Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2903-20 Drill Review

Milwaukee 2903-20 Angle 5

Quick take

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2903-20 is a fantastic drill that most people shouldn’t buy. Instead, we recommend the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill, which is the same in almost every way but includes a hammer drill mode. The 2903-20 is incredibly powerful and has outstanding build quality with metal components in the right places. Milwaukee also has a best-in-class tool warranty. The primary downside beyond not including a hammer drill functionality is that it’s bulky and heavy, primarily expected in this power tier. Since it’s a powerful drill intended mainly for professionals who demand performance, most people are best off spending a few bucks more for the hammer drill version, which is more versatile.

Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 1400.0
BPM N/A
Clutch settings 16
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as M18 gen 4 drill

Global rankings

18 models tested

TestResultRank
Drilling speed (sec.)10.01
Driving speed (sec.)7.75
Torque (in-lbs)1400.01
RPM2,059.01
Bare weight (lbs)3.1615
Drilling Noise (dBA)83.25

Editorial opinion

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Editorial rating

4.30 / 5 stars

Pros

  • Fast drilling and driving speeds
  • Kickback control technology
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Long warranty

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy
  • No hammer drill functionality

Recommended configuration

2903-22

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery

Series lineup

Model #PlatformAction ModesMax Torque (in-lbs)Review
Milwaukee 2607-20M18Drill, hammer500.0Full review
Milwaukee 2801-20M18Drill only500.0Full review
Milwaukee 2903-20 (Gen 4)M18 FuelDrill only1400.0Full review
Milwaukee 2904-20 (Gen 4)M18 FuelDrill, hammer1400.0Full review

Lab results

Drilling speed

Drilling speed total time (drill mode, sec.): 10.0
Drilling speed average time (drill mode, sec.): 2.0
Drilling speed total time (hammer mode, sec.): N/A
Drilling speed average time (hammer mode, sec.): N/A
Hammer mode speed improvement: N/A

The 2903-20 is incredibly fast, boring small and wide holes alike. It sustained high RPMs throughout the depth of the hole in our test of drilling a 1/2-inch drill bit through three stacked 2x6s. Never did it think of bogging down, primarily due to the high speed that impressively launches chips out of the hole.

The 2903-20 may not be the ideal drill for homeowners since it is overpowered and overkill for most jobs around the home.

Compare drilling speed test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 7.7
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 1.5
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 6.6
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.3

Unsurprisingly, the 2903-20 also drives big structural screws fast, tallying one of the best results in our driving speed tests. It blazed through driving five GRK RSS screws in 7.7 seconds.

While it didn’t take the podium position in our driving speed tests – that goes to the Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD800 and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD805 Hammer Drill – context is essential. The total driving time difference between the top drills in our test fleet is just over a second, which isn’t too discernible in practice.

We also tested the 2903-20 using several different gauge and length lag bolts and three-inch decking screws. We don’t measure the performance for these data points. Still, the 2903-20 impressed with whatever driving task we threw at it.

Compare driving speed test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2903-20 RPM Chart

Max RPM speed 2: 2,059.0
Max RPM speed 1: 468.0

One reason the 2903-20 shined in our performance tests is its high RPM output. Importantly, it has enough power to sustain high RPMs under load. Some drills advertise high RPMs but aren’t fast in practice since they’re underpowered and meaningfully slow down at the top of their range.

The 2903-20 also dishes out moderately high RPMs in the low setting, as we measured using a contact tachometer. In practice, this means this drill will be faster than other drills in the same low setting when gearing down for extra torque.

Compare drill RPM test results

Torque

Advertised max torque (in-lbs): 1400.0
Advertised max torque (ft-lbs): 116.7

The 2903-20 advertises the highest torque of any drill in our Summer ‘23 test fleet with 1,400.0 in-lbs. This level closely matches the performance of some of the best impact drivers, which are safer and more user-friendly options when driving lags and big fasteners.

Throughout testing, there were several instances where the combined RPM and torque profile led to binding in heavy-duty applications. In those scenarios, Milwaukee’s Autostop kickback control technology shined, helping to avoid wrist injury by instantly stopping the motor.

Note: We don’t currently test drill torque in-house, as we do for impact drivers using a torque meter. The torque commentary discussed here relies upon both advertised torque specifications provided by manufacturers and practical insights learned from performance in our various drilling and driving tests.

Compare drill torque

Chuck

Milwaukee 2903-20 Chuck Closeup

Chuck size: 1/2″
Chuck sleeve material: Metal

The 2903-20 has an exceptional all-metal chuck that feels and looks more premium than most drills. The sleeve has a knurled metal design that helps tighten the chuck with enough friction on your hand for grip.

We were impressed throughout testing with how well the three-jaw chuck holds bits. The ratcheting jaws lock tightly onto a bit when tightening, and we didn’t run into any scenarios where the chuck inadvertently loosened during use.

Motor & BPM

Milwaukee 2903-20 Drill Modes
Milwaukee 2903-20 Over Rotations Closeup

Motor type: Brushless
Action modes: Drill only
Advertised blows per min. (speed 2): N/A
Advertised blows per min. (speed 1): N/A
Variable speed trigger: Yes
Kickback control technology: Yes
Trigger draw length (in.): 0.375

As should be expected at this price point, the 2903-20 includes Milwaukee’s Powerstate-branded brushless motor, which offers better efficiency and longevity than brushed motors.

