Hammer Time: Heavy Hitter Shoot Out

Lazy Guy DIY Hammer Shoot Out
Before we get started, I have to ask the question. It’s just the elephant in the room.  When we are talking hammers, which MC Hammer song do you play in your head?  I personally think “U Can’t Touch This” is too obvious of a choice.  “Too Legit To Quit” is a solid option, but I’m going with “Addams Groove” or breaking it down real slow with “Have You Seen Her” (the Hammer ballad). I have a lot of hammers now.  I think I have just under a dozen around various places if you throw in the mallets and the odd balls (I’ve never even used a ballpeen).  Those are different birds altogether.  I still have my first real hammer my dad gave me during a project from when I was a teen (or I just took it, it’s unclear at this point).  It’s some indecipherable brand hammer that’s seen several decades worth of wear and tear.  Other than material, I’m amazed at just how complicated a simple machine like a hammer can be these days.  It’s all about being a multi-tool now, so I decided I would take a few of these hammers with bells and whistles and pit them against a bare bones model. We aren’t picking winners and losers though, that’s not what this website is about, the idea here is to find the right kind of hammer for you depending on your work.

The Selection Process

DeWalt, Milwaukee, Husky & Dead On Hammers
The hammers needed to be under $50 so no fancy Stiletto’s (although if anyone has an extra…).  Their weight needed to be 20 oz. or more so these big boys didn’t overpower a little old 10-16 ouncer.  They must have an add on as a standard feature.  I chose three very different brands and designs to go head to head against a bare bones traditional hammer.  Each of these hammers are available for purchase at The Home Depot.  Product links below will be affiliate links.

The Physical Head To Head Test

Hammer Testing Ground
I found the gnarliest piece of pressure treated 4×4 I could find and drove several 3” galvanized nails (for each hammer) into the moldy old board leaving about a quarter inch exposed.  I then used each hammer’s claw to attempt to pry out each nail.

The Standard Swinger

Husky grips
Husky Tools 20 oz. Ripping Hammer

Retailing for $12.97.  It has a magnetic nail starter, a ripping claw and an 11” handle totaling it in at just under 13” long.  This is actually the first hammer I purchased on my own (although mine is an older graphite model).  It’s heavier than any model I previously used and it’s been smashed, dropped, kicked, thrown and left outside in the elements for weeks at a time.  For such a low entry price, it’s amazing how well it’s held up over the years.

The Grip Test

The hammer shaft (stop giggling) itself has a subtle contour that comfortably moves the head forward for front loaded striking.  It swings like a heavier hammer.  It fits well in the hand, but several years of use (and neglect outside for a few months) have left the grip very slick.  The newer models have a similar material so you can expect a similar reaction over time.  It’s not a deal breaker, but I know from working outside in the summer with it, a sweaty palm could send it flying.  The end of the grip does flare out like bell bottoms so you should be able to keep a handle on your hammer.

Husky Face
The Blunt Force Test

The traditional round face is standard size, so it swings like a hammer should.  The front load drives the nail in with no issues so there are no surprises here.  Because I have owned this hammer for a few years and have absolutely abused it, the edges of the striking surface have started to round slightly from mishits which means off center swings can be problematic.

The Pry Test

Smaller nails with larger heads are no issue for this claw, but anything bigger seems to cause trouble with this model.  Whether it’s the arc of the curve (not “of the covenant”) or the split of the claw, I almost always have to grab a prying tool to pull nails with this hammer.  The 3” nail didn’t even budge for this pry test.

Bells & Whistles

This is a bare basics model, but it does come with a magnetic nail start. This was a new feature at the time on the model I purchased in 19 digity two, so the technology wasn’t there yet.  Because of the wear and tear, the nail set rarely works as intended anymore, but the new models it works just fine.

Husky Nail Set
The ConclusionYou’re going to think by the statements above that I’m down on old faithful here… but I’m not.  This is a sub $15 hammer and it performs beautifully in terms of what I’m asking it to do.  Throw in the lifetime warranty (guaranteed forever!) from Husky and this tool will last longer than I ever will.  If you’re looking for a no frills model with great durability that will get the job done this is an excellent budget choice.  I know I can pass this on to my kid after the writing has completely worn off like my dad did with his trusty old masher.

The Stealth Bomber

Milwaukee Grips
Milwaukee Tools 22 oz. Milled Faced Framing Hammer

Retailing for $34.99.  It has a magnetic nail set, a straight claw and a 15” handle totaling it in at 17” long.  The Milled Face provides a non-slip striking surface in addition to the “Shockshield Grip” that is supposed to reduce vibration up to 10x more than the competition and has industry leading durability.  The i-beam handle construction should stand up to a lifetime of abuse without bending while the claw has an asymmetrical anti-ring claw that reduces vibrations.  It comes across as a minimalist inspired heavy hitter that takes in consideration how you feel after the violent journey you’re about to put it through.

