Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun Review – Quick, Quiet, Cordless

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On the long list of skills I don’t possess, mudding and finishing drywall is pretty close to the top. There is ample evidence of this in my earlier DIY projects, where I spent hours feathering and sanding, only to have every seam clearly visible after the paint went on. I now delegate that portion of the festivities to people who HAVE skills, and I stick to hanging it when necessary, although my nickname is NOT Speedy McSheetrock. For REAL drywall hangers, time is money, and two recently released tools from Milwaukee should be a big help in speeding up the process. The folks in red recently sent us the Milwaukee M18 Cut Out Tool and the Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun to evaluate. We’ll look at the screw gun here, and do a full review on the cut out tool shortly. And even though Milwaukee claims this is the fastest gun around, rest assured there will be no childish, snickering references to quick screwing.

Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun
The Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun – look, Ma, no cord!

Drywall hangers typically get tormented: They’re the last ones to see all that wiring in the walls as they cover it up, but it’s seldom live, so they can’t use it. Using traditional corded drywall screw guns, they’re forced to drag long extension cords around all day, while they schlep large, heavy sheets of drywall into position. Then they have to attach all those sheets, frequently while working on stilts, a ladder, or scaffolding, with a cord draped over their shoulders or wrapped around their necks. What could go wrong?! And oh yeah: Hangers frequently get paid per piece, which means they’re under constant pressure to GET THAT $#!+ HUNG!

Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun

After spending a lot of time talking to drywall hangers, and watching how they work, the engineers at Milwaukee got busy. The result? The Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun – a tool that’s faster and quieter than its corded counterparts, and has up to 3X the run time of its cordless competition. Here is the full rundown on features and specs from Milwaukee, followed by a video from our friends at CopTool, shot at the 2016 Milwaukee New Product Symposium:

• Length: 9.0″
• Weight: 3.4 lbs
• Height: 9.3″
• Width: 2.2″
• POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor delivers 4,500 RPM’s to provide FASTER THAN Corded productivity
• AUTO START MODE – When tool is locked-on, the motor automatically starts on contact with drywall, resulting in less noise between screws and 3X longer run time
• Ergonomically designed to be lightweight, balanced and comfortable for continuous use.
• Belt Clip Included

Quit Screwing Around And Get Screwing!

Unlike me, a good drywall hanger can hang a LOT of drywall in a day, which means he’s driving a LOT of screws. One technique many hangers use to speed things up is to lock the screw gun’s trigger in the ON position. This saves “spool-up” time, and also allows them to hold the gun in a more comfortable position, without having to depress the trigger for each screw. It also means the screw gun is running constantly, which makes for a lot of noise, particularly if there are multiple hangers at work. This can make it difficult to hear the soothing classical music typically being played on the jobsite radio. Or much of anything else, for that matter.

Anyone who would like to protect what’s left of their hearing will REALLY appreciate one of the most unique features on the Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun: Auto Start Mode. Auto Start Mode is the equivalent of locking the trigger on, with a huge difference: The bit only spins when it’s in contact with the material. The rest of the time, it’s as quiet as a dead mime.

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun
Milwaukee’s exclusive Auto Start feature is fast and easy to engage…
milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun
And lets you avoid having to use the trigger.

Not content with just saving your ears, Auto Start Mode also saves your battery. Since the bit isn’t spinning, it isn’t drawing power, which means you’ll be swapping out batteries much less often. Milwaukee claims the Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun can attach 27 sheets of drywall on a compact 2.0 Ah battery. This efficient use of battery power, combined with a brushless motor, is what allows Milwaukee to squeeze up to 3X the run time out of its batteries.

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun
Auto Start mode saves your ears AND your battery.

The kit Milwaukee provided, the 2866-22CT, comes with two of those compact batteries, along with a charger, bit, belt clip, and a sturdy canvas contractor bag to stow it all in. If you’re a drywall beast, slap in a 5.0 Ah battery, and you should be able to install up to 64 sheets. At my rate, that sucker would last me a week!

M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Drywall Screw Gun XC Kit
The kit gives you everything you need for a full day of screwing.

Ceiling The Deal With The Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun

A few years back, we bought an old farmhouse that needed some work. A LOT of work, as it turns out. Part of that work involves replacing a fair bit of drywall in some of the bedrooms. One of the ceilings, for instance, was made up of 53 scraps of 3/8” drywall, with acoustical tile stapled to it, spanning 24” OC trusses. That’s how you’re supposed to do it, right? But why does the ceiling appear to be sagging?! I installed nailers perpendicular to the trusses, and bought five 4’X12’ sheets of drywall to replace the mess.

