Nail guns are time-saving and convenient tools that can help you finish a project faster, drive nails more accurately, and cut down on the smashed-finger rate caused by inaccurate hammer targeting. Check out our nail gun buying guide to learn more.
The Most Important Question: What’s Your Project?
We can offer you the best nail gun buying guide and nail gun reviews, but they won’t do much good unless you know what you need. There are various kinds of nail guns and each is best suited to particular types of projects.
So, before you start looking for a nail gun, you need to ask yourself about what kind of project you will be undertaking, the type of wood used (hardwood? Is it thick? Is it thin?), the size of the projects, and other things of that nature.
8 Best Nail Gun Reviews Comparison Chart
Best Nail Gun By Types
Metabo HPT NT65MA4
Different Types of Nail Guns
When you’re going to be doing heavy-duty work, a framing nailer is going to be what you need. Why? Because they have tremendous holding power and their 2.8mm nails can be used with any type of wood, including posts and beams. There are two types of framing nailers—those that accommodate clipped head nails and those that use roundhead nails.
Generally speaking, you are going to want a roundhead framing nailer, as many building codes have changed and removed clipped head nails from construction in their area. If you really prize a clipped head nailer’s faster reloading time, you should check with your local building codes before purchasing one.
Best suited for:
- Room additions.
- Framing houses.
- Wooden siding.
- Projects involving plaster—hammers can cause plaster to loosen and crack.
This Paslode framing nailer is as portable as its user, relying on a lithium ion fuel cell for power, rather than a compressor. It uses 30° Paslode framing nail and has an impressive drive rate of 6,000 nails per charge.
Its incredible light weight of only 7.5lbs makes it great for projects that require its constant usage, and it comes with a handy carrying case, safety glasses, and 5/32-inch hex wrench.
Special features include a quick charge option when you run out of power at the end of a project, depth adjustment, and a rafter/belt hook for easy and secure storage. This Paslode nailer is a bit more expensive than others, but will last a lot longer as well.
Brad nailers are used for the finest, most intricate woodworking tasks and utilize high-gauge nails, usually an 18 or 23. These nails are extremely small and hard to drive in using only elbow grease and a hammer, thus making a brad nail gun an essential tool, especially those who are doing home renovation, upholstering furniture, or smaller projects, like making dollhouses.
Brad nails are so small that they are almost invisible to the naked eye, requiring little to no carpenter putty to hide their appearance. Different models of brad nailers support different lengths of nails, ranging from 5/8” and 2” in length; they are often used with staple guns and finish nailers.
Best suited for:
- Small scale projects or crafts.
- Attaching thinner pieces of wood and doing trim work.
- Projects that do not require a great deal of holding power; these are not the nails for
- heavy-duty work.
DEWALT DWFP12231 Brad Nailer Kit is a low-price sequential-style air-powered nail gun option that does not skimp on quality. This kit includes 500 1.25” nails, carrying case, manual, and, of course, the brad nailer itself. This tool uses 18-gauge 5/8” to 2” nails.
The magnesium body gives this nailer an extremely low weight of only 2.6lbs and, combined with its 100-nail capacity and comfort, anti-slip grip, this is the perfect brad nailer for long projects or repeated use.
Its special features include easy-nail removal, jam-release mechanism, a rear exhaust to keep contaminants away, tool-free depth of drive adjustment, non-marring nose tip, and maintenance-free motor. It is a truly impressive package, offering the user plenty of features and quality for a bargain price.
Like brad nailers, finish nailers also use high-gauge nails, though the nails used with a finish nail gun are a bit bigger than those used with their brad counterparts; one of the most popular varieties of finish nailers is the 16-gauge nail gun, but they also make 15-gauge finish nail guns as well.
Along with brad nailers, finish nailers are an essential tool in the toolkit of anyone doing furniture projects or home remodeling. They are large and sturdy enough to be able to handle larger pieces of wood, but still small enough to be concealed with putty after the job is completed.
Best suited for:
- Crown molding.
- Chair rails.
- Wooden furniture.
- Hardwood flooring.
