When pen and pencil just won’t do – like when you need to mark metal materials, wood materials, ceramics, or plastics, for example – experienced craftsmen reach for a punch.
A punch can deliver a precise little dimple in a whole bunch of different kinds of materials, giving you the exact mark you need to measure or to drill without having to fiddle around with anything else.
If you really want to take things to the next level, though, you get your hands on one of the best automatic center punch options money can buy – like the options that we highlight below.
These are the kinds of tools that allow you to one hand mark different projects while using your other hand to hold material or tools, making life a whole lot simpler and a whole lot more efficient all at the same time.
Best Automatic Center Punch Comparison Table
|1. Rennsteig 5-1/4″ Automatic Adjustable Center Punch
|2. Neiko 02638A Automatic Punch
|3. Starrett 117C Punch
|4. General Tools 89 Rust Proof Center Punch
|5. Starrett 18C Automatic Punch
|6. HORUSDY Adjustable Metal Punch
|7. Lisle 30280 Automatic Punch
Below we dig a little bit deeper into everything you need to know about quality punch tools, breaking down our favorite options on the market right now. These are the kinds of punches that can make your life a whole lot easier, changing the way that mark projects up or “predrill” projects from here on out.
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Our Best Automatic Center Punch Reviews and Comparisons
1. Rennsteig Center Punch
One of the best automatic center punch options money can buy these days, this German engineered and manufactured punch is a dream to use.
Providing plenty of striking force (falling in the middle of 180N and 250N) without any extra help necessary, you have enough “juice” behind this automatic punch to mark even structural steel.
One of the coolest features of this tool is that it can be used to mark a bunch of different materials with less force depending on how far back you pull the spring-loaded striker. We’ll get into that in just a moment.
- Made from high-quality construction materials, including strengthened steel, nickel, and brass
- Automatically tensioned spring delivers plenty of force
- The rounded knob creates a cozy grip
What We Like About Rennsteig Adjustable Automatic Punch
As we were talking about just a moment ago, one of the most impressive things about this particular punch is that you can deliver just the right amount of force depending on how much you preload the spring itself.
Working with softwood materials like pine?
Just pull back very little and then let the weight of the punch handle the rest for you.
Working at the opposite end of the spectrum with structurally-reinforced steel?
Pull back all the way and let the German engineering take over, smashing into that material with just enough force to make your precision marks effortlessly.
That kind of variability is a game-changer in the market for automatic punch tools. It’s a big part of why we love this tool specifically compared to so many other options.
What We Don’t Like About Rennsteig Adjustable Automatic Center Punch
It’s really hard to find a negative when you are talking about this particular punch, but I suppose the smaller shank diameter is an issue that some people aren’t going to be wild about.
On top of that, you may not find this punch all that useful with different kinds of steel depending on the type of alloy you are working with. While this is strong enough to mark structural steel, some alloys are going to be much more resistant.
- Built-in shock absorbers
- Easy to adjust the force at impact
- Precision hardened tip
- Gorgeous finish
- Has a somewhat limited shank diameter
- Not suitable for certain varieties of steel and alloy materials
2. Neiko 02638A Automatic Punch
Another great automatic center punch option, this is one of those punches that has been engineered out of S2 steel material – a material made out of a combination of vanadium and magnesium.
This basically means that you are working with one of the most durable punches on the market today. A punch that isn’t just going to be able to mark all different kinds of materials automatically – with precision – but a punch that is going to stand up to the use and abuse other punches would have fallen apart over.
- High-quality alloy steel that is incredibly durable
- Super comfortable and ergonomically designed handle
- The controllable force upon impact
- Great reputation for reliability and customer service
What We Like About Neiko 02638A Automatic Center Punch
A really cool thing about this automatic center punch is that it has been designed to work well with a variety of different materials, including softer materials like soft and hardwood.
A lot of other punches on this list of the best automatic center punch choices can be used across pretty much any material imaginable (with limited exceptions), but not all of them have been built specifically to work well with those materials.
This particular tool stands out because of its flexibility, it’s versatility, as well as its overall accuracy.
To adjust the amount of tension on the spring that you preload you only have to spin the actual handle of the punch itself. Twist one way to increase the amount of tension for harder materials and twist in the opposite direction to soften the blow.
This gives you a lot of control over how this tool is used.
What We Don’t Like About Neiko 02638A Automatic Center Punch
Marking harder materials (especially a lot of different types of steel) requires a couple of different strikes in rapid succession.
Even cranking the tension of this spring all the way up is only going to get you part of the way. You’re still going to need to deliver a couple of consistent and clean blows to the same spot to get the kind of mark you need on those types of materials.
