With much excitement and anticipation, we tested Milwaukee’s new M12 Fuel brushless impact driver (2453-22). It features a 1/4″ hex quick release bit holder, 2 speed settings, a new grip design, and phenomenal torque specs.
Okay, so it looks good and has great on-paper specs, but how well does it work? The short answer is that it’s absolutely amazing.
Comfort and Ergonomics
All of Milwaukee’s new M12 Fuel drills and drivers, with the exception of their new brushless rotary hammer, feature the same hourglass-style grip design. This might not seem like much, but it makes the grip much more comfortable, at least in my opinion. For reference, I usually wear medium-sized/9-inch gloves.
Quite frankly, Milwaukee engineers got it perfect. The new pistol grip design feels great to me, and seems like it would be equally comfortable for users with smaller or larger hands.
I previously considered Dewalt’s 12V Max drill/driver handles to be the most comfortable, but Milwaukee’s design now has my favor.
It’s hard to tell exactly why and how the impact driver is so comfortable to hold and use, but it feels to be a combination of superb front-to-back balance, overall weight, top-to-bottom center of gravity, and handle shape. The design is well thought out and expertly executed.
The textured soft rubberized overmold provides a secure grip for bare or gloved hands.
The impact driver has a 2-mode electronic speed control, not unlike the 3-mode settings found in their M18 Fuel impact driver. Mode 1 is the lower speed and torque setting, for higher precision work, and Mode 2 is the higher speed and full torque setting, for higher performance.
Mode 1: 0-1200 RPM, 0-2700 IPM, 175 in-lbs max torque
Mode 2: 0-2650 RPM, 0-3550 IPM, 1200 in-lbs max torque
In practice I found this to be quite handy, as Mode 1 helps prevent damage to smaller fasteners. This setting’s shorter speed range also allows for more finessed speed control.
The maximum torque is rated at 1200 in-lbs, and while this approaches the ~1400 in-lb rating of many compact 18V/20V Max impact drivers, it’s not high enough to warrant a third speed or torque setting.
The switch only works when your finger is off the trigger, and a white LED illuminates the mode numbers so you know which setting it’s on.
Electronic drive control is a great feature I’d like to see implemented on all new cordless impact drivers.
Torque, Power, and Speed of Application
A lot of people, myself included, look at torque specs sometimes to compare tools and to see which one is better than the other.
1200 in-lbs of maximum torque is both great on paper and great in practice. But such a high torque ceiling isn’t always needed to drive the fasteners most users will reach for this impact for. Even so, there are times when the extra power might come in handy, such as when an application calls for a heavier-duty 18V-class tool but you want to just get the job done right then and there and move on.
If you’re looking for a 12V-class impact driver with the best torque rating, this is it. If you’re looking for the best impact driver in terms of ergonomics and features, this is it. I tend to value features, comfort, speed, and quality over on-paper specs, which is why I discussed some of these things earlier in the review.
Quick Release Chuck
This impact’s 1/4″ hex chuck doesn’t disappoint either. Impact-rated power groove screwdriver bits are inserted without users having to unlock or otherwise touch the chuck, and they lock in securely. The large knurled spring-returned quick release knob pulls out when you want to remove the bit.
I can remove bits with one hand on the handle and one hand on the chuck, but some users might prefer to hold the top of the driver to toggle the quick release with one hand and pull out the bit with the other.
Impact-rated 2-inch power bits are very easy to find these days, and if you prefer 1-inch bits there are plenty of adapters available. The bits you use must have power bit grooves, as shown here, in order for the driver’s chuck to lock onto them.
Trigger, Control Switch, Fuel Gauge, LED Worklight, Belt Clip
This might sound strange, but I find the trigger switch to be finely sculpted. I’m not even sure what that is supposed to mean, but sculpted is the first word that came to mind.
No part of a product design is by chance, and it’s evident that Milwaukee engineers thought about how they can make the trigger even more comfortable than on previous M12 drills and drivers.
The control switch clicks to the left for forward driving, to the right for reverse, and it snaps to the center when you want it to.
A fuel gauge is built into the left side of the tool, with four LEDs reporting the charge level of the battery. I find this to be absolutely essential on premium tools. 3 LEDs would have been okay, 4 are better.
The driver also has a delayed-off white LED worklight that works reasonably well without much shadowing.
It also comes with a pre-installed well-placed, compact, and unobtrusive belt clip that you can remove or move to the other side of the tool.
The kit comes with two M12 2.0Ah RedLithium lithium-ion batteries that provide up to 33% more runtime than Milwaukee’s 1.5Ah M12 batteries. A full charge takes 45 minutes, but they last for so long that during testing I never found myself waiting at the charger.
Many users like kit boxes, some don’t. Personally, I like to have the option.
The kit comes with a sturdy plastic case that has a comfortable handle and sturdy metal latches. What I also like is that the boxes have labels that tell you exactly what’s inside.
For such a compact tool, the M12 Fuel impact sure packs a powerful punch. I tested it with 2-1/2″ and 3″ screws (mainly Spax), 1/4″ lags into structural wood studs, and 3/8″ lags into structural foam (pre-drilled/molded holes), without any difficulty.
What I liked most, aside from the fantastic ergonomics, was the ability to dial down the speed and torque. Impact drivers don’t have adjustable clutches like cordless drills, but an electronic speed range selector is the next best thing.
I very highly recommend this impact driver, and even feel that it could be the best 12V-class compact 1/4″ hex impact driver currently on the market.
- great ergonomics and comfort
- the brushless motor delivers an abundance of power
- great runtime, especially when paired with 2.0Ah batteries
- 2-mode speed control is a very useful feature
- rubber bumpers protect delicate work surfaces
- built-in fuel gauge
- durable-feeling construction
- none so far
MSRP is about $169 for the kit, which comes with 2x batteries, a charger, and carrying case, and $119 for the bare tool.
- 2-mode Drive Control (high precision/top performance )
- Maximum torque: 1,200 in-lbs
- Speed: 0-2,650 RPM
- Impact speed: 0-3,550 IPM
- 1/4″ hex chuck with one-handed bit insertion
- Length: 6″
- Weight: 2.2 lbs with 2.0Ah battery
- Kit (2453-22) and bare tool (2453-20) are available
More Info (via Milwaukee)
Thank you to Milwaukee for providing the review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes.