This review is written by contributor Stephen K, who also authored our Armstrong Maxx flex-head ratchet review.
The fact that none of the major brands produce locking pliers in the USA anymore has led many tool users to consider other locking pliers brands and styles. Many people like Grip-On branded locking pliers, which are made in Spain and also rebranded in the USA under Snap-on and Proto labels, but these pliers are priced a little high for some DIY’ers.
I was recently shopping for some locking pliers that were moderately priced, and I eventually settled on a set from Blackhawk (SKU PT-1105S). I have been using the pliers in my garage over the last couple months and so far, I have been pretty pleased.
Blackhawk – which is officially known as Blackhawk by Proto – is part Stanley Black & Decker’s industrial segment, and mainly offers mechanic’s tools aimed at industrial and automotive users. Blackhawk tools are positioned slightly beneath Proto, in terms of pricing.
This five-piece set is made in Taiwan, and was purchased new from a seller on eBay for about $40. The set includes straight, curved and needlenose pliers, with overall lengths ranging from 5 to 10 inches.
The teeth on all the pliers appear well formed and so far have held up well during use.
These pliers are very similar to ones sold under the Stanley brand, although the Stanley models lack the comfort grip.
See Also: Stanley 3pc Set and MaxSteel Locking Pliers (via Amazon)
Ed. Note: It is reasonable to assume that Stanley and Blackhawk locking pliers are manufactured at the same factory and should perform similarly. The versatility and pricing of the 5pc Blackhawk set, as well as the added comfort grips, make it a great buy.
These are basic locking pliers. Their designs are similar in many respects to the traditionally styled locking pliers made by Vise Grip and several companies, but with one major difference in how the locking mechanism releases.
Here’s a comparison of the most common designs you’ll find on most brands of locking pliers:
First, you should notice that the Blackhawk pliers have a Grip-On-style release mechanism where you pull up on the lever to release it.
In the middle is an example of Vise-Grip’s Fast Release locking pliers. With this style of quick release mechanism, you push down on the lower handle and it unlocks the pliers.
At the bottom is a pair of Vise-Grips pliers with the traditional lever release design used by Vise Grips and copied by many other brands. With this design you have to pinch the lever or push it down towards the movable handle while gripping the pliers.
The release mechanism on the Blackhawk locking pliers is one of the main reasons I selected them. In my experience, the main benefit of this design is that you are less likely to pinch yourself when you release the pliers. The design also allows for a more natural release motion and even one-handed unlocking.
The soft grip on these pliers is comfortable, but as with most comfort grips it does get dirty and greasy pretty easily. On these grips the red portion is hard plastic and the black portion is a softer rubber material.
I used these pliers for several different tasks around the garage and house, and overall they performed pretty well so far.
Proving Ground: Gripping Power
I had to replace the bushings in the lower control arms on one or our vehicles. This involved drilling out several large rubber bushings and removing the center metal bushing support. The 10 inch curved-jaw pliers had no trouble locking on the supports and pulling them out. Some of the supports required quite a bit of force to remove, and I am happy to say the pliers didn’t slip or otherwise release unexpectedly.
Proving Ground: Gripping Small Object
I have also used the pliers on some smaller jobs. In one such project, I installed a new hanging light fixture outside our front door, and the small pliers were easily able to grip the pieces of the chain that had to be bent open and closed to adjust the chain length.
Overall, I am pretty pleased with these pliers when considering the price paid, and I think they are a good choice for do-it-yourselfers looking for a new set of locking pliers. They have some nice features found on more expensive pliers and are priced at a level affordable to most hobbyists and DIY’ers.
These pliers are available as part of a 5pc set, and can also be purchased individually.
Buy Now(5pc set via Amazon)
Buy Now( Individual sizes via Amazon)
You can still find the 5pc set for about $40 via ebay, just search for model PT-1105S.
Price Comparison: European-made Grip-On and Proto locking pliers.
The Blackhawk locking pliers featured in this review were purchased new at their retail price from Ebay distributor etooldirect.
Excellent, informative article. I particularly like the comparison shots/details and the close up photos. Thank you!
Great write up! I’m surprised that Proto uses rebadged Grip on locking pliers and Blackhawk does their thing in Taiwan though. Hats off to Blackhawk for having the sense to use the Grip on style release. I need another pair of locking pliers like I need a screwdriver but, they look nice.
I really cant remember the last time i used a “vice grip”. I seem to think that they are an absolute must have in the tool drawer and in the car and in my main tool bag……..but, i’ve never needed them, or rather use the proper tool for the job, i.e. racket, open end wrench, pump pliers, pipe wrench, etc.
I think the vice grip might be the gimmick we’ve all fell for. However welders clamps, and the needle nose version of vice grips are not included in my opinion.
Back when Petersen/American Tools produced the American made Vise Grips, they were made out of much higher quality steel and had a multitude of uses. After Rubbermaid bought them out, then the true gimmicks started to show up. Quick release lever, comfort grips and “speed screws”.
Yes, Rubbermaid Vise Grips these days could be considered gimmicky, but that is why if you going to use locking pliers and these are Vise Grips, might as well original brand.
All the locking pliers out right now are pretty junky. None of the seem to grip well anymore, they seem to bend or fall apart at the spring easier to..
Personally since they all seem to be crap name brand included, I have just started to buy no names, the ones from TSC and ace are pretty close to the top of the pile of crap and cost less then the ones with a name brand on them.. And the HF ones work good for welding projects.
Interesting how Stanley tries to capitalize on an old respected brand that they bought out some years ago. Once these were automotive tools, jacks etc.
Why wouldn’t they?
Of course – part of the reason for buying out a reputable brand – but for some buyouts the brand which once was synonymous with high quality gets so corrupted that it becomes known as junk (some bicycle brands come to mind). In my opinion Stanley-Black & Decker has done alright by the brands they have bought out over the years. I’m a little less sanguine about some of the Newell-Rubbermaid brands – as I’ve seen the Marples and Record names put on some products – like pipe wrenches – that did not fit well with the brand name here in the US (maybe it worked better in the UK). Luckily some of these seem to have not lasted long in the market – and were rebranded (Irwin – now brands pipe wrenches with the Vise Grip name – at least here in the US) .
Thanks Stuart. Just ordered the 5-pc set off eBay based on your review.
Definitely buy the Blackhawks over the Irwin traditional Vice Grips. The Grip-On style unlocking mechanism is superior to either Irwin style and the overall build is higher quality.
That said, the Grip-Ons are the best. They’re pricey, but I bought a used 10-inch Snap-On branded pair for $15 on eBay. That was a deal, though, because they can still be pricey used. They are fashioned from a higher quality steel than the Blackhawks, and the unlocking mechanism is smoother. Get them if you can find a deal – they are even better than the old Peterson Vice Grips.
But if if you can’t find a deal on Grip-Ons and you need them right away, the Blackhawks are plenty good for most folks and most tasks.