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Hammer drills work like standard drills but include a hammering function that drives the bit into the material while the bit turns. This impact helps the bit get through tough materials like concrete, brick, and block with much more ease — on the bit and the user — than a standard drill. Hammer drills come in both corded and cordless models. Corded drills generally offer more power and higher drilling speed (measured in rotations per minute, or RPM), and they don't slow down with use like cordless drills do as their batteries wear down. Cordless drills offer convenience and tend to feel and operate more like standard drills.
Dewalt DW511 1/2-Inch Hammer Drill
The Dewalt DW511 hammer drill with its 7.8-amp motor is one of the most powerful pistol-grip hammer drills available. This hammer drill provides excellent drilling capabilities with fast response on concrete and wood. It includes a variable-speed trigger for precise control as well as two drilling modes (standard and hammer), making it useful for wood, steel, and other materials, in addition to masonry. Its 360-degree side handle offers multiple hand-position options for optimal handling.
Bosch 1191VSR 1/2-Inch Hammer Drill
The Bosch 1191 VSR hammer drill is a lightweight, single-speed drill perfect for small jobs in which you will not be drilling large holes. With a 7-amp motor and a maximum 3,000 RPM, this hammer drill provides one of the highest performance-to-weight ratios in its class. Its handle rotates 360 degrees, though for large hands it could be a little uncomfortable. It can be switched from rotary to hammer drill and is really good on wood, if somewhat slow on poured concrete.
Milwaukee 5376-20 1/2-Inch Hammer Drill
The Milwaukee 5376-20 8.0-amp hammer drill is one of the most powerful hammer drills in its class. With metal gear housing, this hammer drill is a compact tool that can be used effectively in concrete, wood, and metal. The removable 360-degree handle assists in setting the depth rod for pre-set hole drilling. The trigger lock is reliable, easy to use, and unobtrusive. Over-molding on the metal tool casing makes for a sure, comfortable grip and minimizes vibration and fatigue.
Milwaukee 2607-20 Cordless Hammer Drill
The 2607-20 is a 1/2-inch cordless hammer drill that's part of Milwaukee's M18 series of cordless power tools. The 18-volt M18 batteries are interchangeable among most of the tools in the series. This is a hammer drill to consider if you really want the convenience of a cordless tool and don't need the high speed or lasting power of a corded model.
Aside from cordless convenience, this versatile tool offers three drilling modes, a weight of only 3 pounds, a keyless chuck, and an LED light. It's essentially a heavy-duty cordless drill-driver with a hammer-drill function. If you need one tool for all-purpose drilling, standard driving, and occasional hammer-drilling, this is a better option than most standard hammer drills.
Makita HP1641 5/8-Inch Hammer Drill
The Makita HP1641 hammer drill is a lightweight tool with an outstanding large drilling capacity and a moderately powerful 6-amp motor. It includes two drilling modes, for standard and hammer drilling.
The drill's chuck is uncommon in two ways. First, it is keyless, which is unusual for corded hammer drills. Second, it is 5/8-inch, which is larger than most hammer drills in this class. The keyless chuck adds convenience but may not grip bits as securely as a keyed chuck does. The larger chuck capacity can come in handy if you happen to have a large bit, but it doesn't pair logically with the relatively low power of the tool.
Choosing the Best Drill Features for Your Project
As with all power tools, the right hammer drill should be well balanced and feel good in your hands, so it's important to try several different models before deciding. When it comes to features, look for a few key characteristics to find the right fit for the work you do most often.
Corded vs. Cordless
Corded drills are more powerful and are generally designed for heavier duty. If you need to drill a lot of holes in masonry, a corded tool is a better option. Cordless drills are smaller and more convenient and are a better fit for all-purpose drilling that includes occasional jobs for the hammer function.
Dual Drilling Modes
Unless you need a hammer drill exclusively for masonry, it makes sense to get a drill that can be switched to standard mode for drilling into wood, metal, plastic, and other non-masonry materials.
Speed control is less important when drilling in masonry (and many other hammer-drill functions), but it's critical for drilling wood and metal. This means variable speed is a must for using the drill in standard (non-hammer) mode.
Speed and Power
Bigger, heavier, faster, and more powerful drills tackle tough jobs much better than smaller, slower, weaker tools. On the other hand, smaller tools are lighter and tend to be more versatile. The bottom line is, if you need the power and heft of a heavy-duty hammer drill, look for a model with a lot of amps, high RPM, and a good hammering speed. If you need a versatile tool, don't buy a more powerful tool than you need because it will be unnecessarily heavy and possibly difficult to control with finer work.