Milwaukee M12 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver 2503 Review
Pros: Great drilling performance, compact
Cons: Lackluster battery life, expensive
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Milwaukee M12 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver 2503
$164.99 at Amazon
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|Pros||Great drilling performance, compact||Great for driving fasteners, heavy-duty, efficient use of battery life||Powerful, great battery life, fantastic integrated worklight||Impressive drilling power, strong steel drilling performance, good control, great price||Inexpensive, lightweight|
|Cons||Lackluster battery life, expensive||Heavy, takes some force to swap batteries||Expensive, only includes a single battery||Only includes a single batter, so-so battery life in our tests||Weak, minimal features|
|Bottom Line||This model has the power of a top-tier drill in the compact package of a 12-volt model||If you are looking for a top-tier drill to go with your existing Milwaukee batteries, this is your best bet||The highest scorer in our group, this is a heavy-duty drill that can keep up with all your toughest projects||A decent drill for DIY projects that won't deplete your savings||An okay drill for basic household tasks and assembly projects at a great price|
|Rating Categories||Milwaukee M12 Fuel...||Milwaukee M18 Fuel...||Kobalt 24-volt Max...||Craftsman V20 1/2-I...||Black+Decker 20V Ma...|
|Battery Life (20%)|
|Specs||Milwaukee M12 Fuel...||Milwaukee M18 Fuel...||Kobalt 24-volt Max...||Craftsman V20 1/2-I...||Black+Decker 20V Ma...|
|Battery Capacity (Included)||2 Ah and 4Ah||Tested w/ 2 Ah||2 Ah||1.3 Ah||1.5 Ah|
|Drill Model Tested||2503-20||2803-20||KDD 524B-03||CMCD700||LDX120C|
|Box Model (Kit) Tested||2503-22||Tested tool-only, no kit||672823||CMCD700C1||LDX120C|
|RPM||Low: 0 - 450
High: 0 - 1700
|Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2000
|Low: 0 - 550
High: 0 - 2000
|Low: 0 - 450
High: 0 - 1500
|0 - 650|
|Peak Torque (manu)||325 in-lbs||1,200 in-lbs||650 in-lbs||280 UWO||N/A|
|Measured Weight||2 pounds 11.4 ounces
(w/ 2 Ah battery)
|4 pounds 1 ounce||3 pounds
|3 pounds 7 ounces||2 pounds
|Measured Charge Time||40 minutes||25 minutes||75 minutes||58 minutes||210 minutes|
|Battery Indicator Location||Drill||Battery||Battery||Battery||N/A|
|LED Location||Above the trigger||Above the battery||Above the battery||Above the trigger||Above the trigger|
|Included Belt Clip||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Easily the first thing that comes to mind for most people when these products are mentioned, each drill's drilling performance accounts for 35% of its total score in our testing process. We based each tool's score on how it handled a twist drill, paddle bit, and hole saw in different materials. The M12 FUEL did quite well.
Starting with the 1" spade bit, the M12 FUEL did about average compared to the rest of the drills in the group. It never faltered or stalled, but you could tell that it was under some strain. However, this didn't seem to affect it all that much, with it doing better than the other 12-volt models.
It did even better with the normal twist drills, drilling holes through a steel plate quickly and easily — enough that you wouldn't even know this drill runs at a lower operating voltage than many of the others. It only took a couple of seconds to make it through the 16 gauge plate with a ¼" drill and about six seconds with the ½" drill. It didn't struggle at all with the smaller drill and only had the briefest of struggles before punching through with the larger drill.
The Milwaukee M12 FUEL finished out our drilling metric with another excellent showing in our giant hole saw test. It again drilled to the full depth without too much protesting — an impressive performance for a 12-volt drill considering it was using a 5" hole saw in a solid wooden door.
It never stalled or caught, just took about three times as long as the best drills. Still, it took less than a minute to complete the task.
Following our hole drilling tests, we moved on to evaluating how proficient the M12 FUEL is at driving in fasteners, which also accounts for 35% of its total score. We used an assortment of fasteners for this test, particularly looking at how each drill dealt with common wood screws and with much harder to drive hardware, like lag screws. The M12 didn't do as well as it did in our drilling tests, but still delivered a decent performance.
The M12 FUEL has more than enough power to handle standard wood screws, driving them in quite quickly and having zero issues with setting the head flush. We basically treated this drill the same as the top-tier drills in this test, setting it apart from the other 12-volt drills that occasionally needed a break to keep from overheating.
Unfortunately, it couldn't quite carry this almost flawless performance into our next assessment: driving a 5" long, ½" lag bolt to its full depth to connect a 2x4 to a 4x4. You could definitely tell that this drill couldn't match the driving force of the top products. It stalled out a handful of times, but the Milwaukee M12 did eventually drive the screw to the full depth.
Our next group of assessments focused on how long the included battery can run each drill for and the time it took to recharge a dead battery. Altogether, these account for 20% of the M12's total score, which delivered a slightly disappointing performance.
For our tests, we used the smaller 2 Ah pack (the package we bought had a a and 4 amp hour battery each), as this was a closer comparison to the other models and keeps the form factor of the M12 small — one of the main reasons to get a 12-volt drill.
To test out the runtime of each drill, we alternated between driving in 16 wood screws to their full depth and drilling 3 1" diameter holes through a 2x12 using a spade bit until the battery was totally depleted. The M12 didn't do amazingly well with the smaller battery, only making it through 4 full cycles and part of the 5th before dying. However, the larger battery would probably put it on par with the best drills in this test, which finished over 10 cycles before dying.
The M12 did redeem itself in our recharge test, fully charging the 2 Ah battery in about 40 minutes — one of the faster times of the group.
Our remaining metric is responsible for the remaining 10% of the total score for each drill. To award points, we looked at all the little features that make these tools easier and more efficient to use, like if they have a belt clip, integrated LED work lights, and a battery indicator so you know how much juice you have left. Additionally, we also compared the maximum bit size the M12's chuck can hold against the rest, as well as its operating speeds, weight, and ease of swapping batteries.
This drill has a belt clip that holds the drill in a balanced position and can be put on either side of the drill. The M12 has two different speed modes and weighs in at less than three pounds with the 2 Ah battery installed. It has a great work light that stays illuminated for about 10 seconds and the drill chuck doesn't create an annoying shadow over whatever you are working on.
Speaking of the chuck, the M12 FUEL can hold up to a ½" bit.
The drill body itself also has a battery status indicator, but we did find it to be a bit difficult to swap batteries. The locking tabs can be a bit stubborn and it takes a decent amount of force to install or remove the batteries.
While the Milwaukee M12 FUEL packs quite a punch for a 12-volt drill, it pairs this with a somewhat premium price, so it is far from being the best value option you can get.
If you want a heavy-duty cordless drill that can handle all but the toughest projects with ease and still fits easily in a kitchen drawer, then the M12 is a great choice. This 12-volt drill thoroughly impressed us and is by far the best we have seen to date with its operating voltage. It held its own with the higher voltage drills, all while retaining the compact form factor of a 12-volt tool.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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