Whether you’re repairing a roof, redoing your wood floors, or starting any other type of major do-it-yourself project, chances are you’ll want a nail gun (also called a “nailer”). This handy power tool drives nails or other small fasteners deep into the surface of wood without splintering or otherwise harming the wood’s structural integrity.
If you just need to pound in a couple of nails, a hammer is the quickest and easiest way to get the job done. But when you face a multitude of nails–maybe you’re erecting a fence, reroofing your home, or building a deck–you’ll find that a nail gun gets the job done a lot faster and is less tiring to your hands, arms, and shoulders.
There are a lot of nail guns out there, and several different types, the most popular choice for DIYers is a brad nailer, which handles the majority of projects around the home. You’ll find nail guns powered by air compressors that are generally very powerful, as well as corded and cordless electric nail guns. Most DIYers prefer cordless electric nail guns, but the right choice for you depends on the size and type of project you’ll be tackling.
Today’s nailers are tailored to specific tasks, but they all have two power source options and two basic delivery systems. We provide the info on how to find the best nail gun for your next project, plus full details on our top product picks.
Types of Nail Guns
- Brad Nailers: A versatile nail gun that can be used for finishing work or heavier duty jobs. Any job that requires a 15-gauge or 16-gauge nail, trim work, baseboards, crown moulding, window casings and door casings.
- Framing Nailers: One of the most essential nail guns. Heaviest duty nailer. Heavy construction jobs, wood framing, decks, wood sheathing, fences and wood siding.
- Roofing Nailers: Fast and heavy-duty nail gun typically only used by professionals, Roofing and thick wood materials.
- Finishing Nailers: Nail gun designed specifically for carpentry work and for use with finish nails, which have more holding power than brad nails.
- Pin Nailers: Any job that requires 23-gauge headless nails, delicate trim work, crown moulding, furniture repair, furniture trim, wood veneers and cabinetry.
- Siding Nailers: A powerful nailer designed to join wood to other materials. Installing siding, joining thin pieces of wood to synthetic materials or to wooden mounts.
You Should Know Before Buying
Before purchasing a nail gun, it’s important to understand the differences between available models so that you make the right selection. In this buying guide, we explain how the design, power source, firing modes, and nail capacity affect how a nail gun operates.
Nail guns come in a variety of designs, with some of the most popular being framing nailers, roofing nailers, brad nailers, and finish nailers.
A framing nailer has a heavy-duty build that’s designed to simplify the process of fastening wood for projects like fence building and new construction. Framing nail guns typically work with large, 3.5-inch nails called 16-penny nails. Similar to framing nailers, roofing nail guns are heavy-duty tools used by professionals to secure shingles, tar paper, and insulation boards.
Brad nailers are used to inconspicuously fasten detailed wood-like trim, moldings, and cabinetry. As the name suggests, this type of nail gun fires brad nails, also known as brads, which are made of small-diameter steel wire.
Finish nail guns are similar to brad nailers in that they use fine nails to secure detailed pieces of wood. However, finish nailers can fire nails that are larger in diameter and are built to secure larger pieces of wood.
A nail gun typically comes with one of two power sources: battery or pneumatic. Battery-powered nail guns may be a good choice for DIYers who want a cordless and mobile tool. Although battery-powered nailers are convenient, they’re often more expensive and less powerful than their pneumatic counterparts.
Pneumatic nailers are powered by an air compressor that allows the user to continuously fire, as long as the tool is loaded with nails. Pneumatic models are more powerful and less expensive than battery-powered nailers, but they require an air compressor and additional set-up time.
Some nail guns come with various firing modes that allow you to customize how you use the tool. For example, some models allow you to fire a nail simply by bumping the nose of the gun, while others possess a safety feature that requires the nailer’s tip to be engaged before pulling the trigger.
When selecting a nail gun, consider its nail capacity, which refers to the number of nails the gun can hold and fire before requiring a new set.
Our Top Picks
We’ve researched the best nail guns based on the criteria above and owner testimonials for each tool type, so you can make the right purchase for you needs and get to work on your to-do list right away.
1. DEWALT 18-Gauge Brad Nailer Kit DWFP12231
A good nail gun should be easy to use, long lasting, and drive a nail quickly and cleanly without any issues. To do this, the nail gun needs to have a tough build and options you can customize while working. The DEWALT DWFP12231 checks all these boxes, making it our top pick. The sturdy construction means this tool is going to last, while the rubber grip helps absorb shock and keep your hands comfortable, even during a long work session. This is a reasonably lightweight nail gun with a sequential-style trigger and rear exhaust vent that keeps dust and small particles away from you.
This brad nailer runs off of a separate air compressor/hose and uses 18-gauge nails ranging from 5/8 to 2 inches in length. It has a 100-nail working capacity and a lot of options to customize how you use the tool. You can control the nail depth with a simple tool-free adjustment. When you aren’t using it, keep the tool hanging on your side with the included adjustable belt hook.