There is only a single drill mode setting that is positioned on the same set ring as the clutch settings.

One standout feature is that the 2903-20 features kickback control technology, which helps reduce the risk of wrist injuries when binding up. Near the light in the base, there is a small Autostop light that flashes when the kickback mechanism is triggered.

We tested the kickback control using several large spade and forstner bits and found that it worked as advertised and immediately stopped drilling to avoid over-rotating when the bit binds up. But we don’t run standardized tests to understand if Milwaukee’s technology works better than any competing kickback control technology.

There is no hammer drill functionality, which the sister Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill includes.

Compare drill motors

Clutch & speed settings

Milwaukee 2903-20 Clutch & Speed

Speed settings: 2
Clutch settings: 16

The two-speed gearbox determines the RPM output and can be used in drill mode when the clutch is disengaged or when a clutch setting is selected.

While 16 clutch settings isn’t the highest number available, it’s more than most people will need in practice. Including more clutch settings would only allow you to finely tune the torque to a given driving task. Still, the 2903-20 is precise when the proper clutch setting is engaged.

Compare drill clutch and speed settings

Charging time

Milwaukee 2903-20 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 98.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 20.1
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Milwaukee M12 and M18 multi-volt charger (model 48-59-1812) included in most kits is reasonably fast at charging batteries, including to beat out team red’s most frequent adversary, Dewalt. It takes 41 minutes to charge an M18 2Ah battery and 98 minutes for a 5Ah battery, or approximately 20 minutes per amp-hour.

Milwaukee’s 48-59-1812 charger charges multiple battery voltages in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Compare drill charging test results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright (no battery): Yes
Stands upright (w/ battery): Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Lanyard compatible: Yes

When drilling, the 2903-20’s forward handle lean and slight upward-pointing head angle properly position the drill in the correct plane. Rotating your wrist slightly forward from its natural gripping position exerts more forward pressure when drilling, and the 2903-20 runs perpendicular to the drilling surface in these instances.

An all-metal belt hook in the box is mountable on either side of the base. However, there is no onboard bit holder or magnetic plate to store screws, though both can be purchased in the after-market from third parties.

Notably, the 2903-20’s grip is surrounded by a rubber overmold that improves shock absorption and gripping power.

Weight

Milwaukee 2903-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 3.16
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 4.10
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs): Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 4.77

No powerful drill is lightweight, including the 2903-20, one of our test fleet’s heavier drills. Most users will experience hand and arm muscle fatigue when operating the 2903-20 over prolonged periods, as we experienced in several tests.

We tested different battery configurations since the working weight can differ meaningfully from the bare weight. We recommend combining the 2903-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for as lightweight a setup as possible while still retaining acceptable performance for a high-powered drill.

Pair the 2903-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved drilling performance if weight is less of a concern.

Compare drill weight test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2903-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2903-20 Footprint2

Max height (in.): 9.500
Max width (in.): 3.125
Chuck to back length (in.): 6.875
Base length (in.): 4.625
Base width (in.): 3.125

The 2903-20 is bulky when measured in a variety of orientations. Notably, it is tall with a battery attached, and the head is somewhat wide. The tip-to-tail length is surprisingly compact for such a powerful drill, helping it fit into some tight areas better than other high-end models in our test fleet.

Compare drill footprint test results

Drilling clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 8.625
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.375
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.875

Since it is bulky, we weren’t surprised that the 2903-20 didn’t beat our test fleet with its driving clearances. This drill is designed more for brute force unobstructed drilling power than for squeezing through narrow spaces and into tight corners.

In the three clearance tests we conducted, it performed best with its interior width clearance. It fits moderately well between two vertical boards, primarily thanks to its tip-to-tail footprint.

Compare drilling clearance test results

Auxiliary arm

Milwaukee 2903-20 Auxiliary Arm

Auxiliary arm: Yes

The 2903-20 includes an auxiliary handle to control recoil and enhance stability during heavy-duty drilling tasks, improving user safety. The 2903-20 is a powerful drill, so it makes sense that an auxiliary arm is included.

The handle is easy to attach and remove just behind the chuck and is mountable on either the right or left side.

Noise

Milwaukee 2903-20 Noise Chart

Max no-load noise (dBA): 85.7
Max drilling noise (dBA): 83.2

The 2903-20’s maximum drilling noise under load is far quieter than most models in our test fleet, including much louder hammer drills that rival the noise output of many impact drivers.

Compare drill noise test results

Light

Milwaukee 2903-20 Light Wall
Milwaukee 2903-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light location: In base
Light positions: 1
Customizable light settings: None
Light count: Single LED
Light active time (sec.): 15.0

The work light located in the base is effective and bright and no-frills at the same time. Several competing high-end Dewalt drills include a three-position light that has a spotlight mode or can be disabled. These premium features enhance the versatility, which is an area for improvement with the 2903-20.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 2-3 (depends on model)
Battery warranty (years): 5

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its drills with exceptionally long warranties. The 2903-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 Li-Ion batteries have two or three-year warranties, depending on the specific model.

Picture of Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

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