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- As a DIY-er, having the right power tool in your hand can make you feel like a professional contractor.
- When you want that pro-level feeling in a nail gun, you’re going to appreciate the Bostitch F21PL nail gun for framing. This is a versatile nail gun that can help you complete both heavy- and light-duty work around the house.
Even if you consider yourself to be a handy-person around the house, you may draw the line at using certain types of power tools, such as, say, nail guns. After all, you may feel like these power tools seem too dangerous for the average person.
Perhaps your distrust of nail guns stems from terrifying scenes involving nail guns from TV shows like “American Horror Story” or even amusing yet painful scenes from shows like “The Simpsons” — If you’ve ever wondered what could go wrong with a nail gun, you just need to see a baby like Maggie get her hands on one.
TV shows aside, the truth is you can use a nail gun safely with just a few precautions and some common sense. And once you’ve put the power of a nail gun behind a tough home improvement project, you’ll wonder why you ever worked without one.
Types of nail guns
One thing you’ll notice with nail guns is that there are far more specialty products in this category than there are in most power tool categories. According to the Casual Craftsman, brad, finish, and framing nail guns are the most common options for general use, but other types of nail guns will be able to perform specific types of jobs for you.
Picking the right nail gun is important in ensuring you have the right tool for the job, according to Lowes. We break dwon the main types below:
- Brad: The brad nailer uses very small nails with tiny heads. It’s used for hanging woodwork around door frames, for example.
- Finishing: A finishing nailer is another type of general nail gun that you can use for many jobs around the house. It uses smaller nails than a framing nailer. The finishing nail gun is made more for precise work, such as assembling furniture.
- Flooring: A flooring nail gun lays out hardwood floorboards. This type of nailer is designed to work in conjunction with the other tools you use to install the individual boards, according to Dengarden, which makes the flooring nailer convenient to use.
- Framing: This type of nail gun is best for general work around the home. You can use it for framing a room or for building a deck, for example. It uses standard-sized nails with round heads.
- Roofing: A roofing nail gun is a heavy-duty gun that can install roof nails quickly and efficiently. It’s not really made for any other type of job.
The best thing about a nail gun is the power with which this tool can drive nails. A good nail gun gives you amazing accuracy, drives nails into many hardwood surfaces, and discharges 10 nails in the time you could drive one nail by hand with a hammer.
As a couple of safety precautions, always wear high-impact safety goggles when working with a nail gun. And if you have small children in the area, look for a tool that has a trigger lock, which prevents children from inadvertently discharging nails. Homer Simpson wishes he would’ve had this feature.
Here are our picks for the best nail guns you can buy:
- Best overall: Bostitch F21PL
- Best brad nailer: Porter-Cable PCC790LA
- Best finishing: DeWalt D51257K
- Best affordable: Hitachi NR90AES1
- Best roofing: Bostitch RN46
Updated 10/25/2019 by Owen Burke: Updated copy, prices, formatting, and links.
The best nail gun overall
The Bostitch F21PL is a nail gun that’ll have you feeling like a pro because so many contractors and construction workers make use of this same brand and model.
When you are looking for a reliable power tool that will serve DIY-ers as if they were pros, visit some commercial construction projects and see what they’re using. When it comes to nail guns, the Bostitch F21PL will be a common sight.
The F21PL is a popular nail gun among contractors and professional construction people, but it carries a fair price point that makes it a good choice for at-home use, too. Pro Tool Reviews says this is a great nail gun for serious DIYers who want to use a professional-level tool without paying too much.
The Bostitch nail gun has a host of useful features, including the ability to change nail depth with the push of a button. In its review, Framing Nailerz particularly liked this feature because it makes it easy to adjust nail gun settings on the fly.
This pneumatic device reaches 1,050 inch/pounds of driving power, so you know the nails will fire without any struggle. However, you will have to purchase an air compressor separately. The nail gun can make use of nails between 1.5 and 3.5 inches in length. Framing Nailer Hub loves how powerful this nail gun is and its consistency.
Jams are a common problem among nail guns designed for at-home users, but one Amazon reviewer said jams are rare with the Bostitch F21PL. A few Amazon buyers say they’ve experienced some problems with this nail gun’s longevity, though, so keep that in mind.
