RCN Tool Reviews: Milwaukee M12 Rivet Tool

Posted December 08, 2020

By Dean Larson

When it comes to stocking your toolbox and shop shelves, there are generally two schools of thought, each with their own merits. Some guys turn up their noses at the idea of anything less than Snap-on, Matco, Cornwell and the like, and there’s definitely something to be said about buying quality pieces made here in the U.S.A. Others might shop on price or perceived value alone, frequenting Amazon or Harbor Freight for the cheapest thing they can find that gets the job done. Risking my shred of automotive credibility, I’ll admit that I’m somewhere in the middle. Nearly all of my power tools are from Milwaukee Tools, and all my screwdrivers, sockets, ratchets and so on are from Craftsman or better, but I’ll admit that I occasionally go the cheap route to get a job done, or when I feel like I can’t afford to go big.

Having recently stocked a new shop space with tools, I have plenty of new pieces to choose from and about a year worth of testing them out. For a judging metric, I decided to go with something we can all understand — the check, check-plus, check-minus system. Basically, check-minus means that you should look elsewhere, check-plus means we’d recommend it and check is somewhere in the middle. Take our experiences for what they're worth, but rest assured, this column doesn't have any tool sponsors!

Milwaukee M12 Cordless Rivet Tool

When used in the right applications, rivets are simple, compact and elegant looking, but they can also turn into a huge nuisance if you’re installing a ton and not using the best tools. We’ve toiled endlessly with cheap manual rivet guns and found them to be a bit annoying after five or so rivets. We’ve also used pneumatic rivet guns, and while they sure beat the heck out doing it the old fashioned way, they’re finicky, bulky and none too cheap either. In this week’s tool review, we’re turning our sights to the Milwaukee M12 cordless rivet tool, which is without a doubt the best solution for driving rivets we know of.

The M12 Rivet Tool utilizes Milwaukee’s compact M12 1.5 ah battery platform and features an ergonomic handle that Milwaukee drill and impact users will find extremely familiar. It can handle aluminum, steel and stainless steel rivets in 3/32, 1/8, 5/32 and 3/16-inch sizes, and Milwaukee states that you’ll be able to drive between 250 and 450 rivets on a single charge depending on the rivet type used. Additional features on the tool include a belt clip, a storage area for spent rivet mandrels and a handy work light that kicks on with the trigger. The tool also has built in storage for different sized tips and the wrench to change them.

We’ve been using the Milwaukee M12 Rivet Tool for several months now and we all agree that it’s simply the best tool we’ve ever worked with for driving rivets. Operating the tool is a one-handed affair (can't say that about a manual rivet gun), since the rivets are held lightly in the tool while you're setting up, leaving you with a free hand to line up your materials. The cordless operation also beats the heck out of breaking out the compressor hose every time you want to use the tool, as is the case with our old pneumatic gun. You'll also find that the batteries last forever in this tool, and we’ve maybe charged the battery once or twice in the whole time we’ve owned it. It’s also nice and comfortable and really compact at roughly 6.50 by 10.75 inches, meaning you can get the tool into places others might not fit.

One thing I’ll note with this tool is that you better be driving a lot of rivets, because it's going to set you back about $218, and that’s for the bare tool only.

When it comes to installing rivets, this is without a doubt our go-to tool. And really, it’s a quality item for the price that’s going to last for years. This one gets a check-plus.

Score: ✓+

Find the Milwaukee M12 Rivet Tool here on Amazon.

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