When you get to hands-on test more than 50 cordless drills each year, you'll know who makes the best cordless drills. After testing all of these tools, we got a real look at how each Milwaukee cordless drill fits into their lineup. The best Milwaukee drill for you may be the most powerful, best value or most compact. It really just depends on what you plan to do with the tool and what kind of work you want to accomplish.
Our recommendations are based on hours of torque and run-time testing, as well as extensive real-world use with the tool. In the end, we might recommend a different Milwaukee drill for a skilled electrician rather than someone just starting out in construction. It doesn't work to recommend a single tool for everyone – so hopefully this article will help you find the right model for your application and give you the performance, features, ergonomics and value you need.
Table of contents
- Best Milwaukee 18V Brushless Cordless Drill
- Best Milwaukee 18V Hammer Drill
- Best Milwaukee 12V Hammer Drill
- Best Milwaukee SDS-Plus Drill Bits
- Best Milwaukee SDS-Max Drill Bits
- Best Milwaukee Compact Drill
- Best Milwaukee 12V Cordless Drill
- best milwaukee drilling tools
- Best Milwaukee Drills
- How We Test Milwaukee (and Others) Power Drills and Hammer Drills
- Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews
Best Milwaukee 18V Brushless Cordless Drill
Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2903 Drill with Auto Stop
Based on our tests, the 4th generation Milwaukee 2903 drill steals the show from the best Milwaukee brushless drills. Our selection comes from several factors. First off, we have a separate (but similar) pick below for the best Milwaukee hammer drills, so this pick assumes you don't really need that feature. Second, we know that Milwaukee Tool will eventually add a $50 premium version with Milwaukee ONE-KEY technology. If you want one-click, that's fine. However, we know that most users probably won't need it.
Now, the Milwaukee 2903-20 brushless drill has 1,400 in-lbs of torque. More importantly, however, it optimizes torque for speed. This is one of the few bits that can drive 2-9/16" wood bits at high speed. This means you gain some serious productivity during drafts. It also has AutoStop technology. This stops the drill during a binding event before it can damage your wrist.
Finally, we also like the 5-year warranty – you'll see this on all of our recommended Milwaukee tool picks.
Best Milwaukee 18V Hammer Drill
Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2904 Drill with Auto Stop
It's not a huge leap from the above recommendations to the 2904 best Milwaukee hammer drill. After all, you just add hammer functionality, add a model, and Bob is your uncle.
If you need the maximum power Big Red has to offer, the 2904 is the best 18V Milwaukee hammer drill rod. This compact tool is a full 1.5 inches shorter than Milwaukee's earlier hammer drills, such as the 2704, while gaining hundreds of inch-pounds of torque. What's more, the impact drill adds no tool length—matching the dimensions of the drill-only model. With the 5.0Ah battery installed, it weighs just 4 lbs 12.9 oz.
After testing and using it a lot, we like the performance it offers. The Milwaukee 2904 Hammer Drill maintains 84% of its speed when measured under load so it can continue to drive fasteners quickly.
Concrete drilling also underwhelmed, with Milwaukee scoring top marks among a large group of heavy-duty hammer drills. This hammer drill handles 2-9/16-in. wood bits at high speeds —few hammer drills come close.
Best Milwaukee 12V Hammer Drill
Milwaukee M12 FUEL 3404 Hammer Drill
Honestly, we love that Milwaukee offers a solid 12V product in this category. Having said that, we have two good recommendations, depending on the power requirements and application you have in mind.
Starting small and working your way up, we found it hard to top the Milwaukee M12 FUEL 3404 Hammer Drill. This M12 series impact drill packs a lot of power for its size. Milwaukee released this third-generation tool in 2022, making it even more compact without sacrificing any power. We tested this tool and it put out 400 inch-pounds of torque compared to the 350 inch-pounds of torque on the second generation 2504. We also like that the Milwaukee Tool continues with the convenient belt clip design.
If you want enough power to tackle holes up to 1/4" in blocks or bricks, but don't plan to spend all day with a drill, this M12 series tool can save some weight. We know several MRO, HVAC and electrical professionals who have chosen this line as their primary tool.
Best Milwaukee SDS-Plus Drill Bits
Milwaukee 2915 M18 FUEL SDS-Plus Hammer Drill
Not so long ago, the idea of a cordless SDS drill in Milwaukee seemed impossible.
