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Best Brad Nailers

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 19 Models Considered
  • 7 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 107 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best brad nailers

    Last Updated October 2018

    If you’ve always driven nails the old-fashioned way, using a hammer, you need to educate yourself about nail guns. Nail guns simplify the process of driving nails, allowing you to work more quickly and accurately.

    And best of all, no more smashed thumbs from a badly aimed hammer.

    When studying nail guns, you’ll quickly discover that different kinds of work require different tools. For small and precise nailing jobs, a brad nailer will deliver the results you want.

    If you’re ready to buy a brad nailer, see our top picks. If you’d like to know more about these tools, continue reading our shopping guide.

    A brad nailer is made for working with thin, lightweight wood. If the wood is bulky, such as large pieces of crown molding, consider using a finishing nailer instead.

    What is a brad nailer?

    A brad nailer is a type of nail gun designed for specific nailing jobs where precision and detail are more important than brute force. Because brad nails are so thin in diameter (18 gauge), it can be difficult to drive them in with a hammer – you usually end up just bending the nail. With a brad nailer, you can have far more success driving in the nails properly.

    These types of nail guns still deliver a lot of power, but they aren’t made to replace framing nailers (8 or 10 gauge), which you would use to join studs, or roofing nailers (11 gauge), which you would use for shingles. A brad nailer is closest in design to a finish nailer (14 to 16 gauge), which also works with trim and thin pieces of wood.

    A brad nailer might not be a tool you grab on a daily basis, but for what it does it can’t be beat and should have a key place in your arsenal of power tools.

    Brad nailer uses

    A brad nail is a thin diameter (18-gauge) nail with a small (or no) head that is used for certain woodworking jobs, such as finish carpentry. The small head doesn’t leave a large hole in the wood, so it isn’t as noticeable as larger nails. In some cases, you may not even need to cover the nail hole with wood putty afterward. Some people use brad nailers in combination with wood glue, for example, to repair furniture. Here are some other uses for a brad nailer.

    • Baseboards

    • Door trim

    • Furniture assembly

    • Hardwood floors

    • Wall trim

    • Window trim

    • Wood crafting

    • Wood repairs

    EXPERT TIP

    Because you usually use a brad nail gun on thin wood, take care that you don’t split the wood. Aim the brad nailer carefully and hold it tight against the wood when firing.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    If you’re having trouble making a brad nail go into a piece of wood without bending, make sure you aren’t nailing near a knot, which can easily bend most brad nails.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Brad nailer power options

    Pneumatic

    • These brad nailers use compressed air to drive a piston that drives the nail into the wood.

    • Pneumatic brad nailers work quickly and accurately on wood of any hardness.

    • You can usually select the depth of the nail head.

    • You can choose from a variety of nail lengths.

    • If you already have other pneumatic tools, using pneumatic brad nailer makes sense because you can use the same air compressor for all your tools.

    Electric

    • These brad nailers use an electrically activated piston to drive the nails into the wood.

    • These tools require access to a power outlet.

    • These brad nailers are heavier, so you may tire sooner using one, especially doing overhead work.

    • Electric brad nailers work quickly and efficiently and provide plenty of power, similar to pneumatic brad nailers.

    • These brad nailers work on nearly any hardness of wood.

    Battery

    • Battery-powered brad nailers use a smaller motor than electric models, so, on average, these models don’t provide as much power as other types.

    • These models don’t have a power cord, so you can use them anywhere.

    • These brad nailers are available in multiple sizes, meaning some are heavier and more powerful than others.

    • These tools don’t work as well for professional-level work. They’re best for homeowners who will use them occasionally for simple jobs on softer woods.

    • You may be able to save money by purchasing a battery-powered brad nailer that uses the same battery system as other battery-powered tools you own.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you want the fastest and most powerful brad nailer, pick a pneumatic model.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Key features of brad nailers

    When shopping for the best brad nailer, the most important consideration will be the power source. However, a few other key features, such as the following, can help you distinguish one model from another.

    Loading system

    Some brad nailers use a cartridge system to load the brad nails into the gun. Others use glued strips of nails that load into a channel. Make sure you purchase the right style of brad nails to fit your model of brad nailer.

    Nail depth

    Advanced brad nailers allow you to adjust the depth of the head of the brad nail. Pick the right depth and you can use less wood putty to cover any nail holes. Cheaper brad nailers may not have this type of depth setting.

    Trigger

    Most brad nailers use one of two trigger systems. Some brad nailers can use either system, allowing you to pick the appropriate one for each job.

    • Contact: This means that you hold down the trigger and press the nose of the gun against the wood to fire the nail. You can fire nails one after the other if you keep the trigger depressed, allowing you to work at maximum speed. This is not a feature that most people would use with a brad nailer, which is intended more for precise work rather than speed.

    • Sequential: This means that you press the nose of the gun against the wood and then press the trigger to fire the brad nail. You must lift the nail gun nose each time and release the trigger before you can reset the gun and fire another nail. This system requires more precision and is safer than contact firing. This system is preferable for nonprofessionals.
    Because all nail guns, including brad nailers, have so much power, they can cause injury. Make sure you know exactly how to use this type of nail gun, and always take proper safety precautions when using it.

    FAQ

    Q. How do I know what nail lengths I can use in a brad nailer?
    A.
    Each brad nailer will include a list of nail lengths in its specifications. Most advanced brad nailers can use nails ranging from 5/8 inch to around 2 inches. Less expensive brad nailers may be limited to shorter nails.

    Q. What does the gauge rating on the brad nailer mean?
    A.
    A brad nailer uses 18-gauge nails. The gauge refers to the thickness (or diameter) of the nail. Nails as thin as 18 gauge will not have enough strength to connect or support the weight of heavy pieces of wood or trim. For these jobs, you need a finish nailer that uses 15- or 16-gauge nails. Brad nails are best for thinner, lighter pieces of wood.

    Q. Why can’t I used a brad nailer for all of my projects? I don’t want to spend money on more than one nail gun.
    A.
    A brad nailer only uses brad nails, which are limited to 18 gauge and have little to no head on them. This means that if you use brad nail to hold two pieces of wood together, and they’re placed under stress, the wood could pull off the brad nail. Thicker diameter nails with a large head are better for certain types of projects, and these require a different type of nail gun.

    Q. What if I don’t have the money to invest in a pneumatic power tool system?
    A.
    Most heavy-duty power tools make use of a pneumatic power system. This air-compression-driven system gives you a ton of power to drive nails quickly and efficiently. But because brad nailers don’t require as much power and don’t need to work as quickly as other types of nail guns, you can effectively use a brad nailer that runs off a battery or an electrical power cord, for example, and reduce your overall investment.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer

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