I was installing some more stuff last weekend, using long 1/4″ lag screws. Wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find suitable nut driver bits anywhere!
I needed a 7/16″ nut driver. I started by using a bit holder extension, 1/4″ hex to 3/8″ square drive adapter, and a 7/16″ Craftsman impact socket of forgotten origins. It was in my box of spare loose impact-rated bits and accessories. I believe I bought it as a one-off for this exact purpose – impact driver and impact wrench sinking of lag screws – but I just don’t remember.
It kind of worked this time, although not very well.
After sinking a few lags I searched some more, and I found an older 7/16″ impact-rated nut driver. It worked reasonably well.
I bought some Spax 1/4″ lag bolts for another project, and those take a 3/8″ nut driver. A 3/8″ nut driver will be easier to find in my spare bits boxes.
This all brought to mind a question I can’t really answer. Who makes the best nut driver bits?
Other questions come to mind. For instance, I’m curious as to whether YOU use nut driver bits more with a drill, or with an impact driver? Or do you not use nut driver bits?
I was pre-drilling the holes with an impact driver and a Dewalt impact-rated drill bit – a rare pairing for me, but it turned out to work really well – and so I could have probably used a drill instead of the impact to sink the lags.
But driving the lags into scrap studs without any pilot holes? That took a lot more effort. I don’t think I could have done it with a compact drill. A heavy duty drill would have handled the task, but my impact driver tackled it with greater ease.
So to sum it up, I’m curious to hear about which nut driver bits you like using, and what you use it for.
Do you use different nut drivers for Tapcons and other concrete anchors? Lag bolts? Nuts or hex head screws?
Me? I tend to use whatever random nut driver bits were included in the various screwdriver and impact-rated bit sets I’ve bought or received for testing in the past few years.
I vaguely remembering buying a small nut driver set or two, but they’re long forgotten by now.
It’s weird to realize, now that I’m talking about it, that I’ve been pretty negligent in selecting and using power nut driver bits. I put thought into handheld nut drivers, and in selecting screwdriver bits and even power and impact-rated bits, but when it comes to power nut driver bits, I just reach for whatever.
Maybe that’ll change – I’m hoping that your comments will reveal a clear “reader’s choice” favorite brand or style.
Are you up to it? Great! Please share your opinions about nut driver bits!
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I have the set below which has worked for me really well. I used them to hang 4 ceiling storage racks in our garage which were fastened with 1/4 or 5/16 x 4″ lag bolts. I used them with an impact driver and predrilled holes. Never had an issue other than not having the proper size for lags included in a Racor lift that used 10 mm I believe. For that I ended up using an impact rated adapter to an 3/8″ 10 mm to get the job done.
I like Hilti and Malco .
The Milwaukee and Craftsman are really bad.
I don’t know that I have a favorite.
In the field we used a lot of what we picked up locally – so it was often Dewalt or Irwin.
In the shops – it was more Apex and Duradyne for fractional sizes with Wiha and Wera for metric sizes.
I also ran across these back in 2010. They are deep-hollow core drivers and we had a few sets:
I first bought the set Alan mentioned above, and then I bought the pivot head models in your post picture. Love them. They have been a help in so many situations. The will lock out straight, or angle when needed. I do have the Milwaukee knuckle coming for regular insert bits, as the 1/4 on the DeWalt is really to shallow to properly hold a bit
#2 for Malco. Get them in the sheet metal section or at an hvac supplier.
Agree on milwaukee…couple of sets stripped out in no time flat, and email to Milwaukee went unanswered.
Dewalt and Irwin have both lost magnets when used with impact driver, even being impact rated.
I just use a 1/4 or 3/8″ socket with an adapter
We like the cleanable dewalt for fence, screen rooms, and hand rails.
Have really liked that you can slide the magnet out to clean it.
For anything over 3/8 we use an adapter and sockets from pawn shops.
Yup. If I need a magnetic but driver, those are my first choice.
I rarely use actual nut drivers. I have a few Makita Impact Golds that came with my drill package as a freebie, but I rarely use them. I use the Makita Impact Gold 3/8″ adapter with a set of HF impact sockets. I like that adapter as it’s a full 2″ 1/4″ hex shank instead of a 1″ bit needing a bit holder. Less joints means less problems in my book. With the cheap HF impact sockets, it’s easy to fit most anything and with coupons they were dirt cheap. Since I rarely use these for anything other than framing decks, there’s no clearance issues with this system, and I typically keep the few most common sockets in a small Dewalt magnet box in my drill/impact case.
My Hitachi impact driver is 1/2″ square drive, so i dont use bit drivers, just impact sockets.
95% of its use has been with a bit driver adapter on it so my next one will not be a 1/2″ square drive.
I bought this Makita impact socket set to keep with all of my other drill/impact accessories.
I used it to drive some lag screws for some heavy duty fence hinges. The price was reasonable and the hex to square adapter can be used straight or up to a 15 degree angle which can be handy in some cases. I’m happy with the set but I’ve only needed it a couple of times.
I’ve used the same set when I was hanging a lot of cabinets and I love it. I’ve used it on car repairs. snowblower repair, and other other projects. I also bought the metric version as well and Makita has a very good nut driver set. The sockets are really beefy.
I have also used a very old standard nut driver (pre-cordless impact drivers) with impact driver to drive lags bolts into concreted with no issues at all . I can’t remember who made the set it but the bits are yellow zinc coated.
The BEST ones are made by Apex. But I’ve been satisfied with just about every big box brand. I like the Makita Gold.
I lot of brands are overly chamfered so I spin them in the bench grinder to flatten them.
Dewalt cleanable magnetic nutsetter. Lever cleans all the gunk filings out.
I use the pivoting set you pictured, and also the matching screw driver version. The pivot action is constantly helpful even just for ergonomics. Usually I hold the outside sleeve with my other hand and let it spin inside.
I mostly use nut driver bits when driving tapcons.
To your question about drill or impact, I never use a drill to drive any kind of lag. I try to use ledgerlok/timberlok type lags that don’t require predrilling to save time. If the application requires a large lag that needs to be predrilled, I definitely want to use an impact for the ease of driving and lack of kickback.
I’ve had my arm wrenched by a drill lots of times, and even hit in the head by the drill when driving a lag overhead.
Kickback control technology is great when drilling large holes, especially in steel, but any kind of large fastener, it’s always an impact for me
To this day, I have yet to figure out the difference between a Nut Setter, and a Socket. I’ve seen a bunch of Nut Setters with nice functions, someone above mentioned the DeWALT self-cleaning ones,for example. Also, the pictured pivot nut setters, which I think I have a couple that came in a bit set I bought a while back. But, I look at nut setters, and I look at Sockets, Socket Wrenches, and various Pliers, and think… “Why would I use the Nut Setter?”
I can get some pretty deep impact sockets, and an impact-ready socket adapter for my impact driver, and fasten a nut. I can hold a bolt with a wrench or pair of pliers while doing so, too.
You folks seem like the perfect people to ask this, once and for all. Why a Nut Setter, rather than the equivalent Socket? There’s a reason I’m missing, I know it. Why use a Nut Setter? What is it for, exactly, that a Socket ISN’T for? I have honestly never known. I own some, they’ve come with other bit kits of various types… I know they’re for SOMETHING… but my head just sees a socket with a built-in hex connection. Would someone mind filling me in on this? I know they serve a purpose, but I’ve never found an answer to what it is. I’ve asked my friends in construction and trades, and all I get is “…They’re for setting Nuts… What else is there to know?”
So… Help? If you skilled people don’t mind answering my dummy question?
The magnet can be a nice touch, The speed of it when using an impact driver.
nut setter to me implies a socket with 1/4 hex drive. when you say socket that to me at least implies some sort of square drive; 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ etc. The only other difference seems to be nut setters often have magnets and seem to be geared toward driving sheet metal screws rather than bolts or machine screws.
using a nut setter means i don’t need the 1/4″ hex to whatever size square drive adapter and socket. The drawbacks are usually that solution ends up being longer and now you have a socket that can get knocked off the adapter. the advantage is you only need one adapter if you already have the sockets, and that extra joint gives some wobble for misalignment.
nut setters are kind of like the drill bits you can buy that are 1/4″ hex drive. If you have a 1/4″ hex drive drill or impact driver you can use a regular drill bit or socket if you get the appropriate adapter, or you can buy something that already is 1/4″ hex drive and skip the adapter.
I agree with this part: “nut setters often have magnets and seem to be geared toward driving sheet metal screws rather than bolts or machine screws”.
The unspoken part (until now): “I keep thinking nutsetters are equivalent to same-size sockets but nutsetters are too frustrating, one of these days they’re gonna get chucked.”
I think my trouble with nutsetters originates from their name.
I don’t know why they call them nut setters, I never use mine for nuts. I use them for self drilling screws and lag screws. They’re very shallow which helps with fastener head engagement so they’re easier to start.
Thank You, all of you! So they’re all-in-one drivers for bolts and nuts!
That actually makes “Nut Setter” make more sense to me now, actually… You’re not fitting a patterned engraving into a driver, you’re grabbing the sides and driving tons of these things into place, without having to switch…
It’s a Screwdriver head for fasteners that just have different sized hex-heads!
Thank you for not treating me like an idiot… I’m more DIYer/Inventor/Problem Solver than I am Tradesman… I honestly never think of these things, and I appreciate the info!
PB swiss makes very nice metric ones, I use the 13mm one regularly
I have a set of nuts setters from Amazon made by VIM tools they are nice because they have a magnetic and hallow of each size that are for use with studs both an SAE and metric. I find them useful for health products and automotive work they seem to get in a tight spots they were good with some of the Dewalt extensions.
Part number is NS 100 and NSM 100.
I am a HVAC installer and we use hex head fasteners almost exclusively and malco is most everyone’s go to nut driver. I burnt through a set of Milwaukee’s in one day.
Anything that can grab the bolt head without slipping off or strip the head is the kind I like. Honestly they all suck. They’re all too shallow to really grab. The worst ones are the kind that doesn’t have a magnet. Also why won’t they make anything larger than ½”? Why won’t they make them with a deep well? If I have to drive in a ½” lag or tighten a carriage bolt, I gotta find a socket and driver adapter. I’ve never understood why they’re called nut drivers. You can’t drive a nut on to anything longer than a ¼”. They need to change the name to hex or bolt drivers. Every single brand makes them the same way, so wasting $ on a certain brand name is idiotic. There is room for improvement across the board when it comes to nut drivers.
Answering 2 of your questions – take a look at the Big Willy drivers from Smartbox that I linked to above. They are hollow shaft and will run a nut up on a threaded rod and they come in 9/16 hex. They are probably better called nut runners – and certainly are not beefy enough to driver lags.
I find it best to just connect impact socket directly to a square 3/8 or 1/2 impact driver. Really dislike using 1/4 hex adapters to connect to any socket, too much play/wobble and you loose torque and overall effectiveness of the impact mechanism.
A square 3/8″ or 1/2″ impact driver is not an impact driver, it’s an impact WRENCH. Which can be serious overkill for the sort of things where one usually uses a nutdriver.
12v versions are not overkill by any means most now have different setting for power.
I use DeWalt primarily, ’cause those are the ones I got a while back. I also have some Harbor Freight, because they were the ONLY metric nutdriver bits I could find locally. IIRC, I may have some Milwaukee as well, part of a set.
Given the quantity of metric hardware out there in the wild, why the heck don’t any of the domestic companies make nutdriver bits for them?
Apex (a domestic company) makes a several different kinds in metric sizes – and they are made in the USA – compared to Dewalt (a “domestic brand”) who makes theirs in Asia (China and/or Taiwan).
Its just that you can’t find Apex bits at the Home Depot or Lowes – they are sold via industrial distributors to folks who appreciate their quality and variety especially for use in production environments.
I use a Snap On TLMPA2 ( even though it’s listed as ” non impact”). It’s a 1/4″ hex to 1/4″ square drive adaptor.
This is the best adaptor I’ve found and I use it with my large assortment of 1/4″ drive sockets ( up to 14mm and 9/16). I have the option of using std., deep well, metric, magnetic etc. this way.
