If there’s an ‘evil’ power tool, a ‘bad’ ’un, it has to be the nail gun: “I wanna be evil, I wanna spit tacks . . . But more than that I wanna be bad.” Thus – very memorably – sang Eartha Kitt, and so it is with nail guns. This ‘evil’ ‘bad’ boy of a power tool does indeed ‘spit’ tacks, nails, and brads.
Not for nothing is it called a nail ‘gun;’ like handguns, it takes a magazine of nails. And, like handguns, nail guns are of several types and kinds and they too are meant for different ‘situations,’ take different ‘ammo,’ and so on.
The biggest, baddest nail gun is the framing nailer. These heavy-duty power tools are best suited for construction and are called what they are because they are used to, among other purposes, frame walls. They take 3-1/2-inch nails.
Second in power are two medium-duty nail guns meant for two positional extremes, roofs and floors.
Roofing nailers take a coil magazine with nails that are short and have a large head. The guns and nails are so designed as to work best for shingles of all types, and also for siding, insulation board, etc. Flooring nailers are very different from other nailers. Designed for putting in floorboards, they are longer than other nailers so you can stand while using them.
And they have a plunger designed to be whacked with an included mallet!
Next in line is the finishing nailer which takes 14 to 16 gauge nails. These comparatively light-duty guns are typically used for indoor trim, regular moulding, small cabinetry, etc. Last up are light-duty brad nail guns. Brad nailers take 18 gauge nails, can take care of skirting and sub-flooring, and are the best choice for attaching thin and delicate trims and mouldings with or without using adhesive. They are less expensive and are more popular for hobbyist and DIY purposes than any other nail guns.
Apart from the variety of nail guns with respect to their specialisations, they also vary in their sources of power. Nail guns typically use electricity or air pressure as power sources.
However. newer light-duty and medium-duty nail guns run on rechargeable batteries. Concrete nail guns even run off gunpowder!
Underneath we evaluate three different types of nail guns; three brad nailers, a finishing nailer, and a coil nailer, all of which are highly rated.
Last update on 2020-10-29 / Affiliate links / Images / Pricing from Amazon Product Advertising API
As for Eartha’s take on evil, though all our five choices are ‘evil’ enough to ‘spit’ tacks and nails, they’re not ‘bad’ – in fact, they’re all really good!
Living up to its reputation, Ryobi’s finishing nailer has two firing modes, adjustable depth, good ergonomics, and it packs plenty of power – it’s a top pick.
Ryobi’s 16-gauge AirStrike nailer has a 100-nail capacity and takes 16-gauge nails (i.e. nails of 1.6 millimetres diameter) with length ranging from 19 to 65 millimetres.
This baby weighs a substantial 2.7 kilogrammes but then you don’t have to deal with airlines or cables. It is a cordless kit that runs off an 18-volt battery from 1.5 Ah upwards . . . but a 5 Ah battery will make it even heavier than it already is! It would be smart to settle for a happy compromise.
Loading it is simple and straightforward. This gun has full sequential firing mode to enhance precise nail placement and also contact actuation mode (aka ‘bump’ mode) to enable rapid, rat-a-tat-a-tat firing. Both work a treat. It has a simple-to-use knob for depth adjustment.
Two LED lights come on when the handle is gripped; this is a very well-thought-out and useful feature. Another helpful feature is the low nail indicator.
Ryobi’s AirStrike is well balanced and feels good in the hand. The handle and trigger setup is just about the most ergonomic.
This cordless nailer is very powerful and so much so that you can load it with longer nails, all the way up to 65 millimetres, and use it for purposes such as installing floorboards and nailing hardwoods. As tough as this nail gun is, it will still protect your wooden surfaces courtesy of the non-mar pads.
This trouble-free kit merrily works away for prolonged periods but the longer you go, the more the chances of a jam. Fortunately, the jam release at the top is as quick and easy as Ryobi claims it to be.
Among the most well-reputed of finishing nailers, the Ryobi AirStrike 16G lives up to its reputation and edges the other excellent nail guns, reviewed below, as our Top Pick. It is a good choice for serious hobbyists as well as pros.
It comes with 2 non-marring pads, 500 50-millimetre nails, and a reversible (left or right side) belt hook.
Ryobi provides a 3-year warranty provided the purchase is registered.
- Powerful finishing nailer will tackle many types of tough carpentry jobs.
- Easy to switch between firing modes and adjust nailing depth.
- Though heavy, it is ergonomic, well-balanced, and feels good in hand.
- Quite heavy.
- Using it for longer and longer periods may induce a jam.
Taking either brads or staples, at its bargain price this 1-kilo VonHaus nail gun, versatile and user-friendly, punches well above its weight – and price.
