Drill Bits: A Brief Intro

Drill bits are a staple of any workshop, toolbox, or contractors kit. But like any product, some are more reliable, better value, and just easier to use. The humble drill bit has evolved as well with the introduction of non-spin hex heads, different types of tips, points, and coatings.

In this review, we’ll go over our ten top pick drill bit sets, suitable for a variety of the most common applications. We’ll discuss high precision Cobalt steel drills for drilling steels, regular high-speed steel for common applications, and several coatings that lie somewhere in between.

We’ll also look at general-purpose sets with a variety of drill bits aimed at contractors, handymen, and homeowners doing small projects around the house. Finally, we have picked out a few high precision sets suited to shop applications and drill presses. So, let’s get right into it:

Best Drill Bit Set

1. DEWALT Titanium Drill Bit Set (DW1361)

Specifications

Material: Titanium Nitride Coated Steel

Head: Pilot Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Hex

Sizes In Pack:  1/16 inch to 1/2 inch

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Our Take

DeWalt’s DW1361 Titanium set is a great premium drill set for heavy residential and commercial use. This 21-piece set has imperial sizing and comes in a solid commercial grade carrier.

From a technical perspective, these drills feature a pilot point, which aims to reduce wear on the drills and make them last longer. It’ll also help prevent walking and make it faster to drill larger holes because you won’t need to drill a pilot hole before your final clearance hole. They also feature a non-slip hex head, which will reduce head slippage in tough materials.

They feature a titanium nitride coating much the same as Milwaukee’s Shockwave set, which make them a great general-purpose set for wood, light metal usage, and plastics. It goes without saying these won’t work for masonry applications.

Best Value Set

2. Bosch Drilling And Driving Mixed Set MS4091

Specifications

Material: High Speed Steel & Titanium Nitride Coated Steel

Head: Various

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Regular

Sizes In Pack:  Various – 34pc, 41pc, 65pc or 91pc available.

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Our Take

Bosch’s MS4091 is a great value choice for the general-purpose owner or handyman. Coming with a solid carry case and in a variety of sets (34, 41, 65 & 91pcs), this set includes a variety of drills for common applications.

Included you’ll find titanium nitride coated bits for metals, regular high-speed steel bits for wood and plastic, a selection of masonry bits for concrete and brick, and that’s just the drills. In the larger sets you’ll also find torx heads, hex head and various posi-drive and screw heads. In addition, there are some insert-bits, nut setters and a ratchet driver.

Although not suitable for high-precision applications, these drills are great value and an excellent one-stop shop for home usage and light commercial use.

Best Premium Set

3. Bosch CO14B Cobalt M42 Drill Set

Specifications

Material: 8% Cobalt High Speed Steel, hardened tips.

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Regular

Sizes In Pack: (1) 1/16″, (1) 5/64″, (1) 3/32″, (1) 7/64″, (2) 1/8″, (1) 9/64″, (1) 5/32″, (1) 3/16″, (1) 7/32″, (1) 1/4″, (1) 5/16″, (1) 3/8″, (1) 1/2″

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Our Take

Widely praised in reviews, Bosch’s CO14B is a great choice when it comes to a heavy-duty cobalt blend drill set for drilling metal. These are Bosch’s highest-grade drill set, and highly respected in both commercial and residential settings.

Featuring a hardened tip and a thick web-helix design, these drills are much stronger than basic drill sets, but surprisingly won’t break the bank either – which is probably why they are so popular! Equipped with a standard split point head and circular shank, these simple and robust drills ready for any work you throw at them.

Although perhaps not the fanciest drill carrier out there – the one supplied with this set will do the job perfectly adequately, and given the quality of the drills, few seem to be complaining.

4. Milwaukee Shockwave Titanium Drills

Specifications

Material: Titanium Nitride Coated Steel

Head: Split point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: ¼” Hex (Drill and Impact driver compatible)

Sizes In Pack:  1/16”, 5/64″ , 3/32″,  7/64″, 2x 1/8″, 9/64″, 5/32″, 2x 3/16″, 7/32″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″

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Our Take

Milwaukee’s Shockwave 15-piece drill set is a great mid-level drill set suitable for a wide variety of uses. These drills feature a titanium nitride coating which makes them harder wearing than regular black oxide drill bits, while also dissipating heat better.

