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One of the really cool upshots of the last few years’ more powerful and more compact drivers has been the renaissance of the impact driver. The small 10.8-12v models are incredibly powerful, able to drive screws bigger than the damn driver itself. And the 18v models, while still remarkably compact, can handle gargantuan driving tasks. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve succumbed to grabbing a tiny impact driver (the PS40, actually) to drive fairly large screws while fixing a fence, chucking up some non-impact-ready driver bits in the process. While it drove a few screws without problems, I chewed up a bit before I was done, thrashing the head and stripping a screw in the process.

So it’s no surprise that 1/4″ quick-change impact-ready bits are starting to get some R&D focus — and some cool upgrades. Irwin’s new line includes fastener drive bits, nutsetters, bit holders, and socket adapters, all with new features. Read on for the details.

The fastener bits would’ve likely helped me out with my fence problem. Irwin decided to forge rather than mill the bits, which they claim makes them fit more precisely. A better fit means less wear, and, more importantly, less stripping. Irwin also claims a 3x longer life than standard bits, which would make sense for an impact variant. In my experience, these bits fail most commonly at the tip, with the small, flat grips of Phillips drivers especially prone to deform or shear off completely. So hopefully the forged construction helps with this mode of failure. The line will include Phillips, square recess, Torx, and tamper-resistant Torx models.

The new line’s nutsetters are “lobular” — essentially designed with small radii around the corners of the bolt head recess, forcing the setter to grab the sides of the bolt rather than the corners. This isn’t new, but it’s not something I’ve seen commonly applied to small impact tools. The idea is that by grabbing the sides of the nut head, lobular drivers will help maintain the shape of the head under stress, rather than rounding off the corners easily. Irwin also claims the radii help the setter clear paint buildup.

In terms of the line’s socket adapters and bit holders, there doesn’t appear to be any magic new specs to increase durability, though many of the same design ideas carry through here as well. For example, Irwin points out that they’ve upped the strength of the bit holder’s magnets and included a retaining clip to hold attached bits in place more firmly. And the socket adapters are forged, too. The whole line features a black oxide finish for corrosion resistance.

Basically, what we’re seeing here are the same concepts and tricks manufacturers have applied to larger impact tools dribbling down into the 1/4″ quick-release range. We love it, and we can’t wait to see more of it. Pricing ranges from about a buck to around $10, with sets running up to the $40 range.

Impact Performance Series [Irwin]
Street Pricing [Google]
Irwin 33-Piece Impact Fastener Set [What’s This?]
Irwin 32-Piece Impact Fastener Set [What’s This?]


6 Responses to Irwin’s New Impact-Savvy Bits

  1. Noah says:

    Milwaukee and DeWalt have both had bit holders with retaining rings for some time.

    I’ve always felt Irwin’s phillips bits were a bit too rounded, so we shall see how these compares.

    Really, though, when it comes to a phillips bit, it doesn’t matter if it was forged of Mithril, phillips by their very nature wear the fastest. Why are they still so unbiquitous….

    • Chuck Cage says:

      Mithril — nice. 🙂 And true. My understanding is that patent/licensing costs prevent the US from switching to one of the many better bit/fastener patterns out there.

      • Blair says:

        Two words, speed, and cost. An example would be hanging drywall where other , more secure fastener head configurations, (think Torx, Robertson head, Etc.) would reduce the efficiency of a rock hanger dipping into a pouch, and shooting screws at a high rate. Even with a collated gun the problem would be the same, aligning the fastener head with the bit. The collated screws are also more expensive.
        I don’t know, but have also heard of the patent issues, but I would think that they could be resolved if the demand warranted it.

  2. John says:

    “Irwin decided to forge rather than mill the bits, which they claim makes them fit more precisely.”


  3. miss franciene says:

    Dudes Irwin rocks, yes they make great products. how bout mr harbor freight they make products but are they great I think not.

  4. CoronadoBruin says:

    Bluntly, these bits are absolutely crap, as are the Milwaukee equivalents. Both Chinese-made, the ones I used all broke in short order after I found myself in a situation where I ran out of my Apex (American-made) and German-made driver bits. A big waste of money, so don’t even bother. Buy Apex, Hilti or the equal of those brands. Two more once-venerated American manufacturing names gone to hell, and to China. Well, at least they were cheap, uh, inexpensive.

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