Updated June 20, 2018 by Sam Kraft

The 10 Best Rotary Hammers

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This wiki has been edited 23 times since it was first published in January of 2017. Whether you're preparing for some ambitious demolition work or just need to drill a few holes in concrete, nothing beats a rugged, powerful rotary hammer. These are some of the best models available, with features like trigger locks, vibration minimizing technology, and variable speed control to help you get the job done in a quick and efficient manner. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best rotary hammer on Amazon.

10. Hitachi DH38

9. DeWalt DCH133B

8. Bosch RH328VC

7. Makita Plus

6. DeWalt D25263K

5. Makita HR4002

4. Bosch Bulldog

3. Hilti 228061

2. Makita HR4013C

1. DeWalt Max

What Makes A Rotary Hammer So Special?

As the motor turns, the ridges on the outside of the discs cause one another to spin and then separate, creating a force in the direction of the chuck.

If you’ve ever drilled a hole in something, you’ve probably noticed that you need to apply a little bit of force to the drill itself to get it moving through a given material, even if that material is something as simple as drywall or a soft type of wood. The harder the material, the more force you’ll need to get that drill to do its job. If you encounter a material that’s so hard you can’t get the drill to push through without significantly taxing the motor, then you’re probably going to need a stronger implement like a hammer drill or a rotary hammer.

Hammer drills and rotary hammers are often lumped into the same category, and this is understandable. Both tools add a hammering action to the backside of their bits, and that action is consistent enough to provide a lot of force when drilling through tough materials. The primary difference between the tools, however, is the means by which each achieves this pounding action.

Hammer drills use a pair of discs that look a lot like poker chips. As the motor turns, the ridges on the outside of the discs cause one another to spin and then separate, creating a force in the direction of the chuck. When using a hammer drill, you can usually turn the action on or off, using the tool as a lighter drill for softer materials, and ratcheting up the power when needed. That flexibility makes hammer drills very attractive to a lot of homeowners who don’t have much particularly difficult material through which they need to bore, but plenty of lighter tasks for which a rotary hammer might be overkill.

Where hammer drills fall short, however, is their overall power, which cannot attain the heights that a rotary hammer can offer. That’s because, instead of using a disc system, rotary hammers employ a crankshaft and piston not too dissimilar to what creates force in a car’s engine. When this piston slams into the chuck, it creates a lot more force than the disc system inside a hammer drill. If you do a lot of drilling through concrete, brick, and other masonry materials, there is no substitute for a high-quality rotary hammer.

What To Look For In A Rotary Hammer

When you’re shopping for a rotary hammer, it can be hard to tell what the important differences are at a glance. Many of these tools look incredibly similar, save for a given brand’s color scheme. But there are a few key differences that can make the purchase of one rotary hammer much smarter than that of another.

Just make sure, if you’re purchasing your rotary hammer for a specific project, that the size bit you need falls into its adjustable range.

One of the most important aspects of a rotary hammer is its adjustability. Some units will boast a lot of easily adjustable aspects, while others might be more rigid. Whether you want a certain degree of adjustability may be a matter of preference. Some users believe that the more adjustable a model is the easier a time they’ll have tackling a greater variety of projects. Others see adjustment points as weak spots, the likeliest parts of a given model to break down over time. Our recommendation is to opt to more adjustability over less. Even if the unit lasts you a shorter amount of time, you will have gotten more use out of it, and had an easier time with it.

Among adjustable points are the chuck, handle, and depth gauge. Your chuck is always going to be adjustable, as it needs to accommodate a variety of bit sizes, but the breadth of sizes that can fit in its hole changes from model to model. The wider that range, the more you can do with the rotary hammer. Just make sure, if you’re purchasing your rotary hammer for a specific project, that the size bit you need falls into its adjustable range.

As for the handle, adjustability here can give you more comfortable drilling positions, especially if you’re working in tight spaces or at strange angles. If the handle can rotate all the way to the other side of the unit, that might make it much easier for a left-handed user to enjoy the benefits of the unit.

The depth gauge is an important point of adjustability, as well. These tools are rather powerful, and if you don’t want to drill past a certain point, you’ll need a little help. The depth gauge allows you to set a measured point at which the unit physically can’t move any further forward. Most depth gauges are marked with rulers to make this process even more accurate.

All of these adjustable aspects are important to a good rotary hammer. What may be even more important, though, is that they can be adjusted without the use of any additional tools. Being able to quickly set your depth, angle your handle, and swap out bits without digging around for an allen key can save you valuable time when on site.

A Brief History Of The Rotary Hammer

The technology behind the rotary hammer is essentially that of the screw, one of humanity’s simple machines. These originally consisted of little more than sharp stones ground into other materials by hand, and the use of such tools reaches back some 37,000 years. These eventually turned into the manual rotary tools that gained additional power through the developments of steam, combustion, compression, and electricity.

Another Eurpoean company, Hilti, came out with a combination electro-pneumatic model in 1967.

Like many advancements in tool history, the addition of a hammering action to the drill is an advancement claimed by a number of inventors. The first known patent for such a tool came from Germany in 1914, but that model never went into production. Another German company, Bosch, went on to actually build and market a similar tool in 1932 that they called the Bosch Hammer.

Just two years after that, a US-based company, the Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation, released their version of the tool, which was smaller and ran on electrical power, as opposed to Bosch’s pneumatic design. Another Eurpoean company, Hilti, came out with a combination electro-pneumatic model in 1967. Today, every major tool company offers some form of rotary hammer, most of which are electric, and a few of which are even cordless.

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Sam Kraft
Last updated on June 20, 2018 by Sam Kraft

In addition to his corporate career as a marketing and communications professional in Chicago, Sam runs a popular blog that focuses on the city’s flourishing craft beer and brewery scene. He received his degree in journalism from DePaul University (which spurred his interest in freelance writing) and has since spent years developing expertise in copywriting, digital marketing and public relations. A lifetime of fishing, hiking and camping trips has left him well-versed in just about any outdoors-related topic, and over several years spent working in the trades during his youth, he accumulated a wealth of knowledge about tools and machinery. He’s a travel junkie, a health and fitness enthusiast, and an avid biker.

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