Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3404-20 Hammer Drill (Gen 3) Vs Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill (Gen 4)

Milwaukee 3404-20 Angle 5

Milwaukee 3404-20

Quick take

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3404-20 Hammer Drill and Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill are flagship drills designed for different users. The 3404-20 is exceptionally compact and not powerful, making it ideal for woodworking and carpentry tasks where squeezing into tight corners trumps power. On the other hand, the 2904-20 amps up the performance with its higher voltage, which vastly improves its speed and power. An auxiliary arm is included in the box, and it has kickback control technology, which reduces injury risk and is essential in such a powerful drill. Both drills include a hammer drill mode for drilling cement efficiently.

Brand Milwaukee
Platform M12 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 400.0
BPM 25,500.0
Clutch settings 13
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as M12 gen 3 hammer drill
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 1400.0
BPM 33,000.0
Clutch settings 16
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as M18 gen 4 hammer drill

Editorial opinion

Rating

4.45 / 5 ⭐️’s

Methodology used: Light duty

Pros

  • Exceptionally compact and lightweight
  • Fast drilling and driving performance in its class
  • Solid build quality
  • Long warranty
  • Brushless motor

Cons

  • Hammer drill functionality isn’t highly effective

Rating

4.67 / 5 ⭐️’s

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Powerful and fast drilling and driving
  • Kickback control technology
  • Long warranty
  • Hammer drill functionality
  • Solid build quality

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy

Global rankings

18 models tested

TestResultRank
Drilling speed (sec.)27.616
Driving speed (sec.)14.812
Torque (in-lbs)400.010
RPM1,432.017
Bare weight (lbs)2.154
Drilling Noise (dBA)90.212
TestResultRank
Drilling speed (sec.)10.83
Driving speed (sec.)7.63
Torque (in-lbs)1400.01
RPM2,055.02
Bare weight (lbs)3.2616
Drilling Noise (dBA)95.016

Kit and bare tool options

3404-22

Includes (1) M12 Red Lithium XC 4Ah, (1) M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

Lab results

Design & ergonomics

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

The 3404-20 uses the same design language as the M12 Fuel Milwaukee impact drivers. The handle leans forward, and the head is upwardly sloped, orienting the drill in the correct plane when exerting forward pressure.

There is also a rubber overmold surrounding the grip, which improves shock absorption and gripping power.

An all-metal belt hook is included in the box and is mountable on either side of the head just behind and above the trigger. There is no onboard bit holder or magnetic fastener plate to hold screws.

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

The 2904-20 has a forward-leaning handle and a slight upward-pointing head that properly position the drill in the correct plane when exerting forward pressure when drilling.

While an all-metal belt hook in the box is mountable on either side of the base, no onboard bit holder or magnetic plate to store screws is included. Both can be purchased in the after-market from third parties.

Weight

Milwaukee 3404-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.15
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 2.54
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs): Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): Not tested

The 3404-20 is incredibly lightweight in its bare form and with a battery, creating an agile feel in hand. Unlike many other models in our test fleet, we didn’t experience hand and arm fatigue throughout our testing.

We tested different battery configurations since the working weight can differ meaningfully from the bare tool weight. We recommend combining the 3404-20 with Milwaukee’s M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah Ah battery for a good balance of drilling performance and weight in a lightweight setup.

If weight is less of a concern, Milwaukee offers several higher Ah-capacity M12 batteries in its lineup. But you lose the seamless in-handle design for a slightly bulkier base footprint and higher weight.

Compare drill weight test results

Weight

Milwaukee 2904-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 3.26
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 4.20
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs): Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 4.87

We look forward to when power tool technology advances to the point where the most powerful drills are compact and light. Unfortunately, that day has yet to come, including with the 2904-20, which is heavy and bulky feeling in hand. This drill is one of the heavier hammer drills in our test fleet and one of the heavier options on the market.

We tested different battery configurations since the working weight can differ meaningfully from the bare tool weight. We recommend combining the 2904-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for the lightest setup we’d suggest that is still powerful with an acceptable battery life.

Or pair the 2904-20 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 3404-20 Footprint1

Max height (in.): 8.250
Max width (in.): 2.250
Chuck to back length (in.): 6.000
Base length (in.): 2.000
Base width (in.): 2.250

There aren’t many 12V drills that are highly compact and powerful simultaneously, highlighting why the 3404-20 impresses. The 3404-20 is short with a battery, casts a reasonably thin shadow when viewed from the front and back, and is short from tip to tail. The compact size helps it squeeze into tight areas well, improving its versatility.

