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I have been looking into getting an impact wrench for my car and I have noticed that any given model (at least the one I am looking at) has two versions. One version has a ball to keep the socket supported (like a torque wrench) and the other type has a friction ring.

I am leaning towards the ball-locking mechanism because I am familiar with that, but before I make a purchase for something so expensive could someone please explain the difference between the two versions, and why one would be more preferable than another?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

The pin/ball detent system is the more secure socket retention method. However they can be a real bear to release. They are especially tight when new sockets are used on a new gun. This is compounded if your hands are wet or greasy. The friction ring is still secure but lends itself to easier socket changes. So if you are going to install one socket and use it all day, over your head where it is likely to fall off the detent system is your choice. If you are using different sockets frequently where easy removal is important go with the ring retention.

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How well the friction ring holds will vary by model and age. After many years of use, the friction ring on my gun still keeps a death grip on sockets and makes changes difficult. I would have preferred the ball/pin mechanism. – bcworkz Dec 20 '12 at 21:55

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