Tyler sent in a very detailed email where he discusses a tough purchasing decision that he’s facing. He’s looking to buy a new socket set and is going back and forth between Gearwrench and Craftsman as the 2 shortlisted brands.
Here’s the background information you need to know. Sorry Tyler, I couldn’t include the whole email here.
I eventually replaced everything a few years later with a larger set (~150 piece mechanics set) in a blow-mold case and I operated out of that case from that point on.
I’ve decided to keep the set in the case as it is because I have a rental property and it’s nice to have this set to grab and go in a moments notice.
I bought a Masterforce (Menards) 46″ rolling lower cabinet and 16″ side chest to supplement my Craftsman combo. Naturally, I now feel the need to fill it. Plus I am tired of opening the blow mold case any time I need a socket and wasting bench space.
I’m a weekend warrior that doesn’t expect tool-truck quality, but I don’t want something that will give me grief.
I’m leaning towards Craftsman again or Gearwrench. My biggest question is if the Gearwrench sockets are that much better than Craftsman’s?
[Tyler pointed out 2 deals that caught his attention – a Craftsman 334pc set that’s on sale for half off, at $200, and a Gearwrench set where you buy a 57pc 3/8″ inch and metric set for $120 and get a 51pc 1/4″ inch and metric set for free.]
[I only need 1/4″ and 3/8″ drive sockets as] I have more than enough 1/2″ impact sockets and a couple ratchets.
In reality are the modern Craftsman sockets that much or any worse than the Gearwrench sockets? I’m willing to spend extra to get a bigger variety of socket options (with a bonus of ratcheting combination wrenches) if the quality isn’t that bad. If the quality is questionable I might start basic and work my way up slowly from there.
If it’s between Craftsman and Gearwrench, I would go with the Gearwrench set, preferably the ones that come with a Gearwrench 120XP ratchet. It says in the CPO Gearwrench deal’s product description that you get the 120 position ratchets.
In recent years, even when Craftsman’s sockets were made in the USA, they still lacked the finer finish of other brands’ offerings. Certain aspects were just rough, sometimes literally, and the chrome plating wasn’t quite as good. But since they were made in the USA, backed by a lifetime guarantee, and incredibly priced, small flaws were easy to overlook. In my experience, Gearwrench’s tools are usually a small step above Craftsman. Other times, they are leaps better. Fewer times, they were on-par or lesser.
Not having used or even inspected the latest Craftsman sockets, I can’t say for sure that the Gearwrench sockets are your best choice. I’ve used Gearwrench sockets in the past, but don’t have any in front of me at the moment.
I do have Craftsman and Gearwrench combination wrenches in-hand as I write this, and can say that the Gearwrench tools are a little better, at least cosmetically. But it’s not just the quality of the chrome finish, but the dimensions of the tools, how they feel, how well they fit fasteners, and the overall user experience.
From what I have seen in the past, I like certain Gearwrench tools better than Craftsman’s. If those are the two brands to choose from for new socket sets, my gut tells me to go with Gearwrench.
That’s just my opinion, and keep in mind that I don’t have both brands’ sockets in front of me at the moment.
At the risk of making Tyler’s purchasing decision more difficult, I was hoping that ToolGuyd readers would chime in with their recommendations. Which do you think would be the better socket set option for him, or anyone else facing a similar purchasing decision?