Compare drill footprint test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2904-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2904-20 Footprint2

Max height (in.): 9.500
Max width (in.): 3.125
Chuck to back length (in.): 7.000
Base length (in.): 4.625
Base width (in.): 3.125

The 2904-20 is bulky when measured in different orientations. While it is tall with a battery attached, the tip-to-tail length is reasonably short compared to the competition. As a result, it fits better through narrow openings and tight spaces than other high-end hammer drills.

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Motor & BPM

Milwaukee 3404-20 Drill Modes

Motor type: Brushless
Action modes: Drill, hammer
Advertised blows per min. (speed 2): 25,500.0
Advertised blows per min. (speed 1): Not advertised
Variable speed trigger: Yes
Kickback control technology: No
Trigger draw length (in.): 0.375

The Powerstate brushless motor powers two action modes. Like all drills, the drill mode disengages the clutch and delivers the highest torque output in the low setting. Setting the drill to hammer drill mode achieves the same, but layers in 25,500.0 blows per minute (BPM) to improve speed when drilling masonry and thick lumber.

The advertised BPM isn’t high, which explains why we experienced only a minimal increase in speed in our tests when selecting the hammer drill mode.

No kickback control technology is included with the 3043-20, expected in the 12V category.

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Motor & BPM

Milwaukee 2904-20 Drill Modes
Milwaukee 2904-20 Over Rotations Closeup

Motor type: Brushless
Action modes: Drill, hammer
Advertised blows per min. (speed 2): 33,000.0
Advertised blows per min. (speed 1): Not advertised
Variable speed trigger: Yes
Kickback control technology: Yes
Trigger draw length (in.): 0.375

The 2904-20 includes Milwaukee’s Powerstate-branded brushless motor, which offers better efficiency and longevity than brushed motors.

Two drill options are located on the same set ring as the clutch settings. The standard drill mode disengages the clutch, and the hammer drill mode does the same but layers in 33,000.0 blows per minute (BPM) to improve drilling speeds.

The hammering rate is high, explaining why the hammer drill mode effectively increased drilling speeds in our tests.

One standout feature is that the 2904-20 features kickback control technology to reduce the risk of wrist injuries. Near the light in the base, there is a small Autostop light that flashes when the kickback mechanism is triggered when binding up.

We tested the kickback control using several large spade and forstner bits and found that it worked as advertised. But we don’t run standardized tests to understand if Milwaukee’s technology works better than any competing kickback control technology.

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Clutch & speed settings

Milwaukee 3404-20 Clutch & Speed

Speed settings: 2
Clutch settings: 13

The 3404-20 has a two-speed gearbox with 13 clutch settings. All the clutch options and drill action modes can be run in the high or low-speed setting, helping fine-tune the drilling and driving profile to the task.

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Clutch & speed settings

Milwaukee 2904-20 Clutch & Speed

Speed settings: 2
Clutch settings: 16

The two-speed gearbox determines the RPM output and can be used in drill and hammer 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 2904-20 is precise when the proper clutch setting is engaged.

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Chuck

Milwaukee 3404-20 Chuck Closeup

Chuck size: 1/2″
Chuck sleeve material: Knurled metal

The all-metal chuck is well-designed and feels more premium than most chucks, partly due to the metal knurling on the chuck sleeve.

Throughout testing, we were also impressed with how well the three-jaw chuck locks bits. We didn’t encounter situations where the chuck inadvertently loosened.

Chuck

Milwaukee 2904-20 Chuck Closeup

Chuck size: 1/2″
Chuck sleeve material: Knurled metal

The 2904-20 has an exceptional all-metal chuck that is more premium than most drills, especially the knurled metal sleeve that tightens the chuck with the right amount of friction on your hand for grip.

The three-jaw chuck also holds bits well since the ratcheting mechanism locks tightly onto a bit when tightening. We didn’t run into any scenarios where the chuck inadvertently loosened during use.

Auxiliary arm

Auxiliary arm: No

The 3404-20 doesn’t include an auxiliary handle to control recoil and enhance stability during heavy-duty drilling tasks. But we don’t see this as a downside. The 3404-20 isn’t designed to tackle the heaviest-duty drilling tasks, such as drilling wide and deep holes in masonry or wood, where an auxiliary handle is helpful.

