Typically used for demolition jobs and touch masonry work, an SDS (slotted drive system) hammer drill packs a lot more power than your regular drill and uses different drill bits. However, there are also two types: SDS Plus and SDS Max. If you want to go for additional power, SDS Max seems like the better option of the two.
Not all SDS Max hammer drills are made the same – some accommodate bigger drill bits and have better drilling capacities over the others. Tool weight, ease of operation, and vibration reduction can also affect the drilling quality.
If you don’t have time to read in-depth about our favorite SDS max hammer drills, then go straight to our top pick, the DEWALT D25773K 2-Inch SDS Max Rotary Hammer.
The DEWALT D25773K 2-Inch SDS Max Rotary Hammer is my first choice since it has a bigger drilling capacity over most SDS Max hammer drills out there, ranging from 1 7/18 to 7/8 inches of optimal concrete drilling. With 19.4 joules of impact, it can produce 1,105 to 2,210 BPM (blows per minute), which is a typical range for most SDS Max drills.
Generally used for #7 to #14 rebar applications, this SDS Max drill uses an E-Clutch system, which automatically shuts to prevent excessive rotations from the tool aside from using the internal clutch. This can help with the longevity of the drill as a whole, especially its mechanical parts. It also has Active Vibration Control to help lessen user fatigue, while still being a power-packed rotary hammer.
Since you can adjust the speed, you can use it precisely for your preferred job without causing your material(s) to break. What I also like is the service brush light which tells you when something is wrong with the tool so you can take it to the nearest service center.
Things I Like About This Product: It has variable speed so you can work on different materials, without accidentally breaking more delicate materials. The E-Clutch system also acts as a safety brake to stop the bit rotation when necessary.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The max 2,210 BPM might not be as powerful as those of other SDS Max rotary hammers (typically around 2,500 BPM or higher).
With 8.8 ft/lbs or 11.9 joules of impact energy, the Milwaukee 5426-21 1-3/4-Inch SDS-Max Rotary Hammer uses an AVS (Anti-Vibration System) to keep you free from fatigue during prolonged use while the mechanical clutch helps control the gears and prevent unnecessary spinning after usage to preserve the inner workings. With a no-load BPM range of 2,200 to 2,840, this one can take bit sizes of 1 3/4 inches.
This hammer is flexible, you can use the lower speed of 350 RPM (2,200 BPM) for lighter jobs. It has a thick wall core bit capacity of up to 4.5 inches, just a few inches shy of my top pick (the DEWALT D25773K has up to 6 inches).
Even under heavy loads, it uses its Constant Power Technology so that performance won’t be compromised. While the 14-amp 1,300 MWO Milwaukee motor has good overload protection as well. The tool weighs 16.2 pounds, so it’s not too intimidating for most job-site tasks. It is also backed by a 5-year warranty period.
Things I Like About This Product: The tool weight is not too heavy and it also has AVS (Anti-Vibration System) so it can lessen your user fatigue during a demolition job. You can switch to low and high speed depending on what material you’re working with.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The hammer-only setting might drill a bit slowly, but this can depend on the material.
Much like my two other picks above, the Makita HR4002 1-9/16-Inch SDS Max Rotary Hammer also has a limiting clutch to prevent excessive spins, while it features no-hammer idle functions to prolong its durability.
With 4.6 ft/lbs of impact energy, this SDS Max hammer drill runs on a 10-amp motor with a concrete drilling capacity of 1 9/16 inches (4 1/8 inches with a core bit). Although the speed is constant at 2,500 BPM and 680 RPM, it can do the job for even the most difficult masonry demolition work.
To lessen user fatigue it has a rubberized ergonomic soft grip. To avoid awkward positions, there are 12 angle settings for the bit so you can work flexibly with the tool. The torque-limiting clutch also prevents bit binding. This tool is backed by a 1-year warranty.
Things I Like About This Product: The speed and BPM are both quite high for an SDS Max hammer drill while the 12 angle settings allow work flexibility.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It is a single-speed unit so you would have to take frequent breaks so the tool does not overheat. The single-speed tool might also not be best for fragile or intricate jobs because 2,500 BPM may be too strong for delicate materials.
If you want a total demolition package, you might like the DEWALT DCH733X2 Flexvolt SDS MAX Rotary Hammer Kit, which comes complete with a tool case, a charger, and two batteries that are ready to be used for the SDS Max hammer drill. At twenty pounds, this drill has an optimal concrete drilling capacity of 3/4 to 1 3/4 inches and impact energy of 13.3 joules.
Much like my previous DEWALT pick above, this one also has various speeds available from 177 RPM (1,350 BPM) to 355 RPM (2,705 BPM). I’d prefer this one if I had very serious demolition jobs, and also lighter work because of its seven position variable-speed dial.
It also has the E-clutch system to protect the inner gears from wear and tear, while the constant speed electronics help to prevent strain on the tool’s speed even when under load. It also lessens user fatigue with its Active Vibration Control System.