- Decorative trim, though smaller trim should be done with a brad nailer, as a finish nailer can split the wood. The same is applicable to all smaller projects.
Hitachi’s angled finish nailer is a great tool made with maneuverability and usability in mind. It fires 15-gauge 1.25” to 2.5” nails, uses air power, and weighs a mere 4.2lbs (due to its body being made of lightweight aluminum).
Its 100-nail magazine capacity lets you use your nail gun repeatedly, taking less time out for reloads, and its angled design allows you to get into tight spaces with greater ease. There is a five-year warranty on this finish nailer’s materials and workmanship, while the pistons and o-rings have a 90-day warranty.
In addition to the nail gun, this package also includes safety glasses, a no-mar tip, and a case. Special features include adjustable firing options (sequential and contact), depth adjustment, and an air duster to easily clean work spaces.
As the name suggests, palm nailers are made to fit into the palm of your hand. Lighter-duty models can drive 1.5” to 3.5” 16d nails, but heavy-duty models can use 2” to 6” nails—all driven from the palm of your hand. Palm nail guns are immensely popular due to how handy (*rimshot* pun intended) they are. They can fit into the small spaces that neither a hammer nor a conventionally-designed nail gun can.
There are some spaces that are so tight that it is impossible to swing a hammer, or when it is extremely hard to do so efficiently, such as when you are nailing into a ceiling. Additionally, instead of the special strips of nails that most nail guns use, palm nailers use conventional nails that can be bought in bulk, though they can only be fed into the nail gun one at a time.
Best suited for:
Palm nailers are suited for almost any job in which you need to drive nails into tight, small, or hard-to-reach places and can be used in a multitude of projects:
- Metal connector straps.
- Pole barn construction.
- Some palm nailers are specially designed to be used in general remodeling and flooring.
This palm nailer kit comes with everything you need to complete your project. Weighing only 2.9lbs, this palm nailer is lightweight and ergonomically-designed to fit easily and comfortably into your hand.
It has a magnetic nose with a recessed nail slot, which holds nails tightly to ensure nailing accuracy and that nose is made out of steel, giving it extreme durability.
Plus, this impact nailer kit is packed with bonuses, including: extra noses (standard, finish, and large bore), leather glove, lubricant, additional o-rings, nose wrench, carrying case, and hex wrench. This nailer is ideal for driving common bulk nails in tight spaces, as well as for nailing off joist hangers and metal connectors.
Pin nailers are perhaps the least-commonly used nail gun. They use extremely thin nails that either have a tiny, barely noticeable head or no head at all, meaning that pin nails require very little, if any, concealment. However, they also have very little holding power and it is advisable to use wood glue along with them, when or if you do use a pin nailer.
Best suited for:
- Attaching delicate trim pieces and molding.
- Some cabinetry and furniture projects.
When you don’t want any holes to show, this is the nailer you turn to, as it fires 23-gauge headless pins, creating holes that are almost impossible to see. It adjusts to nail lengths between 5/8” to 1 3/8” and has a side-loading magazine capacity of 150.
The combination of the two means that this pin nailer can be used in a variety of applications with very little reload time. Besides the nailer, this kit also includes a carrying case, safety glasses, no-mar tip, hex bar wrench, and ¼” NPT male plug.
Special features include depth adjustment, a visual reload indicator, rear exhaust, jam-clearing, dual-trigger options, and a housing protector. It’s a great tool to have on any job that includes cabinet work, trim, paneling, small moldings, picture framing, and craft work.
Flooring nailers are used for hardwood flooring installation. They get the job done quickly and effectively, and come in two versions – manual and pneumatic. With manual flooring nailers, the user has to physically drive the nailer, while pneumatic flooring nailers use air pressure to get the job done.
Today, flooring nailers are predominantly pneumatic as they generate a larger force for nailing, and are thus preferred. Most people confuse flooring nailers and flooring staples as the same thing – they are not. While they may have the same functions, they are fundamentally different.
Best suited for:
- Hardwood flooring installation.
- Great for various types of wood, whether soft or hard.
