Apex has come out with new impact-rated screwdriver bits and accessories (such as bit-holders). They sent over a sample pack a few months ago (thank you!), and I’ve been working in some time with them.
Now, if you’re not familiar with the Apex brand, there are a few things you should know. Apex is a USA-based brand, part of Apex Tool Group, that produces phenomenal quality screwdriver bits and accessories, or assembly manufacturing accessories, in their words. Their products are truly superb, and they’re made in the USA.
These new impact-rated fastening accessories are made in Taiwan.
Another thing to be aware of is that if you want to buy Apex fastening accessories, you’ll need to seek them out, meaning you won’t just come across them at the screwdriver bits or power tool accessories section at the local home center. Apex is an industrial market-focused brand. However, their products are reasonably priced, especially for the quality.
I have not yet made up my mind about how to recommend these new Apex impact-rated screwdriver bits, but there are some things I can tell you. First, they appear to be every bit as precise and well-made as Apex’s legendary 1/4″ hex bits and accessories. Second, they seem to be fairly durable, although I need more time and testing to be able to know exactly how well they last against construction industry brands.
The new Apex impact bits feature:
Full Body Design for greater strength and durability.
Optimized Tip Geometry for best fit.
Proprietary Heat Treatment to maximize bit life.
The 3″ magnetic bit holder, shown above, has a clip-ring that locks bits in place, but it’s not too strong so as to prevent hand removal of standard 1″ insert bits. The packaging card also says that it features a stainless steel design, for increased strength and durability.
How to Buy?
So, let’s say you want to try these out. The new made-in-Taiwan impact-rated bits have an AMB product number prefix. For example:
3″ Bit Holder: AMBH3-1
Phillips #2 2-inch power bit: AMB2PH2-1
Torx T25 1-inch insert bit 2-pack: AMB1TX25-2
It’s easier to shop by model number. There’s no list that I can find, but the model numbering code is easy to figure out.
If you want a 6″ bit holder, you’ll want to look for AMBH6-1 for a single unit pack. If you want say Phillips #1 2-inch power bits, that’s AMB2PH1. Torx T20 in 2-inch size? AMB2TX20. Phillips #2 in 1-inch size? AMB1PH2.
I am told that the new accessories will be available at regional and national distributors. If, like me, you don’t have a typical Apex distributor, you can find their accessories at Amazon and Zoro. For some sizes, you might have to buy a bulk pack.
As regular readers probably already know, I like to try new things. Based on that, and my pre-existing affinity for Apex screwdriver bits (although I regrettably only have a few in my toolbox right now), I’d say that yes I’d buy and try some of these new Apex impact-rated bits.
I can tell you for near certainty that I’ll be ordering a pack of Apex impact-rated T20 bits (25-pack via Amazon) before I run out of my current supply. I say “before I run out” because Amazon has a 1-3 month ETA, and Zoro’s estimate is 19 business days.
I think that it would be fair to summarize my current thoughts and impressions by saying that the new impact-rated bits, in my opinion, are worthy of their Apex branding.
Should you buy them? That’s something I never like to answer, but as mentioned I plan to buy some. If you’re curious, you can always buy a small 1- or 2-pack of your most commonly used bit style, and judge them for yourself.
Buy Now(via Amazon)
They’re also available at Zoro.
I don’t know of any bit assortments at the moment, but Amazon does have a listing for an Apex MRO impact-rated fastening set, which comes with a compact screwdriver handle, ratchet head, bit holder extension, and 1″ bit assortment, all stored in a clear-lid case.
The 45pc set, model AMK-45, is currently ~$54. I have not seen or tested this set firsthand, but it’s not a stretch to assume the impact-rated bits are the same.
Buy Now(45pc set via Amazon)
Thank you to Apex for providing us with review samples.
That 45pc set is pretty neat looking! I tried to look it up on Amazon.ca to see how much it would cost here in Canada – but it seems there’s a limited selection of Apex tools on the “.ca” site.
I stumbled across this weird looking “Crescent” branded adjustable socket wrench being sold by “Apex Tool Group” during my search: https://www.amazon.ca/Crescent-FR28SWMP-8-Inch-Adjustable-Ratcheting/dp/B000EOFQVU/
Not sure what to think of that…
That’s the “Rapid Rench.” It’s been around for a while, and always seemed to be more of a “giftable” holiday season tool.
Ha, yeah it kind’ve looked gimmicky. Glad to hear I’m not missing out.
It’s pretty handy for turning ball valve handles that are stuck and/or hard to reach with a wrench.
We use Apex at work at all assembly work and they are excellent.
You can obtain them through McMaster-Carr as well. I know their catalog does not specify brand names, but if you email a question, they often reply within the hour and provide more info. They send me a sample box of variety of bits one time while I was trying to pick the best fit bits to use on new hardware for a big project.
APEX either moved my favorite tool brands offshore ( Wiss, Crescent) or just shut them down (Armstrong). I no longer buy anything from APEX tool group.