On top of that, getting parts for this automatic center punch can be a bit of a nightmare. They just aren’t quite as accessible through the usual supply chains as the parts from other tools.
- Works really well with wooden construction materials
- Has one of the most ergonomic handles on the market
- Made out of quality and long-lasting materials
- Very easy to use
- Parts availability is a little hit or miss
- Multiple punches necessary to mark mild steel or above
3. Starrett 117C Punch
Designed and manufactured by a company well-regarded for their testing solutions, as well as their measurement tools and saw blades, you know that when you get your hands on this particular punch you are getting something of quality.
Made out of hardened steel, which dramatically improves its overall durability. You just aren’t going to see the kind of wear and tear on this tool that you come across with other punches.
With maybe the best grip on the entire list out the best automatic center punch options as well this is a dream to hold and a dream to use, and the kind of punch anyone would love to have in your toolbox.
- Made from hardened steel that improves durability
- Legendary reputation quality from a 100+year-old company
- Made 100% in the United States
- Very lightweight, ergonomically designed, and comfortable in the hand
What We Like About Starrett 117C Center Punch
The hardened steel material chosen for this automatic center punch is the first thing that separates it from all other options on this list.
Unlike a lot of choices that use steel alloys or other materials, the hardened steel in this is incredibly strong, incredibly shock resistant, and able to withstand the kind of use and abuse that weaker punches collapse under.
The auto punch mechanism inside the handle is also well-engineered and intuitive to use. It’s very accurate and repeatable, giving you the ability to deliver consistent punching marks over and over again in the same spot if you’re working with more difficult-to-mark materials.
The knurled handle is ergonomically sound and super comfortable in the hand. A tapered end provides a lot of accuracy and precision that you don’t get with “blunter” punches, another reason to go in this direction.
What We Don’t Like About Starrett 117C Center Punch
The shank diameter of this particular punch is really the only thing that holds it back from being the absolute best of the best automatic center punch options.
Some people – especially those working with lighter-weight materials or on smaller projects – are going to appreciate the shape diameter. Others, like those that need something a bit larger and a bit more robust, are going to be disappointed.
- Made from some of the most durable materials available
- Proprietary automatic punching mechanism is accurate and consistent
- The knurled handle features great ergonomics
- The precision point makes repeatability really easy
- A somewhat limited shank diameter may restrict its overall utility
4. General Tools 89 Rust Proof Center Punch
This is a punch that has been designed to stand up to a lot of pressure, punching consistently and accurately, time after time, without falling apart at the seams.
Made from high-end stainless steel (guaranteeing it won’t rust no matter what), the durability of this General Tools punch really makes a difference. You won’t have to worry about replacing your punch every couple of years when you choose to go in this direction.
Best of all, the auto-deploy spring mechanism inside of this punch is also high quality and designed to stand the test of time, too.
- Made from high-grade stainless steel that will not rust
- Automatic spring system does the “heavy lifting” for marking
- Ergonomic design with knurled handle
- Fantastic warranty
What We Like About General Tools 89 Rust Proof Automatic Center Punch
The reliability and consistency of this automatic center punch is a big deal.
One of the issues that you’ll sometimes have from time to time with different automatic center punch options (even some of the best automatic center punch options) is that they come out badly every now and again and start to mark inaccurately.
This won’t be a problem with the General Tools 89 much.
The system is designed to deliver that strike exactly where you want it today, tomorrow, and years down the line. Of all the parts that can wear and wiggle inside of this automatic center punch, the guide rod that delivers that punch point on target never will.
What We Don’t Like About General Tools 89 Rust Proof Automatic Center Punch
The only thing that you may have issues with from time to time with this punch is the spring getting a little bit tangled up inside of itself and some binding – particularly early on.
As long as you take the time to “break things in” when you first get started, recognizing that there are likely to be a couple of pickups along the way in the early stages, this isn’t going to be a big deal.
The other thing to know is that this punch has a bit of a tough time marking hardened steel on the first blow. You’re going to have to deliver two or three strikes to get accurate marks on those kinds of materials.
- Top grade stainless steel guarantees rust-free durability
- A high force of impact with automatic punching capabilities
- Ergonomically designed handle
- Great warranty
- Some binding likely when the tool is brand-new
- It will take a couple of strikes to mark on hardened metal materials
5. Starrett 18C Automatic Punch
This is another great automatic punch option from the Starrett company in the United States, and this one ranks right up there with the other Starrett as far as top automatic center punch options are concerned.
The tempered steel used in this particular tool helps to make it a lot more durable than some of the other options out there. This option is also resistant to oxidation (though it isn’t 100% rustproof the way that stainless steel is), giving you a little bit of extra peace of mind in that department as well.
