Milwaukee 2803 – The next generation

Back at NPS 18 earlier in the year we saw Milwaukee go all out with its next generation of brushless technology, saws, drills, impacts… the list goes on. One thing that really caught my attention was the new flagship drill from Milwaukee, the 2803/4. Both available in drill/driver and hammer drill variants. Personally I opted for the non-hammer model.

So whats so important and new that we need an updated drill just a few years after the infamous generation two release? First you’ll notice the size, shorter and slimmer and more powerful. Milwaukee while slimming its drills down was able to preserve its rating of 1200 in lbs, same as its predecessor but somehow feels more powerful. Running this drill with large diameter bits is a breeze, specifically a 1 1/2″ spur auger as you can see here. Even in its higher speed settings of 2,000 rpms very little slows it down.


So does size matter? There are a lot of ways I can answer this question, for one a smaller drill can access tighter spaces, which this sure does the trick, but Milwaukee made one flaw in the shrinking of their drill, exhaust.  This little monster as any other high load tool can throw a lot of heat out, but if we pay attention to the location of the air ports, they are easily covered by your hand in to handed operation. Now there is a safety handle that can be used for larger, torquier tasks but many times that handle will sit in the bag or the truck. My hands aren’t overly large or underly small but when I use my free hand to stabilize the drill, it easily covers its air holes. After a little bit of work the tool throws out 140° F plus heat out.

So what else is new? First glance will tell you that they’ve updated the chuck which has been in large demand since the first generation of Fuel drills. The updated chuck appears to be a Milwaukee manufactured chuck but shares many features of German producer Rohm. The chuck does a much better job of hanging onto bits than in prior year models. Also under operation you’ll notice the LED is no longer under the chuck but on the base of the battery connector, but why remove the under chuck? More LEDs the better… You’ll also notice an improved side handle, it secures more around the drill than just on top, creates a tighter and stronger connection but still can only be used in two orientations.

So overall Milwaukee brought us a really awesome and compact drill, but was it really needed? In my opinion no, several things have been improved but it hasn’t really been reinvented as was hyped at NPS 18. So what would I have liked to see? For one a drill of this size goes great with a compact battery, they have the tech with the new HD 12.0s, so give me a slim 4.0 to put on this little drill. Safety features, yes I know a One Key is lurking behind this drill with kick back protection but why put it in a One Key? This little monster needs it as much torque as it throws out there, should have shipped with on board protection. Milwaukee also stuck with the two speed gear box? Give us 4! Its easily attainable, I would rather have a larger drill with more gearbox choices for all this power than it ninja size. So listen up Milwaukee, Dewalt did something right with the 995/996 chases drill as well as the Germans with Fein, Metabo, Festool… get the hint? Size doesn’t always matter, we don’t need the smallest of drills to get the job done, is it nice? Absolutely but its that what last years M12 Fuel Gen 2 was for? If I grab an 18V tool, I want the size, otherwise thats what Makita subcompact line is for as well as 12V tools.

So do I recommend this drill? Yes and no, if your like me and want the latest tech by all means run and get one yesterday.

The 2803-20 drill driver will cost you $129, if you want the Hammer 2804 thats a $20 premium. Now thats baretool we’re talking. If you want a kit with the latest 2854-20 impact? That will set you back $400. Click on over to Acme Tools to pick one up today.

But if you still have a 2703/4 and are pondering an upgrade, Id spend your hard earned pennies else where.

One comment

  1. Lovely write up Jimbo! I feel it important to mention that Milwaukee has been obsessed with making smaller power tools since the 1st generation of brushless fuel. I’ve had many people hold onto my 2604 drill and they said it was compact, as compared to older 90’s power tools. Fast forward to 2nd generation, and Milwaukee’s power tools are smaller still. Now flash forward to 3rd generation, the smallest of any power tools in the M18 package. What does all this tell you? Milwaukee is obsessed with making everything smaller. Well, this is America, everything is bigger here. LOL!

    What Milwaukee needs to do, is make a cordless drill that is just as powerful as their 8-AMP corded drills. They have loads of torque, I know, I own one. My 2604 is pretty powerful, but its overload protection kicks in with really large bits and hole saws. My wired drill will go all day, since it has loads of torque. So, if Milwaukee made a cordless drill that could power a 5″ hole saw through wood at high speed without kicking on its overload protection, I will be impressed. And I too think it was wrong of Milwaukee to remove the chuck light.

    My 2604 is good enough, and when it fails to perform, I pull out the wired drill. I never felt the need to jump to the 2nd generation after spending 250 for my kit on the 2604. 400 dollars for the 3rd generation kit is ridiculous. Because of you, I now own the 2nd generation impact driver and I love it, all the power I need from a tool like that. I also have the high torque impact wrench, and I really love that beast of a tool! Thanks again for the write up, it was an enjoyable read, and I also enjoyed the pictures.

    Merry Christmas Jimbo!


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