The Grip Test

“Good Vibrations” must have been playing on loop for the design team here because the shape and contour of this hammer is all about reducing the impact your body takes with each blow.  The red “Shock-Shield Grip” is comfortable in the hand and supplies an extra few inches or room to have a comfortable purchase when prying.  While it’s probably not indestructible, the grip of this hammer is supposed to be an industry leader in durability.  This is by far the thickest grip of the group, but it’s spongy enough that it grips firmly.

Milwaukee Face
The Blunt Force Test

Compared to the standard hammer, I’m shocked at how balanced this model feels from top to bottom.  It truly feels like an extension of my hand when swinging it.  You immediately notice the difference a milled face (dimples instead of a smooth face) makes on the striking surface.  I intentionally (sure you did) tried a glancing blow when driving the nails and it found solid purchase each time.  Striking has a completely different feel then the other hammers as well because this model is all about shock absorbing the blow.  Whether it’s the asymmetrical claw or the construction of the handle, you can feel the difference when driving the nail home.

The Pry Test

The claw on the Milwaukee is flat, which is perfect for prying up boards and getting extra leverage in the demo world.  It did not fare well in the nail pull though, because it’s not a claw hammer, this is a framing hammer.  The lack of curve in a framing hammer makes it difficult to pull nails, in fact, the nails I attempted didn’t even budge, but that’s not the point.  Framing hammers are drivers.  You get solid hits each time for quick and consistent builds.  Who needs to pull nails when you get it right the first time?

Bells & Whistles

The magnetic nailset on this hammer is fantastic.  I can slap a nail on and get it started one handed every time and then smash it into my lumber without any fear of deflection.  But that’s not what sets this hammer apart though.  Coming in as the most expensive of the group (but still under $40) the selling point of this hammer is the vibration reducing technology.  Framing hammers usually swing like a heavy load and really fatigue the user after extended use because of the trauma you’re causing.  Tennis elbow be damned, this is the equivalent of sitting in your cushy easy chair.

Milwaukee Nail Set
The Conclusion

The Milwaukee is by far the best driver of the group, but then, that’s what it was designed to be.  Pitting it against other framing hammers, it should still get the same tip of the cap when it comes to balance and comfort.  The milled face is one of my favorite features of a framing hammers when you’re smashing nails into 2×4’s.  Just know that the milled face will leave indentations on your lumber, so don’t expect a pretty finish, just straight results.  The Milwaukee does come with a Limited Lifetime Warranty, but it feels pretty indestructible.  Look good, feel good, that’s what I say.

The Multi-Tool

DeWALT Grips
DeWALT 22oz. Demolition Hammer

Retailing for $29.97.  The striking surface is larger for maximum impact with an enlarged claw curve and an 8.25” handle totaling it in at 17” long. The extended claw curve is meant for board gripping during demo in addition to a 2×4 notch for maximum torque when pulling studs.  The hammer also includes two different nail prying locations (one on the side) for when a traditional claw won’t cut it.  This is what a hammer from the future should look like.

The Grip Test

It has one of the shorter designated grip zones out of the competition, but it doesn’t take away from its comfort.  The rubberized grip has plenty of tread that makes it very comfortable to squeeze and the cushioning definitely reduces vibrations .  This DeWALT has the second biggest grip contour out of the group that helps balance out a design that could honestly feel very off balance given the weight distribution.  But the ergonomics and the design of the grip area pay off because the swing feels front loaded for extra driving power.

The Blunt Force Test

Even though it’s only 17”, this hammer feels like you’re swinging a much longer model.  I honestly had to check my swing at first because I felt like I was going to miss the target when I was lining up the strike.  That’s a quick fix though and the larger striking surface brings the pain.  The face is almost square in shape and is significantly larger than most of the competition.  That’s a great feature for driving big nails and absolutely when unleashing the fury in the demo world.  It’s not easy to make a demolition hammer feel like an everyday swinger, but DeWALT has (forgive me…) nailed it.

The Pry Test

If you’re advertising a model as a demo hammer, it better perform when pulling nails and the DeWALT shines here.  The extended claw and curvature snatches the life out of any nail that thinks it’s going to stay put.  I’ve even pulled stripped decking screws out of material with this model because it doesn’t fear no stinking screw threads.  This model also offers a secondary nail prying location that gives you another option if you can’t fit the hammer into a smaller space for traditional prying methods.

