The 8 Best Locking Pliers Sets
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in April of 2016. Whether you need to release a stubborn nut or bolt, clamp together metal while welding, or bend hot steel in your project, you'll need strength, leverage, and a vise-like grip. The right pair of locking pliers can help you complete any of these tasks safely, so we put together a comprehensive selection of sets comprising various sizes and styles so you can find the one that's perfect for you. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 30, 2021:
We opted to remove a couple sets from Stanley and Craftsman that are outperformed by others on our list, but priced about the same. Another change we made was upgrading to the MaxPower 15-Piece frmo the lowly 3-piece set. This particular set is interesting because of the various curved-jaw and needlenose designs it includes. Overall, though, the Stanley Proto XL are still widely considered the best on the market with the Stanley Proto Blackhawk close behind.
July 29, 2020:
Removed the Craftsman Evolv in favor of the Craftsman 945713.
The Craftsman 945713 are a significant upgrade over the budget-friendly Evolv in terms of materials and design. With respect to design, the release lever is enclosed within the bottom handle and is activated by separating the two handles. I've found that the locking mechanism is sensitive enough to be released with one hand by pushing your fingers away from the top handle. You would think that this makes it prone to spontaneously opening but that isn't the case. Overall you get a good set of pliers at a very affordable price.
The Irwin 1078 includes most of what you'll ever need in locking pliers. The two C-clamp pliers are close to a necessity if you plan on welding or brazing anything from sheet metal to square and angle stock. The release is smooth and the jaws maintain alignment even at their maximum clamping forces and at uneven clamping points. While they don't have big rubber overmolding on the handles, I've never felt that you really need cushioning on locking pliers or that it really adds very much to comfort or function.
March 22, 2019:
Locking pliers are commonly known as vise-grips, which happens to be the trademarked named of one of the original and wildly popular models. While Irwin's Vise-Grips are still a formidable choice, they're not necessarily the be-all and end-all of locking pliers, though. Depending on your use case, you can spend anywhere from a few bucks to a couple hundred on a good set. If you mostly need them for minor repairs around the house or small crafting projects, the WorkPro are hard to beat, due to their general reliability and extremely low price. The Crescent are of similarly high value. Stanley and Craftsman are another two very well-known brands, and their entry-level models are of good quality. If you'll be using them a lot, it may be worth the upgrade to the Proto Blackhawk, which are also made by Stanley, only to a slightly higher standard than others. The Grip-On set comes with great reviews from users and experts, and with 5 pieces, it offers plenty of versatility. If you've got specialized projects in mind, consider the MaxPower KitBag, which provides some unconventional jaw shapes that can make difficult jobs far easier. But if you're looking for the very best, Stanley's Proto XL line is it. It's crafted of the finest materials, and made with a close eye on quality and close tolerances.