Pros: Trusted by professionals, delivers many features that will make jobs easier to complete, works with a range of nail lengths, rarely suffers nail jams, reasonable price
Cons: Will need to buy an air compressor separately, may provide more power than some DIY-ers actually need
The best brad nailer
The Porter-Cable PCC790LA brad nailer provides plenty of power to perform all kinds of woodworking projects, but it’s also a reliable model that rarely jams.
Even though brad nails are small and thin, you don’t want to skimp on the nail gun that you’ll use to drive these nails. A small brad nailer will not drive the nails properly, leaving your woodworking project a mess. The best mixture of nailing power, value, and convenience comes from the Porter-Cable PCC790LA brad nailer.
This brad nail gun includes a 20-volt battery, which yields good longevity for completing projects, while also giving you portability. The Porter-Cable PCC790LA works with 18-gauge brad nails.
Pro Tool Reviews appreciates the performance level of this brad nailer, saying jams were rare and the unit maintained a consistent nail depth, even when the battery was running low.
The Woodworkers Journal review likes the PCC790LA as an at-home brad nailer, in large part because of its lightweight design. The Heralds Route agrees, saying the battery-powered Porter-Cable PCC790LA is convenient and efficient, which DIY-ers will appreciate.
One Amazon customer calls the PCC790LA an extremely versatile tool, as it works with many different types of woodworking projects.
However, a few Amazon reviewers say the longevity of this Porter-Cable brad nailer is questionable.
Pros: Minimal nail jams, more power than most brad nailers, battery power, maintains nail depth when power is waning, lightweight and portable power tool
Cons: Longevity of this brad nail gun is questionable, costs a bit more than less-powerful brad nailers
The best finish nail gun
The DeWalt D51257K finish nail gun handles any size of project perfectly.
Power tools that can do it all work well for DIY-ers, who need versatility to handle whatever jobs pop up around the house. If you’re looking for a finish nail gun that’s up for any task, you’ll love the DeWalt D51257K nail gun. This pneumatic nail gun has many great features for an affordable price.
The versatile D51257K will accept 16-gauge nails between 1 and 2.5 inches in length. It has a good amount of power, making it quite versatile. Nailer Reviews says the DeWalt D51257K nail gun works well for both small and large projects.
Buyers agree that this nail gun is perfect for use at home, and many like how easy it is to use. An Amazon reviewer says it’s easy to trust the quality of all DeWalt tools, and the D51257K is no exception. Reviewers and buyers alike say it doesn’t have any major flaws, making it a great deal for the price.
The Healthy Handyman review appreciates all of the features available with the D51257K model, including easy depth adjustment, an adjustable exhaust for the pneumatic nailer, and a tool-free jam clearing.
However, one Amazon buyer was disappointed with the means for loading nails into the clip, which is more difficult than it should be.
Pros: Good price point for such a versatile nail gun, trusted brand name in all types of power tools, runs from an air compressor for an excellent level of power, can handle both large and small projects equally well
Cons: Nails can be difficult to load into the rail, will have to buy air compressor separately
The best nail gun value
Framing nail guns like the Hitachi NR90AES1 deliver a lot of power and versatility, which DIY-ers love to see.
When considering which power tool you want to purchase, you certainly will want good value with plenty of power. For a pneumatic framing nail gun, the Hitachi NR90AES1 is a smart choice, as it provides good performance at a good price. You do have to purchase an air compressor separately, though.
The NR90AES1 has the ability to perform light or heavy-duty jobs, making it a handy tool for all kinds of DIY projects. It’s also a versatile nail gun that makes it easy to change the depth adjustment of the nail between countersink and flush. In its writeup, Nailer Reviews likes that this nail gun can perform just about any task with ease.
You’ll appreciate the rubber grip and the lightweight design of the Hitachi nail gun, and reviewers at the Framing Nailers Guide say you can work for long periods of time without fatigue. This Amazon buyer agrees, saying this pneumatic nailer has plenty of power, yet it’s also comfortable to use.
The Framing Nailers Hub says this tool’s design is well-balanced, which gives it plenty of stability, making it easier to work when you are reaching to install that last nail.
However, a few Amazon reviewers say the longevity of this nail gun is questionable, and it also jams up more often than they’d like.
