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Shopping Guide for Best Nail Guns

The hammer has served humankind as a valuable tool for centuries. And although we may use hammers for unconventional things on occasion – tenderizing meat, for example – hammers are primarily designed to drive nails.

But engineers have found a way to drive nails in without the assistance of a hammer: the nail gun. The best nail guns drive nails in automatically, eliminating the need for a hammer.

If you’re shopping for a nail gun, you should know that different models provide different features.

To make the most of your investment, it’s wise to perform a bit of research on nail guns before spending your money.

And that’s where we come in!

With a hammer and nail, you can only drive one nail at a time. The appeal of a nail gun rests, in large part, on the fact that it always has another nail ready to go.

At BestReviews, we’re eager to help consumers figure out which products are right for them. We research every product we cover in detail so that we can pass our wisdom on to shoppers.

And we never accept free samples from manufacturers, because that would defeat our purpose of creating unbiased product recommendations and reviews.

Continue reading our nail gun shopping guide, and you’ll soon be able to pick out the best one for your needs.

You might even decide that one of the five select nail guns in our product matrix, above, is right for you.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

DEWALT 18-Volt Cordless

Features

The DeWalt DC618K XRP Finish Nailer features a safety trigger lock, a tip to prevent marking, accelerated "un-jamming," and fine depth control. An interesting extra with this nail gun is its two-mode operation: "sequential" nailing for maximum accuracy and "bump" nailing for maximum speed (as fast as five nails per second, according to DeWalt). LED "headlights" allow you to see in dark corners. The DeWalt DC618K XRP also comes with a two-year service contract. During this time, DeWalt will maintain your gun free of charge, including the replacement of any parts that wear out through "normal" use.

How a Nail Gun Works

There are several types of nail guns to choose from: pneumatic nail guns, electrically powered nail guns, and battery-operated nail guns.

How it works

Pneumatic Nail Guns

The most common type of nail gun, the pneumatic nail gun, connects to an air compressor. Paired with outlet electricity, the nail gun uses air from the compressor to drive nails.

When using a pneumatic nail gun, you’re limited to where you can work by the length of the air compressor hose and the power cord. You must also be certain that your air compressor can create the pressure level required to match what the nail gun needs.

EXPERT TIP

If you want a pneumatic nail gun, be advised that the air compressor must usually be bought separately. Some other types of power tools also use air compressors, though, so we advise you to select an air compressor that works with all types of tools.


Staff  | BestReviews
How it works

Battery-Powered and Electric Nail Guns

Battery-powered and electric nail guns may follow a process similar to that of pneumatic nail guns, using the power of a small air compressor that’s built right into the gun. These nail guns don’t require a separate air compressor like pneumatic nail guns do.

Still other electric and battery-powered nail guns use a spring system with a rotating motor to drive nails. These nail guns don’t rely on a built-in air compressor for pressure.

An electric nail gun must be plugged into a power outlet, whereas a battery-powered nail gun uses a rechargeable battery. Neither type quite offers the same degree of power and speed that a pneumatic nail guns provides.

DID YOU KNOW?

A battery-powered nail gun offers portability that a pneumatic nail gun simply cannot match. A pneumatic nailer must use an air compressor hose and a power cord, both of which can limit mobility.

Nail-Loading Process

A nail gun loads nails continuously and drives them automatically. This greatly increasing the speed at which you can complete a job, and it’s one of the main reasons why a person would choose a nail gun over a classic hammer.

When shopping, you’ll need to choose between a coil-style nail gun and a strip-style nail gun.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

WEN 3/4-Inch to 2-Inch, 18-Gauge

Design

It may be an entry-level nail gun, but the WEN 61720 Brad Nailer will comfortably fire 18-gauge brads (ranging from 3/4 to 2 inches long) from a magazine with a 100-brad capacity. Owners of the product have voiced a few complaints about jams, but this is common with nail guns in general.

Nail-loading process

Coil-Style Nail Gun Loading Process

A coil-style nail gun uses nails that are connected to one another with thin wire or paper. The nails look like a coil when you take them out of the box, and they load into a circular area on the nail gun. A coil-style nail gun usually holds larger nails than a strip-style nail gun.

Nail-loading process

Strip-Style Nail Gun Loading Process

A strip-style nail gun loads nails that are bound together with plastic, glue, or paper. These “strips” of nails typically look like a small ruler. Battery-powered nail guns often use strip style nails. Strip-style nails often are brad nails and smaller gauge types of nails.

CAUTION

Never inspect or load a nail gun while it is attached to a power source.

Designs of Nail Guns

Manufacturers make different types of nail guns to handle different jobs. Some nail guns can handle larger nails with big heads; others can only take small nails.

In this section, we will discuss brad nail guns, finishing nail guns, framing nail guns, roofing nail guns, and specialty nail guns.