Make no mistake, Milwaukee SDS drills counterbore an order of magnitude faster than any conventional hammer drill. If you frequently drill holes in concrete, you'll want to have one of these tools. This is for concrete professionals, HVAC installers, cable/satellite installers, and anyone else who routinely drills through concrete blocks, masonry, and brick, or into underlayment.
We consider the Milwaukee 2915 to be the best SDS-Plus drill so far, with an impact energy of 3.6 ft-pounds (4.9 joules). It delivers 4600 BPM and 800 RPM – perfect for driving bolts into concrete to install signs. The AVS Anti-Vibration System is great for reducing arm and hand fatigue while you use this tool. Even better, AutoStop Kickback Control immobilizes the hammer when it strikes rebar during drilling, preventing over-rotation by stopping the hammer.
Note that this tool can be used with the optional Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hammervac Dust Extractor Attachment (2915-DE). This means you can have a truly dust-free solution for drilling holes in walls and even overhead.
Best Milwaukee SDS-Max Drill Bits
Milwaukee 2718 SDS-Max Rotary Hammer
Now, not only do we have the battery operated Milwaukee SDS-Plus rotary hammer, but we also have the SDS-Max model that supports drill bits up to 1-3/4". Milwaukee is available in a variety of models that vary in how much power you need and the size of hole you anticipate drilling.
Upgrade to the Best Milwaukee SDS-Max drill and you'll find support for larger drill and hole sizes. Our pick here falls squarely on the Milwaukee 2718 SDS-Max Rotary Hammer. This massive tool produces 8.1 foot-pounds of impact energy—about twice as much as Milwaukee's best SDS-Plus hammer drill.
In addition to its great features, we like the 2718-20 because it adds several key features. AutoStop E-Clutch stops the tool quickly if it encounters a jam situation, such as hitting a rebar. You also get a nice trigger lock, and AVS shock absorption reduces arm vibration.
Using it with the Milwaukee High Output 12 Ah battery, the tool runs much cooler than the 9.0HD battery that came with the previous model. Finally, you get one-click integrations that allow you to track tools and provide inventory control. Keep in mind that if you don't need such power or one-button functionality, the Milwaukee 2717-20 SDS-Max Rotary Hammer might also fit the bill. The only downside might be the price: $1099 for a kit with two 12Ah batteries.
While we like both the SDS-Plus and SDS-Max models, we don't particularly recommend the M12 SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer (2416-20) unless you're specifically using 12V Milwaukee tools. Conversely, if you're already using M18 tools, an extra $100 or so can get you a sturdier product with greater drilling capacity.
Best Milwaukee Compact Drill
Milwaukee 2801-20 Compact Brushless Drill
Sometimes you don't need maximum power. If saving some money without sacrificing quality makes sense to you, check out the Milwaukee 2801-20 Compact Drill. The 2801 is available as a kit with an impact driver (2892-22CT) providing ample power, runtime and speed. It also costs much less than the M18 FUEL drill.
Aside from its $139 bare-bones price, we named it our best Milwaukee compact drill mainly because of its size. In fact, the tool is one of the most compact in its class. It also has the features we expect from such a tool. You still get a brushless motor, an all-metal chuck, and a tool that weighs just 3.4 pounds and has a 2.0 Ah battery. Pair that with a 2850 impact driver and you have a killer starter kit for any Pro.
Milwaukee 3404 M12 Fuel
We really think the best Milwaukee 12V cordless drill is the 3404 M12 FUEL model listed above. The problem is that the pricing of the 3404-20 rotary hammer usually matches that of standard drill models. Best of all, you can buy a compact M18 drill for the price of a Milwaukee M12, so you have to decide which platform you want to take advantage of. We recommend looking for a kit deal. Sometimes you can get an impact drill and impact driver combo for a good price.
best milwaukee drilling tools
Milwaukee tools are usually best purchased in sets. For the most part, we've found that when you get batteries with some tools, they get a lot more affordable. Therefore, depending on your needs, the best Milwaukee drill bit sets may fall into the M12 or M18 category. We also see the difference between a simple 2 kit and what we define as a "starter" kit, which contains enough tools to start your career (and maybe even switch platforms).
