Tool Comparison Test #1 11/03

BLACK & DECKER FSD142 FIRESTORM 14.4-volt, 3/8-inch chuck cordless power drill/driver

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When first opened, the items in the case appeared disheveled (contents were loosely contained in their designated compartments). Drill chuck pulls off with the push of a button to expose a Phillips-head driver bit—convenient for around-the-house work but probably not a great feature on the job site. Driver bit snaps into chuck with no tools required and removes with a simple push on the flange. Easy to operate, it also makes it easy to lose the bit if the drill slips and the flange is accidentally depressed. Notch in the side of the drill handle securely holds unused drill or driver bit. Digital LED level is a questionable addition… would probably be of little use on a job site—a good idea in theory, but we found it to be simply annoying: difficult to read, and hard to adjust (blink or no blink).
Battery charger found to be a little hard to figure out if you don't read the manual first… red light does not go off when battery is charged. It was confusing and hard to uncover this information upon initial eyeballing of manual.

* While testing, driver slipped, the chuck's flange bumped the wood and the bit popped out. When this happened, the screw being driven ground up the plastic flange.
* Bit wiggles in and out with pressure—hard to center and doesn’t feel secure.
* Feels somewhat fragile, but would be fine for periodic, around-the-house use. Would probably not fare as well as the others when put to the challenges of a job site.
* Driver is so light it takes more effort to ‘push’ screws in.

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Test checklist:
Retail price: About $89.99 (list about $128)
Specifications: 235 in./lbs torque, 24 clutch settings, up to 1,100 RPM
Weight of driver with battery:
3-5/8 lb. with just the driver chuck; 4-1/8 with drill chuck
Battery attachment/ removal: Felt a little clumsy. Button is on back, backward-sliding battery and stiff spring in mechanism makes replacing battery a two-handed task.
Screw head visibility maintained at close proximity to wood? Yes. Excellent visibility of screw head because of extended shank/ flange—good sight-line even at a near-vertical angle.
Variable speed trigger? Yes. Starts very slow on speed 1 but speed 2 jumps right into medium speed.
Warranty: We could not find the warranty declaration.
Languages offered in manual: English/ French/ Spanish
Number of 2-1/2-inch deck screws driven through doubled 2x4s on fully charged battery: 188
Well balanced at vertical? Horizontal? Horizontal: Bottom-heavy without drill bit. Vertical: Very light but that creates its own problems… hard to center over screw and needs strong push to get screws started.
Stiffness of trigger: Stiff but needs to be fully depressed to achieve full speed.
Relative noise level of tool while operating: Average
Components included:

Drill/driver with removable chuck, 2 batteries, charger, 2 battery caps, Phillips-head driver bit (only) and drill bit. Instruction manual and registration form. All are loosely contained in a hard plastic case with secure-feeling latches. Survey, parts chart, and instructions are tucked in slit.

—Gabriel Vandervort

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