When choosing a nail gun, consider the different types of jobs you want to complete and select a nail gun design that fits those needs.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

BOSTITCH 15-Gauge, Angled Finish

Performance

The Bostitch N62FNK-2 Finish Nailer fires 15-gauge nails (the smaller the number, the thicker the nail) from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length in an easy-to-load magazine that takes 130 pieces at a time. When it comes to performance, it's not just basic air pressure that counts, but how the nail gun regulates that pressure. In the case of the Bostitch (a company that's highly regarded in this market), input pressure is increased to as much as 400 psi. The majority of amateurs love it and find it powerful and easy to use.

Nail gun design

Finishing Nail Guns

Finishing nail guns are mid-sized nail guns that often take finishing nails (nails designed for baseboards and moulding) only.

Finishing nails will work for some small assembly jobs, but they won’t work for framing.

These guns can usually accommodate nails up to 2.5 inches in length with a variety of gauges. Some finishing nailers run on battery power, while others must be plugged into an outlet.

Some nail guns allow you to adjust the depth at which the nail will sink into the surface. This feature works great when you want to counter-sink some nails so you can cover the heads with putty.

Staff
BestReviews
Nail gun design

Framing Nail Guns

If you need a heavy-duty nail gun for creating framing for a wall or building a deck, a framing nailer has the power you need. Framing nail guns usually run from a power cord in an outlet and use air from a compressor to drive nails.

Framing nailers accept the largest variety of nail lengths and gauges among nail guns. If you’re looking for a general-purpose nail gun for big jobs at home, a framing nail gun is an excellent choice.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Freeman Framing/Finishing Combo Kit

Versatility

While each tool in the Freeman P4FRFNCB Brad/Framing/Finishing Kit has its particular benefits, all share tips or pads that are designed to reduce marring. Each tool also offers a simple but effective depth adjustment and a rapid way of clearing jams. Freeman nail gun pistons are fitted with Teflon O-rings, which help extend the life of the tool part that works hardest. The kit includes a tough canvas bag with all the necessary manuals, wrenches, oil, and a pair of safety goggles. These tools carry a seven-year warranty.

Nail gun design

Roofing Nail Guns

A roofing nail gun is designed to do exactly as the name suggests: it works to attach shingles and underlayment materials to the frame of the roof of a home. These nailers work fast. (If you’ve ever watched someone attach shingles with one of these, you’ve seen the impressive speed.)

Roofing nail guns typically can handle nails with large-diameter heads and up to 1.75 inches of length. You could use a roofing nail gun for other types of jobs, but it may not give you the best results.

DID YOU KNOW?

Pneumatic nail guns weigh more than nail guns that don’t require a separate air compressor.

Nail gun design

Brad Nail Guns

Small nail guns that can handle thin brad nails often run on battery power. You can perform some trim and craft work with brad nailers, as they’re designed for light jobs. Brad nailers dispense nails up to two inches in length and use a small-gauge type of nail.

Nail gun design

Specialty Nail Guns

Other types of specialty nail guns exist, too. A flooring nail gun is designed specifically for assembling flooring. Some nail guns use staples to attach upholstery. These nail guns are not designed for general-purpose use around the home.

If you want a nail gun with the fastest operation possible, look for a contact firing nail gun. The gun drives a nail each time you press its nose onto the surface being nailed.

FAQ

Q. Will a battery-powered nail gun handle a large job well?

A. If you only need to run the nail gun for several minutes for a light- or medium-duty job, a battery nail gun should work well. Just make sure the nail gun can handle the size and gauge of nails you need to use. But for larger jobs, you may wish to use a nail gun that runs on pneumatic or electrical power. The reason: battery-operated nail guns lose power quickly. If you need a nail gun for a few hours of work, a larger gun with an electrical cord is a much better choice, as you won’t be wasting time waiting for the battery to recharge.

Q. Which nail gun design works best for larger nails?

A. A framing nail gun typically can handle nails of varying lengths up to 3.5 inches; it’s a very versatile tool. A finishing nail gun also can handle larger nails, usually up to 2.5 inches in length. And a brad nailer can handle nails usually up to 2 inches in length, but brad nails have a small gauge.

Q. Does it matter which types of nails I use in my nail gun?

A. Each type of nail gun can handle different types of nails, so don’t expect that you’ll be able to put any kind of nail in your gun. Nail guns require nails of varying lengths, thicknesses (or gauges), and heads.

You must also select either coiled or strip nails depending on the type of gun you have. The instructions included with your nail gun will list the specific types of nails it can use.

Q. Are nail guns safe to use?

A. As with any type of power tool, you should take safety precautions when using a nail gun.

  • Always wear eye protection.
  • Keep your hands and feet away from the firing area where the nails exit.
  • Unplug the nail gun from its power source before loading the machine or attempting to clear a jam.
  • Follow any other safety and maintenance instructions included with your nail gun.
     

As long as you take the proper precautions, you should be able to operate a nail gun safely.

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