Apex is an Apex Tool Group brand, and I was told that their non-impact bits will continue to be made here.
Wiss snips are still made here, at least the typical styles.
I remember someone saying once that Crescent’s home center adjustable wrenches are made overseas, but they have specific SKUs through industrial suppliers that are still made here. I never followed up on that.
We bought a lot of Apex bits – and had their Cleco brand pneumatic drivers. We thought that both were class acts.
The Apex Dotco pneumatic grinders we used were also top rate.
But things do change – and its been 6 or more years since I bought bits in bulk.
Dotco and Cleco are both awesome. The ones I have were made in USA.
Apex is owned by same private equity firm whom liquidated Toys R Us since a 4% profit margin short term was not to their liking. Master Force, Armstrong and Allen production lines at their South Carolina plant were all closed down begining of 2018. Most Apex tools including Sears Craftsman come from China or Mexico. The move had nothing to do with improving quality. Armstrong tools was founded in 1890. Killed off and buried 2018.
I wish they had JIS impact bits (Japanese Industrial Standard) that look like Phillips bits, but are shallower, so a phillips will usually just strip it. I started working on some 50 year old bikes, and I am having a heck of a time removing screws.
I just want a few JIS impact bits so I can pull out all the JIS fasteners without stripping and drilling, then replace them all with Phillips and Allen head screws. I know Vessel makes them or came up with the standard, but I can’t find true impact rated bits.
Apex, make some please so I can give you money.
I’ve had that same experience, usually on the carburetors of those old bikes. I usually can get the screws off – even if I have to mangle them in the process – then, just like you, I replace them with hex cap screws which work much better. I really should pick up a set of proper bits though.
Do you really need impact-rated JIS bits though? I’ve never tried using my impact driver on a carburetor – seems too easy to cam out and strip the head before I can react. Safer maybe to use one of the manual impact drivers you hit with a hammer – which makes me wonder, are you supposed to use impact bits in them? Can’t say I know.
I mostly have trouble with the bigger stuff, for some reason the brass on a lot of carb screws don’t give me problems. I think the steel vs aluminum leads to a lot of sticking due to galvametric corrosion.
Most of the screws have been untouched for half a century (these are CB175 and CB360Ts I am working on from the late 60’s and early 70’s) and they don’t like coming out. I always try by hand first, but if they disagree with that, then an impact provides persuasion. I have been completely unsuccessful using a hand phillips screwdriver; camout has wrecked every screw I have tried to take out.
I have been mostly successful with Phillips and an impact, since I shattered the two JIS bits I had, but it absolutely destroys the head of the screw. I don’t care if they are destroyed, but I am seriously worried about getting more stuck. They take forever to drill out, since a lot of the parts that the screws are in can’t be replaced. I actually bought 6 CB175’s in the hope that I can make one complete one at the end of 2019
The bikes/sleds I’ve worked on are mostly a little newer (i.e. ’80s) so there aren’t many screws being used outside of the carbs (well, maybe the odd side cover or cable mount etc. that isn’t torqued too hard) – mostly flange bolts.
I’ve heard you can grind down the tip of a Phillips screwdriver to get close to the JIS profile – but I haven’t tried this yet myself. I wonder if you could file off the tip of an impact-rated Phillips bit and get close to what you’re after.
Manual impacts drivers (driven with a deadblow hammer usually) are GREAT for any stuck screw, especially pesky carb screws and body screws. The actual downforce coupled with the impact action has saved plenty of brass for me. Vessel makes quality tools and their manul impacts are one of the best. I believe they were one of the first to sell such a tool. Cheaper versions are available and work well for the same purpose but come with only phillips tips usually. Vessell also sells JIS inserts with hex impact style shanks, regular hex insert ends in, and doubled ended hex. I’ve found them through Amazon in various lengths for very reasonable prices. Good luck and keep it a little rich!
I would try PB swiss bits, their phillips shapes are non-standard and they tend to work well for JIS.
We used bits from Hios – in assembly. They make/sell JIS bits for their assembly tools.
I also know that Motion Pro (a motorcycle tool company) sell JIS bits
I wish they would make it easier to buy a set of their bits. IE sell say every size philips as a kit. Every size metric hex or etc etc.
I would pick one up in a heartbeat and throw away some of my others.
Good to hear that the retention ring in their bit holder isn’t too stiff. The new Craftsman impact set has a bit holder with ring and mine was so stiff I had to use pliers to get the bits out. Do you know if it’s possible to get just the bit holder so I can do away with the one from Craftsman?
Apex is a good brand in general, It has a lot of USA made bits, but these impact rated bits seems average quality as a lot of other average brands in tool accessories do make them in Taiwan, They are a bit better than Chinese made ones, Most of the brands do make their bit holders in Taiwan, I have had some USA made apex bits and about the strength I would call them number one together with Felo and Snap On, But the grinding quality in of all these three brands are lower than Wera, Elora, Wekador and Wiha, In Genreal I would say USA made ones last longer than German made ones, but German made ones are better ground with the exception for Felo. Snap On, Felo and Apex bits are also a bit darker steel colour compared to other German brands, probably is a bit better quality tool steel and not easy to grind, but I would not expect Apex to make bits in Taiwan, These are out of Apex category, another problem with Apex is that they are not easily available. Big headache to find them.