Best Milwaukee 18V Cordless Drill Combo Kit
The Milwaukee 3697-22 M18 FUEL Combo Kit is perfect for what we recommend. This 2 piece tool kit includes the latest Gen4 M18 Fuel Hammer Drill and Milwaukee M18 Impact Driver. It also houses a pair of XC5.0 Ah battery packs and an M18/M12 fast charger.
These tools have everything but one-click, but for most professionals we think the combination of power and compactness is most important. You can spend less on this kit for about $399, but electricians, plumbers, and general contractors should find it a great value. A 5-year tool warranty also helps seal the deal.
Best Milwaukee M12 Drill Bit Sets
We've selected the 3497-22 M12 FUEL 2 Tool Combo Kit as our best Milwaukee M12 drill bit set. For starters, you can get bigger kits — but they all have flaws. Some of the larger kits include a plain LED light, which adds to the cost, while the largest kits add tools you may not need.
For just $199, this core kit gives you everything you need to get started. It pairs the newest 3404-20 Gen 3 impact drill with the excellent 3453-20 Gen 3 impact driver. We hope to see this kit in a Milwaukee Packout case eventually.
Best Extended Milwaukee M18 Bit Kit
Unlike the M12 2 tool kits above, we have different thoughts on the best Milwaukee M18 drill bit sets. The reason is application related. For many beginning professionals, there is a need to ramp up their systems quickly. We couldn't think of a better way than to purchase a comprehensive Milwaukee starter kit. It won't be cheap, but it will get you up to speed quickly with the tools of the trade.
Our favorite kit is the M18 6 Tool Combo Kit (2696-26). It includes a solid M18 starter kit. You'll get a rotary hammer, impact driver, full-size Sawzall, 6-1/2-inch circular saw, angle grinder, and LED work light. The $749 price tag is no joke, but you don't need much else (other than a medium-torque impact wrench) to get it up and running. Need more motivation? You can easily upgrade any of these tools to the corresponding M18 FUEL over time.
Best Milwaukee Drills
A drill won't be of much use without the right drill. We can make some recommendations for the best Milwaukee drill bits, but it really depends on the material you plan to drill.
Best Milwaukee Lumber Bits
For wood drilling, we like the Milwaukee Shockwave Titanium Drill Bit. Titanium coats these bits to reduce friction. The advantage is that they can fly through wood. The downside is that you end up wearing away the coating and don't really benefit from sharpening them (as much) as they dull. These bits also have a hex shank so you can use them with an impact driver.
Best Milwaukee Steel Drill Bits
For drilling in harder metals, check out the Milwaukee Red Helix Cobalt Drill Bits. These bits drill faster than standard 135° split point cobalt bits and feature a Quadedge Tip that reduces heat. Since you can sharpen these bits, they last a long time. We love the bits…but hate the way they come in (they're kind of hard to remove).
Milwaukee Cordless Drill Buying Guide – What We Look For
Performance is our top priority when evaluating exercises. We test a variety of materials, including concrete, wood and metal, to gauge how our drills perform on light and heavy duty tasks. However, we don't test every drill for every possible task, because some drills won't do some jobs.
In addition, we use our PTR Drill Test Track, which simulates real world conditions and evaluates the rig's ability to control and handle medium and heavy loads. The test ends when the rig completes its final heavy load, taking into account any bit changes or human error.
size and weight
We generally prefer drills that are as compact and lightweight as possible. We found they were easier to maneuver in tight spaces and didn't cause fatigue when working overhead. Our goal is to use the smallest, lightest drill that can effectively complete the task at hand. If a 4 lb bit represents 100% power and a 3 lb bit represents 90% power, we'll choose gate 2 every time.
