Milwaukee vs Ridgid Cordless Impact Wrench (How to Choose)

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When choosing an impact wrench, you must factor in what you’re going to be needing it for and not be blinded by seemingly appealing doodads that may not have any practical use for what you’re trying to accomplish.

Too powerful a wrench and you could overtighten a nut or bolt and risk cross-threading, cracking, breaking, or rounding them off. One that’s too weak, well, obviously, will just not finish the job.

One of the oft-asked questions is, which gets most of the job done – a ½” impact wrench or a 3/8” one? Or would you need both?

We will take a look at one of each to help you identify which impact wrench best fits your project.

Quick Summary

Representing the 3/8” group is the Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 and on the ½” corner is the Ridgid R86011B.

By design, ½” impact wrenches are meant to be more powerful than 3/8” wrenches. But for a 3/8” impact wrench, the Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 does not fall way too far behind the Ridgid R86011B. The latter is still the winner in all aspects, though, because again, it’s built to handle tougher jobs.

Let’s Compare the Milwaukee and Ridgid Impact Wrenches

Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 Fuel 18-Volt Brushless Cordless Impact Wrench

Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 Fuel 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Mid Torque 3/8 in. Impact Wrench with Friction Ring (Tool-Only)

Milwaukee swanks that the Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 is the most powerful in the 3/8” division of impact wrenches. It houses a POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor that delivers great speed and will, therefore, boost productivity.

Battery Power

The Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 makes use of the REDLITHIUM™ 5.0 Ah Compact or Extended Capacity line of batteries which promises more work per charge and more work over the lifetime of the battery compared to other batteries.

The battery is managed by a technology called REDLINK™ Intelligence which offers overload protection, discharge protection, temperature management, and cell monitoring so that you can get the most out of the battery.

Drill Weight and Size

At 5.3 lbs (with a CX 5.0 battery) and measuring 8.2” x 2.7” x 6.77”, it has the weight and balance that most professionals would find comfortable even for all-day use.

 Variable Speeds and Torque Ratings

Its brushless motor can deliver up to 450 ft-lbs of fastening torque and 600 ft-lbs of nut-busting torque.

The base of this impact driver has a push-button control pad that will allow you to change the speed and match the job at hand:

  • Mode 1 – 0 to 575 RPM / 0 to 450 IPM
  • Mode 2 – 0 to 2,000 RPM / 0 to 2,900 IPM
  • Mode 3 – 0 to 2,400 RPM / 0 to 3,200 IPM

What We Like

  • The three-speed mode helps manage the speed needed by different tasks and prevents over-torquing of bolts.
  • It is powerful enough to accomplish most of the shop and home tasks like changing tires, removing lawnmower blades, etc.
  • The ergonomics is great.
  • A single battery charge lasts long.

What We Don’t Like

  • There’s a little bit of weight to it with the 5.0 Ah battery but it’s not that massive that you’d have to grapple with it. If you don’t need that much power capacity, the battery can be swapped out with one with a lower capacity.

Verdict on the Milwaukee 2852-20 M18

On paper and in actual application, the Milwaukee 2852-20 can do most of what a ½” inch impact wrench can do. It can complete heavier tasks too such as removing axle nuts but not quite as fast as a ½” wrench can.

Ridgid R86011B OCTANE 18V Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Wrench

Ridgid R86011B OCTANE 18V Lithium Ion Cordless 1/2 Inch Impact Wrench w/ Belt Clip (Battery Not Included, Bare Tool Only)

The Ridgid R86011B OCTANE is part of the rebranded Ridgid Octane line of tools which boasts of higher specs and boosted power.

Battery Power

For optimum performance and runtime, it is recommended that you use Ridgid’s OCTANE™ line of batteries (4.0 Ah up). The OCTANE™ technology can lower heat and increase power in Octane tools due to a built-in sensor that monitors the temperature, voltage, and current.

Drill Weight and Size

With a 5.0 Ah battery, it can weigh up to 5.6 lbs and it measures 8.4” x 7.7” x 3.5”.

Variable Speeds and Torque Ratings

It has a maximum speed of 2,600 RPM and an impact rate of 3,500. Its max forward torque is 485 ft-lbs and max reverse torque is 620 ft-lbs. Unlike a lot of impact drivers that only offer three speed mode settings, this one has four:

  • Mode 1 – 0 to 1,300 RPM
  • Mode 2 – 0 to 1,900 RPM
  • Mode 3 – 0 to 2,600 RPM
  • Auto Mode – 0 to 2,100 RPM. This mode automatically shuts down the tool when impact begins so that you don’t risk overtightening.

What We Like

  • The auto mode setting prevents nut/bolt and material damage.
  • It has three LEDs around the front housing for illumination.
  • Because of its power, there’s no need to switch tools to work on most nuts and bolts on a car.

What We Don’t Like

  • A battery with less than 4.0 Ah capacity would not be able to unleash the full potential of this tool but that’s kind of expected with all the torque and speed that it has to offer.

Verdict on the Ridgid R86011B

The Ridgid R86011B’s numbers prove that it is powerful. It is a good all-around impact wrench that can handle 90% of bolts on most automobiles.

Milwaukee vs Rigid: Which is Better?

Both the Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 and the Ridgid R86011B are no lightweight in each of their divisions. However, in terms of who can get more things done, the Ridgid R86011B takes the lead. It just has more of everything – torque, speed, you name it.

It’s not for the lack of trying on Milwaukee’s part. It is simply because these two models are designed to handle certain ranges of tasks. The Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 is meant for light to moderate work while the Ridgid R86011B can go for the heavier ones.

In situations where space is an issue, the Milwaukee 2852-20 M18 would be a better fit since it is slimmer.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of things that need to be taken into account when picking up an impact wrench. If you’re using it for automotive work, for example, the size of the vehicle matters. A ½” impact wrench would find itself more useful on bigger vehicles like trucks. If you routinely work on nuts and bolts of all sizes, you can get both to be able to address the diversity.

5/51 rating