SDS-Plus vs. SDS-Max vs. Spline Drive – Hammer Drill Bits

There is sometimes a little confusion as to what bits work with which hammer drills and what bit is best for each job. In the beginning there were a ton of different styles of hex and tapper bits, lots of manufacturer had their own, we won’t even get into that. Spline was introduced here in the US as a universal shank everyone could use, around the same time SDS bits started being introduced from Europe (Hilti & Bosch) which allowed the bits to be locked into place better but still move up and down.

SDS-Max vs SDS-Plus

Later the SDS-Plus was introduced to improve upon SDS which works interchangeably with regular SDS and simply offered a better connection. Spline was a good solution for the larger bits but then the SDS-Max was introduced which was supposed to replace Spline Drive for larger drills, with equal strength and capacity but improved connectivity similar to the smaller SDS bits. While SDS-Max has caught on it unfortunately never replaced Spline and now we have both types of tools and bits on the market for really no good reason we can see.

If you are starting with an empty toolcrib we would recommend going SDS-Max over Spline, there are several more options in accessories and eventually everything might go this way. The reason we still have both is because folks with existing bits and equipment are holding true to the Spline Drives so it would be hard to imagine either style going away anytime soon.

Strait Shank Hammer Drill Bit

Strait Shank Hammer Drill Bits – These are the carbide drill bits you would use in a chucked hammer drill (which are mostly not “rotary hammer drills”). Typical size of carbide bits available is 1/8″ – 1″ but we don’t normally recommend this style over 1/2″ unless you just have a few holes to drill. The chuck hammer drills doesn’t allow in/out movement of the bit and are often less powerful but with a much higher impacts per minute rating.

SDS-Plus Shank Hammer Drill Bit

SDS-Plus Drill Bits | SDS-Plus Chisel Bits | SDS-Plus Rebar Cutters
Typically used with Carbide drill bits 5/32” – 1-1/8” and thin wall carbide core bits up to 4”. There are also several types of smaller chipping and chiseling bits that work extremely well with standard SDS Rotary Hammers. You will find the tools often give max capacity right in the title such as 1” SDS-Plus or 1-1/8” SDS-Plus. These are solid carbide bit capacities so while a 1-1/8” bit will fit in a ¾” SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer Drill, it is not recommended and it will be under powered.

SDS-Max Shank Hammer Drill Bit

SDS-Max Drill Bits | SDS-Max Chisel Bits | SDS-Max Core Bits
Typically used with Carbide drill bits 1/2” – 2” and thick wall carbide core bits up to 4” (thin wall up to 6”). There are also many chipping, chiseling, bushing, cutting and digging bits that work well with the SDS Max tools. Many of the demolition tools use the SDS-Max bits while ever larger units will use the Hex shank but that is another topic for another day.

Spline Shank Hammer Drill Bit

Spline Drill Bits | Spline Chisel Bits | Spline Core Bits
Typically used with Carbide drill bits 1/2” – 2” and thick wall carbide core bits up to 4” (thin wall up to 6”). There are also many chipping, chiseling, bushing, cutting and digging bits that work well with the Spline tools. Most of the time the SDS Max & Spline drive tools are pretty much identical with simply different retainer chucks. The selection on tools and bits will be slightly less for spline drive but remains very common. The one big difference with a spline system is that the shanks for drilling and chisel bits looks considerably different. For the chisel bits the shank which is not intended to spine is smooth (so no splines) and the part below is flat.

Spline to SDS-Plus Adapter

Hammer Drill Adapters: – You can get adapters to go from SDS Max to Spline or vise-versa or from either size down to the smaller SDS or SDS Plus sizes. It is best to avoid unnecessary adapters whenever possible, just another thing to loose, break, etc. There are not any adapters available to go up from the smaller SDS-Plus drills to the larger sizes (SDS Max or Spline) and if there were such an adapter it would not be recommended to use.

