When it first arrived in our office, we weren't sure what to make of the Milwaukee cordless impact wrench. Was it an extremely heavy cordless drill, an overblown electric socket wrench, or an exotic weapon for the next Terminator movie? It took a few minutes poring over the manual and product specs before we understood the tool's true capabilities.

Featuring the largest ram and anvil of any cordless impact wrench and one of Milwaukee's rugged DC motors, the half-inch drive 9079-22 cordless impact wrench produces up to 240 ft.-lbs. of torque, 1,400 rpm and 2,200 impacts per minute.

Heavy, heavy duty

Milwaukee's literature claims that the tool is also extremely comfortable to use. We found it is well designed and well balanced, but at over 9 lbs. it seemed a bit heavy.

After using it on their farms for a few months on everything from lug nuts to combine cylinder bolts, Team FIN members Steve Webb and Scott McPheeters agreed that the unit has plenty of power. But they still preferred using their air-driven impact wrenches in the shop. The cordless wrench won high marks in the field, however. Our farmers agreed it could save a lot of time during field repairs and emergency tire changes.

I took the wrench home to my dad's farm shop to try some of Milwaukee's suggested uses for it. After an hour of playing around on various-sized bolts, my dad and I realized that we never needed a breaker bar and still hadn't worn down the first battery. We zipped the lug nuts off a wheel on the old Dodge pickup like a NASCAR pit crew. (It was handy not having to turn on the air compressor and charge the tank for that quick job.) We got a little carried away on the old WD Allis tractor, though. We accidentally snapped off two of the old girl's half-inch frame bolts before we got a feel for the variable rate trigger.

The next day, we figured out that the truck's alternator was shot. But the long bolt that held the unit in place was badly corroded. Fortunately, the Milwaukee cordless impact wrench was maneuverable enough to get into the engine compartment and at the bolt, making quick and easy work out of what might have been a miserable knuckle-busting task.

Suggestions

It's probably a safety feature, but the détente pin that holds the socket onto the wrench's shank is a bit of a pain to use. We found we had to press the pin in with a thin nail to get the socket on and off. Our first impulse was to file the pin down, rounding off the square corners so we could pop the sockets on and off by hand. But visions of a metal socket flying through the air stopped us — safety before convenience. But there's got to be a better way.

The literature that comes with the Milwaukee impact wrench kit instructs the user to use only high-quality impact wrench sockets. I'm not sure of the quality of the sockets we used. We just picked them out of our toolbox. We suggest to Milwaukee that, since the unit comes in a kit anyway, it should include a small selection of approved impact sockets in the case as well. Also, adding a drill chuck attachment would make this tool even more versatile for jobs such as drilling holes through posts and timbers.

The price is about $295. The complete kit lists for $590, but we found it on www.amazon.com for $329.99 and www.coastaltool.com for $289. For more information, contact Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., 13135 W. Lisbon Rd., Brookfield, WI 53005-2550, 800/414-6527, visit www.heavydutytool.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.