As for dry core applications, it can be used for up to five inches of horizontal and vertical drilling for #6 to #9. As an extra, if you have a DEWALT Tag, you can attach it to this tool and never lose it again using the DEWALT Tool Connect app.
Things I Like About This Product: It has seven settings for speed, allowing work flexibility on any material.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The drill could be on the heavier side compared to similar ones.
Bearing a brushless motor, the Milwaukee 2717-21HD SDS-max Rotary Hammer Kit uses an 18V motor and is a cordless hammer drill, as opposed to my previous picks, which are all corded-electric ones. This means you can perform demolition jobs even without the limit of a short power cord (or extension).
Using its patented redlink plus intelligence, it minimizes battery overheating while running for up to twenty minutes on its lithium-ion battery. Although the impact energy is only at 5 ft/lbs, this is given since it is a cordless tool, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be used for medium-duty chipping and dry coring tasks. It can also be used to drive ground rods at up to 8 feet in length.
It can go as fast as 450 RPM or 3,000 BPM so it can be a worthy hammer drill for tough jobs. Also, it has a drilling capacity of 1 9/16 inches and it even has a D-shaped handle to make it easier to hold for continuous use to lessen fatigue. And even though it’s cordless, the overall weight is only around 12.15 pounds with the battery. It is backed by a 5-year limited warranty.
Things I Like About This Product: You’ll find a cordless tool more flexible for sneaky areas where a cord or an extension would be annoying and difficult to maneuver with.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: You’re limited by the battery life, as compared to a corded-electric hammer drill.
Yet another SDS max hammer with variable speed, the Bosch 11321EVS SDS-Max Concrete Demolition Hammer has a range of 1,300 to 2,900 BPM so you can pick the appropriate setting for your job. With a 6.1-ft/lb impact energy, this SDS Max hammer drill comes with a Vario Lock positioning feature so you can work from different angles.
Since it’s only 13.7 pounds, it won’t cause too much fatigue while the D-style handle is also designed to ergonomically fit your hand. To maintain its speed under load, it uses Constant Response circuitry and it also has a soft start feature. Since it comes with its carrying case, transferring tools between job-sites is a breeze.
Another feature that I like about this SDS Max drill is that the auxiliary handle can be rotated for up to 360 degrees to allow flexibility during tough tasks. If you have the HDC300 dust extraction/collection hood from Bosch, you can also use that for this tool. This demolition hammer drill has a 1-year warranty.
Things I Like About This Product: You can position it from any angle due to its Vario Lock feature and 360-degree auxiliary handle – perfect for tight spaces.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The switch could have been placed somewhere else to avoid unintentionally turning it off.
If you’re the person who wants tool-free bit changes, you will like the Bosch RH540M SDS-Max Combination Rotary Hammer. With 6.1 ft/lbs of impact energy, this SDS Max hammer also has automatic bit locking so you can focus more on your productivity, rather than on your tool maintenance.
It also has dust protection and service minder brushes so you’ll know when it’s time to take it to the service center. This hammer has variable speeds from 1,200 to 2,750 BPM (170 to 340 RPM) so you can work on different levels of tasks. Angular chiseling will be easier for you with the Vario-Lock function, with up to twelve different positions to choose from, depending on your working position.
The SDS Max drill has an optimal concrete capacity range of 1/2 to 1 3/8 inches and a hole diameter capacity of 1 9/16 inches (2 1/2 inches with a thru-hole bit). It also comes with an auxiliary handle and carrying case.
Things I Like About This Product: It has variable speeds, angular positions, and the weight is not too heavy so you can work with minimal fatigue.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The hammer drill could be a bit on the heavy side if you’re a smaller-sized person.
The Metabo HPT DH40MC SDS Max Rotary Hammer is a 1-9/16-inch hammer drill that comes with 6.3 ft/lbs of impact energy and up to 2,800 BPM (620 RPM) so it can be used for tough demolition jobs. Fun fact: Metabo HPT is the rebranded Hitachi Power Tools, so it’s a familiar and trusted brand for most long-time power tool users.
To help lessen fatigue, it has a soft over-molded handle and a large trigger switch so you can work with the power tool’s different modes easily. Sporting a 10-amp motor, the knob and triggers are large enough so that even while wearing gloves, it can be easy to switch on the fly.
Along with the SDS Max hammer drill, you also get extras such as a carrying case, side handle, depth stopper rod, and grease to maintain the tool.
Things I Like About This Product: The trigger and handle are both large enough to be easily switched even while wearing gloves, making on-the-fly adjustments convenient.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It can be a bit on the heavy side but that depends on the user’s strength.
At only thirteen pounds, the DEWALT D25481K Rotary Hammer/Drill Kit is more lightweight compared to the previous picks. Ideal for rebar doweling of #4 to #8, this tool has Active Vibration Control to lessen user fatigue while also having 6.1 joules of impact energy.
