Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2-inch High-Torque Impact Hands-on Review: Big Power in a Smaller Package

It's a well-built-brute that dishes out more power than you'll realistically need for most jobs.
Milwaukee M18 High-Torque Impact Hands-On Review

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Cordless impact wrenches keep getting more and more powerful in smaller and smaller packages. So much so that the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2-Inch high-torque impact wrench—part number: 2967-20—is actually marketed as compact. It’s not small, but there is something behind this claim. Compared to other high-torque impact wrenches I’ve got in my possession, this definitely has a smaller head. Despite that, it’s capable of dishing out an almost freakish amount of power. 

If nothing else, Milwaukee’s M18 High-Torque impact wrench is an impressive example of how far cordless tools have come. Still, when it offered to send me one for review, I was reluctant to take them up on the offer. I don’t have much work that would actually call for the sort of torque this thing could dish out. I do get into some pretty hairy situations, but I really only work on relatively light-duty applications. When I did take this on, I went into it with the question, “Is this sort of power better to have and not need than to need and not have?”

After using it throughout one of the most demanding jobs I’ve taken to date, I can say with utmost certainty that Milwaukee’s M18 Impact Wrench is way more powerful of a tool than I’ll ever typically need. However, there are some situations where it’s definitely irreplaceable. And, if you’re into some gritty, rusty, exceedingly frustrating situations, its grunt is likely worth every penny it commands. 

The Rundown 

Milwaukee’s M18 1/2-Inch High-Torque Impact wrench can deliver 1,500 ft-lbs of breakaway torque and 1,100 ft-lbs of fastening torque. Milwaukee does have more powerful models available. However, this is still extremely impressive for a battery-powered 1/2-inch impact wrench—even by today’s standards. Not to mention one with a head that Milwaukee touts as “compact.” 

Milwaukee M18 High-Torque Impact Wrench
Hank O’Hop

This impact wrench has a head length of 7.6 inches. The high-torque impact with the second smallest head I currently have in my shop is a Ryobi model, which has a length of 8.2 inches. This is better, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it compact. Not with mid-torque models sitting between it and 3/8-inch impacts, which truly earn that title. However, a smaller head does make for a maneuverable package that allows you to snake into tight spaces, and unleash some serious power where you’d otherwise not be able to with other high-torque models. The tri-LED light built into the head compliments that use-case. 

M18 Impact Settings
Hank O’Hop

All of the power of the Milwaukee M18 high-torque impact wrench is ruthlessly laid down with the potential to dish out 2,500 impacts per minute. It can also be delicately controlled with a variable speed trigger attached to a total of four Drive Control modes. Among the drive control modes is the Auto-Shut-Off mode, which offers bolt removal control. That makes this a graceful brute that won’t just tear things apart on you unless you want it to. 

The retail price is high but reasonable. The tool itself lists for $299.99. The kit containing the impact wrench, two batteries, a charger, and storage case sells for $499.99. Considering the performance, size, industry-leading quality, and the 5-year limited warranty, it’s not a bad deal at all.

Using Milwaukee’s M18 Behemoth 

It’s fitting that the most powerful impact wrench I’ve tested to date showed up in time for me to take on one of the most intense projects I’ve ever signed my car up for. I’ve been working on installing Heidts Suspension’s four-link and Pro-G front suspension conversions on my 1969 Dodge Charger. The job has been relentlessly demanding of all tools at my disposal. The Milwaukee M18 high-torque impact wrench has seen it through from start to finish.

Milwaukee M18 High-Torque Impact LED Lights
Hank O’Hop

From tearing the car down to nothing and converting it to the new suspension systems and the many times everything needed to be taken back apart and put together again, the mighty M18 Impact has done it all. It looks like it’s been in service for a few years rather than a few months. I’m confident in saying I’ve put it through its paces. It’s an absolute monster. I mean that in a good way, but this beast only confirms that high-torque impacts are overkill for the DIYer, at least those at my level.

This is truly an excellent tool. It runs smooth and does everything exactly as it is designed to. I just never need its full power or anything close to it. I use it mostly in the lower two settings, if not in Auto-Shut-off mode. Even in those more reserved modes, it quickly tears through fasteners, making disassembling chassis and drivelines trivial. The Auto-Shut off mode is especially useful as you won’t easily sling fasteners across the shop floor and into the abyss under my tool box. That’s not to say the lower settings being more than enough for me is a surprise, though. As burly and tough as a ’69 Charger looks, it is just a passenger car. The M18 high-torque impact is clearly designed with far beefier applications. 

I’m not saying the power this M18 high-torque impact can deliver is useless. It’ll help you deal with rusty axle nuts and other big stubborn fasteners, and it will tear through them more quickly than other impacts can. Even if you never truly tip into the full-bore potential, moving faster is something many will appreciate. I just know the situations where that power makes a huge difference are few and far between at this level. I only ran that third mode out of curiosity and never out of necessity as I tore through virtually every major fastener in my car. To be frank, I find it risky to run the tool in that higher setting because it will dish out serious torque in a hurry and can easily damage things. It is awesome; it’s just not the kind of power I’ll realistically need on a regular basis.

The quality really does speak for itself. Milwaukee delivers high-quality tools designed for professional use, and you can certainly pick up on that with this thing in your hand. Even if it weighs a little more than 8 pounds with the battery installed, it remains fairly comfortable. Operation feels tight and smooth and remains relatively quiet, even when it’s laying down some grunt. Battery life is impressively long, and performance remains consistent throughout the charge. It’s undoubtedly ready to take on the longest, most demanding jobs you can get into. 

M18 vs Other High-Torque Impacts
Hank O’Hop

All of the power doesn’t come free, though. As I said, this bull does weigh in north of 8 pounds. The bare weight of the tool is 5.9 pounds. The M18 XC 6.0 Ah battery I’ve got here comes in at 2.3 pounds. It might have a smaller head than the Ryobi, DeWalt and Hercules I’ve got in my possession, but they’re all roughly the same weight. And with the M18 battery installed, the Milwaukee is actually the tallest of my batch, and that can keep it out of as many places as the small head can get it into. 

The Verdict on the Milwaukee M18 High-Torque Impact

At the end of the day, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2-Inch high-torque Impact wrench is a great tool. It’s a well-built, smooth-operating, and exceptionally powerful impact. It will get through whatever you’re getting into. If you’re a professional in the industry, especially one who works with heavy-duty applications, or even a DIYer who’s into that stuff, it should be on your radar. The power it lays down, along with all of the other features it offers, makes for a really nice tool that you will get a ton of use out of. 

I won’t recommend it to anyone who works with the sort of applications I’m into. While you may find a use for the high power of this tool on occasion, I don’t think it’s worth buying solely for that reason. Even if you leave it in the lower settings, you are taking a hit in terms of size and weight to do a job a smaller, more maneuverable impact can. I typically use a 3/8-inch impact for the majority of the work I do in my shop while the high-torque models collect dust. The power is definitely appreciated when they’re in rotation, but I wouldn’t buy a professional grade tool like this to get it done. There are ways to get similar power for less money, which are ideal at a hobbyist or DIY level. Though, if you want the best, this is it.

Milwaukee M18 High-Torque 1/2-Inch Impact