Air hammers – also called pneumatic hammers – are highly versatile tools that operate as the jack of all trades in the automotive, metalworking, and construction fields. They give you an incredible amount of optionality when it comes to freeing frozen nuts, removing welds, splitting stuck joints, or any task that requires grinding or chipping away at stubborn materials.
If you’ve never seen an air hammer before, they’re essentially pistol-sized tools with interior pistons that drive a barrel back and forth. The tip can mount a variety of different chisel and hammer tips, which can be used for different tasks.
There are a surprising amount of things to consider when it comes to air hammers, including blows per minute, barrel length, attachments, and size.
Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about air hammers to choose the right one for your needs.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Air Hammers
- Best Overall: Ingersoll Rand 114GQC
- Best Long Barrel: Sunex SX243 Hd 250-Mm Long Barrel
- Best Short Barrel: Ingersoll Rand 123MAXK Short Barrel
- Best for Proffesional Use: Chicago Pneumatic – Heavy Duty Air Hammer Kit
- Best Budget Choice: DP Dynamic Power Short Barrel Air Hammer Kit 4-Chisels
How to Choose the Best Air Hammer?
Air hammers are pneumatic tools powered by compressed air. This gives them the strength needed to power through tough materials and loosen stubborn seized nuts.
As a result, the air compressor’s size will largely dictate the tool’s power. This is measured in Cubic Feet per minute (CFM) and is a measurement of how much air the tool can move per minute.
Units designed for home/DIY use typically use compressors in the 4 CFM (90 PSI) range. This is generally enough for smaller DIY-type jobs, but not for heavy-duty metalworking or automotive work.
Larger air compressors with 13 CFM (90 PSI) are typically used for heavy-duty work, as they are capable of producing significantly more power.
Barrell length is directly proportional to an air hammer’s power. A longer barrel length allows for a longer stroke length, which translates to more power. Shorter barrels, on the other hand, create a shorter stroke, which creates a less powerful blow.
That being said, each barrel length has its purpose. Shorter barrels are better suited to tasks requiring finesse like cutting sheet metal, whereas longer-barrelled air hammers are preferred for blasting through rusted or seized nuts or breaking up masonry.
Blows Per Minute
Blows per minute (BPM) refers to the number of impacts or blows per minute the hammer can deliver in one minute. Higher BPMs indicate increased precision and also correlate with shorter-barrelled air hammers.
Air hammers can be fitted with a variety of different attachments depending on the job at hand. Typically, this involves different cutting, chiseling, and shaping attachments.
Keep in mind that there are two round chisel shank sizes available for air hammers, 0.41-inches and 0.498-inches. The former is used primarily for DIY jobs, while the latter is mainly used for heavy-duty professional work.
The tool’s weight will impact how easy it is to use for prolonged periods, as well as how easy it is to use in tighter spots. Smaller and lighter air hammers make better choices when you’re looking for a tool to maneuver under a car’s hood, while larger tools are preferred for cutting through tougher or thicker materials with sufficient clearance.
Top 5 Air Hammers
- Shank Size: 0.401 Inch
- 3,500 BPMQuick change bit retainer allows for fast bit changes.
- Heat-treated piston and steel alloy barrel.
- Comes with a 3-piece chisel set.
When it comes to air hammers, the Ingersoll Rand 114GQC makes a fantastic overall choice for a variety of jobs. It comes with a compact 2 5/8 inch stroke length, as well as a powerful 3,500 blows per minute, giving you plenty of power for blasting through metal or concrete.
The tool weighs just 4.1 pounds and is 10 inches long, making it light and compact enough to work with in tight spaces. The standard tool comes with a 3 piece chisel set consisting of a flat chisel, a panel cutter, and a tapered punch.
A quick-change retainer allows you to easily swap tips seamlessly in mere seconds. The award-winning ergonomic design delivers excellent torque along with decreased vibration for comfortable prolonged use.
Best Long Barrel
- Shank size: 0.401 inches
- 2,200 BPM
- Quick change chisel retainer allows for easy changes between chisel tips.
- Aluminum alloy housing and ergonomic pistol grip.
- The hardened steel barrel plus its long shaft length make it perfect for tough, demanding jobs.
This long-barreled 10.5-inch air hammer makes an excellent option when you’re looking for maximum power output from your air hammer. At 2,200 blows per minute and a 3 ¼ inch stroke length, you’re looking at one of the beefier air hammers available – perfect for challenging jobs like cutting rivets or removing stuck fasteners.
