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Nails have been used in construction since before books of history were kept. They predate nearly every other form of construction method outside of perhaps rope. Even with these thousands of years of usage, in wasn’t until the last century or so that we had moved beyond hammers and mallets for driving nails – and it wasn’t until a few years after WWII that nail guns were even available for private use. Today, with the creation of powerful batteries, we are even evolving past expensive and bulky compressors.
Our Top 3 Picks
In this list, we will be focusing on the best cordless electric nail guns as well as the best Electric Staple Guns/Nail Guns.
With the ever growing market and diverse designs of nail guns, especially in the cordless sector, one can pick from hundreds of designs, features and specified uses. Framing nail guns, Brad/finisher guns, and angled nail guns are all built to accomplish specific tasks and vary widely in their usage.
As the market grows, the choice for which nail gun best suits you becomes more difficult. Do you go with the slightly less powerful and lighter design, or opt for pure power? And withing that choice to you pay a bit extra for some key features, or are they a waste?
To help you suss through all the noise, we have put together a buying list and an overall guide that should help out everyone from the novice to the professional. We have provided tools that we considered the most useful for their respective tasks, and of the best overall value. No matter your need or budget, we have included a tool that will be right at home in your arsenal.
In addition to this list, we have also added an FAQ to address common nail gun questions, as well as an explanation section that will clearly lay out the criteria by which we judged these tools. By the end, you should have a solid understanding of what features are currently available in your price range, which ones will be most capable of assisting you in your tasks – and hopefully which nail gun ultimately is best for you.
In order to accomplish all that in some sense of fairness towards the largest amount of possible needs – the tools were judged and rated on price to value scale. This means that a technically inferior device, if priced much better than a competitor, may obtain a better overall ranking on the list. Example: if Tool A can accomplish 75% of all the same tasks as Tool B, but Tool B is 95% more expensive, it can be argued that Tool A is of a higher overall value. This, of course, is bound to be rather subjective, so it is important you explore the features and purpose of the tool more than only it’s overall ranking to judge its actual value to you. If it can only accomplish a fraction of your needs – its value to you will, of course, be much lower.
Very low cost
Good power and comfort
Prone to jams
Packed with ease of use and comfort features
Heavy and bulky for some jobs
Comfortable and light
Good battery life
Easy functionality and adjustment
Some delay between trigger pull and firing
Jamming becomes an issue as the battery drains
Reliable and efficient
Clearing jams can get frustrating
Ease of Use.
Good selection of features
Not a standout in any category
Can get pricey when you want multiple batteries
Full of features
Durable, long lasting brushless motor
Substantial driving power
Reliable operation, infrequent feed errors
Bulk makes it difficult for certain tasks, such as trim
A solid and well built dual use nail/stapler gun
More expensive than technically similar tools
Some inconsistencies in depth
Not as durable as it could be
Easy and fast to use
Performance is not at a professional level
Paslode has discontinued the majority of compatible fuel cells
Brand nails and fuel cells are costly
Solid device with reliable functionality
Prone to jams
In order to create a diverse list of nail guns that could appeal to a variety of tasks as well as a range of users and budgets – and then rank them- we had to develop criteria by which to judge and then compare the nail guns. There was a large selection to choose from, and plenty of comparable tools that made it difficult to decide whether to include them or offer an entirely different alternative.
Some opinions are based on the numbers – and some are clearly subjective ease of use for example). For that reason, we have supplied you with the basic list of criteria we worked from and a general explanation of how it was implemented.
The mobility of a battery gave the battery powered tools a large leg up in the listing. Some years ago, batteries were not powerful enough for most of the heavy duty tasks – and/or had short life spans. This is mainly a thing of the past. Almost all of our tools utilized proprietary battery sources, though the ones that could fit multiple battery systems gained a bit of an advantage.
When you are placing dozens, if not hundreds, of nails the last thing you want to have to do is go back and manually adjust each one. Tools that had an overall better rating for consistency gained a considerable advantage over those that had regular issues with depth placement.
A big and bulky tool can be a real nuisance during long work hours or when trying to reach small or awkward areas. Tools that provided ample power in an easy to use device were ranked better. Overall comfort also was significant given that many time a better balanced but slightly heavier tool will actually administer less fatigue and pain to the body.
We’ve offhandedly covered his reasoning in the article a couple times. But to reiterate what was said in the opening section “the tools were judged and rated on price to value scale… Example: if Tool A can accomplish 75% of all the same tasks as Tool B, but Tool B is 95% more expensive, it can be argued that Tool A is of a higher overall value. This, of course, is bound to be rather subjective… If it can only accomplish a fraction of your needs – its value to you will, of course, be much lower.”
Additional features like LED lights, Tool-less adjustments and easy jam clearing methods may seem like superfluous additions, that is until you need them. While most of these are definitely bonuses rather than key metrics – they were nonetheless one of the more important overall factors after the ones already listed.
If you want to put up a picture(s) on the wall, do a repair, or put a bookcase together, a hammer is your ideal tool: cheap, easy to use, and effective.
However, if your task is more involving, using a hammer may be pretty stressful and tiresome. This is where a nail gun comes in handy. They are powerful machines that release nail at high speed, driving in the nails in a fraction of a second.