Freeman PF18GLCN Hardwood Flooring Cleat Nailer and Stapler Gun packs two essential tools into one 9.68 pound lightweight aluminum alloy nail gun. The best part? You do not have to change the magazine; it can store up to 120 of 15.5-gauge and 16-gauge staples and L cleats ranging in size from 1-1/4" – 1-3/4".
This kit comes with a molded gray carrying case that includes oil, Interchangeable base plates and adjustment tools for convenience and performance. The extra-wide non-marring base plate is a great feature that adds stability and enhances drive-rate and distance while eliminating the risk of scratching.
This is a nail gun that is guaranteed to last—literally. It has a 7 year limited warranty and 90 day wearable parts warranty, in addition to being incredibly well-built.
A siding nailer is, unsurprisingly, used to attach siding to a house. They use nails measuring from 1.25” to 2.5 inches; some models are especially designed to be used with aluminum nails for aluminum siding. Framing nailers can be used to attach siding, but using the tool specifically created for the task is a better option.
Generally speaking, siding nailers are best for attaching thinner pieces of wood or non-wooden materials (like siding) to a wooden surface.
This Makita siding nailer is ready to work as hard as you are. Weighing in at just 5lbs, this nail gun is light weight and easy to comfortably hold, making it perfect for long jobs.
Loading is a snap with the easy-load, size-adjustable canister and the gun keeps itself clean with a built-in air filtering system. Other special features include dual-firing modes, plus a lock mode, nine different depth adjustment options, smooth nose tip to prevent scratching, and rubber grip.
It has a 360° exhaust system and comes with a hex wrench, oil, goggles, plastic case, and one-year warranties on both parts and labor. This nailer is pricier than others, but well worth it for the quality and number of user-controlled options available.
Roofing nailers, as the name suggests, are tools that are used to attach shingles to houses. They are a specialized type of nailer that, unless you plan on doing roofing work, is not essential to your everyday tool kit. Roofing nailers use nails designed to work with fiberglass and/or asphalt.
This lightweight nail gun was made with the needs of roofers in mind. Its 120-nail magazine capacity cuts down on reloading time and its size allowance of ¾” to 1 ¾” gives it a great amount of variability.
Its body is made of magnesium and the tips are made of carbide, making it not only highly portable due to its 4.9-pound weight, but durable as well.
Special features include a single-action side-loading canister, sequential and bump firing options, a tool-less gauge for spacing shingles, tool-less depth adjustment with five different options, zero nail lockout feature that eliminates the possibility of dry-firing, over-molded comfort, no-slip grip, and a seven-year limited warranty. Whether its drywall, vinyl siding, composition roofing, or anything in between, this nail gun can get the job done.
Power Sources for Nail Guns
There are three different options of power sources for nail guns: fuel, battery-powered, and pneumatic.
Fuel-powered nailers are cordless tools that use combustion to drive nails. They rely on a replaceable, disposable gas cartridge and a battery (to provide the spark for the fuel) in order to drive a nail in with incredible force.
What you should know:
- Fuel-powered nailers are a great choice for heavy-duty jobs where a lot of force is required.
- They offer good mobility because they are cordless.
- To be able to use them, you must have plenty of fuel and a charged battery; running out of one means that your nail gun has become temporarily useless.
The technology behind rechargeable battery-powered nail guns is constantly evolving, with some of the newer models being powered by 18-volt or 20-volt lithium-ion batteries. One nail gun, the cordless Ryobi AirStrike, uses lithium-ion batteries and a continuously charging pressure cylinder that gives it the force of a pneumatic—but in cordless form.
What you should know:
- Battery-powered nail guns are quieter than fuel-driven or pneumatic nailers.
- They require no extra equipment, other than a charger. There are no hoses, no fuel cells, etc., making it more convenient.
- Because battery-powered nail guns are cordless, they offer more mobility than their pneumatic counterparts.
- These are better for small spaces where the use of a compressor may not be practical or even feasible.
- Though the technology is evolving (see the Ryobi nailer mentioned above), in most cases, a battery-powered nailer does not have the power of a pneumatic nailer.