With a no-load speed of up to 540 RPM (3,150 BPM), it has a high blows-per-minute value compared to my previous picks above, so you might find it useful for very stubborn concrete. I also like that it is an AC/DC power tool so you can use it even with a generator outside your home (or on a construction site).
As for the optimal concrete drilling, it can take 1/2 to 1 1/8 inches of hole boring. The SDS Max hammer drill comes with a carrying case that’s ready to be taken to your next job-site. It is backed by a 3-year limited warranty.
Things I Like About This Product: The blows per minute of this hammer drill is quite high compared to similar ones. It can also be connected to a generator.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: Unfortunately, this SDS Max drill doesn’t have variable speed, so it’s not suited for more delicate jobs.
The Methodology: What I Considered When Picking the SDS Max Hammer Drills Featured Above
To help you pick your ideal SDS Max hammer drill, I will explain some of the criteria that I used to choose the suggestions mentioned above:
Blows per Minute / Rotations per Minute
The speed of a hammer drill can be measured either through BPM (blows per minute) or RPM (rotations per minute). BPM is used for hammer mode while RPM is used for drilling mode.
BPMs of about 2,500 and above are good for tough demolition jobs, while those on the lower speeds can be ideal for less difficult work. Usually, single-speed hammer drills have a very high BPM, since they are typically built for very stubborn concrete. However, there are also variable-speed ones that have a high blows-per-minute value.
This is measured in joules or ft/lbs and refers to the impact energy of the hammer action. A higher number means it can get more work done faster, especially for tough demolition work.
Over-mold rubber grips can help alleviate your hands from the constant vibration of the tool so you’ll have less user fatigue. Also, having adjustable handles and grips can help keep you comfortable at different angles.
Other than that, a lightweight hammer drill also helps with mobility so that you won’t strain yourself just from holding the tool for hours as you work. This is especially true if you want to do horizontal rebar applications with your SDS Max hammer drill.
Working on Angles
There are some suggestions in this list (the Bosch 11321EVS SDS-Max Concrete Demolition Hammer and the Bosch RH540M SDS-Max Combination Rotary Hammer) that have special adjusters so that you can adapt to any angle, which can be important for workers with tight spaces in their work area or garage.
Drill Size Capacity
Common SDS Max hammer drills tend to have a drilling capacity of 1 9/16 inches for regular concrete. However, when using a core bit, the value becomes different and sometimes up to four inches or more. By knowing the drilling capacity, you can easily pick which drill works best for your intended job.
Single-Speed vs. Variable-Speed
If you’re not very meticulous with how you will use the SDS Max hammer drill, you’d probably just go for a single-speed unit that can pretty much destroy and chip off any concrete, rocks, and the like. However, variable speed is another topic – it allows you to fine-tune the hammer blow.
This fine-tuning can be helpful if you want to demolish something or drill without ruining the surrounding material. For instance, it’s helpful for concrete or rebar drilling applications.
Since SDS Max hammer drills are kind of like handheld jackhammers, they can heat up fast due to the torque and the blows delivered. Therefore, having overheat protection is an important quality to have in a drill. Most of my picks here also have gear protection or clutches to prevent the tool from unnecessarily spinning when it turns off.
SDS Max hammer drills have a multitude of uses, such as:
- Driving ground rods
- General concrete demolition
- Concrete drilling
- Tile breaking
- Horizontal rebar drilling
- Wall/ceiling coring and chipping
While most of what we picked above can potentially do these jobs well, it’s important to know which drill is suited for a certain task. For instance, if you want to do concrete demolition, you’d need a hammer drill with a higher BPM. If you want to do concrete drilling but without breaking the surrounding wall, you should go for a lower BPM or variable speed units. You should also keep in mind the differences between rotary and demolition hammers.
If you’re looking for the best SDS Max hammer drill with variable speed, I’d suggest the DEWALT D25773K 2-Inch SDS Max Rotary Hammer. Or, you can also go for the slightly pricier hammer from the same brand – the DCH733X2 Flexvolt SDS MAX Rotary Hammer Kit, with up to seven speeds. However, if you only need single-speed drills for general demolition work, you might like the Makita HR4002 1-9/16-Inch SDS Max Rotary Hammer and the DEWALT D25481K Rotary Hammer/Drill Kit.
Work that may require you to drill or hammer from different angles may be easier if you have angle adjusters. Drills that have such features include the Bosch 11321EVS SDS-Max Concrete Demolition Hammer and the Bosch RH540M SDS-Max Combination Rotary Hammer. Accessibility is also good for the large switches and handle of the Metabo DH40MC HPT SDS Max Rotary Hammer.
For those who want a lightweight hammer drill, you can try the Milwaukee 5426-21 1-3/4-Inch SDS-Max Rotary Hammer. Cordless hammer drill options are also available if you hate dangling wires, such as the Milwaukee 2717-21HD SDS-max Rotary Hammer Kit.
Finally, if you are looking for demolition hammers, check my recommendations too.