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Best Powder-Actuated Tools

Updated August 2023
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Best of the Best
DEWALT DDF212035P Powder Actuated Trigger Tool
DDF212035P Powder Actuated Trigger Tool
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Trusted Brand
Bottom Line

This one comes from DeWalt, a brand synonymous with professional quality and satisfying results.


Our DIY expert lauds DeWalt's brand reliability for a wide range of jobs. It's a simple yet effective tool that's easy for beginners and versatile enough for most veterans.


Some experienced obnoxious jamming.

Best Bang for the Buck
Ramset .22 Caliber Trigger Shot Tool
.22 Caliber Trigger Shot Tool
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Powerful Handheld
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Excellent power for such a lightweight and affordable powder-actuated tool.


A powerful tool that outputs impressive force. Reasonably priced. Well made. Easy to use once you're comfortable with kickback. The smaller size allows it to fit nicely in your hand.


A loud tool that requires quite a bit of force to use, making it difficult for some to operate.

Ramset Cobra+
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Most Versatile
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A semi-automatic tool that is great for a variety of jobs.


Comes with a silencer that makes the tool far quieter. Cushion on the grip makes it easy to hold. Comes with a solid storage case and protective glasses. Has adjustable load strength.


Sometimes pins don't load correctly, causing the user to cock the tool twice.

Simpson Strong-Tie General Purpose Powder-Actuated Tool
Simpson Strong-Tie
General Purpose Powder-Actuated Tool
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Durable & Easy to Use
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A top-of-the-line product that's compact, durable, and easy to use.


A powder-actuated fastening tool that's quick to load, simple to use, and easy to maintain. Delivers enough power for big projects.


Accepts .25 and .27 caliber loads. You'll need to look elsewhere if you're interested .22 caliber.

Ramset .22 Caliber Single Shot Powder Actuated Tool, 3-Pin
.22 Caliber Single Shot Powder Actuated Tool, 3-Pin
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

People praise this tool's reliability and performance on a wide range of jobs.


Buyers praised how well this one accomplishes intense jobs on tough materials. The powerful design can withstand long, intense projects. It's a valuable addition to your tool shed.


This weighs almost 5 lbs and may be bulky or long for some.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About 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.About BestReviews 

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best powder actuated tools

 At first, some tasks, such as fastening wood to concrete, seem impossible. But when you start to consider the challenge, you realize not only is it possible, but you have options. The best way to fasten wood (and other materials) to a solid surface like concrete is to use a powder actuated tool.

A powder actuated tool works in a similar fashion to a firearm. A small charge launches a piston, which sinks a pin (fastener) into the concrete or steel at a depth that produces the greatest hold. In order to find the best powder actuated tool for you, you’ll need to understand how the tool works and which features will allow you to most efficiently accomplish your tasks.

If the world of powder actuated tools is new to you, our guide highlights what to look for when shopping and outlines the safety concerns that are associated with this tool.

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The material you are fastening should never look damaged after using a powder actuated tool. If it does, you are overdriving the pin.

Key considerations

There are a few different types of powder actuated tools to choose from: manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic.

Manual powder actuated tools

These powder actuated tools look like large spikes. You load the pin and the charge, hold the tool perpendicular to the surface, and strike the top end with a hammer. You don’t need to use a great deal of force because the charge does the driving for you. Manual powder actuated tools are lightweight and easily portable, but you will need a little room to swing the hammer, and you will likely have to cycle the piston and manually load each pin after every firing.

Semi-automatic powder actuated tools

Most often, a semi-automatic powder actuated tool will resemble a gun with a trigger – although there are a few models that resemble manual tools. Rather than firing with a hammer strike, semi-automatic tools use a trigger to fire a strip of cartridges, but the pins must still be loaded one at a time. For the average homeowner or DIYer, this is the best and most versatile option if it falls within your budget.

Fully automatic powder actuated tools

A fully automatic powder actuated tool allows you to preload a magazine with pins as well as load a strip of charges. All you have to do is press the gun against the surface at a 90-degree angle and squeeze the trigger. This design allows you to work efficiently, but the price may be prohibitive if you will only need to use the tool occasionally.

Expert Tip
This tool should be treated like a firearm and secured away from children in a locked cabinet and should not be stored loaded.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert



In general, a .22-caliber powder actuated tool is a better option than a .27-caliber tool, which is used for only the toughest jobs. However, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s guidelines to be sure of the right caliber for your particular situation.

Power dial

A power dial allows you to adjust the driving force of the charge to accommodate the density of the surface.