A lot of people find the ergonomics of this particular punch from Starrett to be more impressive than the other punch we highlighted a moment ago. That’s a bit of a subjective opinion, though, it may be worth trying both of these punches to find out which one is really best for you.
- The internal pre-drilling tool works wonders in a variety of materials
- Dual spring system adds extra attention to deliver marking blows on all materials
- Made out of high-quality components with a great warranty
What We Like About Starrett 18C Automatic Center Punch
The 80° angle on this tool guarantees that you’re not only going to get a clean and accurate mark whenever you use this punch but that you are also going to get an expanded dent that’s perfect to start drilling with.
A couple of other quality punches deliver this same kind of mark, but none of them do so as cleanly or as consistently as this Starrett option will. Combine that with the dual spring system built inside that delivers high-powered strikes even on hardened steel for first-time marks and you are going to love this option.
Another big bonus for going this direction is the ability to remove the tip of this punch and either swap it out for a sharper option or for a that has been designed to be used on different materials.
What We Don’t Like About Starrett 18C Automatic Center Punch
Truth be told, this punch is likely to be a little bit overkill compared to some of the other options out there when you are working with wooden materials.
Unless you really need to blast through pressure-treated wood or hardwoods that are particularly stiff (ebony or purple wood come to mind, for example) there are likely going to be a couple of different automatic center punch options that fit your needs better.
- Made out of tempered and hardened steel
- 80° angle lets you mark without losing accuracy
- Double spring mechanism increases force at impact
- Removable tips can be swapped out on-the-fly
- Not the best punch when you’re dealing with wooden materials
6. HORUSDY Adjustable Metal Punch
This company offers you two different automatic center punch options in one slick package, guaranteeing that you have the tool you need for the job at hand no matter what that might be.
Instead of having to worry about tensioning your automatic punch perfectly every time you move from hardened steel to mild steel to aluminum or wooden construction materials you can instead just reach for a punch that is already dialed in to get that job done.
On top of that, both of these punches are made out of tempered steel, giving them great longevity.
- Made from hardened and tempered steel
- The dual pack gives you the right punch for the right job
- The automatic mechanism allows for one-handed marking operations
- Ergonomic design
What We Like About HORUSDY Adjustable Metal Punch
The most obvious thing we like about this dual pack option is that it really does give you all of the punches you need to get any marking job done, no matter what kind of material you are working with.
One of the punches is quite a bit larger than the other one, designed to mark metal, steel, and other hardened materials that require a bit more force.
The other punch, a slightly smaller one that looks like it is made with brass (at least on the handle) is designed to deliver a lighter touch – perfect for working with wooden construction materials or creating marks that you don’t need to gouge deeper into your material.
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What We Don’t Like About HORUSDY Adjustable Spring Loaded Metal Drill
The thing about this two-pack of automatic punches is that it really requires a bit of extra maintenance on a regular basis to keep these tools running the way they should.
Both of these punches require more regular oiling and maintenance than your average punch, and certainly more than the other contenders for the title of best automatic center punch for sure.
- Two different punches for all different kinds of projects
- The automatic marking mechanism is well-designed
- An ergonomic grip that feels great in the hand
- Variable tension to deliver the right strike at the right time
- Internal mechanisms definitely require a lot more lubrication
- Prone to bind every now and again
7. Lisle 30280 Automatic Punch
If you are a professional that needs to keep a quality punch on hand throughout the day but don’t necessarily want to be lugging around a heavy piece of iron, this is the option that you’ll want to reach for more often than not.
This punch looks a lot like a classic ballpoint pen – and that’s not an accident.
Beneath the somewhat common appearance, though, is a very high-quality punch system that includes an automatic marking mechanism capable of delivering accurate strikes on metal, plastic, wood, and a variety of other materials as well.
- Very lightweight and discrete looking automatic punch
- The automatic marking system is effective and easy to trigger
- Works well on a variety of materials
What We Like About Lisle 30280 Automatic Center Punch
There are a couple of things that we really like about this particular punch specifically, but the discrete appearance and its overall functionality definitely separated from a bunch of other options.
On top of that, the replaceable tip really helps you get a lot of value out of this punch that isn’t there with other choices.
Instead of having to pitch your punch the second that it starts to round and lose accuracy you’re able to either sharpen the tip or replace it completely, giving you a 1:1 clone that restores the accuracy of your marking device.
Manufactured out of high-quality stainless steel materials that remain lightweight, you don’t have to worry about rust or wear and tear with this punch the way you might have had to with other options, either.