They are well suited to wood, plastic, and soft metals (like aluminum or stainless steel), making them a great choice for general-purpose usage. Milwaukee’s split point head design helps to prevent the drill from walking and keeps final results accurate. These bits use a hex head design which reduces spinning and is compatible with both drills and impact drivers.

These come in a range of sizes, and as a more economical drill bit, it’s worth noting that as the coating wears off with usage it’s efficacy will reduce. In addition, these won’t be worth re-sharpening – you’re better off just buying a new set. All in all, a great choice for most buyers!

5. Milwaukee Red Helix Cobalt Drill Bits

Specifications

Material: Cobalt Alloy High Speed Steel

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Standard

Sizes In Pack: 1/16″, 5/64″, 3/32″, 7/64″, (2) 1/8″, 9/64″, 5/32″, 3/16″, 7/32″, (2) 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″

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Our Take

Very popular with commercial users, this drill set from Milwaukee is a very solid choice for hard-wearing applications. Best suited to hard metal drilling applications, this Cobalt-alloy set will reduce friction and hence heat generation when compared with regular HSS drill bits.

Milwaukee’s proprietary Red Helix shaft design is highly effective at clearing swarf and cuttings away from the drill bit, helping to reduce jams and broken drill bits. The tips feature a standard 135-degree split tip design, which will help to keep the drill on target and reduce drift.

As will many Milwaukee tools, this set comes in a great carry case and will keep them well protected in commercial environments. If you’re looking for a very high-quality drill bit set for your workshop or toolbox, these are a fantastic choice and will be a great investment.

6. CRAFTSMAN Gold Oxide, Drill Bit Set (CMAM2214)

Specifications

Material: Gold Oxide Coated Steel

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Regular

Sizes In Pack: 1/16″, 15/64″, 3/32″, 7/64″, (2) 1/8″, 9/64″, 5/32″, 3/16″, 7/32″, 1/4″, 5/16″, 3/8″, 1/2″.

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Our Take

Aimed at the everyday market, Craftsman’s CMAM2214 Gold Oxide coated drills are a twist (no pun intended!) on the standard black oxide drill bit. This 14-piece set is imperial sizing, and covers a wide variety of standard sizes.

These drills are a good choice for plastic, wood and occasional light metal work. They feature a split point similar to Milwaukee’s Shockwave bits, which helps to keep drilling accurate. The shaft is of the standard variety, which will work well in light duty settings.

Sold in a respectable quality plastic case, these drills will be a great value choice for the occasional home application. If you need a simple set of drills, you can look no further than these.

7. Drill America Heavy Duty High Speed Steel Drill Bit Set

Specifications

Material: Black & Gold Oxide Coated High Speed Steel

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Regular

Sizes In Pack: 1/16″, 5/64″, 3/32″, 7/64″, 1/8″, 9/64″, 5/32″, 11/64″, 3/16″, 13/64″, 7/32″, 15/64″, 1/4″, 17/64″, 9/32″, 19/64″, 5/16″, 21/64″, 11/32″, 23/64″, 3/8″, 25/64″, 13/32″, 27/64″, 7/16″, 29/64″, 15/32″, 31/64″ and 1/2″

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Our Take

Although not perhaps as well-known as other major brands, Drill America has a very solid following online and many glowing reviews. This is their basic High-Speed Steel set, which is aimed at residential users drilling wood, plastic, and occasional ferrous metals.

The bits feature a 135-degree split point head, which is standard amongst drills of this type. Equipped with a standard round shank, reviewers have remarked that the quality is much closer to what you’d expect from a more expensive set.

This set also features a unique cylindrical carry case, which allows you to clip the set to your hip or belt rings for easy access. Residential and light commercial buyers looking for a great mid-quality drill set that bats well above its average will be delighted with this set.