Some of the higher-end powder actuated tools have a silencer/suppressor to drastically decrease the volume level of the shot.

Ergonomic grip

You will want a grip that is not only comfortable but padded to help reduce the jolt of the tool’s recoil. Alternatively, some powder actuated tools have technology built in to help reduce recoil.


You should not be able to purchase a semi-automatic or fully automatic powder actuated tool that does not have a two-step firing sequence. For the shot to be fired, the tool must be pressed against a firm surface to disengage the safety. Then, and only then, will squeezing the trigger allow you to fire the charge.

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Expert tip
Powder actuated tools are best used when standing on solid ground, but when you need to work on ladders or scaffolds, brace yourself at all times to maintain good balance.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

A note on velocity

It is vital to select the proper velocity when using a powder actuated tool. Charge cartridges used in powder actuated tools are color-coded by strength. Most homeowners use brown, green, or yellow cartridges. If the pin isn’t flush with the surface after firing, you will need a higher velocity charge; if the pin is deeply embedded, you will want to back off on power.

Low velocity

The lowest velocity cartridges are gray and brown. These are only appropriate for lower-strength concrete and masonry.

Medium velocity

In most situations, you will probably use a green or yellow cartridge. These are typically the best cartridges for concrete slabs.

High velocity

Red and purple cartridges are for the toughest materials. In general, they should only be used when fastening materials to steel.

Expert tip
Keep tools pointed in a safe direction. Never point powder-actuated tools at anyone.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Powder actuated tool prices


If you are just looking for a quick solution to a small weekend project, you can find an entry-level powder actuated tool for between $20 and $80. In this price range, the tools are manually operated, meaning you trigger the cartridge by tapping the top of the tool with a hammer.


If you plan on driving pins more than occasionally, you will probably want to consider a semi-automatic powder actuated tool. These tools look and work like a gun – you press them against the surface to release the safety and pull the trigger. This type of tool will cost between $150 and $300.


If you are looking for a pro-level powder actuated tool, you can plan on spending around $1,000 and up. At this level, the guns are fully automatic, featuring a magazine that holds a strip of pins to increase workflow. Many also have a dial to fine tune the power so you can achieve the perfect sink.

"Before low-velocity tools were available, high-velocity powder actuated tools fired pins at speeds that exceeded 1,000 feet per second, which is nearly 700 mph – the projectile speed of some rifles."


  • Always check with local building officials to be certain that there are no restrictions on powder actuated tools or construction techniques.
  • Perform a center punch test before using your powder actuated tool. This is accomplished by striking a drive pin into the concrete. If it penetrates easily, the concrete is too soft. If the concrete cracks, it is too brittle. The perfect concrete will produce a well-defined dimple with no cracking or penetration.
  • Load pins before cartridges – you never want to load pins into a live tool.
  • Only drive pins at a 90-degree angle.
  • Whenever possible, operate your powder actuated tool with two hands.
  • Powder actuated tools recoil after firing. To avoid injury, do not lock your elbows while using.
  • After performing a center punch test, fire a test pin or two to be certain you won’t overdrive or underdrive your pins.
  • When working with concrete blocking, only embed the pin in mortar joints or you will crack the block.
  • Powder actuated tools can only be used if the concrete is at least three times as thick as the pin’s intended penetration. The penetration depth should be between one inch and 1 1/4 inches.
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Some people call powder actuated tools Hilti guns or Ramset guns, which are brand names for these tools.


Q. What is overdriving?

A. Overdriving happens when you use too much power to drive a pin or the pin is too short for the materials. It is easy to identify this problem because the head of the pin penetrates the surface of your wood. Often the piston may also protrude from your powder actuated tool. You can use a rubber mallet to tap the piston back in place, but it must be inspected before you use the powder actuated tool again. It is possible to damage the tool by overdriving.

Expert tip
Load powder actuated tools just before use. Do not carry loaded tools around the worksite.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Q. What type of safety equipment do I need?

A. At the very least, you need safety glasses with side shields or safety goggles and hearing protection. It is a good idea to also have a hard hat, and some people prefer to wear gloves to protect their hands from the recoil. If you are using a powder actuated tool with others around, make sure they keep a safe distance from the work area. Additionally, it is important to make sure no one is on the other side of a wall when framing.

Q. What is clamping?

A. Clamping is what happens to your materials when you properly use a powder actuated tool. The pin is firm against the wood, and the wood is firm against the concrete – all the materials are clamped together. If there is space between the pin and the wood or the wood and the concrete, either the pin is too long, or you are not using a powerful enough cartridge or setting.

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