For drilling big holes in studs and joists, a corded heavy-duty right-angle drill has long been an important day-to-day workhorse for plumbers and electricians. But for carpenters and smaller general contractors, these big, powerful drills are often a luxury item, and a heavy, bulky one at that. Over the last five years, though, advances in cordless tool motor and battery technology have given us lighter weight and less expensive options that are within purchasing reach of even DIYers. Recently added to this list of cordless options is the DeWalt 20V Max XR DCD443B Cordless Stud and Joist Drill, which we tested at several TDS Custom Construction jobsites. Our crew already owns a range of DeWalt tools that work on the company’s 20-volt battery platform, so we were interested to see if this heavy-duty drill would be worth its $280 price tag (bare tool only).

The DeWalt Stud and Joist Drill is part of DeWalt’s XR line of tools within the larger 20V Max platform. We were able to power the drill with our existing DeWalt Flexvolt batteries, but this particular model drill is optimized to work with the 20V XR series battery. Our drill was fitted with a 7/16-inch hex quick-change chuck that requires compatible drill bits. Another version of the drill (model DCD444B) is fitted with a conventional 1/2-inch keyed chuck and is designed specifically for use with Flexvolt batteries. We did not test that model.

DeWalt’s 20-volt DCD443B right-angle drill has an electric clutch to prevent the powerful brushless motor from kicking back if the bit binds up and a 7/16-inch hex quick-change chuck. The drill is also available with a 1/2-inch keyed chuck.

In addition to testing the drill on some typical carpentry tasks, we used it on a bathroom remodel project, where we had to change the rough-in locations for all of the fixtures. This job required several 5-inch-diameter holes to be drilled in LVLs and 2x10 joists, a challenge for any drill. One thing we noted right away was that the drill’s light weight of 8.75 pounds and compact length made it easy to maneuver in the tight joist cavities of the bathroom remodel. When we handed it off to our plumber to give it a spin, he noted that the drill had plenty of power and the brushless motor did not bog down or engage the E-clutch while drilling the 5-inch holes. He also liked the LED light but pointed out that the drill’s lack of a rafter hook would make it challenging to use while working off a ladder.

In our use, battery life of the drill was a nonissue; when used in remodeling work, this type of tool doesn’t see the sustained long periods of use that a circular saw or an impact driver would. According to the manufacturer, the DCD443B can drill up to 400 holes on one charge with a 7/8-inch-diameter auger bit in 2-by framing lumber when the drill is powered by the 8-Ah XR battery.

DeWalt’s 20-volt right-angle drill has a compact design that fits easily between joists and studs for drilling big holes through framing. It works with both XR and Flexvolt batteries.

For plumbers, electricians, and carpenters who specialize in rough framing and new construction, this heavy-duty DeWalt drill offers plenty of power in a compact package for demanding day-to-day use. It would be handy for both small contractors and DIYers alike to have around for general remodeling work and is an especially good value if you already have DeWalt 20-volt batteries that are compatible with the drill.