8. Ryobi A10D29G Black Oxide Split Point Index Drill Bit Set

Specifications

Material: Black Oxide Coated High Speed Steel

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Regular

Sizes In Pack: 1/16”, 5/64”, 3/32”, 7/64”, 1/8″, 9/64”, 5/32”, 11/64”, 3/16”, 13/64”, 7/32”, 15/64”, 1/4″, 17/64”, 9/32”, 19/64”, 5/16”, 21/64”, 11/32”, 23/64”, 3/8″, 25/64”, 13/32”, 27/64”, 7/16”, 29/64”, 15/32”, 31/64”, and 1/2″

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Our Take

When it comes to a great value good quality solid set of drills, you can’t look much further than Ryobi’s A10D29G set. These are the hard-working infantry of your tool set – suitable for a variety of applications and ready to soldier on through a variety of materials.

Suitable for wood, plastic, and light metal use, these drills are black oxide coated to reduce corrosion. The 135-degree split point tip is a standard feature, and these well manufactured drills will keep wandering to a minimum.

A nice little innovation from Ryobi is the addition of 3 flat shanks on the larger sizes, aimed at reducing slippage on tougher materials. The solid carrying case is also a nice plus, and it’s clear that Ryobi spent a lot of time considering the details when creating this design.

For a great value set of all-purpose drills, these will be an excellent choice.

9. Irwin Tools M35 Cobalt Steel Set

Specifications

Material: 5% Cobalt High Speed Steel

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: Regular

Sizes In Pack: 1/16 to 1/2-inch in 1/64 inch increments

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Our Take

When it comes to heavier duty drilling through metals, standard oxide and titanium nitride coated drills quickly show they aren’t up to the task. For this type of application, you’ll need a cobalt-steel drill bit, and Irwin’s 29 Piece M35 Cobalt Steel set is a great choice.

The cobalt blend in the steel will help to reduce friction, and therefore reduce heat generated when drilling through metals. You will still need to lubricate the drill for thicker material though, and work your way through in stages.

This set comes in a solid hard-wearing case, with labelled holders for each drill, making it easy to make the right selection. Metal drilling is hard on all bits, even cobalt blend, but these should serve you well.

10. Comoware Titanium Twist Drill Bit Set

Specifications

Material: Titanium Nitride Coated High Speed Steel

Head: Split Point

Sizing: Imperial

Shaft: ¼” Hex

Sizes In Pack: Various

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Our Take

Hugely popular with reviewers, this fully featured set of drills from Comoware is a real diamond in the rough. Aimed at commercial and residential users, these bits offer fantastic value for money and incorporate many elements you would not expect to find at this price point.

With a standard 135-degree split point and a titanium nitride coating, these drills will work well for wood, plastic and light metal applications. They come fitted with the ¼” hex head, making them suitable for regular cordless drills and impact drivers as well.

If you’re looking for a great set of everyday drill bits without all the bells and whistles found at higher prices, this set from Comoware will be a great selection.

Drill Bit Buyers Guide

Drill bits come in many different shapes and sizes to suit different applications and price points. We’ll go over many of the different features you’ll see to help you understand which drill bit set is the best choice for your personal application.

Material

Most drill bits are manufactured from High Speed Steel and typically coated to help prevent rust. Although this material is very hard, making it ideal for drill bits, it is also prone to rust and can be very brittle. That said, you’ll find the vast majority of drill bits made from it and particularly with the coating applied, it remains a good choice.

If you are doing heavy metal drilling, however, you might look to a cobalt alloy drill bit set. Although more expensive, these drill sets have better heat dissipation and work well when drilling through iron and steels. In addition, you can sharpen these uncoated bits to extend their life.

Coating

High speed steel is a good material for most drill bits but it suffers from one major weakness: rust. As a result, most drill sets sold these days, and indeed all in this review will have some sort of coating. The most basic option is a black or gold oxide, which helps to prevent rusting.

A slightly better option is titanium nitride coating. This both prevents rust and helps to reduce drilling friction and therefore heat. Titanium nitride coated drills are therefore better suited to light metal drilling, and can offer and cheaper and more versatile alternative to a set of cobalt alloy drills. Cobalt alloy drills generally aren’t coated, so you won’t need to worry about coating options for those.

It is worth noting that coated drills do eventually wear out. When the coating wears away with usage, the drills will become more susceptible to rust. After this point, it’s probably not worth sharpening them. Given most sets are not hugely expensive, many just opt to buy a replacement.