Also, a drill's ergonomics and handle design can greatly affect user comfort, and it's best to try out different drills in-store to find the one that works best for you. Most of us prefer certain brands of handles over others. our suggestion? See what works best for you.
features to look for
Today, drills contain many features – many of which we have found to be very useful. While not all features are required, some do help you get your work done faster. We usually look for the following:
- Anti-kickback feature: If the drill bit jams, the motor stops
- Brushless motor: almost all power drills include a brushless motor, and now there are brushed motors, but it provides longer run time, better performance and longer motor life
- Interchangeable Collets: Swapping to dedicated collets can save you from trouble
- All metal chuck: more durable
- LED Lights: Almost every drill has one, but our favorite has the lights around the chuck
- More than 2 speeds: While 2 speeds are a must, more often than not you can speed up your work as you get more speed when handling higher torque applications
- Leash hooks: usually reversible, they are useful when you need to carry materials or climb ladders
- Optional: Smart Controls: Helps with inventory management and tracking, some offer customizable controls
price and value
When shopping for a cordless drill, it's important to consider your budget and get value for your money. Also, look for compatibility with other tools, longer warranties, and convenient service centers. Consider where to get new batteries or expand your tool collection. For professionals, having good dealer relationships can be beneficial.
Why Choose Milwaukee Cordless Drills?
The best cordless drills, like those from Milwaukee Tool, are must-haves for professionals and homeowners alike. These versatile tools allow you to drill holes in a variety of materials including wood, metal, composites and even drywall. They can be used for hanging pictures, laying wire and plumbing, creating pilot holes, and other projects.
The best Milwaukee cordless drills now include extra features like AutoStop kickback control to keep you from getting tied up. We like their firm clutch setting, which helps drive the screws into softer materials. Their impact drills do a really good job – even on harder materials like concrete and brick. Cordless drills offer greater mobility and flexibility to tackle different projects without the need for a cord. At this point, they're pretty much everywhere.
How We Test Milwaukee (and Others) Power Drills and Hammer Drills
Speed test under load
To see how fast each drill works, we ran a series of high and low speed tests on them. We found that we could measure the RPM after full engagement, allowing us to see how much no-load speed it maintained. The higher the RPM the drill maintains, the faster the drill will move through the material.
On the other hand, the closer a drill is to its no-load speed, the more efficiently it will work and the less stress it will put on the motor. A balance of the two gives you the best performance and motor life.
In some tests, we also measure the time it takes to drill to a certain depth or penetrate a certain thickness.
Match accessories to power tools
Each type of training involves a different number of muscles. You shouldn't expect a compact drill to do the job of a heavy drill. We ensure that each drill type and size is within the design intent of the drill we are testing.
We have a variety of tools available for testing torque. For the drill, we used an inline torque device that allowed us to see the maximum soft torque the drill could produce when driving 1/2" lag bolts into the laminate OSB. We also performed extensive hands-on testing that allowed us to evaluate drills with multiple gears to determine which models could deliver high torque at higher speeds.
We use a digital scale to measure the weight of the bare tool and the tool and the battery that came with the tool or is recommended by the manufacturer.
Using digital calipers, we measure head length and tool height without batteries installed.
The grip comfort of each drill is based on size and does not affect the score. We held and used the tool with our bare hands to see if there were any uncomfortable seams or other quirks that could affect every user, regardless of preference.
Overall, here are the features we're looking for in each drill:
- Brushless or brushed motor
- Standard Mode Number
- Anti-kickback function
- intelligent control
- Smart Tracking/Inventory
- clutch design
- Selection design of electric drill/screwdriver/electric hammer
- LED light design
- Chuck Size/Type
- belt hook
- Additional Unique Features
Value is not just the price of the tool. We take into account all the benefits you get for the price you pay. This includes performance, feature set, ergonomics, warranty, bare metal price and kit price.
Ever looked at a "review" site, but you can't tell if they actually tested the tools, or if they were just "recommending" Amazon bestsellers?
That's not us. We only recommend things we actually use, even if we don't earn a commission from them. It's all about providing you with sound recommendations and our honest opinions on each product.
We've been in business since 2008, covering tools, writing reviews and industry news coverage for the construction, automotive and lawn care industries. Our professional reviewers work in the industry and have the skills and experience to see if a tool will perform well in the field.
Every year, we introduce and review more than 250 individual products. Our teams will use hundreds of other tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.
We consult with innovators in tool technology and design to gain a broader understanding of where and how these products work.
We work with more than two dozen specialty contractors across the U.S. who review products for us on real job sites and consult with us on testing methods, categories, and weightings.
This year we're giving readers over 500 completely free new pieces of content, including objective reviews of tools and products.
The end result is information you can trust because we collectively draw on editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience every time we pick up and test a tool.