I have 4 lithium ion powered 18 volt drills that our crews use and the DeWalt DCD970 is the best for several reasons. The primary advantage of the DeWalt is its 3-speed gearbox which enables the use of the best torque range for the hole cutter being used. With an auger bit or cutting 8" holes in wood or plaster using an adjustable hole cutter like the Hole Pro twin blade models, the high torque provided by the lowest speed range gearing is great. When using a 6" big gullet hole cutter like the Blue Boar TCT, the middle range is the best one to use as it provide more momentum as the cutter quickly cuts through even 2 inch thick plywood or OSB material. The high speed range is perfect for rapid drilling of small holes in metal.
Recommend this product?
Most drills have only a high or low range and with a cordless drill this causes the motor to work harder and the battery to drain faster. Ridgid makes a drill with a 4 speed gearbox but the extra setting is a low low of 1-200 RPM which is of very little use for all practical purposes. Ridgid is supposed to provide a life time warranty but many people have had problems getting Ridgid to honor it so I stick to DeWalt which has a better track record in this area.
The DeWalt has a self-tightening chuck that works very well, in fact too well initially requiring a pair of channel lock pliers to loosen it the first dozen times the drill is used. After that there are no problems and it is a much better chuck than comes with the Makita and Hitachi drills we have used, in particular with small 1/8" drill bits where these other chucks would drop the bits.
The DeWalt lithium-ion battery packs charge in about 15 minutes which is half to one third the time required for our Milwaukee, Makita, and Hitachi battery packs. Makita advertises a short 15 minute recharge time but that really only applies to their half sized mini battery packs on the BFD models for the DIY market.
Not obvious to anyone who has worked with NiCad batteries but the lithium-ion batteries while lighter and providing up to 4 times as many recharges are also prone to catching on fire. Sony had to recall more than a million laptop batteries and Canon video cameras and even flashlights using Chinese or Malaysian lithium-ion batteries have exploded and injured their users. The cordless tool manufacturers have taken a conservative approach in implementing overload protection for their lithium-ion batteries so that they will not overheat. The result is that while actually using the drills they will immediately cut power to the motor when the load is sensed to be too high. This can be right at the very start of boring a hole with an aggressive hole cutter or self feed type of bit.
With drills like the Makita and Hitachi 18v drills the result is a frequent loss of power on tough drilling operations and having it take 3 times as long to make the holes. The LED also loses power so it is easy to observe the power being cut off, restored, cut again, while using these drills. The Milwaukee M18 is also sensitive but only if starting too fast with a large hole cutter (like the 6" Blue Boar TCT or a Milwaukee Big Hawg type of hole cutter).
This also is why to get the most performance out of a modern cordless drill it is foolish to use old fashioned bi-metal hole saws or self feed drill bits. The new big gullet hole cutters are 10 times as fast and put a lot less demand on the battery. The net result is we can make 6" diameter holes in plywood using a 18 volt cordless hand drills like the DeWalt DCD970 or the Milwaukee M18 and a modern big gullet hole cutter like the Blue Boar TCT, that would not be possible using an ordinary bi-metal hole saw with a 20 pound 15 amp stud corded drill.
The LED light is something that once used one would never buy a drill without. Many situations where a little light goes a long way and having it built into the drill and powered by the same battery pack as the drill is a great feature. Some drills actually use a separate set of batteries to power the LED which is really stupid.
The drill is moderately heavy but well balanced. The side handle can be positioned in any location around the chuck which is a nice feature not found in some of the newer drills from other manufacturers (Milwaukee and Ridgid come to mind). I can locate the side handle on the top opposite the main handle or any other spot that will provide the most leverage. With other drills the side handle has to be exactly 90 degrees to the main handle and this helps but is not nearly as effective in many situations there the handle is used to resist the drill torque and not just to support the weight of the drill with both arms.
18 volt cordless provide a lot of power and with the right technique and using modern augers and hole cutters they are as effective as heavier higher voltage cordless drills. The 14.4 volt models are often as heavy or heavier than the 18 volt ones and so you get less power with no real gains. Better to go to a 12 volt driver like on of the Bosch drivers for a light weight screw driving tool. The lithium-ion batteries are worth the extra initial expense. For use on a job they recharge faster and hold up better. For home use they hold a charge longer so you can pick one up that has sat in the garage for several months and be able to use it without needing to first charge the battery. It is also important not to be adding more NiCads batteries with their toxic heavy metal to the landfills where it can end up in our drinking water. NiCads are supposed to be recycled but I seriously doubt many people bother to do so.
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