Best Aviation Snips

Looking for the best aviation snips? Maybe you’re finally going to repair that gutter. Or, perhaps you’ve decided sheet metal art is your newfound calling. It doesn’t matter why you need them, as long as the pair you purchase gets the job done.   

There’s no shortage of these metal cutters to choose from, I know. But there are a few that stand out from the crowd. This list features five of the best aviation snips money can buy along with candid reviews. No sugar coating, I promise. It’s a brutally honest compilation, so you get the right tool for the job, no time or money wasted.

Aviation Snips Reviewed

MIDWEST Aviation Snip Set – Left and Right Cut


Specs:

  • Hot-drop Forged Steel Blades
  • Left and Right Shear Set
  • Offset Blades 
  • “Kush’N Power” Comfort Grips
  • Compound Leverage to Multiply Handle Force 8:1
  • Manufactured and Made in the USA

Pros:

  • Durable Cutting Edge
  • Comfortable Grip 
  • Minimal Hand-Pressure Needed To Cut 
  • Off-set Blade

Cons: 

  • Pricey

Midwest Aviation snips are hard to beat. They get tough jobs done with next to no effort required. The offset blade allows you to cut in crazy tight spaces. And, users love that they’re made of forged steel rather than cast.

I won’t lie though; they’re expensive snips. Many ask if they’re worth the cost. But look, even professional sheet metal workers rave about these guys. And more than one reviewer claims Midwest’s ingenious design is the only way to prevent forearm fatigue during extended use. 

Since this set comes with both right and left shears, you can essentially make any cut, in any direction. So, they’re versatile, durable, and easy to use. If you have plans for more than one project, and your budget allows, these are the aviation snips I’d choose. 

Crescent Wiss 9-3/4″ MetalMaster Compound Action Straight and Right Cut Aviation Snips


Specs: 

  • Right Cut Aviation Snips 
  • Precision Cast Serrated Blades
  • Spring-Action Cutting
  • Single-Handed Latch Operation for Right or Left Handed Users
  • Non-Slip Handle Grips
  • Made in the USA 

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive
  • Spring Action Makes for Fast Cutting
  • Design Allows Metal To Feed Through Without Folding or Excess Burrs
  • Handle Grip Allows For Right or Left Handed User 

Cons: 

  • Hand Fatigue
  • No Offset Blade

The Crescent Wiss Right Cut Aviation Snips are phenomenal for fast cutting in a straight or clockwise direction. They will not cut counter-clockwise curves, though, to be clear. Designed with job efficiency in mind, spring-loaded handles and serrated blades cut through metal like a hot knife through butter. They get excellent reviews from weekend warriors and DIY-er’s alike, but professionals prefer a design that requires a little less hand-force. 

If you’re right-handed, making straight cuts with these will be simple. As will, of course, cutting to the right. But if you have a project that requires you to cut both directions, you’ll need to purchase left snips as well. And, if you’re left-handed yourself, cutting straight with these, although possible, might be more of a challenge.

Crescent Wiss 9-3/4″ MetalMaster Compound Action Straight and Left Aviation Snips


Specs: 

  • Left Cut Aviation Snips
  • Precision Cast Serrated Blades
  • Spring-Action Cutting
  • Single-Handed Latch Operation for Right or Left Handed Use
  • Non-Slip Handle Grips
  • Made in the USA 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Spring Action Makes for Fast Cutting
  • Design Allows Metal To Feed Through Without Folding or Excess Burrs
  • Handle Grip Allows For Right or Left Handed User 

Cons: 

  • Prolonged use tends to result in hand fatigue

Yep, these Aviation Snips are the same as the Crescent Wiss Aviation Snips reviewed above, except that they contain a left-cutting pair of shears for counter-clockwise, rather than clockwise cuts. As mentioned, users like the Wiss Aviation Snips for smaller projects, but other models are more durable and easier on your forearms.

Also, as noted above, sets like this lack versatility. You’ll be able to cut straight, or to the left, but not to the right. A set with left and right cutting snips might be a better option for a wide range of projects. 

MIDWEST Bulldog Aviation Tin Snip


Specs: 

  • Straight Cut  Shears 
  • Hot-drop Forged Steel Blades
  • Kush’N Power Comfort Grips
  • Serrated Bottom Blade
  • Compound Leverage to Multiply Handle Force 8:1
  • Made in the USA

Pros

  • Durable Cutting Edge
  • Strong Handles
  • Comfortable Grip 
  • Minimal Hand-Pressure Needed 

Cons: 

  • Bulky Blade 
  • Pricey 

Again, Midwest brand snips are some of the best on the market, and you get what you pay for. The hot dropped forged steel blades are super durable, and everyone agrees Midwest brand kills it with their compound leverage design. No forearm fatigue with these bad boys. 

Of course, no tight turns either, since this one only contains straight shears. Some reviewers point out that the blade on these is a bit bulky, too. Bulky blades make it hard to cut in tight spaces, which may be of concern for some projects.  

I should note, unlike the first set of Midwest snips I reviewed, these are not offset. Your hand will be closer to the metal as you cut, which worries some users. It also makes cutting in tight spaces tricky. An offset blade may be a better bet for certain projects. 

Stanley “MaxSteel” Straight Aviation Snips


Specs:

  • Straight-Cut Snips
  • Serrated Blades 
  • Spring Action 
  • Non-Slip Grips 

Pros: 

  • Affordable 
  • Great for Smaller Projects 

Cons: 

  • Locking Catch Issues 
  • Grip Issues

These Stanley straight Aviation Snips are great if you’re looking to complete a smaller task, like cutting through chicken wire or thinner sheets of aluminum. They’re not so great for the bigger jobs. Users complain about the grips being uncomfortable, with many citing finger blisters and hand fatigue due to their extra thick design.