Pneumatic nailers are powered by compressed air, which comes from an air compressor whose PSI (pounds per square inch) and volume (measured in cubic feet per minute) is greater or equal to the requirements of the nail gun.
What you should know:
- Pneumatic nail guns are often less expensive than other types of nail guns. However, they also require an air compressor, which leads some to say that the inexpensiveness of the gun does not really count when you add in the expense of the compressor. Technically, that may be true, but a compressor is a very handy tool to have because it is so multifunctional; you can use an air compressor to fill your tires, to blow off your work area, to power other types of tools, etc.
- Most pneumatic nailers need to be oiled.
- Pneumatic nail guns are quite loud and it is advised that you and those around you wear hearing protection while the nail gun is in use.
- Mobility is often a key concern for those considering what type of power source that they would like their nailer to have. While it is true that pneumatic nailers must remain connected to the air compressor via hose, with a fully charged compressor, you can go anywhere, including places where there is not any power.
- Pneumatic nailers deliver a consistent amount of force each time you drive a nail into a surface.
- Pneumatic nailers last longer than other types of nailers because there are less parts, which means that there are a fewer number of breakable and wear-out-able components.
Nailer Configurations/Loading Styles
There are two different types of nailer configurations: coil-style and strip-style.
A coil-style nail gun utilizes long strips of nails joined together with wire that are kept coiled in a round magazine. They tend to hold more nails than their strip-style nail gun counterparts and they fit into places where strip-styles cannot go.
A strip-style nail gun uses long strips of nails held together by wire, plastic, or paper. These strips are slid into an oblong magazine and stay there until fired. A strip-style nailer is more balanced than a coil-style nail gun because of the way it distributes the weight of the nails—evenly, rather than in a roll.
Nailer Firing Method
Nail gun triggers rely on two basic controls: a finger trigger and a contact safety tip, which is on the gun’s nose. The variations of trigger mechanisms are based on differences in two aspects of the gun:
- If the trigger can be held in the squeezed position to discharge multiple nails OR if the trigger must go through the squeeze –> release routine every time the user wants to discharge a nail.
- The order in which the control are activated.
Based on these two differences, there are four different types of firing methods that can be utilized on a nail gun.
A contact trigger will fire a nail when the trigger and safety contact are both activated, regardless of order. If you were to keep the trigger squeezed, the gun would fire any time the contact is pushed in. Releasing the trigger would mean that, in order to fire another nail, you would have to re-activate both the safety contact and squeeze the trigger.
Full Sequential Trigger
With a full sequential trigger, the nail gun must be activated in a specific order to get the gun to fire. The safety contact tip must be pushed into the surface before the user squeezes the trigger, if they want the nailer to fire. And when the nail gun fires, it will only fire one single nail.
In order to fire again, the user must release the trigger and pull back the safety contact, then go through the aforementioned firing process again. Nail guns that utilize full sequential firing methods are the safest type of nail gun.
Single Actuation Trigger
The single actuation trigger is similar to the contact trigger in that the two controls, the trigger and safety contact, must both be activated, but can be done so in any order. The difference between the two is that to fire multiple nails, the user must release the trigger, move the gun, and squeeze again.
Single Sequential Trigger
Similar to the full sequential trigger, the single sequential only fires a nail when the safety contact is pushed in, followed by the squeezing of the trigger. The difference is that to fire another nail, the only control that must be released is the trigger—the safety contact can remain pressed to the surface.
Key Features to Look For
Easy Jam Clearing
Nail guns jam. It happens to the rest of us. For this reason, it is important that you look for a nail gun that has a jam-clearing system that makes the gun easier to maintain and easier to un-jam.
A depth adjustment features allows you to control how deep the nail goes into the surface. Some nail guns will require the use of a tool to adjust the depth, but for maximum ease-of-use, we suggest finding one that can be adjusted by hand.
Nail Size Adjustment
A nail gun that can use different sizes of nails is incredibly helpful, especially if you plan on using your nail gun on a variety of projects. Instead of having to buy separate nail guns for each nail size (expensive!), you can have one nail gun that covers a multitude of them, saving you money and space.