Bells & Whistles

If you know anything about cats and dogs, you’ll immediately notice this hammer has what looks like a dewclaw.  That’s where this striker becomes a ripper for torqueing 2×4’s and pulling down sheet goods.  You don’t call it a demo hammer because it hits hard, it’s a demo hammer because you can also use it to tear things apart.

DeWALT Ripper
The Conclusion

Demo hammers are a rowdy bunch that usually come in and ruin the party.   However, there’s enough balance in the DeWALT that it really feels like it wants to be a striker like a framing hammer.  My guess is you’re going to start seeing a lot of clones of this design soon because it really is the best of both worlds.  While I’ve seen no weakness in the durability, I’m going to be very interested in seeing how a tool that’s pulling double duty holds up over time, but hey, that’s why DeWALT has a Limited Lifetime Warranty on it.

The Zombie Slayer

 Dead On Grips
Dead On Tools 59 oz. Annihilator

Retailing for $29.97.    With an oversized demolition striking surface and a chisel point, this hammer measures in at 18”.  At almost triple the weight of the competition, this hammer has a multi-purpose wrench, a board adjuster, a dry wall ripper, multiple nail prying slots and oh yeah… a bottle opener.  Make no mistake… this is a tool built for destruction.

The Grip Test

Even though it has a soft rubber coating, the Annihilator has the most difficult grip to index because of the shape of the tool underneath.  It’s a straight metal bar without contours or hand ergonomics mixed in to the  metal underneath for comfort.  But that’s intentional.  Because this is part wrecking hammer and part pry bar, adding curves to the handle would cause the tool to potentially rotate during prying actions where significant leverage is needed or even worse open it up to structural failures under extreme pressure.  I personally would like to see some sort of contour in the rubber grip that gives your fingers extra purchase, but this tool is about brute strength and mayhem.  Stop being a pansy.

Dead On Face
The Blunt Force Test

If you watched the teaser video of this test, you’re going to catch me trying to hold back a grin when I picked up the Annihilator.  It’s heavy.  Almost 4 pounds of heavy.  The other models are barely over 1 pound.  I mentioned in the grip section that it indexes funny, but by God it smashes a nail in.  I had to consciously tone down my swinging motion for this hammer (do we call it a hammer or a WMD?) in the video because it was distracting.  Ha.  The massive striking surface is there for demolition, but I was actually shocked at how well it drove a nail in.  Keep in mind, this isn’t something you want to swing all day, you’ll fatigue quickly compared to lighter models.

The Pry Test

The claw on the Dead On is aggressively curved and shorter than all of the other models.  It’s a completely different design, but it also pries better than any other model.  The only restriction I’ve found with the main claw is with smaller more delicate nails, but why are trying to be delicate with this model.  There are multiple nail prying locations along the handle for the little guys, and if worse comes to worse, you can also use the prying location on the stabby end.

Dead On Claw
Bells & Whistles

There’s no ignoring the unique design of the head of the Annihilator.  That’s for gripping and ripping.  Sheet goods and 2×4’s tremble in fear when the jaws lock and you apply torque with this model.  This isn’t a demolition tool, it’s a wrecking ball.  I would be remiss to leave out the dagger on the end.  Okay, it’s not a dagger, it’s a chisel head for breaking up tile and bricks, but this is one of the reasons people keep this tool in their zombie apocalypse bug out bags.

Dead On Chisel
The Conclusion

Okay, I’ll admit, this is the oddball of the group.  But it fits all of the criteria and it actually faired pretty well.  It sounds silly to compare something this monstrous to a traditional claw hammer, but the point is you have a ton of options out there that can pull double duty.  Of course the weight holds it back from being an everyday striker, but when it comes down to breaking stuff, the Annihilator throws its weight around and has the teeth to bite back.

Hammer Face Off
Hammers comes in all shapes and sizes for good reason.  No one hammer is going to be suited for all jobs.  Each of these offers a solution for whatever DIY project you have lined up.  Of course there are more expensive options out there that might do wondrous things, but at these price points, you’ve got a low investment and great results with each of these models.

~Lazy Guy

*Some of these tools were provided by The Home Depot as part of The Home Depot Pro-Spective Review or provided by the manufacturer in exchange for compensation and my opinion of their product.  Even though they sent me nice things, my opinions are still my own.  Unless you buy me a truck, then I’ll say whatever you want about your product…Ha!

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4 years ago

I always needed a really good hammer so I went out and bought a Hart Hammer 5- 6 years ago. I recently took it back to Bunnings who showed it to the sales rep who said it was not covered by the sort life time warranty as I don’t have the receipt. I purchased what I thought was a really good hammer that was going to last me a life time and I am a home handy man so not even using it that often. Anyway, I have now purchased an Estwing hammer which I should have done in the… Read more »

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