Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure Review

A robust, contractor grade measuring tape that delivers big on quality.


Magnetic Tape Measure

My preference is for a mid-length measuring tape, and the 16' version seems to handle 95% of the work I do. Longer tapes tend to be larger, heavier, and more awkward to handle. A 16' tape works well in the shop and around the house, as well as for general cabinet installation. Some of the major features I look for in a good quality tape are a strong blade that won't easily kink or snap; large, easy-to-read scale; cushioned retraction; a large hook end; and a stout belt clip.

I've found most of these features on the new Magnetic series of tapes from Milwaukee. These tapes come in 9 lengths – 16', 25', 30', 35', 5m/16', 8m/26', 5m, 8m, and 10m/33' – and all share the same feature set.

I tried the 5m/16' model (48-22-5216), which is approximately 1-3/4" x 3" x 3-1/4", and weighs in at 12-1/2 ounces. The body is made of a tough ABS plastic with a black rubber overmold that makes it easier to grip the tape. It features a 5-point reinforced frame that is designed to protect the case against damage from drops and falls.

Easy to read scale on both sides of the blade

I find the blade to be the most important part of any tape measure. Milwaukee claims that the blade on this tape will last 10 times longer than on uncoated blades. However, just about every tape blade that I've seen is coated with nylon or lacquer to protect the tape from rust and premature wear. 

7/8" wide blade on this Milwaukee tape does feature a nylon coating, and the yellow scale with black markings has excellent definition, with minimal glare, making it easy to read. On the reverse side is a black on white architectural scale, which contractors and carpenters will find useful for drafting and measuring floor plans and orthographic projections. Both sides of the blade have scales in imperial and metric units. As on most tapes with a 1" or wider blade there is a fairly large curve to the blade, which means you have to roll the blade on its side to contact the work surface. Blade standout is around 9', which I consider average for a 16' tape. 

Large, stout, magnetic hook end

The large 1" by 1-5/8" hook end makes it easier to attach to a board or stud. A lot of tapes now feature magnets on the hook, but Milwaukee goes one further - dual magnets. Along with one at the end there is another below the hook. I found it to be very effective, particularly when hooking on piping, rebar, and metal conduits. The hook is unlikely to work loose, as it's fixed to the blade with four rivets.

Unique finger stop

It's good practice not to allow the blade to retract at full speed into the tape housing, as the shock can break the blade or damage the hook end. To slow or stop blade retraction on this tape you simply use your finger, pressing against the blade through an opening on the bottom of the tape. It works amazingly well. It helps that the blade rewind spring isn't under a lot of pressure, as the blade retracts somewhat slower than on other tapes I've used.

Thumb activated blade lock

The thumb activated blade lock works very well. Pushing it forward locks the blade firmly in place. Flicking the lock backwards releases tension, enabling the blade to slide back into the case.

Wire belt clip

This is the first wire-loop belt hook that I've seen. I found it difficult to slide onto a work belt, but very easy to slide onto pants waistband. It does hold securely – not much chance of this tape falling off your tool belt.

Overall I really like this measuring tape. It looks and feels to be well constructed of quality components, and it has some pretty neat features. Only time will tell how well it holds up. For the price, I'd have to give it a solid 5 stars.


  • Nylon Bond Blade Protection
  • 5-Point Reinforced Frame
  • Finger Stop - Protects Finger during Blade Retraction
  • Dual Magnets - Prevents Roll off when Measuring Steel Studs, EMT and Threaded Rod
  • Blueprint Scale - Calculates 1/4" and 1/8" Drawings
  • Wire Form Belt Clip - Reduces Pocket Tearing
  • 2-Sided Printing - Increases Measurement Readability
  • Up to 9' Standout
  • 360-Degree Hook Attachment
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty

MADE IN:Taiwan
SOURCE:Dealer Locator
April 2014

Carl Duguay
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