The cordless drill is the most useful tool in any man’s bag. Untethered power and portability combined with the ability to go from drill to drive in mere seconds make it the go-to grab for most projects around the house. While the 18V and 20V bit-twisters of the world have homes on the belts of contractors and semi-pro weekend warriors alike, breaking out the big guns just to hang a picture or tighten some screws is, well, overkill — plus every now and then things can get a little tight. Whether you’re just beginning your collection or adding to the fleet, the torque and twist-time offered by today’s 12V versions rival many of their corded counterparts, minus the heft; that can often be the difference between completing a job and cursing til the cows come home.
Black & Decker LDX112C
The Black and Decker LDX112C packs plenty of professional features into its value-priced body. Its unique front-loading battery creates a balanced drill that stands at the ready and feels equally comfortable and steady in hand due to an ergonomic over-molded grip. A variable speed trigger puts you in total control of the all-metal gear box’s 100 in-lbs of twist; meanwhile, an eleven-position clutch is at the ready in case you’re feeling a little trigger-happy. And at this price point, that’s all pretty damn hard to beat. An integrated LED is a welcomed addition, and a bit storage slot ensures changes on the fly won’t require rummaging through the junk drawer. The 12V lithium battery holds a charge for up to 18 months, but we’re sure you won’t give it that much rest.
Looking like a slightly shrunken version of its 20V stablemate, the DeWalt 12V drill/driver is designed to offer industrial-grade performance in confined spaces. Delivering 189UWO (Unit Watts Out) and 1,500 rpm, this 2.4-pound yellow jacket can lay waste to even the most demanding Honey-do lists with power to spare. To keep you in control and save the heads of screws the world over, that twist is tempered by a switchable two-speed speed transmission and fifteen-position chuck. The DeWalt is solidly constructed and well-balanced with a smooth variable speed trigger pull and anti-fatigue grips. Packaged with a 3-year warranty and two 12V Lithium Ion batteries (which will inevitably provide life in a number of other DeWalt 12V tools), this potent portable is a great building block for any budding handyman.
Milwaukee 2410-22 M12
Looking for more power? The Milwaukee M12 should satisfy even the most megalomaniacal of mister-fix-its. Cranking out an astounding 275 in-lbs of torque from its long-lasting brushless motor, this drill would feel right at home on any construction site. A class-exclusive, all-metal 3/8-inch locking chuck is designed to ensure bits don’t slip (or worse, get lost) mid-job, while the integrated LED should do the same for those pesky screws. At only 2.5 pounds and just over 7 inches, this Wisconsin native welcomes longer jobs and is complete with an onboard fuel gauge to let you know when it’s time for a changeover. The included REDLITHIUM battery simply slides into the base, maintaining the pistol-style grip for easy holstering in most tool belts. Should you feel the need to re-frame your basement in an afternoon, an upgraded higher capacity battery is available.
Porter-Cable’s compact 12V unit combines a 20-position clutch, two-speed transmission and variable speed trigger to put you in total control of those tight situations that demand a smaller tool. An on-board belt clip keeps this pistol-gripped gadget at arm’s reach, while a magnetic bit holder makes going from drill to drive a simple affair. The textured grip and balanced weight distribution deliver a comfortable in-hand feel, especially when working overhead, and a single-sleeve spindle-lock clamps down on bits to translate all 220 in-lbs of force into drilling performance. An extra battery and 30-minute quick charger can keep breaks to a minimum, and the included storage bag makes clean up a snap.
Weighing in at a mere 2.1 pounds and only 7 inches long, the Bosch PS321 is the smallest and lightest selection in our 12V roundup, making it a natural choice for handymen on the fly. Don’t be fooled by its diminutive dimensions, though: this ultra-compact offers up 265 in-lbs of torque and a 20+1 position clutch to allow precise tailoring of all that power. The single-sleeve 3/8-inch chuck accommodates just about any bit on the market today, and spins at up to 1,300 rpm in high gear. An on-board power gauge will let you know when to reach for the extra battery sitting in the 30-minute quick-charger, and the integrated work light can lend some illumination when you work past sundown.