While the Milwaukee M18 is an exceptionally good cordless drill, it couldn't quite claim an award, though it did finish in the upper tier of the entire group. This drill packs plenty of power, finishing close to the top in both our drilling and driving tests. It has an average battery life and a handful of convenience features, along with a heavy-duty, all-metal chuck. While this drill is a bit heavy and expensive for the casual DIYer, it was definitely in the running for the best of the best, only falling a tiny bit short.
Milwaukee M18 Review
Pros: Burly construction, tons of power
Cons: Heavy, costly
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This drill finished in the top portion of the group overall, just behind the DEWALT DCD777C2 and ahead of the DEWALT DCD771C2. The M18 and the DCD777C2 both are almost identical when it comes to driving performance, convenience, and battery performance, but the DEWALT did slightly better in our drilling tests. Neither the M18 or the DCD777C2 struggled all that much in any our tests, the DCD777C2 was just a bit faster at drilling through the steel sheet and using the 5" hole saw. The M18 also has a slightly higher list price than both the DCD777C2 and the DCD771C2. The DCD7771C2 can't match the battery life or drilling performance of the M18, but it is better at driving in fasteners.
To begin our testing and reviewing process, we started by researching and comparing the different specifications and user reviews of tons of different tools, then purchased all the most promising products to test out for ourselves. We grouped the various tests we did into four weighted rating metrics, with the M18's performance in each one discussed in detail below.
First off, we ranked and compared the M18's performance as using different bits to drill various sized holes. This accounts for 35% of its overall score and is based on the M18's performance at drilling into a solid door with a large hole saw (5"), drilling through a steel sheet with two different twist drills, and drilling holes in a piece of 2x12 dimensional lumber with a 1" diameter spade or paddle bit. It did very well, earning a 9 out of 10.
The Milwaukee M18 drilled into the solid door with the 5" hole saw without any major issue, never stalling or struggling. However, it does take a bit longer than some of the other drills, taking 30-35 seconds compared to 17 seconds or so of the top models.
This drill also drilled the 1" holes with the paddle bits without any hassle, quickly and easily drilling through the wood. It didn't stall out, even when drilling in its higher gear, and is definitely one of the best at this test.
The M18 finished out with a strong showing when it came to drilling through a steel sheet. It seemed like it struggled a tiny bit more than we would expect with the ¼" drill, but it still drilled through in about 2.3 seconds. It never stalled out or anything, just took a bit more force than some of the other drills to power through. However, it did do a great job with the ½" drill, punching through the 16 gauge steel sheet relatively effortlessly.
Our next two tests — driving in both a #9 wood screw and a 5" long, ½" lag bolt — also account for 35% of the total score. We rated each drill on the time it took to drive in each screw, how much the drill had to work to do so, and if it could set the heads properly. The M18 again did quite well, earning a 9 out of 10.
This drill is pretty solid at driving in the regular (#9) wood screws. It lets you drive them to their full depth in a gentle and controlled way, easily setting the head flush with the surface of the wood. It has plenty of power to stop and start again without stalling, but it isn't the fastest at driving in the screws, with some of the top drills sinking them in just a bit faster.
The M18 also did very well in our lag screw test — a much harder task than the first driving one. We drilled a pilot hole, then used the M18 to sink the 5" long bolt through a 2x4 into a 4x4.
It did this easily, setting the screw to its full depth without complaining, taking just a fraction of a second longer than the top drills overall.
Next, we evaluated and scored the recharge time and battery life of the M18, as well as the number of included batteries. These three assessments account for 20% of its total score, with the Milwaukee M18 earning a 5 out of 10 for its average set of scores.
To compare the battery life between drills, all with different voltages battery sizes, we alternated driving 16 3" long #9 wood screws to their full depth and drilling three 1" diameter holes with the spade bit, basing the scores off the number of cycles completed. The best drills finished over eight, while the M18 only made it through about 4.5 cycles of this before calling it quits. Fortunately, this is one of the fastest charging batteries of the bunch, only taking 31 minutes to completely recharge.
We also liked that the M18 includes an additional battery, so you can always have one on the charger while you work.
For the final 10% of its final score, we rated and scored the various features and functions on the M18 that make it easier and more efficient to use. It did fairly well, earning a 6 out of 10.
This drill is a bit on the heavy side, weighing in about 3.75 lbs., but does have the option to add a belt clip. Unfortunately, this belt clip isn't included but can be attached near the battery pack. The clutch can hold a bit up to ½" and the M18 has two different operating gear ratios.
It has a decent integrated work light, but it does dim after about seven seconds — a little fast for our taste, but at least you don't have to hold down the trigger the entire time.
We did particularly like that this drill has a battery level indicator, but it can be a bit harder to swap batteries on this drill. It can bind up a bit when removing and the double locking tabs are a bit harder to disengage than the single tab system used by other models.
This drill isn't a great budget buy; it actually has one of the highest list prices of the entire group.
The M18 is a burly drill that packs a punch, just not quite enough to earn it an award. However, it was definitely a contender for one and should be able to easily handle even the most difficult drilling tasks, albeit a bit slower than our top choices.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer