Torque Wrenches for Precision Shooting
Torque wrenches are important pieces of equipment for a precision rifle kit. At the very least torque wrenches will keep one from snapping off small scope ring screws. Torque wrenches also allow consistency and repeat ability in other functions of the precision rifle such as mounting rings to a rail or tightening action screws when installing an action into a stock. As far as torque wrenches go, there are a vast array of torque wrenches available on the market in all prices and configurations. It is my intention to test some of the most common torque wrenches that are used in the precision rifle arena.
Accuracy and Precision
They will be tested using two different Seekonk torque analyzers. These analyzers are capable of reading to the nearest in/lb and are an industry standard for testing and analyzing tools. As far as precision rifle shooting goes, there are a couple of different aspects of torque wrenches that I see as important. First is accuracy. Accuracy is how closely to the target weight the wrench operates. If the wrench is calling for 65 in/lb but “clicking” at 55 in/lb then there is an accuracy issue with said wrench. Precision is the other aspect of torque wrenches that is important. Precision is how closely together each “click” is to the other. In other words, if a wrench is calling for 65 in/lb and the first time it clicks at 55 in/lb, the second at 54 in/lb, the third at 55 in/lb then the wrench is precise but not accurate. I under-stand that it is usually an extreme case for wrenches to be out of calibration by this amount, but it is not unheard of. As far as precision rifle shooting goes precision is much more important than accuracy. Within reason it really does not matter if a wrench is 3-4% off on accuracy...or even 10% for that matter as long as it is precise. If a wrench is 10% off then it MUST be 10% off every time in order to provide consistent and repeatable results for the shooter. This is also a reason to always use ones own torque wrench when working on a precision rifle.
Price, Function, weight, precision
Price is also another aspect that comes into play when choosing a torque wrench. The thing is, most any torque wrench is going to be better than none, but the cheaper wrenches will usually be a compromise somewhere. The wrenches I tested ranged in price from about $50 to well over $100. Price is not always a reflection on accuracy/precision either as some of the cheaper ones did better than some of the more expensive ones. Function also comes into play with the price of torque wrenches. Some torque wrenches are user adjustable and capable of a variety of weight settings while other wrenches are factory set at a single weight. Also, the weight of the wrench is something to consider. Most precision shooters carry a torque wrench in their rifle kit, therefore weight is important. The wrenches that are lightest in weight typically compromise somewhere else in the four categories above. Torque wrenches are usually a trade off between price, weight, function, and precision. It is usually very difficult to find all of these in one package regardless of price, therefore the user needs to decide which of these categories is most important when choosing a torque wrench for precision shooting.
The four wrenches I was able to test are Seekonk BT-2L, Borka Torque (original), Borka Torque (current model), Fix it sticks, and Wheeler FAT. As far as weight goes, the Borka wrenches come in well ahead of the other models at 3.2oz (wrench without bits). The Fix it Sticks wrench is 6.0 oz with one limiter or 6.8 oz with both limiters. The Seekonk is 10.6 oz, and the heavy weight is the FAT at 12.0 oz. While weight might be low on ones list for importance, especially if it is just going to be used on a bench, it is still something to take into consideration.
The number of settings a wrench has will come into play in ones decision as well. The Wheeler FAT wrench and the Borka are at the top of the list in this category as they both allow multiple adjustable settings. The FAT and new style Borka are infinitely adjustable while the old style Borka has several settings at certain intervals. The Fix it Sticks has limiters for each desired setting allowing for additional limiters to be bought for a reasonable price. The Seekonk is a single setting wrench. If an additional setting is needed then a complete wrench is needed. With most precision rifles only two wrenches are usually needed and really only one for field use. Usually the same wrench that is set for action screws will also work for scope ring cross bolts, therefore a wrench with infinitely variable settings is not typically necessary for precision rifles. Another aspect of function is ease of use. Seekonk takes the top of the pile as far as ease of use goes. It is comfortable to use and fool proof. If it clicks then it is at the proper setting and there are no worries. The Seekonk (BT-2L model) will also work to back screws out which eliminates another step in the process. The fix it sticks come in a close second as far as ease of use goes. Once again they are fool proof as they are single setting. If they slip the weight is correct. The only minor drawback to the fix it sticks is that the limiter has to be removed to back screws out. The next wrench in line as far as ease of use is the FAT. It has positive clicks that work well, but attention must be taken to carefully set the wrench in the same place each time or it will not be repeatable. The FAT wrench must also be backed down to zero when not in use or it will not maintain calibration. When it comes to ease of use the Borka is the most difficult to use. The proper setting must be carefully chosen and set which is not a big deal, but then the wrench must be held exactly the same each time to get any kind of precision out of the wrench. Slight differences in grip make a difference in the final torque value. Also, when the Borka cams over it is easy to drop the entire wrench because the proper hold on the wrench does not allow for an easy way to catch the wrench when it cams over. The function and ease of use of a wrench is something to take into consideration when purchasing a wrench.
Accuracy and Precision
Each of these wrenches were tested for accuracy and precision. They were each “clicked” ten times on the tested settings. As was said before, within reason accuracy is not nearly as important as precision. One must pay close attention to the ES (extreme spread) of the wrench as that number re-veals the true precision over the course of several “clicks”. The chart on the next page shows the re-sults of the accuracy/precision test. As with all wrenches, they are most precise in their lower settings and will begin to lose precision as they approach max.
FAT— I was actually impressed with the performance of the FAT given the price point. I did not think that it would do as well as it did. It is still not as precise or accurate as some of the others...and I don't know how it will hold up over time...but for an occasional use wrench it should do just fine. As with any wrench of the type...be sure to turn it all the way back down after each use. I don't particularly like having to turn the dial up and down and get it set exactly each time in order to use this wrench...but it works. Also, the first “click” of this wrench after turning up the dial is not accurate and was not taken into account. If one wants to use this wrench precisely they will make sure to “click” it at least twice after setting the weight before actually using it for precision.
Seekonk— The Seekonk is built like a tank. I have seen the insides of these and the way they are built and they will not soon wear out. I have had 20+ year old wrenches that would calibrate and hold the torque just as they should. They have a positive click when they slip. They are however heavy and set to one particular weight. If one wanted another weight the only option is to get another wrench and that can get expensive. For a loading bench or applications where only one setting is needed the Seekonk is a good option.
Borka— The Borka is a very lightweight, easy to pack, versatile kit which is what attracts most users. It allows for many different weight settings (infinite on the new version). It is the lightest weight of the bunch, and it comes in a TAB gear pouch (who doesn't like Tab Gear?). It is considered by many to be a top quality torque wrench...but in my opinion it has several problems. The first and most obvious problem is the way that it "clicks". it is easy to drop the entire wrench when it clicks and if it is not held properly the torques will vary even more than they do in my test. Second is the fact that the wrench is not very precise. The ES numbers vary by what I consider to be way to much to use this wrench on my guns, even as a backup in the bag. The newer version is slightly better than the older version and my theory is that is because there is a specific point to place fingers allowing for more consistent grip, yet it was still not nearly as precise as the other options.
Fix It Sticks— The Fix it Sticks are also at a decent price point, but not as cheap as the FAT. They are well built and flexible in terms of their use. Should another weight be needed all that needs to be done is to buy another limiter to go with the kit. I don't really like that these limiters don't have a posi-tive "click" as most wrenches do but they do work well and are precise. To get a precise torque one must be sure to turn at least 1/2 turn after it starts to slip. These limiters are rated at 5,000 cycles for the larger ones and 20,000 cycles for the smaller ones therefore should last for quite a few years. I have now been using them for a few months and these are my “go to” wrenches. I have ordered several dif-ferent limiters and decided that these are more convenient and just as precise as the Seekonk which were my previous long time favorite.
Thanks for the write up. I too don't really care for the borka kits.
We stock the fix-it-sticks deluxe kits now. The torque limiters are quite good, in operation at least.
I'll send you out a kit and you can check it out.
Nice write up.
Nice write up. I have a fat wrench. Send me a pm and I will ship it to you for the test. Now I am curious.
I'm told by borka that technique makes a huge difference regarding its repeatability. I can believe it on the higher torque values, I catch myself using my whole hand and cheating.
I have the "upgraded" version of the Borka. It slides along the scale supposedly allowing for finer adjustments.
If you're interested in expanding the borka sample size, I'll send you mine on my dime. I'm interested.
Technique does make a huge difference on the Borka. If more than one finger is on the end of the wrench it will vary by massive amounts.
I would like to try the new model. I'll send you a PM.
Technique does make a huge difference on the Borka.
... which is why I hated the one I had and gave it away almost immediately. The fix-it-sticks limiters are pretty idiot proof. Much more like what I was used to with the seekonk.
For comparison...This is a random Seekonk wrench I pulled off the shelf. It has a manufacture date of 08/10 so it is just over 6 years old. It is a BT-2L calibrated at 80 in/lb. Keep in mind that this is right on the limit of this wrench. The BT-2L is capable of a single fixed weight anywhere from 2 in/lb to 80 in/lb...so at 80 in/lb this will be the LEAST accurate or precise this wrench will be. This wrench is nothing special either as almost every seekonk I calibrate is similar to this one. It also doesn't matter how this wrench is held it will "pop" at the proper torque.
Target: 80-- 80, 81, 81, 80, 81, 81, 82, 81, 80, 82 HIGH 82, Low 80 ES-- 3
This wrench is 10.6 oz in comparison to Borka's 3.2 oz...and it will only work for one single set weight.
Thanks to several members here I have a few other wrenches on the way that I will put on the analyzer and post the results. I have wanted to do this test for some time now...but I really didn't want to have to buy all of the torque wrenches just to test them.
I bought a Fat Wrench yesterday as I found them on sale for $40. I'm interested to see if its close to their claimed +/- 2lb.
Sure was nice to torque my scope down to the same setting though.
I have one coming my way. The main two I am really interested in are the FAT and the fix it sticks. I am also going to get to test a new style Borka, but I am not expecting it to be a lot different.
My prediction is that the FAT will be + or - 2 in/lb in the lower half of the settings...but I bet it doesn't hold true in the upper few settings. We will see though. The analyzer doesn't lie.
So my "certification" card that came with my Fat Wrench says is was 11.6 on a 10# setting, 20 on 20#, and 30 on 30#. But it was stamped with some Chinese guys name that looks like a hastag so you knows, lol.
That sounds like another service you can offer 007. I have a FAT wrench myself and was considering a fixed Seekonk just for scope rings.
So my "certification" card that came with my Fat Wrench says is was 11.6 on a 10# setting, 20 on 20#, and 30 on 30#. But it was stamped with some Chinese guys name that looks like a hastag so you knows, lol.
I understand why they only try it once...but the true test is how much it changes over the course of multiple clicks. I do hope the FAT surprises me and preforms above its price point. We will see.
I've got my work cut out for me. Thanks guys!!!
I'm curious as to the FAT wrench.....
I'll get mine mailed tomorrow
Ok...So after testing these four wrenches the results are interesting. While they are all torque wrenches...they differ greatly in function and therefore are a little difficult to completely compare. The seekonk and fixit sticks are fixed weight torque wrenches and will only allow for a single weight per torque tool while the Borka and FAT are adjustable and allow for many weights in the same tool.
Weight is always an issue when and if these are carried in the field. Here are the weights of the wrenches without a bit...but with every other piece necessary
Borka-- 3.2 oz
Fixit Sticks-- 6.0 oz (one limiter) or 6.8 oz for two limiters
Seekonk-- 10.6 oz
Fat-- 12.0 oz.
These are the test results for the wrenches that I have. Keep in mind...for what we do with them I am not real concerned with the wrench being dead on the weight as long as they are close and are precise. The ES is what really needs to be low on these wrenches.
Price is something that also comes into play on these wrenches as some are as cheap as $50 retail and others are $150+. I was actually impressed with the performance of the FAT given the price point. I did not think that it would do as well as it did. It is still not as precise or accurate as some of the others...and I don't know how it will hold up over time...but for an occasional use wrench it should do just fine. As with any wrench of the type...be sure to turn it all the way back down after each use. I don't particularly like having to turn the dial up and down and get it set exactly each time in order to use this wrench...but it works.
The Fix it Sticks are also at a decent price point...but not as cheap as the FAT. They are well built and flexible in terms of their use. Should another weight be needed...all that needs to be done is to buy another limiter to go with the kit. I don't really like that these limiters don't have a positive "click" as most wrenches do...but they do work. To get a precise torque just be sure to turn at least 1/2 turn after it starts to slip. As with the FAT...longevity is also a question. I have not had the limiters apart and don't know if there are "wear" parts in them or not...but again...for what we do with them they should work well for years to come. For a pack or kit I believe these are the best option of the ones I tested.
The Seekonk is built like a tank. I have seen the insides of these and the way they are built they will not soon wear out. I have had 20+ year old wrenches that would calibrate and hold the torque just fine. They have a positive click when they slip. They are however heavy and set to one particular weight. If one wanted another weight...the only option is to get another wrench...and that can get expensive. For a loading bench however the seekonk wrenches are hands down the best option.
The Borka is a very lightweight, easy to pack, versatile kit which is what attracts most users. It allows for many different weight settings (infinite on the new version which will be tested soon). It is the lightest weight of the bunch, and it comes in a TAB gear pouch (who doesn't like tab gear?). It is considered by many to be a top quality torque wrench...but in my opinion it has several problems. The first and most obvious problem is the way that it "clicks". it is easy to drop the entire wrench when it clicks and if it is not held properly the torques will vary even more than they do in my test. Second is the fact that the wrench is not very precise. The ES numbers vary by what I consider to be way to much to use this wrench on my guns...even as a backup in the bag. I hope there have been improvements on the newer versions of the Borka. I should have one to test in a few days and I will let you know then.
Thanks 3D for the testing. Very interesting results.
I have and use the FAT wrench.
This confirms that it is good enough for gov'ment work.:laughing:
Wow I was worried about my Fat Wrench but it seem's close enough. Thanks for doing all of the testing work. Great writ up.
Daniel, may I have your permission to plunk that into article format and post it in the articles section of our website? You'll be credited of course.
Invaluable contribute you've made here. Thank you!
Absolutely. Use it any way you like.
Thanks for the tip about releasing the pressure on the Fat Wrench....
Had to check mine.
Excellent data you generated.
Can we start a precision tools thread?
Between 007, Orkan, and Travis I bet we other guys can learn a lot.
Pros and cons of different calipers, micrometers, scales, dial gauges.
What Travis needs in his work is way more than I would need to measure bore slugs.
What do you think we need?
That makes me feel really good about my Fat Wrench. Considering I got it on sale for $40 with a ES of 2-3 pounds makes it a great value.
Thanks @dddoo7 for doing these test. This is well above what most guys ever consider reviewing and testing.
Daniel, I'm going to send you my FAT wrench that I've had for probably 10 years. I've accidentally left it set at 65 in/lbs for extended periods of time. I'd be interested to see how it does. I'll send that out this next week.
Just FYI the accuracy rating on most of my Torque wrenches is around 2% CW and 2% CCW these are on Snap-on torque wrenches.
I know snapon makes good equipment...but there are a lot of torque wrench companies making a lot of claims of "percent accuracy" that are not true. The only way to really know is to put them on an analyzer.
One other thing I thought of last night that I need to test on the FAT is repeatability when it is turned back to zero each time. It is one thing to dial a setting and be repeatable during that use. It is entirely another thing to maintain the same setting after turning back to zero each time. I had @tpk936 wrench boxed up and ready to be picked up but I'm gonna keep it til Monday now and see how it does on this test. I hope you are ok with that. I'm also interested to test the one that has stayed dialed up. I don't know if it makes a difference or not...but every one I have seen has said not to do that.
For a while I liked and used Utica torque screwdrivers as well. They seem to be very nice tools and retail up near $200. However when I got my analyzer and compared the two I had I quickly quit using them. They were fairly repeatable...but several in/lb off of the actual setting and different between the two.
@dddoo7 I am fine with this. Every time I have used it I always returned it to zero when finished. The instructions Where adamant if I recall that you return it to zero. I have had my fat wrench for around 4 years. What will be interesting is comparing it to Greg's.
I wouldn't have guessed it to be that old. It looks brand new. I think I probably put more clicks on it that you have.
@dddoo7 if there is one thing I do is keep my equipment clean. I have learned you take care of it and it will be there when you need it.
Ok...second go round with the FAT. This time I dialed it down to zero in between each click and then back to the desired settings. This test will not only show how repeatable the wrench is but how precise the human operator is at getting the little red line precisely in the right place as well.
At 15 in/lb the ES was 2 (13 low, 15 high)
First clicks were as follows: 14, 15, 13, 15, 13, 13, 14, 13, 13, 14
At 30 in/lb the ES was 3 (26 low, 29 high)
First Clicks were as follows: 28, 27, 27, 29, 26, 27, 28, 29, 27, 27
At 45 in/lb the ES was 3 (40 low, 43 high)
First Clicks were as follows: 43, 43, 43, 41, 43, 40, 41, 42, 42, 42
AT 65 in/lb the ES was 5 (56 low, 61 high)
First Clicks were as follows: 60, 60, 61, 56, 60, 58, 60, 61, 60, 59 (ES of 5...but low)
Second Click were as follows: 66, 69, 69, 65, 65, 67, 67, 67, 68, 67 (ES of 3) (see below for explanation)
Now...here is the interesting part (to me at least). The first click after dialing the wrench up was ALWAYS lower than the second click...and this was more pronounced the higher the setting. When set at 15 in'/lb...the second click was always 1-2 in/lb heavier on the second click and almost always closer to the target weight. At 65 in/lb the second click after turning it up was as much as 9 in/lb heavier (3 times) and at least 6 in/lb heavier than the first click. Now...this does not necessarily mean the wrench is faulty. The second click and every click thereafter were closer to the target weight and maintained the ES that the wrench exhibited in the previous test. So...when using the FAT...be very careful to set it exactly in the middle of the red line...and then when torquing a screw be sure to click the wrench at least 2-3 times...which will lower the ES for any wrench because the screw will naturally be torqued at the highest of the 3 clicks.
I am curious as to how the "abused" FAT will work in comparison to this test.
Another wrench arrived today. I plan to test it over the next few days and will let you know how it goes. It is the newest model Borka. Upon first impressions it is nicer than the old model...but it also has the same torque method. It does have little dimples on the handle showing precisely where to hold it so it should be a little more precise than the old one. Oh well. No more speculating for now. The analyziers will tell the story.
BTW-- Thanks @ragnarnar
Not a problem. Sorry I took so long to get it to you
This Borka is built much nicer than the older model and it is more precise. I also like the newer TAB gear pouch better than I did on the older model.
This borka is more precise than the previous model and I suspect that the gained precision is from the fact that this newer model has a little dimple for the finger to set in making it closer to the same fulcrum every time. I didn't test every single weight...but I did several that are fairly common. Also...to see how well the wrench was calibrated I tested the 29 in/lb setting (on the low side) and the 30 in/lb setting (on the high side). These two tests should have been almost identical.
On the max setting...the ES was 11 in/lb which in my opinion is still too much for precision. As the settings got lower the ES also lowered which is typical for most torque wrenches. This wrench is the most awkward to use and the most difficult to use properly. If it is not used properly then it will be far less precise than this test shows.
Of all the wrenches I have tested...my favorite for field use where weight is an issue is the Fixit sticks. My favorite for bench work is the Seekonk wrenches. Both are well made, yield consistent results, and are very simple to use.
Below is the updated chart which includes the new model Borka. Thanks to all who have loaned me wrenches. They should be back to you shortly if they are not already.
First post is updated. Information is compiled into one article.
I also have an abused FAT wrench that is currently in the mail and should be here in a few days. The wrench is several years old and has been left on the highest setting for months at a time. We will see what kind of affect it had on it.
I received the rest of the fix it sticks limiters that I ordered from Orkan. They make for a great compact piece of kit.
70, 65, 45, 25, and 15 in/lb
Well...I had forgotten that I had @orkan s old fat wrench. This wrench is trashed. Orkan told me it was...but it is pretty bad. It is gritty when it slips now instead of smooth like the newer one I tested was. Results were not bad considering that this is a $49 wrench with 200,000 miles on it.
Target: 15 in/lb
12, 11, 10, 10, 11, 10, 11, 12, 11, 11
Target: 30 in/lb
25, 24, 24, 25, 25, 25, 24, 24, 25, 24
Target: 45 in/lb
37, 42, 40, 41, 41, 38, 39, 39, 39, 39
Target: 65 in/lb
61, 63, 63, 64, 62, 62, 61, 61, 63, 59
So I guess in conclusion: One would be better off with an abused FAT wrench than a Borka...but if you are really interested in a quality, precision tool then the Seekonk or Fixitsticks are the way to go.
hahaha. I'm actually surprised it tested out as well as it did.
That thing was left on max setting so many times, for such long periods of time. Says a lot about that tool. I'd rate it as a great buy for someone on a tight budget.
Going to update your original post table with that info?
Yes I will...but it will be a few days.
Let me know when you do. :)
do you need me to ship this back to you...or can I just bring it in may?
You can bring it in may.