This set up combined with my 12 volt Bosch impact driver has worked for me professionally for 4 or 5 years. I use it for a lot of underhood disassembly etc.
I’ve never really found the need for a dedicated nut setter.
Mostly off topic … Imagine the traditional corded drywall gun with dog clutch and depth setting adjustable nose. Then stretch it to have similar size and power to a plaster stirrer. Lastly add a 3/8 square drive so sockets can be fitted direct to the shaft for driving lags. Metabo used to make it. Quiet, powerful and wrench your arms off if you got it wrong 🙂
No need for nut driver bits with that.
Included 3/8″ to hex adapter so you can fit any standard bit for sinking big pozi / torx head screws etc. Weighs a ton. Eats screws until you dial it in.
Can’t you tell I don’t have to use this often, times have moved on 🙂
For small stuff I just have a couple of hex to 1/4″ and hex to 3/8″ adapters and use a cordless drill and sockets.
I bought a Milwaukee 2765-20 (7/16 hex drive) impact driver a while back for drilling timbers and then driving lags for a big garden project. I had previously used a 1/2 inch electric impact wrench with a chuck attachment for this sort of work but wanted to cut the cord. With ship augers coming with 7/16 hex drives and a Proto J7121 (7/16 hex to 1/2 sq. drive) adapter for impact sockets – I cut the cord and the work went very smoothly over the course of several days.
I love my Wera magnetic nut setters or power nut drivers. I use them daily and wouldn’t want to be without them. 5.5, 7, 8. & 10mm
I really enjoy your site, columns and comments.
I think a major point your article raises is the bigger impact of the impact drill “biid”. The tool is amazing and it’s rapid growth ( as you have addressed in a prior column I think) as a real ( better?) option in many situations has raised the issue that the required bits are not as common for many of us. Seems that the manufacturers have an area to start improving…
Keep up the great and continually improving site- Benjamin has been an excellent addition too!
I don’t use nut drivers or setters either. Never have – nor do I own any manual nut drivers. Once I put hand to a ratcheting handle and a 1/4 hex to square but of quality – I saw no reason to have one.
On the power side of the equation I’ve always used the same. Before I owned an impact driver – I used a 1/4 hex to square in a quality drill – and used some flavor of socket.
Now where I’ll stop – I do not get all hinky of the impact socket thing. I’m not busting off rusted suspension bolts with my impact wrench – which is what I have impact sockets for. SO – when I’m using my impact drivers which does make over 100 ft-lbs of torque – I still use a normal CR-V socket type. I keep a quality 1/4 adapter and a quality 1/4-3/8’s adapter. as I find when I have to run something bigger (1/2 inch lag or more) I used a 3/8’s socket because of size. And I end up occasionally testing them via hand anyway so I’m keeping the same ratchet handy in the bag.
YOu mentioned running lag screws – I do not run lags into wood without pre-drilling – just can’t do it. I know some do. as such I pre-drill and I like to run lags fairly slowly if they are going into pressure treated wood.
Harbor freight. Seriously.
Never broken or stripped one.
The magnet is going to fall out. Usually 1st or 2nd use. I just super glue em back in and they last forever.
Apex if you gotta have the best made.
Just found these (just bought the megapro ratcheting screwdriver based on review here):
https://www.megapro.net/product/impact-nutsetters/ no experience just found them and was interested. Made in USA!
They also have other impact bit sets, all USA made!
Never saw those before!
OK. Maybe a bit of False Advertising??
Just received a set of SAE and a set of Metric from Zoro. They both say “Bits made in Taiwan”. Just a little disappointed. They do look like nice bits, but I was hoping I had found some made in USA. If I had known they were Taiwan, I would have gone with my original plan, Malco, made right in my home state of MN…..
The product page makes no mention of COO, but the generic impact bit sets page (https://www.megapro.net/product-category/impact-bit-packs/) does have Made In USA prominently displayed.
Just another follow up. I should have looked more closely at Zoro’s page. They do say “Taiwan–subject to change”. It COULD be Megapro has switched over to USA made, but Zoro has old stock????
I’ve found hollow core shanks in English – but not metric.
The other bother is the metric sockets mostly have the wrong color code…
Works great for metric sockets..