There are various types of nail guns depending on the power source used by each including pneumatic nail guns, electric nail guns, and cordless nail guns. Let’s have a look at each of them to determine if an electric nail gun needs an air compressor.
Pneumatic nail guns
To drive in nails, pneumatic nail guns must be connected to an air compressor for power, which is bought separately. This type is the most powerful and reliable for heavy-duty tasks, although its mobility is limited since it must be connected to the air compressor. Also, it takes longer to start the nail gun, and the hose pipe can be inconvenient since you must ensure you have the right connectors for the nail gun to move freely.
Cordless nail guns
There are three types of this kind including battery powered, fuel-driven, and cordless electric nail guns. Cordless Battery-powered models use ignition caused by a spark produced by the battery to drive in nails. It provides maximum mobility more than the pneumatic nail guns since you do not need an air compressor. It is easier to start up, although it has less power than the pneumatic model. On the downside, you need to recharge the battery, although with a 60-minute charger or a backup battery can help you solve the problem.
Cordless fuel-driven nail guns use combustion from the fuel to drive nails into materials. A disposable gas cartridge drains fuel into an ignition compartment in the nailer, such that when it is combined with electrical charges produced by the battery in the nail gun, it gives an explosive force that drives the nail out. It provides mobility since it requires no cords or hoses. Also, it is powerful for heavy duty projects such as driving huge fasteners into hard surfaces or materials. The main downside of this model is that it is expensive to operate since you have to replace the fuel canisters.
Cordless Electric Nail Gun is a perfect fit for anyone who finds the cord stressing when working. It uses the main electric power to drive nails.
Electric Nail Guns
Pure electric nail guns are specifically made for small nails such as staples and brads. They depend on the electric current supplied from the mains. Thus, they are connected to a standard electrical outlet. They are powerful for small scale tasks. However, they have limited portability since they are corded. On the bright side, you do not need to recharge batteries, buy fuel canisters, or air compressors.
Finally, you do not need an air compressor for an electric nail gun since only the pneumatic models make use of the air compressor. They are two different tools powered differently. Here are some of the key pros and cons of electrical over air-powered nail guns.
Pneumatic nail guns are heavier than the electric ones. This means that you can work longer without getting tired when working with the electric model.
The electric model is less noisy than the air-powered nail gun. This is vital in residential areas.
Pneumatic guns demand regular oiling to prevent rust and to lubricate the inner parts to work efficiently. Electric tools do not require such additional maintenance.
Pneumatic models are fit for heavy-duty tasks since they can withstand intense driving force, and are less vulnerable to incapacitating damage when dropped. However, electric guns can only handle small tasks and are less durable.
While the uses and power of the tool are very different, it is also the nails they utilize that cause the disparity. Brad nails are small and thin nails that are made to be embedded into the wood. They often will have very thin, or no head to them. Finishing nailers generally use larger forms of nails.
Unlike other versions, framing nailers are not necessarily looking for precision, rather they want power and usually speed. They are much more powerful and are used on construction sites and harder materials such as structural timbers.
Brad & Finish Nailers are used for more precise and delicate work that generally requires more accuracy and a softer touch. Baseboards, moldings or tacking down some sheet material are common tasks for finish nailers. Brad nailers are best suited for tasks like trim work.
While the features you need will be up to your individual tasks, there are some that will definitely sweeten the deal at some point.
It can get incredibly frustrating when you need to make multiple changes to have to carry an extra device with which to do so. By adjustment number three it indeed can be aggravating. Tool-less adjustments allow you to make changes to the operation using adjusters like dials and knobs. A substantial time and stress saver.
Lower powered nail guns tend to have feeding issues. Every so often a nail will either feed improperly or get jammed up in the magazine. Tools that allow you easy access to these areas or have forward assists for guiding the nail into its proper place can really save you time and effort when the inevitable happens.
There are also lights that are added to indicate either feed issues, low nail capacity and/or low battery.
While this isn’t a “feature” since all tools will have a body to them – it is important you pick one made to operate in your environment. A bulky tool will make like difficult in tight spaces or for tasks where you have to reach up or out consistently. Lighter tools with comfort grips will make life much better for you.
Angled nailers can come in handy when working with awkward angles or trying to apply fasteners into narrow spaces.
Nailers with a flush head allow you to get much closer to your target either when it is near and perpendicular to another surface.
Bump firing is when you can fire off a nail by simply pressing it against the wood. This allows for a much faster series of operation when accuracy isn’t as important a factor.
Hopefully, this list of nail guns, their key criteria, and the short FAQ have given you a solid idea of where to begin to look for your new nail gun. This list gives a small example of the options you have out there – and were simply what we judged were the best representative of their respective categories. While every device on this list is of a reliable quality, there may very well be comparable tools in a particular category that is more suited to your needs. As long as the info provided here helped guide your decision, it did its job.
People never completely agree on what the objectively best tool is. It is likely you may disagree with a number of our opinions. That is perfectly okay. In fact, in my experience having disagreed on a point is often what led me to solidify my own point in return.
So whether you are a professional looking to fire of nails like a Marine in a gunfight, or a hobbyist and homeowner trying to work with fencing or picture frames, Good luck – and remember – build smart, build safe, and build big.