Hex Shafts

Some drills are made with a ¼” hex head fitting as opposed to the traditional cylindrical drill shank. We think this is a great addition because it means your bits will fit an impact driver as well as your drill. In addition, these bits are less prone to slipping than standard cylindrical heads. 

Brad or Pilot Points

Pilot point drills use a different shaped tip or “point” to the traditional 135-degree split point common on most drills. This point is designed to help the drill locate better and reduce drift. In turn, this will allow you to drill holes faster.

Without a pilot point, to drill a large hole accurately, you’ll often drill a “pilot hole”. This is done by using a smaller drill first, which is less susceptible to drift. You can then widen the hole safely with the final drill size afterward. With a pilot point, this is not necessary because you can drill accurately with your final clearance size drill bit.

Set size

Particularly for residential users, but also for handymen, having a wide variety of different drill types and sizes will be a great benefit. We’ve highlighted some sets of this type in the reviews above.

For commercial settings, and particularly settings where high precision is required, this is less of a factor. Buyers of this type will be looking for high precision drill bits and a less concerned with a wide variety of types and sizes.

Carry or Storage Case

For buyers who find themselves traveling a lot, a good carry case for your drills will be important. Drills are quite brittle and easily damaged if left at the bottom of a toolbox. All the drill sets in our review come with a great carry case, so we’ve helped you with this already!

You might also be interested in compound sliding miter saws to help kit out your workshop with the best tools. There are even versions that can be easily transported to the job site or tidied away in your shop.

Buyers Guide Questions

What is hss drill bit?

HSS stands for High Speed Steel. The majority of drill bits are made from high speed steel, with the exception of cobalt-alloy drill bits used for hard-wearing metal applications. HSS drill bits come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and coatings. The most common is the black oxide coated bits which are adequate for a variety of applications.

How to sharpen drill bits?

To sharpen a drill bit, you’ll need a bench grinder or a drill sharpening tool. We’ll assume that if you have a drill sharpener, you can follow the instructions included with it, so we’ll cover the bench grinder approach here.

First, take the tip of your drill bit and closely examine it. Notice the two cutting faces, which will be shaped like cresting waves. You are going to be aiming to sharpen those and create a very fine (sharp) crest.

Take your drill bit and hold it against the grinder with the cutting face facing upward toward you. You’ll want to hold it against the stone to maintain the angle of the point and grind away metal from the top of the drill bit. When satisfied, flip the drill 180 in your hand, and do the same to the other side.

After grinding both sides, inspect the tip of the drill again. Check to ensure you have cut away the correct surface. One common mistake is to grind the back of the opposite side you are working on by accident. In addition, check that you haven’t made your drill too pointy. Doing so will mean the bottom of your holes isn’t very flat.

A quick note on safety – make sure you wear adequate eye protection and have prior experience with a bench grinder. They are dangerous pieces of equipment and can cause injury if used incorrectly.

What does a masonry drill bit look like?

Masonry drill bits are designed for drilling holes in concrete, stone, and brickwork. They tend to be longer than normal drill bits and normally have a silvery appearance. The telltale sign, however, is the tip. This will be more triangular than a normal drill bit to help the drill cut into the masonry. This triangle is also often very slightly wider than the flutes and shank of the drill.

What does a metal drill bit look like?

Metal drill bits are divided into two types – hard metal drill bits and soft metal drill bits.

Hard metal drill bits are typically manufactured from cobalt-alloy and are silver in appearance. Otherwise, they resemble a normal split point drill bit.

Soft metal drill bits are appropriate for use on soft metals like aluminum, and very light use on stainless steel. These are actually covered by most normal general-purpose drill bits – which will allow you to cut this material. Remember to drill slowly, and frequently lubricate your drill with oil to stop it overheating and binding to the material.

What color are metal drill bits?

Hard metal drill bits are made from a cobalt alloy, which is typically silver in appearance. They might resemble regular drill bits whose oxide coating appears to have rubbed off.

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  1. Hi Tony, I like your detailed piece on best drill bits.
    It would be great if you could include TTP HARD Cobalt drill bits. They have top reviews on Amazon USA. Many Thanks Brendan

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