Reviews You Can Rely On

Milwaukee M12 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver 2503 Review

This model has the power of a top-tier drill in the compact package of a 12-volt model
Milwaukee M12 Fuel 1/2" Drill Driver 2503
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:   $170 List | $164.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Great drilling performance, compact
Cons:  Lackluster battery life, expensive
Manufacturer:   Milwaukee
By David Wise and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Nov 10, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 16
  • Drilling - 35% 7
  • Driving - 35% 6
  • Battery Life - 20% 4
  • Convenience - 10% 6

Our Verdict

If you love the compact form factor of a 12-volt drill but don't want to make any sacrifices when it comes to power, then you should strongly consider the M12 Fuel by Milwaukee. It held its own against much larger and higher voltage drills in our drilling and driving tests, all while being exceptionally convenient and easy to use. It's definitely our top recommendation for anyone who wants a burly 12-volt drill, but we did wish that it was a little less pricey and had a better battery life with its smaller battery. It does include a larger battery, but it significantly increases the size of the drill, somewhat defeating the purpose of getting a compact 12-volt model.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $170 List
$164.99 at Amazon
$140 List$139 List
$129.99 at Amazon
$79 List
$59.00 at Amazon
$60 List
$39.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
60
93
91
60
35
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Great drilling performance, compactGreat for driving fasteners, heavy-duty, efficient use of battery lifePowerful, great battery life, fantastic integrated worklightImpressive drilling power, strong steel drilling performance, good control, great priceInexpensive, lightweight
Cons Lackluster battery life, expensiveHeavy, takes some force to swap batteriesExpensive, only includes a single batteryOnly includes a single batter, so-so battery life in our testsWeak, minimal features
Bottom Line This model has the power of a top-tier drill in the compact package of a 12-volt modelIf you are looking for a top-tier drill to go with your existing Milwaukee batteries, this is your best betThe highest scorer in our group, this is a heavy-duty drill that can keep up with all your toughest projectsA decent drill for DIY projects that won't deplete your savingsAn 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...
Drilling (35%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
7.0
4.0
Driving (35%)
6.0
10.0
9.0
6.0
3.0
Battery Life (20%)
4.0
10.0
9.0
4.0
3.0
Convenience (10%)
6.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
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
Battery Voltage 12V 18V 24V 20V 20V
Max Chuck 1/2" 1/2" 1/2" 1/2" 3/8"
Battery Chemistry Lithium-Ion Lithium-Ion Lithium-Ion Lithium-Ion Lithium-Ion
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 Length 6-5/8" 7" 7-3/8" 8-1/4" 7"
Measured Weight 2 pounds 11.4 ounces
(w/ 2 Ah battery)
4 pounds 1 ounce 3 pounds
15.2 oz
3 pounds 7 ounces 2 pounds
10.8 ounces
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

A favorite 12-volt model, the Milwaukee M12 FUEL.
A favorite 12-volt model, the Milwaukee M12 FUEL.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Performance Comparison


The M12 Fuel handles drywall with ease.
The M12 Fuel handles drywall with ease.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Drilling


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.

1" spade bit testing with the M12 Fuel.
1" spade bit testing with the M12 Fuel.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

You can count on the M12 FUEL to get you through a thin sheet of...
You can count on the M12 FUEL to get you through a thin sheet of steel.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

The M12 FUEL can handle tough jobs like a 5" hole saw through a...
The M12 FUEL can handle tough jobs like a 5" hole saw through a solid core door.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

The M12 FUEL is our go to 12-volt for small driving projects.
The M12 FUEL is our go to 12-volt for small driving projects.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Driving


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.

This model was eventually able to drive the lag screw all the way in.
This model was eventually able to drive the lag screw all the way in.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

The M12 Fuel battery can be a little annoying to remove.
The M12 Fuel battery can be a little annoying to remove.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Battery Life


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.

We liked drills that had good lighting and a belt clip.
We liked drills that had good lighting and a belt clip.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Convenience


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.

The M12 FUEL has a solid light.
The M12 FUEL has a solid light.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Speaking of the chuck, the M12 FUEL can hold up to a ½" bit.

Impressively, the M12 FUEL, a 12-volt drill, can hold a 1/2" shank...
Impressively, the M12 FUEL, a 12-volt drill, can hold a 1/2" shank in the chuck.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More