The design features a sturdy aluminum alloy housing as well as an ergonomic and comfortable pistol grip – making it ideal for prolonged usage. Additionally, a quick change chisel retainer allows for quick and easy chisel changes when needed.
A regulator knob allows you to adjust the power control on the fly, which makes changing the tool’s speed a breeze.
Sunex also offers the same tool in a variety of different configurations, including medium length, short length, and various grip types.
Best Short Barrel
- Shank Size: 0.401 inches
- 3,530 BPM
- Quick change retainer lets you rapidly swap between different chisel tips.
- Short 2 5/8-inch stroke length
- Anti-vibration handle and anti-slip grip offer reduced vibration and improved grip.
Short barreled air hammers are preferred for working in compact spaces that would be difficult or impossible to fit a full-length tool. With a short 2 5/8” stroke length, and weighing just under 4 pounds, the model offers an 18% reduced length when compared to Ingersoll Rands regular model as well as 5% reduced weight and 15% more impact than standard air hammers.
An anti-vibration mechanism significantly reduces vibration (by up to 30% according to the manufacturer), while an anti-slip grip greatly improves the grip and reduces shock.
Like most other models, a quick-change retainer allows you to swap between different chisel tips in seconds. 5 different chisel tips come included with the kit, including a flat chisel, tapered punch, panel cutter, sheet metal cutter, and a spot weld breaker.
Best for Professional Use
- Shank Size: 0.498 inches
- 1,800 BPM
- Powerful heavy-duty hammer designed for body-shop, locomotive, and off-road use.
- Kit includes 4 x 0.498-inch chisel tips.
- Pricey compared to other models, but offers significantly more power and performance.
If you’re looking for a serious air hammer for heavy-duty professional use, then you’ll have a tough time topping this workhorse from Chicago Pneumatic. This tool is ideal for tough jobs like bolt cutting, riveting, and releasing seized parts.
While you can certainly find cheaper options out there, if you’re willing to shell out the extra dough, you’ll be rewarded with a tool that will last a lifetime. Unlike the 0.401 shank sizes on the above tools, this one uses a beefier 0.498 shank – allowing it to hold larger, more powerful chisels.
The kit comes with 4 chisel tips, as well as a hard tool case, and a spring-style retainer. The piston stroke length is 2 11/16-inches and blows per minute are 1800 – making it relatively compact for such a powerful tool.
Best Budget Air Hammer
- Shank size: 0.401-inches
- 3,000 BPM
- Budget-priced hammer is ideal for simple body work.
- Compact 7-inch length.
- Four chisels come included with the purchase.
If you’re looking for a barebones air hammer capable of basic body-shop work, and don’t want to break the bank, this budget model makes a solid option. Weighing just over 3 pounds, and measuring 7 inches long, this short alloy steel barrelled air hammer with a heat-treated piston provides a compact and functional tool that can fit in tight spots that other tools might not.
Four chisels come included with the purchase, including a ripper, bolt cutter, flat tip, and a tapered punch. In addition, a built-in regulator allows you to adjust the tool’s speed to match the task at hand.
A relatively high BPM of 3,000 makes the tool ideal for precision work like cutting or shaping metal panels.
How to Pick the Best Air Hammer?
Choosing the ideal air hammer for your needs is not the most difficult task in the world, but it requires familiarizing yourself with a few basic features.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know when selecting the ideal air hammer for your needs.
When picking out an air hammer, the first thing you’ll want to consider is what type of work you plan to do with it. Air hammers are sold with long, short, and sometimes medium-length barrels, with each type suited to a specific type of work.
Short-barrelled air hammers have higher BPMs which makes them better suited to precision-type work like cutting or shaping sheet metal. These tools can still be used for heavy-duty demolition or body-shop work, but they tend to lack the punch of longer-barrelled air hammers.
Long-barrelled hammers have lower BPMs – making them more powerful but less precise. This is ideal for things like cutting through old bolts and rivets, as well as for breaking through concrete and other masonry.
Medium-barrelled hammers combine some features of each – and can be a good compromise if you need a single air hammer to handle a variety of tasks.
The other thing to consider in terms of barrel length is that shorter-barrelled air hammers can fit in much tighter places than longer-barrelled hammers. If you’re doing a lot of automotive work, then a shorter-barrelled hammer may be preferred for its ease of use.
When it comes to air hammers, they run the gamut in terms of price. A cheap, budget air hammer can be purchased for just under $50, while high-end heavy-duty professional models can easily run you $500 or more.
Naturally, you’ll mostly get what you pay for, but unless you need a professional model with 0.498-inch shank bits, you can purchase a quality, capable air hammer for less than $200.