Whether you run a dedicated workshop or need to do a quick repair, nothing compares to the nail gun. Speed, precision, and ease of use are essential in today’s fast-paced and demanding environment. While the hammer will never go out of style, it simply is no match for the gun.
Before purchasing a nailer, you should consider a few things. A variety of nail guns are available on the market, and they cater to different needs. Also, nail size requirements differ, and guns can be powered in a few ways. The wrong nail gun is a recipe for disaster, so choose wisely. Here we run through the various nail guns that are widely in use today, and what it is that sets each one of them apart.
Power tools are extremely useful but can be very dangerous without knowing what you are doing. Thankfully, nail guns have been designed with precautionary measures, such as the dual-action contact-trip trigger feature, but nothing will ever be fail-proof.
The dual-action contact-trip trigger is a common feature in nailers. Here, the nail can only fire if both the trigger is squeezed and pressure is applied to the tip of the gun.
Still safer is the Sequential-trip-trigger which requires the trigger to be squeezed and then released, as well as pressure applied to the tip of the gun, before firing.
While safer, the sequential-trip-trigger slows things down because the trigger must be released every time, before moving on. With the dual-action-contact-trip-trigger, nails can be fired more rapidly, but the operation is higher risk.
Still, these guns operate slower than nail guns that require nothing more than squeezing the trigger. Such guns allow for “bump firing” which results in very rapid work, but can be difficult to control and very dangerous.
Nail guns are powered in several ways. Consider these three popular choices when selecting a gun.
Pneumatic nail guns are very common and are powered by compressed air. Air powered tools can be exceptionally powerful, making them a good choice for sizable tasks, however, mobility will be somewhat restricted. This is because the gun must be hooked up to the air compressor via an air hose.
Next, we have electric nail guns, that can be battery powered (cordless) or wall powered (corded). Cordless nail guns are an attractive option due to their mobility, but they do not possess nearly the amount of power as that of pneumatic guns.
Finally, fuel-driven guns require a gas cartridge to operate. These are powerful guns that can be utilized for heavy-duty work, without the restriction of a power hose.
Everything boils down to your specific needs. Know your requirements before making a purchase.
Framing nailers are serious power tools meant for heavy-duty projects, such as house framing, deck construction, and other types of heavy construction. In the main, framing guns are pneumatic, however, both battery-powered and fuel-powered nailers are sold on the market.
If you plan on using a framing nailer daily, and especially if you already own an air compressor, opt for a pneumatic. If you will be using your gun occasionally, consider the cordless. Remember that even if you already own a pneumatic, a cordless framing nailer may be necessary for tight spaces that can’t be reached with an air hose.
Framing nailers are the most powerful guns in the shed and require big nails. Framing nail guns will use up to 31/2” nails, although some cap out at a slightly lower size.
There are two types of Framing nail guns: Coil nailers and Stick nailers. Coil nailers use an adjustable canister that is loaded with a coil of up to 300 nails, held together with thin wire. These guns need to be reloaded less frequently than Stick nailers because they hold many more nails. Coil nailers can also be easier to operate due to their more compact design. Still, these guns can be very heavy when fully loaded, and may be difficult to work with, especially when doing overhead work.
Stick nailers are less popular but still much used. These guns offer a long magazine that is angled so that the nails lay one above the other. Stick nailers differ in how sharply the magazine is angled, which dictates what type of nail can be used, so make sure that you know what kind of nail you require. Often building codes set the nail requirements, so keep updated.
While Roofing nailers may look like Framing nailers, they aren’t general purpose guns. Only consider a roofing nailer if you need to apply roof shingles to roofs or for siding. While both stick and coil nail guns are potential candidates, Coil nailers are the gun of choice for roofing guns.
Some reasons why roofing guns are usually coil is because they offer more nail choices, longer working periods between loading, and the ability to carry the gun around more compactly.
Unlike framing nails, roofing nails are short and have wide, large heads. Naturally, a roofing nailer is designed to hold those kinds of nails.
The flooring nailer is arguably the most unique. These guns are specially designed to make laying floorboards fast and easy, and as such are less versatile than other nailers. When installing hardwood flooring with Flooring nailers, you should remain standing rather than getting down on your knees. This makes the whole process much easier and a lot quicker.
After your flooring is positioned correctly, simply place the gun against the edge of the board and strike the top with a mallet that most likely came with the gun. With a moderate blow, the nail will be driven precisely in place, and you can quickly slide your nail gun along to the next spot.
If you are searching for a general use gun to replace your hammer, consider the Finishing nailer. While it isn’t meant for roofing or flooring, it is arguably the most useful gun you can own.
The Finishing nailer is smaller than most and angled, allowing for easier access into tighter spaces. It uses shorter nails, typically 14-16-gauge, and 1” to 2 1/2” nails. While this gun isn’t meant for heavy-duty work, it’s excellent for many common jobs, such as baseboard installation, chair rails, indoor trim, door and window casing, crown molding, cabinet making, and more.
As mentioned, finishing guns use 14-16-gauge nails. The gauge will tell you how many nails there are per inch. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the nail. An 18 gauge (as used in a Brad nailer) means that a one-inch strip of nails holds 18 nails. A 15 gauge will hold only 15 nails, meaning that each nail will be a little thicker.
Finishing gun nails are thick enough for many uses, however, they do leave a crater. If you do not want the nails to be seen in your work, or if you are afraid that the wood may split, you need a gun that uses thinner nails.
A brad is a thinner gauge nail. The Brad Nailer is a lighter duty tool than the Finishing nailer, using 18-gauge nails that are up to 2” in length
Brad nailers are not angled and brads have thin diameters. This makes this gun an optimal choice for upholstery, narrow trim and molding, and other smaller wood projects with more risk of wood splitting. Also, because Brad guns use such thin nails, they leave a barely noticeable mark, which is ideal and often necessary for precision work.
While the Brad nailer has less general applications than the slightly larger Finishing nailer, it does come in handy, and it is necessary for delicate work. If you are looking to cover all your bases, you might want to consider a combo pack that includes a Brad.
Pin nailers use 23-gauge micro pin nails, which has a thickness like that of a sewing needle. These headless fasteners offer an impressive amount of holding power in the right circumstances, and can effortlessly penetrate the hardest woods.
23-gauge nails are ideal for delicate trim pieces. They barely leave a trace and can disappear under a coat of paint.
The Pin nailer shouldn’t be the first gun you to consider for your workshop, however, it holds a useful purpose. When dealing with delicate or refined furniture that requires needle sized nails, this gun will speed up the process and offer exceptional results.
This is a list of common nail guns. Some are more general purpose and versatile, while others are built with a specific purpose in mind. Aside from the type of gun, consider the power source, the design of the gun, and the type of nails you require.
More expensive nail guns will offer more options, but never lose focus on the essentials. Finally, consider all the safety options currently available for nail guns and choose wisely, because safety should always remain your number one priority.