Does my ratchet really need 120 teeth?

A look at the GearWrench 120XP ratchet.


What I always liked about an expensive ratchet is how it felt in my hand and how quick it did the job. Pardon me for not being reflective enough on the matter, but it was not until fairly recently I appreciated exactly what separated a cheap ratchet from an expensive one: how many teeth the gear had on the inside.

Ever since knowing that I started paying attention to how many teeth a ratchet had. When I heard about the new GearWrench 120XP Ratchet with its "120 teeth" I was very intrigued, though maybe a little skeptical. GearWrench products are very economical and compete in the Craftsman price territory. How could it possibly compete with a Snap-on, I thought.

So, I have given the tool a one-month test drive and my review? Two thumbs up. I am very impressed by how it works as advertised and for not so coinicidental engineering reasons feels just like a Snap-on ratchet. Believe it or not, your other ratchets start feeling "slow" when you get used to the 120XP.

Just how do they fit those 120 teeth in there? The tool does not actually have 120 teeth, as they'd get so small it would compromise the integrity of the tool. Instead, it features a 60-tooth gear that alternately engages internally two double-stacked pawls. The result? A total of 120 positions and a three-degree swing arc.

Is there room for improvement? Of course, as there would be in anything. Personally, I'd like to see models come with "cushioned" hard rubber handles and adjustable heads, so I can get into tighter spots. The latter is supposedly in the works. Also, I cannot help but wonder that this pawl-stacking technology that GearWrench is employing is going to lead to an all-out pawl-stacking war, just like the Gillette Sensor Excel led to shaving razors with increasing amounts of blades. What are we up to now, five different blades? Reminds me of the MAD TV "Mach 10" razor blade gag.

It makes me wonder if we will see "180 tooth" or even "240 tooth" ratchets in the not-too-distant-future.