Pros: Excellent price for a framing nail gun, well-balanced design, comfortable to use, stable performance, works for many jobs around the house
Cons: May not last as long as some other models, you may have some problems with nail jams, requires separate purchase of air compressor
The best roofing nail gun
Roofing is a hard job, but the Bostitch RN46 nail gun makes it a bit easier.
Although you may not use a roofing nail gun very often, when you do need one, it’s important to have one that will fit your needs. The pneumatic Bostitch RN46 nail gun has a lightweight design that allows you to work for long periods without suffering fatigue, all at a good price point. You will have to purchase an air compressor separately.
The RN46 features a coil-style magazine, ensuring you can load it with a lot of nails and work for longer periods between reloads. Top Nailer Reviews says you can find the common roofing nails that will fit this Bostitch roofing nailer at local hardware stores, which is a significant benefit.
The Fine Homebuilding review was concerned about the lightweight RN46 causing an unwanted recoil when working but found that the tool is able to sink all lengths of nails without recoil, allowing you to work fast. The Bostitch RN46 will work with nail lengths between 0.75 and 1.75 inches.
Bostitch has a reputation as a top-notch nail gun manufacturer, and the Toolerant review says the RN46 continues to fit that narrative. One Amazon customer agreed after completing an entire roofing project with no problems using the RN46.
However, a few Amazon reviewers say the RN46 is subject to nail jams that slow down the work pace, as well as suffering from issues with longevity.
Pros: Good price for a roofing nail gun, lightweight design allows you to work for extended periods of time, doesn’t suffer from recoil that could cause sporadic nail depth, easy to find nails that will fit
Cons: Some issues with the longevity of this model, requires purchase of an air compressor separately
Things to look for in a nail gun
Types of feeder systems for nail guns
Nail guns will make use of one of two types of feeder systems: coil and strip.
A coil-style nail gun uses a magazine of nails held together with wire that loads into a round feeder on the nail gun. Larger types of nails, such as roofing nails, often are made specifically for a coil-style nail gun, which holds a lot of nails, according to eBay.
A strip-style nail gun uses a flat magazine of nails, usually held together with paper or glue. The flat magazine of nails slides into a feeder area on the nail gun near the nose.
Firing modes for nail guns
As The Home Depot points out, you should consider the type of firing mode the nail gun offers. Some nail guns offer more than one type of firing mode.
A bounce-style trigger on a nail gun allows you to work fast. As soon as you depress the nose of the nail gun against the surface where you want to place the nail, a nail will be ejected. This is a common type of trigger for a roofing nail gun so the work can be done fast. However, if you’re inaccurate with the placement of the nose of the nail gun, you’ll have a lot of misfires.
A sequential-style trigger on a nail gun will force you to depress a trigger to eject a nail. This is the most common style of nail gun for at-home use. As an added safety measure, some sequential trigger nail guns will force you to depress the nose of the nail gun against the surface being nailed and then pull the trigger to eject a nail.
Power sources for nail guns
Nail guns primarily will run from three different types of power sources: battery, combustion, and pneumatic.
For smaller nail guns, such as brad nailers, a battery-powered unit works well. Often times, if you already own a power drill or hand saw that runs from a battery, you can purchase a battery powered nail gun from the same manufacturer. This allows you to use the same rechargeable batteries for all of your power tools. A battery nail gun will not deliver heavy-duty performance though.
A combustion nail gun runs from a fuel source. Because the fuel is contained in a cartridge that attaches to the nail gun, this style offers portability and a lot of power. However, this is not a common type of nail gun found for at-home use. It’s made more for commercial work that will be done outdoors, such as home building or roofing.
For many people, a pneumatic nail gun provides the perfect mix of power and usefulness, according to the Nail Gun Depot. A pneumatic nailer uses an attached air compressor to drive the nails.
A pneumatic nail gun typically will not include an air compressor, so you must purchase this separately (although you can use the air compressor for multiple types of power tools). You will have to have a hose attached to your nail gun, providing air power to the tool, which can get in the way while you’re working.
A pneumatic nail gun will be loud, as air compressors make a lot of noise. But for those who plan to use the nail gun often for projects that require power and speed, a pneumatic nail gun is a smart choice.
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