Small but Mighty – The 20v Max Compact DeWalt Atomic Impact Driver

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I can remember the first time I saw a handheld, battery powered impact driver in action. It was at one of my Brother Phil’s disaster-like projects. Phil has a tool collection like the Louvre has an art collection, so he is always on top of the latest and greatest offerings. I watched, fascinated as he drove a 6” Timberlok screw through a piece of lumber into the sill of a house. The impact driver never slowed or stalled, as any of my battery power tools would have done. Talk about an epiphany. It was not long after that I purchased a DeWalt impact driver that has served me well over the years. It is my go to tool for any and all fastening duties aside from nailing. As happy as I was with the old version, I was enthusiastic to try DeWalt’s latest offering in this category – which team yellow sent to us in the form of the DeWalt Atomic Compact Cordless Impact Driver. We’ll also be covering their Atomic Drill/Driver in an upcoming review.

It was like Deja Vu all over again at my brother’s farm house.

The Molecular Details on the DeWalt Atomic Impact Driver

New to the 20V MAX* System, the Atomic Compact Series combines performance and durability in a compact format. It is optimized for tight spaces, overhead work, and for long periods of use. The DeWalt Atomic Impact Driver comes equipped with an efficient brushless motor that delivers long runtime, an LED work light for visibility in dark workspaces, a variable speed trigger, and adjustable belt hook for left or right attachment.

The 20V MAX* Compact Impact Driver has up to 21% more max torque than the DeWalt DCF885 (a larger sibling). DeWalt’s Compact Brushless Impact Driver is only 5.1 in. front to back, and the high-performance brushless motor delivers 1700 in-lbs of torque. The brushless motor increases power as well as extending battery life. Its 3 LEDs provide optimum illumination in dark spaces as you work. The handle is ergonomically designed for increased comfort, balance, and easier tool control. It also has a removable belt hook. It’s backed by a 3-year, limited warranty so you can buy with confidence.

dewalt atomic impact driver
Compact, powerful and comfortable, what more could you ask for.

A Compact Tool with a Big Impact

Anyone who currently owns a 1/4” impact driver already knows about the benefits this class of tool has to offer. It is the go to tool for so many jobs. The DeWalt Atomic impact driver is indeed smaller than the previous model at only 5.1” long. Even so, it delivers 21% more power through its brushless motor. At only 2.1 pounds without the battery it is also an extremely lightweight tool, allowing for greater control and less fatigue over a long period of use. The tool arrived just in time for me to utilize it to attach decking to a bridge I was building to cross a drainage on the property. I was using 2” long self tapping screws to attach 5/4” decking to metal struts and the driver was more than up to the task.

dewalt atomic impact driver building a bridge
The compact DeWalt Atomic Impact Driver had more than enough capacity to easily drive the self tapping screws into the steel support struts

More Fun on the Farm With the DeWalt Atomic Impact Driver

As we were preparing for lambing this year, my wife pointed out a number of deficiencies with our setup in the sheep barn. One item she insisted on having was a sturdy shelf set high enough to prevent the livestock from being able to reach the contents. I found an old metal frame that seemed tailor made for the job. I then attached a piece of plywood to the top of the frame, again with the self tapping screws. I then lagged the completed assembly to the ¾” plywood inner wall of the sheep barn. Once again, the power and handling of this tool helped facilitate an easy conclusion to this chore.

dewalt atomic impact driver shelf
I used self tappers to attach the plywood shelf to the frame. I did drill pilot holes, but the impact driver did the bulk of the work.
Lagging the framework to the wall was fairly effortless, pull the trigger and let it roll.

Back to Where it all Began

This past year I traveled the couple of hours to my older brother Phil’s latest long-running projects. Anyone who’s read any of my previous posts is somewhat familiar with my brother’s penchant for taking on a constant string of projects. The latest one was the addition of a mudroom to the front of his old farmhouse.

The framing was fairly straightforward, setting the outer support on a pair of piers and attaching the inner floor framing to the sill. It struck me that this afforded the opportunity to mimic the first use of this type of tool I had ever witnessed. After attaching the brackets to the concrete piers I eagerly repeated the feat of driving long Timberlok screws through the framing and into the sill. Once again I was impressed with this tool’s ability to drive the massive screw through the framing and into the sill, pulling the head flush. There was no stalling and no perceptible torque transmitted through the tool to the operator.

dewalt atomic impact driver concrete
The DeWalt Atomic 1/4″ impact Driver first was used to drill the holes in the concrete then drive the nut to secure the bracket.
sill 3
The impact driver easily drove the 6″ Timberlok lag screws through the framing and into the sill.

Small & Lightweight, But With a Solid Impact

DeWalt is certainly not resting on its laurels. Their new line of Atomic Compact tools are a great example of the constant improvement and refinement taking place in their tool lineup. The compact size and powerful brushless motor make for a great combination, providing additional capacity in a smaller package. The DeWalt Atomic 20V MAX Brushless Cordless Compact 1/4″ Impact Driver is available as a bare tool at The Home Depot for $119.00.

Buy Now - via Home Depot

The DeWalt Atomic tools will continue to work much longer than we will.
Photo of author

About Stephen

Stephen hails from a family of DIY’ers, the delusion that no job is too big or complex to tackle on your own originally instilled by his father and further reinforced by his brothers, who are equally afflicted. His first real project was the complete restoration of an old farmhouse in Upstate NY, which was followed by another, setting the pattern. After 40 years in the wine and spirits business (sounds far more glamorous than the reality) he recently retired to an 80 acre sheep farm, where he will continue to farm until his retirement savings are exhausted. As a co-owner of 30 something bicycles (a devotee of the N+ 1 theory of bicycle requirements, where N= the current number owned), he is typically found tinkering on his latest build or out testing said results. Stephen spends his spare time (face it, all of his time) drinking good coffee, currying homegrown produce or fixing whatever is currently non-operational. He also spends whatever time he can with an ever growing extended family. When his wife retired they planned to do as much cycle touring as their legs will allow, but the sheep are pretty demanding.

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