Bit sockets are one of those tools that a lot of people take a minimalist approach to. People tend to buy a basic set when they need them, and make them work even when the job calls for something different. I’m the type of guy that likes to have the right tool for the job, but when you factor in the sheer variety of bit sockets out there, the minimalist approach almost makes sense. When you consider there are Hex, Torx, External Torx, Spline, Triple Square, and many others, most available in various lengths, not to mention the fact hex bits are available in Metric, SAE, traditional, and ball end versions, it’s a lot to take in if you’re buying partly for the “just in case”. You can fill up a drawer pretty quick trying to cover all bases, but for the average guy who isn’t working on aircraft or german cars, a well rounded set of hex and Torx bit sockets will probably suffice.
Like most, I started out with a set of the standard length bit sockets to try and cover most situations. My set (purchased as 2 individual sets) covered up to 3/8″ SAE and 10 mm metric, , all being the standard 2″ or so bit length. While these basics did get me by in most situations, the length of the hex bits was seldom ideal and proved problematical in certain situations. The bits always seemed to be either too long or too short. When I found them too short, I usually resorted to using a traditional L or T handle hex key, but in situations where they were too long, they tended to cock sideways when pressure was applied and on more than one occasion damaged the fastener. It didn’t take too many instances of this before I started looking for a better solution.
Searching my typically preferred retailers yielded (for the most part) a lot more of what I already had. I could find whatever I was looking for if I wanted to buy several individual sets, but there just weren’t a lot of really comprehensive options out there. While in NAPA one day picking up a Helicoil kit, I ran across the Carlyle BSH42 set and knew instantly I had to have one.
BSH42 Master Hex Bit Set
You’re probably wondering what’s so special about the BSH42 aren’t you? Well, in short, it’s probably the most comprehensive hex bit socket set you can buy and is for sure the most comprehensive set I’ve encountered. Covering 7 SAE sizes (1/8″ – 3/8″) and 7 metric sizes (4mm – 10mm), it features a short (1-5/16″), medium (2-3/4″), and long (6″) length version in each size and varies between drive sizes. Depending on what type of stuff you work on, you may occasionally need larger sizes, but seeing how I have a 1/2″ impact set that covers those fasteners, this set played well into my system.
Features & Design
While the biggest appeal to the set is certainly the all inclusiveness of it, you shouldn’t let that detract from the thoughtful design characteristics. With pressed in bits constructed of S2 steel, chamfered edges, and flawless chrome, the set is right on par with what you expect from a professional grade set. I especially like the fact you can easily distinguish metric from SAE sizes by the distinctive stamping on the metrics.
The case is nice as well. With an assembled thickness of 3-1/4″, it features a removable lid that reduces it to 2″ and allows the set to be stored in a shallow drawer. It has imprinted sizes, but if it’s in a lower drawer, or you choose not to use the case at all, the distinctive stamping comes in especially handy.
Performance wise the sockets are pretty much what you expect in a premium set. This set is made in Taiwan, but don’t let that concern you. I’ve got other bit sockets tat came off a truck, cost more, and are clearly from the same OEM, the quality is definitely there. With 6 months on this set I have no issues to report.
Earlier in the article I mentioned the shorter length of the Carlyle short bits. To elaborate, my old Kobalt set came in a total length of 2″ with the bit itself being appx. 3/4″. This is pretty consistently the shortest length available and isn’t something you ever think too hard about. The length is fine when needed to get to a recessed fastener, but on an unobstructed fastener, especially if it’s a little stubborn, the length of the bit sometimes causes it to cock sideways which sometimes leads to fastener damage or a busted knuckle if you aren’t careful to keep your ratchet steady . Carlyle’s short bits come in at a total length of 1-5/16″ with a bit length of just 5/16″, which seems to alleviate this problem. I know, you think I’m crazy or just being nit picky, but I’m totally serious. Have a look:
See what I mean. It isn’t something that becomes an issue on every fastener, but it does happen. I’ll admit that when I first got the set, the short sockets looked a little goofy, but I fell in love with them the first time I used them and really came to appreciate the additional clearance. I wouldn’t recommend the short length as an only set, but they are a nice convenience if you have longer versions when needed.
As I mentioned in my previous Carlyle article, I was a little skeptical about the line at first, but the more I use it, the more I like it. I’d even go as far as saying it’s the nicest house brand out there right now and being able to warranty tools locally is a big bonus for many people. As for critiques, there isn’t really any downside to the set. It’s good quality, incredibly comprehensive, and pretty much exclusive to the Carlyle line. Maybe it’s just me, but I would love to see the 6″ bits come as ball end versions for added versatility.
Carlyle offers several bit socket sets varying in size, length, and profile, but the BSH42 really stands out to me. If you don’t have a NAPA close by, or just prefer online shopping, you do have the option to purchase online. Be sure to sign up for a Carlyle Club membership first though, it’ll get you 10% off.
Stay tuned to TIA for more from Carlyle Tools!