An especially important feature if you are going to be travelling with your nail gun, a carrying case protects your tool from being damaged, or incurring extra, unnecessary wear-and-tear.
Replaceable Protective Guards
A protective guard will protect you from flying debris—a definite bonus. Just look for one that can be easily replaced because the guards do wear out over time.
Swiveling Air Connectors
This is strictly for pneumatic nail guns; a swiveling air connector will help keep the hose from becoming tangled by making it easy to move and more adaptable and mobile.
A directional exhaust feature enables you to channel the tool’s exhaust away from you. Like the depth adjustment feature, some directional exhaust features must be altered using a separate tool, while others do not.
Nail Gun Safety
According to the CDC, accidents involving nail guns cause 37,000 emergency room visits each year. In other words, these incredibly handy, time-saving tools can also be very dangerous. And due to their ubiquitous use, injuries caused by nail guns are quite common.
What Causes Nail Gun Injuries?
The CDC lists seven risk factors that are the most common culprits behind nail gun injuries. They are:
- Bypassing safety mechanisms.
- Missing the work piece.
- Nail penetrating through the piece of lumber.
- Double firing resulting in unintended nail discharge.
- Awkward positioning.
- Nail ricocheting off of a metal feature or hard surface.
- Unintended discharge of the nail due to knocking the safety contact tip while the trigger is squeezed. (This is one reason why full sequential nail guns are the safest variation—the safety contact must first be pressed into the surface before the trigger is squeezed and the nail released.)
How do I Prevent Nail Gun Injuries?
Our staff, with one exception, has learned about nail gun safety the hard (painful) way—by firing one into our body accidentally. (The one exception caught his finger in a table saw and almost cut it off.) Thus, we offer the following advice to you in hope that you do not have to learn by experience as we did.
Know your Nail Gun
Make sure that you know the kind of trigger mechanism that your nail gun uses. If you think you are working with a full sequential, when you are actually working with a contact trigger nail gun, the consequences can be painful.
Take Notice of Hand Placement and Nail Target
In those instances when a piece of lumber needs to be held into place in order to be nailed, ensure that (a) the person holding the lumber has a firm grip on it, and that (b) their hands are not lined up with the place where you want to fire a nail. Nails can and do penetrate lumber.
Make Sure the Surface can Actually be Nailed
Some surfaces cannot be penetrated by nails. If this is the case, a ricochet can happen, causing the nail to bounce off the surface and become a projectile.
Wear your Safety Gear
Always wear safety goggles and any other safety equipment deemed necessary. If you are working on a job site, your company should have strict guidelines on what employees are to wear. If you are working on your own time, or doing home renovation or odd jobs, check and see what safety gear is recommended.
Use Sequential Trigger Nail Guns
The other types may be quicker and more convenient, but sequential trigger nail guns are the safest. As far as safety, full sequential is better than single sequential, but a seasoned nail gun user should be able to handle a single sequential with little to no difficulty.
Don’t Miss the Surface
Firing a nail gun and missing the intended surface turns a nail into a pointy, bullet-like projectile. It could end up in a wall, but it could end up in someone’s skull. The only way to prevent this is to not miss.
Common Sense Safety Measures
Most of these points are obvious, common sense safety tips, but we’ve learned from experience that assuming everyone has common sense is not always the best idea. So just in case:
- Do not carry a nail gun while your finger is on the trigger.
- Do not modify your nail gun or bypass safety features—they are there for a reason.
- Do not fire a nail gun if another person is in the line of fire.
- Do not point the nail gun at anything other than the surface you intend to nail. It’s basically the same rule as with a gun that shoots bullets—don’t point it at people, animals, or things that you do not want to shoot.
- If you’re left-handed, use the nail gun with your left hand. If you’re right-handed, use it with the right.
- Before clearing jams or doing any kind of maintenance, separate the gun from its power source.
- Do not let children use a nail gun.
You’re Armed with the Best Nail Gun Guide
So now what? With our nail gun guide in hand, you should be able to easily navigate nail gun reviews and product listings and their specifications, so start researching and start browsing!