By Erik Elwell

Specs and Tester's Tester Comments

As contractors in New York City, my crew spends most of its time pouring, cutting, drilling, and anchoring in concrete. For some framing and all mechanical and electrical work, we use rotary hammers on a daily basis to attach virtually anything to concrete, and the tool we reach for most is a 1-inch rotary hammer with three operating modes: rotary hammer, hammer only, and rotation only. The lightweight, compact size and ability to shift from hammerdrilling to chipping to simple drilling, and even driving, makes it the most versatile tool on our jobsites.

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Bosch's mode dial has clear graphics. We also liked the depth gauge, which adjusts independently of the handle.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

So we welcomed the opportunity to field-test this group of tools, five D-handle, in-line 1-inch corded rotary hammers, all of which feature three modes and accept SDS-Plus bits. The test comprised the Bosch 11255VSR Bulldog Xtreme, DeWalt D25203K, Hitachi DH24PF3, Makita HR2455X Pitbull, and Metabo KHE-D28. Given the fact that these are not the backbreaking big boys, we concentrated on drilling vertical and horizontal holes in concrete and stone within a 1/4- to 3/4-inch-diameter range (the 1-inch rating refers to the tool's practical maximum concrete hole-boring capacity). We also did plenty of light chipping and breaking and together used these tasks to evaluate the strength, ease of use, comfort, and helpful features of these tools.

Controls

When using these tools all day you find yourself constantly switching between rotary hammer mode for drilling and hammer mode for chipping and chiseling off high spots in concrete, so it's important to have controls that are easy to access. Throw on a pair of gloves and it becomes all the more crucial that the dials remain easy to operate and work with.

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DeWalt's handle has plenty of room for your hand, even with gloves; the trigger was the most comfortable.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

The Bosch, DeWalt, Makita, and Metabo tools all have well-designed and easy-to-grab side-mounted dials that turn easily to switch between modes, even with gloves on. We liked the Bosch and DeWalt dial markings, which feature clear symbols for the hammer-only mode bit-positioning setting, a nice feature to have when using larger chisels in small, awkward spaces because it allows you to position the chisel manually by twisting the bit. Makita's symbol was easy enough to decipher. The Metabo and Hitachi dials don't feature a symbol marking the chisel-positioning setting. We assumed they didn't have this feature until we looked closely at the manuals, which is not something you want your guys to have to do while on the clock.

We were not as impressed with the Hitachi's mode dial, which was located underneath the front housing of the tool. We found it hard to turn without gloves on and even more difficult with gloves on. Also, given its location, we found it prone to being whacked while drilling and chiseling in tight spaces, which seems like it could be a serious threat to its longevity.