Auxiliary arm

Milwaukee 2904-20 Auxiliary Arm

Auxiliary arm: Yes

The 2904-20 includes an auxiliary handle to control recoil and enhance stability during heavy-duty drilling tasks, improving user safety. The 2904-20 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.

Drilling speed

Drilling speed total time (drill mode, sec.): 27.6
Drilling speed average time (drill mode, sec.): 5.5
Drilling speed total time (hammer mode, sec.): 24.6
Drilling speed average time (hammer mode, sec.): 4.9
Hammer mode speed improvement: 10.9%

The 3404-20 shined in our drilling speed tests, far outpacing competing models in the 12V class. Milwaukee geared the 3404-20 to speed through tasks at the upper end of its range, which is what our drilling speed tests are designed to achieve.

We also tested a range of spade and forstner bits in different sizes to understand further the 3404-20’s capabilities in various drilling scenarios. The 3404-20 didn’t bind up when boring 1/2-inch and narrower holes. With some larger holes with bit types, we had to drop into the low setting for added torque to finish the job, which is expected in this voltage class.

The overall drilling performance highlights why the 3404-20 is perfect for around the home, for woodworking, and as a dedicated light-duty drill for professionals. Homeowners won’t push it to the limits, and it’ll do many of the jobs of a more powerful 18V drill in a pinch.

While the hammering functionality improves drilling speed and is recommended for drilling masonry and thick lumber, it doesn’t vastly improve the speed. In our test, the hammer drill improved speeds by 10.9%. A higher BPM would improve this result, putting it closer to the most effective hammer drills, which will improve speeds by upwards of 20.0%.

Compare drilling speed test results

Drilling speed

Drilling speed total time (drill mode, sec.): 10.8
Drilling speed average time (drill mode, sec.): 2.2
Drilling speed total time (hammer mode, sec.): 8.0
Drilling speed average time (hammer mode, sec.): 1.6
Hammer mode speed improvement: 25.9%

The 2904-20 rapidly bores small and wide holes alike. Importantly for a performance-focused high-end hammer drill, it sustained high RPMs throughout the depth of the holes bored in our drilling speed tests. The 2904-20 was never close to binding up, and it easily cleared chips from the hole.

We also tested the 2904-20 in various drilling applications, including drilling a range of width holes using spade and forstner drill bits. We didn’t encounter a task where the 2904-20 didn’t either match or outperform other flagship hammer drills.

Consider that the 2904-20 may be overkill for most homeowners. Few tasks around the home are likely to push it to the limits, and there are some cheaper and still powerful drills if you aren’t a prosumer and prefer to save some money.

Compare drilling speed test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 14.8
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 3.0
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 10.1
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 2.0

The 3404-20 turned in some of the fastest driving times of 12V models in our test fleet.

Diving deeper into our driving speed results further highlights how far ahead of the pack the 3404-20 is regarding its driving performance. The next closest 12V competitor took approximately ten more seconds to complete the driving speed test. In the 18V category, the difference was only a few seconds when comparing flagship models to mid-tier competitors. This comparison further proves that the 3404-20 is in a class of its own.

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Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 7.6
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 1.5
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 6.0
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.2

The 2904-20 also performed exceptionally well in our driving speed tests, breezing through driving and removing five GRK RSS screws from 2×6 stacked lumber.

We also tested driving various common length and size shorter screws and different gauge lag bolts and decking screws to understand how the 2904-20 performs across a range of tasks. In each test, it finished fasteners rapidly with power.

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Torque

Advertised max torque (in-lbs): 400.0
Advertised max torque (ft-lbs): 33.3

While 400.0 in-lbs of torque isn’t high compared to all drills in our test fleet, it is high for a 12V drill, which shouldn’t be surprising since the 3404-20 sits within Milwaukee’s flagship Fuel-branded lineup.

However, we don’t consider torque a critical factor when purchasing a 12V drill. Firstly, impact drivers are the preferred tool for driving tasks that rely on torque to power through a job with lots of twisting force. Next in line is an 18V drill, which is needed for heavy-duty drilling applications.

Focusing on size, weight, and RPM performance under load are more important since 12V drills are mostly used as dedicated light-duty tools for professionals or for homeowners who don’t need brute force power.

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.