2. PORTER-CABLE Cordless Brad Nailer Kit
Cordless tools are not only ideal when you’re on the go or away from a power outlet, but give you the freedom to move around without having to be plugged in—but many customers are rightfully concerned about the lack of power in some of these battery-operated devices.
This PORTER-CABLE cordless nail gun proves that cordless doesn’t have to mean less power, with thousands of customers singing its praises. “I found this to be a wonderful and powerful gun,” one happy buyer wrote, who reported that they’ve used it on base molding, door trim, cabinet assembly, and nosing trim, just to name a few. “It shoots pins just as quick as you pull the trigger; there is no build-up time. The battery lasts about 700-900 pins… Gun is a little heavy but you can feel the quality behind that weight.”
3. WEN 61721 Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Considered by many the most intuitive nail gun to use on the market, the WEN 61721 represents a great investment for any DIY enthusiast who’s into home improvement. While in its price category there are lots of low-quality options available, this unit stands out over the rest as it’s reliable and easy to operate.
As long as you have a compressor which provides up to 115 PSI, this brad nailer can become a valuable tool to have in your home. The cast-aluminum body combined with the rubberized handle looks fairly standard. The important part is that it’s a practical tool which doesn’t take very long to start putting it to good use. Pneumatic tools are prone to jamming more frequently so you can expect some issues to appear with this model as well. Thankfully, the nailer has a clever mechanism for clearing jams as quickly as possible.
The tool works in a straightforward manner and accomplishes most basic tasks without requiring you to spend too much. Considering the price, the WEN 61721 is worth every cent for what it can do. The fact that you don’t have to worry about a complex maintenance process is another plus.
4. Bostitch F21PL
The magazine of the Bostitch F21PL holds 60 plastic-coated framing nails, from 2 to 3.5-inches long, or 60 metal-connector nails. The teeth on the Bostitch F21PL are nice and chunky, great for digging into wood while toe-nailing.
The trigger of the Bostitch F21PL offers both sequential and bump settings. Sequential firing means that every time you pull the trigger, one nail is shot out. Bump firing means that as long as you are holding down the trigger, a nail is fired every time you “bump” the nose of the gun against the wood. Bump firing lets you shoot a lot of nails in a short of amount of time, and tends to be easier on your hand as well.
It’s a bit bulkier than some models, but the Bostitch F21PL has a really solid, balanced feel to it, making it comfortable to use on those long workdays.
5. NuMax S2-118G2 Pneumatic 2-in-1 Brad Nailer
The NuMax S2-118G2 2-in-1 Brad Nailer is proof that some budget options don’t skip out on features usually found only on far more expensive tools. One common feature many expensive nail guns offer is the ability to use multiple types of nails and brads. For a fraction of the cost, this gun gives you similar flexibility. Using either common 2-inch 18-gauge or 1-5/8-inch narrow staples, this a great choice for DIY projects such as installing chair rails, crown molding, decorative trim, baseboards, or window casings.
Another professional feature this gun includes is a no-mar tip. When working on delicate surfaces, this tip prevents the gun from digging in and doing major damage; that’s a major plus when nailing into fragile materials such as decorative trims, baseboards, and various types of molding.
Safety Tips for Nail Guns:
Nail guns if used properly then it is completely safe to operate or else, they may result causing injuries, especially for the hands and fingers of the operator. So, here we are providing some safety guidelines to be followed for the safe and effective usage of nail guns.
- Always wear protective gear that includes work gloves, safety goggles, and shoes. Ensure to wear earmuffs while working with powerful nail guns (either large battery-operated or pneumatic guns), which are quite loud.
- Turn off the nail gun and stop the power supply before loading nails or removing a stuck nail from the gun.
- One should know how to use the nail gun properly along with how to load the nails, how to shoot the nails appropriately, and its safety feature before buying/start using it.
- Avoid carrying the nail gun against your body, as it may cause some injury or poses risk.
- It is a must to turn off the nailer and unplug it thoroughly after you are done using it.
Why is my nail gun jamming?
A jammed nail gun can be caused by a number of factors, including an inadequate amount of oil, a misshapen coil, or an improperly sized fastener. Oil your nail gun prior to each use to prevent jamming. Additionally, make sure that your fasteners fit your nail gun’s specifications.
How often should I oil my nail gun?
The frequency in which you oil your nail gun depends on how often you use the tool. If the nailer is being used throughout the day, oil may need to be applied multiple times to maintain its efficiency. If you use the tool less frequently, you may only need to apply oil prior to each use. Check the owner’s manual to learn about your specific nailer’s oil requirements.
Does it matter which types of nails I use in my nail gun?
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.
Which nail gun design works best for larger nails?
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.