tackling anything. My previous comments on popularity runs true with this model too. It’s popular for a reason. And the reason is basic quality. Our workshop is loaded with DeWalt tools – they are reliable and built to last.

#5 Makita HR2475 1" Rotary Hammer (D-Handle)

And finally…we get to the Makita HR2475.
One of the daddy’s in my big 3, along with DeWalt & Bosch.
Why? Simply, they don’t muck about when making reliable kit.
So why this one over the Bosch or DeWalt? Well, to be honest there is not much in it.
Think of it as being an owner of a BMW, Mercedes or Audi. You have your reasons and opinions yet the respect between each of them is clear. All are quality. All have a huge fan bases.
And owners will justifiably defend their brands to the hilt.  
The Makita has a bit less weight, comes 2nd for impact energy BUT offers 50% faster drilling due to a sequential impact timing feature.

All-in-all, it’s a professional grade quality rotary hammer drill that will last.

Key Features:

 – SDS Plus 
 – Optimal concrete drilling (w/core bit) 3-1/8″
 – 7.0 Amp motor
 – No load speed rpm = 0-1100 RPM / 0-4500 BPM
 – weight 6.8 lbs
 – drill length = 16-7/8″
 – 3-Mode: Rotary Hammer, Hammer Only, Rotation Only
 – 2.7 joules impact energy
 – 40 bit angle settings

Who’ll use this drill?
Prosumers & professionals needing to take on jobs requiring a beefier yet lighter drill that works well at awkward angles and height. Excellent due to portability and durability on site.

Whats in the box?
 – 1 x Makita drill
 – 1 x depth gauge
 – 1 x side handle
 – 1 x tool case

Summary

Another worthy, reliable and competitor to both the DeWalt and Bosch in this range.
Makita quality will last, coupled with its efficiently engineered sequential impact timing, it’s a clear winner for speed.
Lighter weight may pip it over the Bosch and DeWalt.
You know what you are getting with all 3 so its your call; will you trade in your AMG for an M-Series or S-range?