Milwaukee M12 Ratchet – Which One to Buy?

Milwaukee M12 Ratchets – Which One to Buy?

Milwaukee M12 Ratchet -2

#tbbcrew Stan using the 1/4″ M12 ratchet to rebuild this old BMW motor.

About 4 or 5 years ago, Milwaukee came out with their first cordless ratchet. It was on the growing M12 platform and came in 3/8″ and 1/4″ varieties. The M12 ratchet was a decent tool but couldn’t quite match the specs of the pneumatic units that were a staple in fleet and repair shops the world over. As with all things though, time marches on, technology improves, and subsequent versions are always better.

New Kids On The Block

Fast forward to late 2017 and 3 all new M12 ratchets hit the market. They are equipped with brushless motors and a new, more robust head design. They are on the same M12 platform giving 12V users even more options. The question now becomes, which M12 ratchet to buy? When it comes to buying tools, the correct answer is always “all of them.” Being realistic though, what if you could only justify one M12 ratchet? Which one should you get?Milwaukee M12 Ratchet -5

M12 Ratchet – What do they offer?

Milwaukee M12 Ratchet -7So what are the similarities and differences of the units? What are their specifications?

Disclaimer: The links below are to Acme Tool. They are affiliate links which means that if you buy a tool at the link, we get a small commission of the sale. This helps us keep the lights on and producing free content.

1/4″ M12 Ratchet (Gen 1)

  • Drive Size: 1/4 in
  • Length (in): 10.75
  • Maximum RPM: 250
  • Maximum Torque (ft-lbs): 35
  • MFG Model # (Series): 2456-21
  • Net Tool Weight (lbs): 1.9
  • Bare Tool Price: $129

3/8″ M12 Ratchet (Gen 1)

  • Drive Size: 3/8 in
  • Length (in): 10.75
  • Maximum RPM: 250
  • Maximum Torque (ft-lbs): 35
  • MFG Model # (Series): 2457-21
  • Net Tool Weight (lbs): 1.9
  • Bare Tool Price: $129

1/4″ M12 Ratchet (Gen 2 Fuel)

  • Drive Size: 1/4 in
  • Length (in): 12.5
  • Maximum RPM: 250
  • Maximum Torque (ft-lbs): 40
  • MFG Model # (Series): 2556-22
  • Net Tool Weight (lbs): 1.93
  • Bare Tool Price: $179

3/8″ M12 Ratchet (Gen 2 Fuel)

  • Drive Size: 3/8 in
  • Length (in): 11.84
  • Maximum RPM: 200
  • Maximum Torque (ft-lbs): 55
  • MFG Model # (Series): 2557-22
  • Net Tool Weight (lbs): 2.84
  • Bare Tool Price: $179

1/2″ M12 Ratchet (Gen 2 Fuel)

  • Drive Size: 1/2 in
  • Length (in): 12.5
  • Maximum RPM: 175
  • Maximum Torque (ft-lbs): 60
  • MFG Model # (Series): 2558-22
  • Net Tool Weight (lbs): 3.15
  • Bare Tool Price: $199

There Can Be Only One M12 Ratchet

So if you’re going to get only one M12 ratchet, which one should you get? The short answer is get the 3/8″ M12 Ratchet, the new Fuel one. The one with the brushless motor. It’s a steal at $179 and with adapters can be stepped up to 1/2″ sockets or down to 1/4″ sockets. The head is a little bigger than the 1/4″ Fuel but it also has a lot more power. This is the one I use most often.Milwaukee M12 Ratchet -4

What if you already carry a slug of 1/2″ impact sockets on your truck for a Mid-Torque or High Torque impact wrench? Then the 1/2″ Fuel is right up your alley. No need for adapters. Sure it’s the most money of the offerings but it also offers the most torque while still being compact.

If you deal with a lot of tight spaces and small fasteners, the 1/4″ Fuel might be just the ticket. It offers the smallest head size and still a respectable 40 ft/lbs of torque.

Milwaukee M12 Ratchet

#tbbcrew Will uses the new 1/2″ to work on his diesel.

If cash is the deciding factor, the first gen ratchets may suit you. At $129 for a bare tool, that’s a pretty good bargain. Some online retailers even have reconditioned ratchets which are even a better deal.

About the author

Jeff Williams

Contributing Editor Jeff Williams is a carpenter for a commercial General Contractor specializing in concrete, steel, and wood buildings. Jeff comes from a long line of contractors. His parents started a commercial General Contracting firm many years ago and it has afforded him life-long, hands-on learning opportunities from rough and fine carpentry all the way to structural steel and concrete. Jeff has a Construction Management degree and loves the thrill of coordinating and successfully managing large jobs from start to finish. Inspired by the difficulties sometimes encountered to complete punch lists his motto is, "Work hard until the job is done."


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    Are the specs inch pounds or foot pounds?

    1. Jeff Williams

      It should’ve been ft-lbs. Thanks for catching it! The article has been updated.

  2. mike campbell

    You answered all my questions
    Thank you

  3. Bill

    I don’t know, but HD has a combo kit on sale; M12 FUEL 12-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 1/4 in. Hex Impact Driver Kit with Free M12 3/8 in. Ratchet $169. Damn Them! Making me spend my money

    1. Jason

      I just grabbed this too! Couldn’t say no!

  4. TJ McLean

    Man I’ve been on the fence on brand and model (to fuel or not to fuel) for a few months now and you got it for me. Thanks. 3/8 fuel it is. Really it was down to that or matco but I’m petty due you sold me. Thanks again

  5. Ian

    Very helpful article. Not least of all because the ratchet you recommend above all others is the one I bought long before I ever encountered this article. 😄

    But seriously, thanks for the rundown of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Much appreciated.

  6. […] the 3/8 ratchet has a larger drive size and can therefore generate more torque. According to Tool Box Buzz, the maximum torque for a 3/8 ratchet can be up to 35 ft-lbs, while the maximum torque for a 1/4 […]

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