You’re ready to start your next project and have decided it’s time to buy a nail gun, but what nail gun do you need? Nailers come in a variety of styles, including framing, finishing, and brad models. These tools are designed to tackle certain kinds of woodworking projects and are built to work with specific fasteners.
In addition to that, there are several power choices available such as pneumatic, gas-powered, and electric. To help you decide which nail gun is right for your next project, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular options out there.
Framing Nail Gun
The largest and most powerful nail gun available is the framing nailer. These models are built to handle large projects that call for heavy-duty nails and fasteners. Perfect for construction, building, and manufacturing, these nail guns are ideal for a variety of applications. This includes framing walls and homes, building fences and pallets, and installing roofing and sub-flooring.
These heavy-duty models are designed with depth-drive adjustment features that allow you to set the driving depth of your nail based on the intended application. And with their ability to hold up to 3 ½” long framing nails in their magazine, they are perfect for driving nails into 2X4’s.
Finishing nail guns are perfect for less demanding projects. Designed to work with 14 to 16-gauge 1” to 2 ½” finishing nails, this tool type is one of the best all-around nailers available for indoor trim and other similar projects. These models also feature tool-free depth-drive adjustments and are ideal for tackling various home renovation and improvement applications. The most popular uses for finishing guns are projects involving paneling, baseboard, crown molding, door and window trim, furniture, shelving, chair rails, and cabinetry.
Brad Nail Gun
Brad nailers are designed to work with 18-gauge brads ranging from 5/8” to 2” in length. While these tools are often confused with finishing nailers, there are several important differences. One of the most obvious is these models tend to be slightly smaller than finishing tools. The major differences are that the magazine isn’t angled like those in finishing, and framing nailers and brads are shorter and don’t have a nail head.
These models are ideal for small wood projects that require optimum precision. Because the brads lack nail heads, they leave a smaller hole to fill with putty while still offering impressive holding strength. Due to this, brad nailers are perfect for many home applications. These include installing quarter-round, shoe, baseboard, crown moldings, stop moldings, and upholstery projects. You can also add trim to cabinets and other wood furniture and build small hobby items such as picture frames.
Nail Gun Sizes
As we mentioned, each nailer works with different-sized fasteners. So before you go out and purchase a box of plastic-collated nails, you need to take the style of nail gun into consideration. Framing nailers use thicker, angled nails ranging between 1 ½” to 3 ½”. For most framing applications, a minimum nail length of 3” is recommended.
Finishing nailers are thinner than framing nails because they are meant for lighter applications and more precision. These nails are normally 14 to 16-gauge with a length between 1” to 2 ½”. Finally, brad nails come in an even thinner design that won’t split thin pieces of wood. Brads are normally 18-gauge and range from 5/8” to 2” in length.
Nail Gun Power Options
Since all nail guns require pressure to fire the nail at high speed, they all need a power source. There are three choices out there: pneumatic, fuel-driven, and electric.
Pneumatic nailers use a separate air compressor that’s connected to the tool by an air hose to supply the pressure needed to drive nails deep into thick wood. They’re the most powerful option out there, making them incredibly popular on construction sites. They’re also the most common model used by professionals. The downside to these models is that you need to be connected to the compressor by an air hose which can sometimes limit your mobility. But what the tool lacks in portability, it more than makes up for in sheer power and performance.
These cordless models offer the benefit of being untethered to air compressors and air hoses, making them far easier to operate. They offer comparable power to pneumatic models. Instead of being driven by a compressor, these models use fuel cartridges that feed small amounts of fuel into a combustion chamber. This fuel is then ignited by a spark created by the tool’s battery. This causes a tiny explosion that generates the driving force the tool needs to fire nails.
The downside of these models is that most gas cartridges are capable of firing around 500 fasteners. So for extended operations that call for extensive nailing, you’ll need replacement cartridges. This will add to the cost of operation.
Electric nailers use either an electrical cord or a rechargeable battery to generate the driving force needed to operate. The more popular choice out of the two is the battery-operated model. It offers increased mobility. These tools operate by using an electric motor to generate the driving pressure of the nail gun (read our top list). While these models might lack some of the power that pneumatic models provide, they are incredibly popular simply because you can use the tool virtually anywhere. And with a spare rechargeable battery on hand, you can swap out batteries when the driving power starts to drop.