What We Don’t Like About Lisle 30280 Automatic Center Punch
A lot of reviews out there regarding this automatic center punch report that it has a tough time with jamming up every now and again.
That might be something that you can troubleshoot with a little bit of lubrication, it may be something that needs a decent break-in period, or it just might be something that has to do with the overall design of the automatic punch mechanism itself.
On top of that, like one of the tools we mentioned earlier this one is going to require quite a bit of regular oiling, cleaning, and lubrication as well.
- 100% replaceable steel tip is great
- Works well marking all different kinds of materials
- Super lightweight and discrete
- Adjustable force on impact
- Manufactured out of high-quality construction materials
- Has a tendency to jam
- Requires a bit more maintenance than other options
All in all, there are a lot of great options out there when it comes time to find the best automatic center punch money can buy in 2020.
For our money, though, it’s really tough to get any better than the Rennsteig Adjustable Automatic Centre Punch.
Very comfortable (with a shock-absorbent handle), delivering consistent and almost infinitely adjustable force at impact, and featuring a hardened tip for more precise marking, there’s really nothing else better on the market today than this tool.
While the actual punch tool itself is pretty simple and straightforward there are actually a handful of things you need to think about before you get your hands on one.
Below we dig a little bit deeper into the ins and outs of what all great punches have in common with one another, helping you to zero in on a top option when you research the choices that we mentioned earlier.
Let’s dig right in!
The construction of the punch that you choose needs to be rock-solid above all else.
This tool is, after all, going to be getting smashed into a variety of different materials and projects on a regular basis. It has to be able to withstand the kind of force that you are going to be delivering on a regular basis.
A punch that runs the risk of falling apart every time you smack it is a punch you don’t want to have in your toolbox.
The tip section of the punch needs to be heavily reinforced, needs to be super strong and durable, and ideally will be made out of a hardened steel alloy. You’ll want something that is reasonably pointed but also something that can make a point when it is (inevitably) deformed during use.
The spring feature in automatic punches help to make them “automatic” in the first place, and you need something that has a high-quality spring with plenty of tension that can deliver accurate strikes consistently.
Nothing is worse than the spring going out on your punch, rendering it almost useless. Be sure that you are investing in a tool with the spring you know you can trust.
Finally, the grip of your automatic center punch needs to be easy enough to grip even with wet or potentially dirty hands, needs to feel good in your hand, and needs to be sturdy enough to take the kind of abuse that you’re going to put your punch through in the first place.
Without being able to try out the grip of different punches you purchase online in person you really need to rely on reviews that focus on this element.
How You’re Going to Use the Punch
Another thing that you have to consider when you are getting ready to purchase this kind of tool is how you plan on using it moving forward.
Think about the kind of material that you are going to be marking with your punch. Think about the kinds of marks that you are going to be delivering, and think about the kinds of components that you are going to be moving with your punch as well.
Some people need a “dummy” punch that’s just going to be used every now and again in some sporadic situations. Other people are going to need an automatic punching tool that is strong, consistent, and reliable – something that’s going to be used on a pretty frequent basis.
Consider your usage before you pull the trigger on this kind of purchase.
The build quality of your punch should be rock-solid and reliable but you also need to be sure that your punch is made from high-quality materials.
Steel, brass, aluminum, alloys of all different kinds, and sometimes even synthetics can all be relied on to help you get the job done moving forward. Just be sure that you know what your punch is made out of – and that those materials are quality – before you jump right in.
If you are going to be relying on your new punch to move tiny little pins or to mark accurately on different projects you’re going to need something that is pretty small, pretty compact, and almost needlelike.
At the same time, if you need a punch that can really punch – something that can deliver a lot of force to a small area – you’re going to want to be sure that you up your punch purchase.
This all tracks back to how you plan on using your punch moving forward.
No matter what, you need to be sure that the punch you are investing in – especially if it is an automatic center punch – has a razor-sharp tip to it.
The sharper your tip the more accurate your dimples are going to be, and the more consistent your results are going to be as well.
The second that your punch starts to dull you need to think about sharpening it up. Some tip materials are easier to work with than others, but it’s definitely well worth learning how to get your punch back into better than brand-new condition ASAP when it begins to round.
Again, the second that the tip of your punch starts to round you lose a lot of accuracies and a lot of precisions. Invest in a quality punch that can be “touched up” or replaced inexpensively.
Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to find automatic center punches that can be modified, altered, or upgraded with replaceable components.
Springs are notorious for losing tension over time, tips that are impossible to sharpen will round, and components in these tools may break over time. You’ll want something that you can fix or something you can upgrade rather than something you have to throw away completely – especially if you are spending decent money on this hand tool in the first place.