Feather-light at only 1.1 kilogrammes, VonHaus’s Air Nail Gun is a brad gun cum staple gun. This is a pneumatic tool aka ‘air tool’ and works off an air compressor. At minimum, you would need a 24-litre air compressor with a flow-rate of at least 250 litres per minute at 6 bar.
The magazine holds up to 100 nails or staples. It takes 2-millimetre crown brad nails from 15 to 50 millimetres, and 5.7-millimetre ‘narrow crown’ staples from 16 to 40 millimetres.
You can set the pressure on the gun itself at the inlet, ranging from 60 PSI (4.14 bar) to 120 PSI (8.27 bar). On top of that, and further belying its budget-buy positioning, this kit also has a depth control setting. Rounding things off is the contact safety switch.
A slit-like window at the side of the magazine provides a view when 25 or fewer fasteners are left.
Though this kit can fire brads into thick woods or plywood, that’s not what is is suited for, nor is this DIY kit meant for extended use day-in, day-out. This model is a DIY kit and should not be expected to tolerate much abuse.
Though occasionally a unit may pack it in, if VonHaus’s Air Nail Gun is treated as the hobbyist-class tool that it is, it will prove to be a long-lasting, user-friendly tool.
Remarkably inexpensive, versatile, and sporting features well above its price point, the VonHaus Air Gun edges the Tacwise kit as our Value Pick because it is a very good DIY tool at a much lower, simply irresistible, price.
VonHaus provides a 2-year warranty provided the purchase is registered.
- Versatile nail gun can be loaded with either brads or staples.
- Both air pressure and depth control can be adjusted.
- The can’t-resist price.
- As a DIY kit it is not meant to withstand extended rough-and-ready use.
- Now and again a unit packs it in.
The calling cards of Tacwise’s brad nailer are reliability, durability, and big power . . . yet minimal kickback; add in bump firing, and we have a contender.
Tacwise’s pneumatic brad nailer is unusually lightweight at 1.2 kilogrammes. Rated to operate at an air pressure of ’60 to 100 PSI,’ (4.14 to 6.89 bar) a 24-litre air compressor with a flow-rate of 250 litres per minute at about 5 bar will suffice to power this nail gun.
The 100-nail magazine takes 18 gauge (1.21-millimetre diameter) nails in lengths from 20 to 50 millimetres.
Though one may not know it at first glance, the exhaust port is adjustable. The supplied hex key is specifically intended for loosening and tightening the nut to adjust the exhaust port at the rear of the unit. And this positioning is the kit’s only drawback because sooner or later you may get a shot of exhaust air in your face. In general, ergonomics is not this kit’s strength.
The depth to which nails are driven is also adjustable by way of a knurled knob just in front of the trigger, and it really provides for precise countersinking.
The contact valve at the nose allows contact firing aka ‘bump’ firing for efficiency and speed.
It drives brads in so cleanly and so deep that it can be used for any job at all where brads are an option, from birdhouses to palings. In fact, it has ample power to drive 50-millimetre nails into hardwood provided your air compressor is not a weak link. And it has next to no kickback.
Surprisingly hardy and hard-wearing for what is a mid-price model, this kit is good for light trade use. The build quality is very good and impressively so for its price point.
Not cheap enough to beat out the VonHaus kit as the Value Pick and unable to displace the Ryobi AirStrike as the Best Pick mainly because that one is a beefier 16 gauge finishing nailer, this excellent nail gun combines the qualities of a Best Pick and a Value Pick.
Comes in a solid carry case, and lubrication oil and a hex (Allen) key are included.
Tacwise provides a one-year warranty extendable to three years if the purchase is registered online.
- Hard-working, hard-wearing semi-professional nail gun at an ‘amateur price.’
- Given the quality of the kit, the intermediate price itself rates as a big ‘pro.’
- Reliability: one of the most reliable of nail guns.
- The positioning of the exhaust port is not user-friendly.
- Less ergonomic than most other nail guns.
High in quality and high in features like body bumper, no-mar tip, and more, Makita’s brad nailer justifies its price and is sturdy enough for trade use.
Makita’s feature-packed brad nail gun weighs 1.4 kilogrammes. Its 100-capacity magazine takes 18 gauge nails of lengths from 15 to 50 millimetres. It requires air pressure of 7 bar and higher.
Though certainly not meant to be an advertisement, a fair review of Makita’s brad nailer requires a rundown of its features. It has a no-mar tip that can be attached to the nose and also sports what is called a ‘body bumper’ (at the bottom) to further protect the workpiece.