Hi , I’m Joe & I’m addicted to tools…………..but I never seen a 1/4” ratchet head like that before ! Anyone know where I can buy just a ratchet head like that ?
thank you in advance 🙂
Hi Joe, I’m Joe, and I, too, am Addicted to Tools. But, unfortunately, I BELIEVE that micro ratchet head is only so it links into the handle. I wish it was a power-rotation bit, but I think the one seen is unique to this set. It fits that handle only, unless the ToolGuyd researchers can find the truth.
Check this link
Yeah…Thanks Altan, that’s what I meant. They don’t turn by the handle, they just link into it, turning your bit driver into a ratchet.
It’s crazy that Apex Tool Group actually has USA-made products under a brand called Apex, and yet they insist on making Gearwrench their flagship brand.
Granted, making non-impact bits isn’t quite the same as ratchets and wrenches, but they did make those over here under various names in the past.
If the right people were in charge of ATG, they’d probably make more Apex-brand tools, manufacture them in the USA, and compete with Snap-on/Mac/Matco/etc.
Gearwrench was a part of Danaher, as Matco was (now spun off with Fortive), and it seemed to have been specifically built up into a non-tool-truck automotive tool brand.
Launching a new tool truck company in today’s age would be extremely challenging, as more and more people – pros included – buy tools online.
Unlike Crescent and Gearwrench, Apex is not a brand most consumers or tool users are familiar with. As far as USA-made tools go, they reportedly closed up the Armstrong facility. They *could* have even made USA-made Gearwrench tools, but didn’t.
You are right that Apex was never much of an end-consumer brand – nor were Apex Tool Group companies like Cleco and Dotco – brands we relied on heavily in our shops.
Danaher also had KD tools at one time. KD’s predecessor was the OK’d (maybe as in Okey-Dokey ) Mfg. Co. KD once was like Lisle – selling lots of specialty tools in auto parts stores. When Danaher acquired them – I believe that they aligned KD with their Easco Hand Tool Co. (once the major OEM for Craftsman socket wrenches). Danaher also did some re-branding of tools with the Allen name. Then KD was morphed into Gearwrench – with more focus on wrenches and sockets and away from “novelty” and special automotive tools. Danaher and Cooper Industries entered into a joint venture to create the Apex Tool Group . For a while Alen, KD, and Gearwrench were listed on the Apex Group corporate structure under Armstrong. The Apex Group was sold to Bain Capital in 2012. Danaher, meanwhile held onto Fluke , Harris Networks and other tool companies – now spun off as Fortive.
Sometimes its hard to keep up on who makes what – and then when you add in “where” and subcontractor OEM’s it can get really confusing.
I have lots of USA-made KD Tools stuff, almost all of which is now the same exact tool, just made in Taiwan/China and sold as a Gearwrench-branded tool, often with the same part number.
People are familiar with Gearwrench, but mostly for what you’d think they would be – their ratcheting wrenches. Putting the whole brand line under the name for one type of tool you sell isn’t the greatest marketing. I just think ATG would do better under the Apex umbrella branding, but ATG would need to be a different company to do that. Just wishful thinking.
Their stuff did seem to be better quality when Danaher was around.
Still, even with the USA stuff Apex does make, it’s a little odd they aren’t pushing it more. They could sell a lot more bits putting them into case sets like the AMK-45, or even bigger bit sets like you find with Craftsman/Dewalt/Black & Decker/etc.
Apex bits are sold mostly though Industrial and MRO distribution channels. Not competing for mass-market sales may well be a corporate decision. The lure of mass-market profits can be a two-edged sword.
In my own case we looked at the possibility of expanding one of our small (by Apex standards) businesses – having been approached by a fairly large distributor to offer our products as a line. It would have required a very substantial expansion (new factory space, additional warehousing, major staff additions etc.). We looked at our financing options – even thought about going public. Then we looked at what the track record was for some other small firms going this route. We decided that we did not want to become a vassal of some larger company – having price and quality dictated by them – and that might happen if we expanded and needed their revenue to service our debt. I think my partners and I agreed that we made the right decision. Some years later, the company that made the offer went out of business – possibly not being able to compete with the likes of Home Depot. If we had expanded – we might have been stuck trying to market product to Home Depot or other big players at cutthroat profit-margins.
That looks pretty nice. It would be nice to see these up close.
Right now my favorite bit sets are from Makita. Have tried DeWalt and Milwaukee too.
I’ve held apex’s s2 steel bits as the top of the mountain impact or otherwise, for some time. So… I’m a little confused by this new impact specified offering that seems to be just regular powder coat lol I’ll have to check them out. Anybody have any experience comparing the s2 steels to these? Much appreciated ?
Is the bit holder magnetic?