SDS-Plus Bits use with SDS-Max Drill – 48-03-3025
SDS-Plus Bits use with a Spline Drill – 48-03-3015
SDS-MAX Bits use with a Spline Drill – 48-03-3010
Spline Bits with a SDS-Max Drill – 48-03-3012

The most common point of confusion is the different tool capacity rating in the titles. For instance Bosch has a couple SDS-Plus Bulldog hammers; one is a 1” SDS-Plus & the other is a 1-1/8” SDS-Plus. This inch rating refers to the solid drilling diameter capacity or basic power of the drill, not a different size SDS-Plus shanks. All SDS-Plus shanks are the same, just as all SDS-Max and Spline are the same size.

Another point of confusion for the tools is with the two types of larger hammers produced, the demolition hammers vs rotary drill hammers. The rotary drills can be used as a drill and most of the time can be switched to a hammer only mode for using breaker chisels. These are also sometimes called combination drills. The demolition hammers on the other hand only operate in hammer mode and can’t drill which means they are often cheaper with less parts to fail if you just want to use them for strictly demo purposes. When shopping online sometimes the pictures might be the same, often the differences are internal, make sure you are getting the right unit.

If you have any questions at all about any Rotary hammer drills or carbide accessories please call the experts at Ohio Power Tool 800-242-4424. They would be more than happy to address any questions or talk more in-depth about related topics such as Hammer Drill Core Bits vs Diamond Core bits or any concrete tools.



This entry was posted in Bosch, Comparison Tests, Construction Tools, Demolition Tools, Milwaukee and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. bob says:

    What is the SDS-Top? I found nothing on this in the article above.

  2. Jay A says:

    Everyone else uses these standards… and then there is Hilti who makes up their own bits & standards. Unfortunately if you have a Hilti hammer you are pretty much stuck paying the Hilti inflated prices for bits as well.

    • Craig says:

      Hilti uses SDS and SDS-Max. You can use an SDS in a SDS+ system but not the other way. SDS+ won’t go into an SDS only system.

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  4. Chris Cook says:

    I have an old Hilti spline (about 5/8 diameter on the spline) concrete drill. Can I use this hammer drill with a chisel, if so, what do you recomend? Does anyone make drill bits for this now?

  5. volkan says:

    Could you please help, as I have bought a Bosch Gbh 5-38x which has a 13mm hex holder. I am finding it hard to buy any bits for this, could I use any other bits to suit.

    Many thanks

  6. Jay Amstutz says:

    Bosch Gbh 5-38x is not available in the US so not sure. Perhaps someone for the European market can help here.

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  11. I have read several just right stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking
    for revisiting. I wonder how a lot attempt you put to make this kind of wonderful informative website.

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  13. Philip says:

    Which drill would be acceptable for a basement reno? SDS Plus or SDS Max?

    Thank you in advance.

  14. Ken King says:

    I’m afraid this didn’t answer my question. I was unaware of the SDS plus or Max. I have a standard SDS hammer drill. The coupler diameter is about .400″. SDS Max chisel that I need to return is about .720″. Clearly these aren’t interchangeable. Is the SDS plus interchangeable with SDS?

  15. charlice says:

    Thank you for the comparison and detailed explanation of these accessories.

  16. Hi,

    Thank you for detailed information. I had bad experience. I did try a cobalt drill bit which one actually perfect for stainless steel. So that I broke bit my first press. 🙂

    Hope your article will help newbie.


  17. David Miller says:


    thanks for this few days back I just broke my drill bit I don’t know which I should buy because the previous one bought by my partner now I know which one is good or bad thanks to you

  18. Lyons says:

    That is very useful info. I just tried my made in Germany rotary hammer. The hammering mode is so powerful. Perfect for DIY like me!

  19. RADIF says:

    Hello Jay
    Excellent to read the differences. Your article inspired me to write this Impact Driver vs Hammer Drill Differences .

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