Promoted as having a narrow nose to give access to tight corners, the Makita nailer’s nose is a hair narrower than those of other nailers.
The AF505N has depth adjustment by way of its air valve control, and the exhaust port is likewise adjustable. The nail magazine’s cam-lock opens and closes quickly and reliably. It has two nail indicator ‘windows;’ however, these could use some improvement.
Finally, it has a very comfortable handle with rubberised grip.
This brad nailer doesn’t lack for power; use it for any purpose up to and including driving 50-millimetre brads into hardwoods.
The only drawback to this kit is that it has a non-standard coupling for the airline. And the exhaust port at the rear may give you faceful of smelly air if you’re not careful.
This ‘feature-full’ nail gun is sturdy and solid and evinces excellent build quality. As with many Makita tools, this hobbyist-class nailer can be used by independent contractors.
This brad nailer comes in a hard carry case, and safety goggles and a bottle of oil are thrown in.
Makita provides a one-year guarantee which is extended to three years if the product is registered within 30 days of purchase.
- Having one-of-a-kind touches like the body bumper, this is one of the most feature-rich of nail guns.
- Solid all-round and excellent build quality.
- For a brad nailer, this one packs serious power.
- The positioning of the exhaust port is not user-friendly.
- Non-standard airline coupling.
Rugged and of super build quality, Bostitch’s coil nailer is also very comfortable and tackles medium-duty building jobs like siding, but it is very costly.
Bostitch’s coil nailer weighs in at 2 kilogrammes and has a magazine capacity of 225. It takes N-series fasteners of 2.03 to 2.5 millimetres in diameter, and between 32 and 64 millimetres in length.
This nailer is spec’d to be powered off an air compressor of 4.8 to 8.3 bar. One with a flow-rate of 150 litres per minute at 6 bar will suffice to fire 100 fasteners.
As Bostitch claims in its marketing materials, it is a quick and easy step to ‘dial a depth’ but what is more interesting is that you can quite easily and conveniently even swap triggers in and out. The kit comes with a sequential trigger; this one lets you place nails precisely, shot by shot. A contact-actuated or ‘bump’ trigger for the speed and convenience of rapid fire is available separately.
As long as you use the right fasteners of good quality you won’t have jams or misfires. The wrinkle with this nail gun is that the N-series nails it takes are not widely available in U.K. stores.
The N66C-2-E is ideal for siding, cladding, sheathing, fencing and similar uses.
This coil nailer has a comfortable and ’grippy’ handle. Its steel frame protects the nailer and a no-mar tip protects the workpiece. The overall build quality is very good and the kit has a rugged look and feel. Although this is a quality kit, it is rather expensive.
It comes in a hard carry case.
Bostitch provides a one-year warranty.
- The depth is adjustable and so is the firing mode, courtesy of interchangeable triggers.
- Powerful enough for a range of medium-duty building-related tasks.
- Looks and feels rugged and sturdy, and it is.
- Rather expensive, perhaps too expensive.
- N-series fasteners are not as widely available as other nails and brads.
How To Use A Nail Gun
- Disconnect the nail gun from the power source – mains, battery, or air compressor – before loading or unloading it. The safety should be on.
- Because nail guns vary as to how the strip of nails is inserted, it is best to consult the user guide.
- As a general rule, insert the strip of nails into the magazine, pointed ends forward. You will hear a click when the strip is securely inserted.
- Put on safety goggles.
- Hook up the nail gun to the power supply.
- If your nail gun has different firing modes, choose ‘Single Sequential’ mode.
- If your nail gun has depth settings, select the appropriate one. If your nail gun is pneumatic, adjust your air compressor to the appropriate pressure.
- Turn off the safety.
- If you’re using a particular nail gun for the first time or if you will be using it on a workpiece you cannot afford to damage, first do a test run on scrap wood that is similar in type and thickness to the actual workpiece.
- With your elbow slightly or somewhat bent, place the nose of the gun flush against the surface you intend to drive a nail into. In general, the body of the nail gun should be perpendicular to the surface of the wood.
- You can brace the gun with your other hand if you want to but keep it well away from the nose.
- Exert firm pressure on the nail gun and pull the trigger once.
Can You Use A Nail Gun On Concrete?
No and yes.
None of the nail guns reviewed here can be used on concrete but you can certainly use special concrete nail guns to hammer nails into concrete. As one may expect, such nail guns are neither battery-powered nor air powered and they are distinct from all other nail guns. These powerful machines, called powder-actuated nailers or ‘Ramsets,’ are actually really like guns as a firing pin actuates gunpowder in a .22 cartridge to cause a controlled blast, and this blast pressure drives a specialised nail into concrete (or almost anything else).