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun

Being fond of my back, and not fond of snapping large sheets of drywall, I would normally rent a drywall lift to work on a ceiling. However, my three brothers and two bros-in-law had foolishly graciously offered their time and talent to help me make a dent in my project list, so we built some temporary T braces out of 2X4s and hoisted the drywall into position.

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun
Setting the depth adjustment just takes a quick twist

Getting the Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun set up was quick and intuitive. Of the six guys there, not one of us even considered looking at the instruction manual. We got the depth dialed in, and forged ahead. Everyone was impressed by how fast the gun was, and how quiet, even when it was driving screws. The weight wasn’t bad at all, and the gun was comfortable to hold.

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun
The screw gun and the new cutout tool, working in brotherly harmony…

None of us are drywall pros, although they were being paid per piece, if you count burritos and beer. I wanted to try the Auto Start mode, and once again got it figured out without referring to the manual. (The prospect of having to take crap from five guys is a powerful motivator). It’s really pretty simple: Depress the little button above the battery that says “Auto Start” (an excellent clue), pull the paddle trigger back, and slide up the switch beneath it to lock it on. It takes about three seconds, and the motor doesn’t spin during the process.

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun
The Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun has very good ergonomics.

Now you’re ready to dive into that 64-sheet stack of drywall. Get a screw in position, insert the tip of the gun, and give it a push. You can hold the gun however you want, no contact with the trigger is necessary. As soon as the tip is depressed, the bit starts spinning and quickly buries the screw. There is a little ridge around the top rear of the grip that’s a perfect fit for the web of skin between your thumb and index finger, and offers a very comfortable way to hold the Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun.

For comparison, we also used a corded screw gun. Even though we didn’t lock the trigger on (on the corded screw gun), the noise difference when it was in use was very noticeable, especially in comparison with the cordless gun. The Milwaukee gun was super fast and very quiet, and made it easy to carry on a conversation or listen to music. And we were only putting up five sheets; I ‘m guessing the noise reduction would be very welcome to someone who does this all day, every day. Like the guys in the short promo video from Milwaukee:

Tired Of Screwing With The Cord?

If Milwaukee is smart, they’ll set up demos wherever they sell this tool. I’d be willing to bet that any drywall pro that tries the Milwaukee M18 Drywall Screw Gun will have one tucked under his arm when he leaves. The screw gun is rugged, well-designed, comfortable, fast and quiet. And did I mention cordless? Drywall screw guns are subjected to a lot of abuse, but Milwaukee is obviously confident they’ve built this one to last, as it’s backed by a five-year warranty.

If you’re already on the Milwaukee platform, and have a stash of red batteries, you can save some money and get the bare tool. Need the whole screwing shebang? In addition to the compact kit we evaluated, the Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun is available in a “Drywall Beast” version, with two 5.0 Ah Extended Capacity batteries replacing the 2.0 Ah compact batteries. The remainder of the kit is the same, with the charger, bit, belt clip and contractor bag. If hanging drywall is your livelihood, unwrap that cord from around your neck, climb down off the lift, and go check out the Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun!

milwaukee m18 drywall screw gun

Buy the Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun bare tool from sponsor Ohio Power Tool for $149:

Buy Now - via Ohio Power Tool

Buy the Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun compact kit around $229:

Buy Now - via Ohio Power Tool

Buy the Milwaukee M18 drywall screw gun XC kit for around $299:

Buy Now - via Home Depot

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About Phil

Phil’s path to the pinnacle of success as HomeFixated’s Senior Writer was long and twisted. At various stages of his life, he worked as a framing carpenter, attended motorcycle mechanics school, served as an Army MP, did a hot and itchy stint installing insulation in Phoenix, owned and operated a small contracting firm doing residential renovations, and worked as an employee of a major airline (Motto: We’re not happy ‘til YOU’RE not happy). He is currently semi-retired, but continues to take on little projects, such as the total renovation of an old farmhouse. Yes, he is a slow learner. Future projects include a teardown restoration of his 1965 BMW motorcycle, and designing and building a kick-ass playhouse for his grandsons. Phil loves spending time outdoors, hanging out with family and friends, cool tools, and a cold IPA when beer o'clock rolls around.

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