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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

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M12 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 2.5Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, and 6Ah batteries on the M12 platform. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves drilling performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

The 4Ah and higher capacity batteries increase the base footprint over the in-handle-only, smaller Ah versions.

Buying at least two batteries is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying two Milwaukee M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah batteries for most M12 drill setups for a good balance of performance, price, and size.

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M18 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, 6Ah, 8Ah, and 12Ah batteries on the M18 platform. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves drilling performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Buying at least two batteries is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah and a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for most M18 drill setups for a good performance, price, and size balance.

Charging time

Milwaukee 3404-20 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 38.0
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time per Ah (min.): 19.0
Fuel gauge: Onboard tool

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 38 minutes to charge an M12 2Ah battery, equivalent to 19 minutes per amp-hour.

Many Milwaukee drills come in kits with chargers that charge multiple voltage batteries in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

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Charging time

Milwaukee 2904-20 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

RPM

Milwaukee 3404-20 RPM Chart

Max RPM speed 2: 1,432.0
Max RPM speed 1: 429.0

There are always performance tradeoffs with power tools. In the case of the 3404-20, it has reasonably low RPMs in both its speed settings. But you may wonder how it crushed the competition in our drilling and driving speed tests.

Like most Fuel-branded Milwaukee tools, the 3404-20 is designed to be the fastest in demanding tasks under load. The 3404-20 will give up some speed to competing drills in lighter-duty jobs.

Arguably, speed only matters at the top end of a drill’s range since there’s not much of an advantage to finishing one-inch screws the fastest.

This inverse speed and power relationship underlies how RPM and torque work and explains why the 3404-20 has a low RPM output but is still fast when it matters most.

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RPM

Milwaukee 2904-20 RPM Chart

Max RPM speed 2: 2,055.0
Max RPM speed 1: 467.0

The 2904-20 shined in our drilling and driving speed tests due to the high RPM output sustained under load. We tested the RPM output with a contact tachometer, and the 2904-20 is among the fastest in our test fleet.

The 2904-20 also has a moderately high RPM in the low setting, meaning it’ll drill faster than other lesser drills when gearing down for extra torque.

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Drilling clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.750
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.250
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.000

Thanks to its compact footprint, the 3404-20 shined in our clearance tests. The 3404-20 is a fantastic hammer drill to use when access is limited, including when drilling under shelves and in tight corners.

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Drilling clearance

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

The 2904-20 isn’t the ideal drill for fitting through narrow spaces and into tight corners. While it is admirably compact compared to other hammer drills in its class, it is still bulk overall.

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.

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Noise

Milwaukee 3404-20 Noise Chart

Max no-load noise (dBA): 84.0
Max drilling noise (dBA): 90.2

The 3404-20 is moderately loud under load, primarily resulting from its hammer impacting 25,5000.0 times per minute. Setting it to the drill mode reduces the noise output, which aligns with other drills in their non-hammering drill mode.

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Noise

Milwaukee 2904-20 Noise Chart

Max no-load noise (dBA): 84.7
Max drilling noise (dBA): 95.0

No power tool is a wallflower, but the 2904-20 is one of the loudest drills in our test fleet. We measured 95.0 dBA of noise output in the hammer drilling mode. This result is loud for a hammer drill and rivals the sound profile of an impact driver, which can cause damage with prolonged noise exposure.

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Light

Milwaukee 3404-20 Light Wall
Milwaukee 3404-20 Light Closeup

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

A single LED above the trigger brightly illuminates the drilling surface in front of the head. Unlike some Dewalt drills, there are no extra light features, such as a spotlight mode or the ability to turn off the light when pressing the trigger.

Light

Milwaukee 2904-20 Light Wall
Milwaukee 2904-20 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, an area for improvement with the 2904-20.

App integration

App integration: No

There is no Bluetooth app integration to track drill usage and location, display tool diagnostics, and allow you to set custom profiles on your phone. Some Milwaukee drills include its One Key Bluetooth integration, but it’s currently not available on the M12 drill platform.

App integration

App integration: No

There is no Bluetooth app integration to track drill usage and location, display tool diagnostics, and allow you to set custom profiles on your phone. However, you can buy the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2906-20 Hammer Drill, which is the same drill but includes Milwaukee’s One Key Bluetooth app integration technology.

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 3404-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M12 Li-Ion batteries have two or three-year warranties, depending on the specific model.

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 2904-20 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.

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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