Some reviewers note that the locking catch is on the wimpy side, too. There are many would-have-been-horror-stories about professionals reaching into toolboxes to find their snips unlocked. Luckily they looked before they grabbed because those blades are sharp! 

Overall these are an excellent choice for the DIYer or general home improvement tasks, but again they are straight shears only and will not cut curves. Professionals should look into higher quality choices. And those seeking more versatility should seek out a set with left and right, rather than straight, aviation snips.  

Aviation Snips Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to buying Aviation Snips, you should look at what you’ll be using them for. Sharp cutters like these are perfect for everything from a DIY art project to professional sheet metal work, and what you need will depend on the task at hand. In case you’re having trouble deciding what to buy, let’s zoom in on some specifics. 

Types of Aviation Snips 

Aviation snips come in Left, Right, and Straight cutting shears. These designations have nothing to do with whether you’re right or left-handed. Instead, they have to do with the direction you’re cutting. 

Cutting Types

Left-cutters cut straight or counter-clockwise curves. The right cut straight or clockwise curves. And straight cutters cut, well, straight. Of course, with some skill, straight snips can cut wide curves on flat pieces of metal too.

Most users find they can make straight cuts with the left or right shears, depending on their own handedness. Right-handed users find it relatively simple to make straight cuts with right snips, and vice versa for the left-handers. This leads many to forgo buying straight snips altogether, but again, it depends on the project. If you want a versatile set, it’s best to buy all three.

Aviation snips are color-coded, so it’s easy to grab the right ones at a glance. Left-cutters are always red, right-cutters are green, and straight cutters are yellow, or sometimes blue. If you’re familiar with nautical terms, this color coding might seem familiar. It’s the same way ship’s indicate port from starboard! 

Cutting Capability

Most snips are good to cut up to 18 gauge metal, which is pretty thick—think the thickness of the metal on your grandfather’s old Cadillac. Some can go as high as 16 gauge, and some only up to 22 gauge, though, so pay attention to the specs if you’re working with thicker materials. 

Snips also do well with wires, mesh, and thick fabric (although if you need to deal with the electrical insulation of wires , it may be better to get a dedicated pair of wire strippers. Check out our guide on the best wire strippers).  

Because you’re cutting into something dense, aviation snips are spring-loaded. This takes the load off your hands and forearms. Of course, some models are better about this than others, as noted in the reviews above. 

The Blade

Aviation snips often feature a serrated blade. This helps grip and feed the metal through their jaws. Not all snips have this, but I think it’s a feature worth seeking out. The only benefit to smooth blades is the ability to sharpen them at home. But let’s be real, most people aren’t that serious about their aviation snips. So, a serrated blade is typically a feature you’ll want to find.

You’ll also see snips’ blades made from forged or cast steel. Forged steel is stronger and will stay sharp longer, though you’ll pay a higher price to get it. Cast steel is still very strong, and more affordable, but the blades will dull faster than their forged cousins. 

Depending on the projects you have in mind, it may be worth investing in snips with an offset blade. This not only keeps your hand far from the sharp metal shards, but it also allows you to make cuts in tight spaces. 

The Handle

Aviation snips should work just like scissors. You should be able to operate them with relative ease, in one hand. Though almost all aviation snips will have some sort of grip, some are thicker than others. 

Those with smaller hands will want to hold the aviation snips before purchasing them if possible. A common complaint is that the grips meant for comfort become so thick that less-than-large hands have problems hanging on.

FAQs

What’s the Difference Between Tin Snips and Aviation Snips?

Tin snips and aviation snips are similar, but not identical. Tin Snips are made to cut through metal, just like aviation snips, but minus the spring-loading. You can think of tin snips as really powerful metal-eating scissors, that you’ll still have to put your full body weight into. 

Meanwhile, aviation snips, originally for aviation workers (go figure), are made to reduce effort on the user’s part by featuring spring-loaded handles and/or other compound leverage enhancing designs. 

The terms aviation snips and tin snips are often used interchangeably, even amongst manufacturers.  So don’t get too caught up in the labeling! Look for forged or cast steel, serrated blades, and a spring-loaded handle. Even if they’re labeled tin shears, they’re technically aviation snips and should get the job done. 

Can Aviation Snips Cut Through Wire? What About Plastic? 

Yep! Though designed for metal, they’re often used to cut through wires, mesh, or other tough materials– including those killer plastic clamshells! 

What Thickness of Metal Can Aviation Snips Cut? 

They’re recommended for use on metal up to 18 gauge (1.5mm) thick, typically. But that can vary. Some are good from up to 16 gauge, and others only up to 22 gauge. 

So What About Stainless Steel, Can Aviation Snips Cut Through That? 

Most stainless steel sits between 15 and 25 gauge thick. As gauge increases, thickness decreases, so we’re clear. That means that most aviation snips can cut through most stainless steel, but not all. Thicker stainless steel pieces, 15-17 gauge, will be difficult to cut with aviation snips.

Final Thoughts

Professional sheet metal workers need high-quality aviation snips that will last a long time. For them, looking for forged steel models will give the strongest, sharpest blades for the longest time. They’ll also want to pay closer attention to the grip. Cutting metal all day is very different than working for a few minutes at a time, so models designed to reduce forearm fatigue are ideal. 

As for the weekend warriors and metal-art wannabe’s, less expensive models will get the job done. Cutting chicken wire for fencing, or tin can lids for that windmill you designed, is easy to accomplish with less expensive cast steel models (like Wiss or Stanley). 

No matter what brand or set you choose, make sure you also invest in a good pair of cut gloves to protect your hands. And, while you’re at it, eye protection isn’t a bad idea either. Cutting metal creates shards. Shards tend to fly. You know where this is going, right?

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