One of the most common hand tool related questions that we get is which are better, impact sockets or standard sockets? When it comes to impact sockets versus standard sockets, there are only a few minor considerations that you must take into account in order to make a decision. We have decided to write a quick article to explain the differences between each type in order to help you make an informed purchase decision to help you ensure that you are putting the right set into your tool box.
Impact sockets by design are meant to be particularly rugged such that they can withstand the high forces associated with impact tools. The material impact sockets are formed from is typically a ductile steel, which is softer than the drop forged steel that is typically used for standard sockets. They have a thicker wall than a standard socket to compensate for the more ductile steel which helps absorb the repeated impact shock loads imparted by an impact wrench. For this reason, you can use impact sockets for both impact tools and hand tools.
However, the extra wall thickness can also result in a slightly larger outside diameter. In certain situations where clearance is tight, an impact socket may not fit. Impact sockets also tend to cost a little bit more than a comparable set of standard sockets, which can be a bit of a downside but usually the cost difference is pretty minor.
Like impact sockets, standard sockets also come in different variations such as deep sockets and shallow sockets, but standard sockets will be thinner walled on average, which allows them to sneak into tight bores to remove fasteners that are countersunk a little more easily than an impact socket. Standard sockets are generally fabricated using drop forged steel which makes them harder and more brittle than the impact sockets (which means that you can’t use a standard socket on an impact wrench). Standard sockets tend to be low cost and long lasting which makes them easy on the wallet over the long term if you only have hand tools.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to standard sockets is the lack of freedom to use them with power tools. Doing so could result in serious safety concerns, even if you are wearing safety glasses or other safety gear. As such, you should stick to hand ratchets and breaker bars only when using standard sockets.
While impact sockets and standard sockets can both be used to apply torque to a fastener, the tool and application are key factors to keep in mind when selecting which to use. Both types will have advantages and disadvantages, but we typically recommend getting impact sockets if you are only going to get one set. This is because you can use them with both power tools and hand tools so it leaves you some future flexibility even if you don’t currently own impact tools.
We hope that this article helped explain the tradeoffs when it comes to impact sockets versus standard sockets. Happy wrenching!