What Kind of a Nail Gun Do I Need?

You’re ready to start your next project and have decided that it’s time to buy a nail gun to help make the process easier and faster, but what nail gun do you need? Nailers come in a variety of styles, including framing, finishing, and brad models. Each of these tools is designed to tackle certain kinds of woodworking projects and is built to work with specific fasteners. In addition to that, there are several power choices available such as pneumatic, gas-powered, and electric. To help you decide which nail gun is right for your next project, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular options out there.

Framing Nail Gun

The largest and most powerful nail gun available is the framing nailer. These models are built to handle large projects that call for heavy-duty nails and fasteners. Perfect for construction, building, and manufacturing, these nail guns are ideal for a variety of applications such as framing walls and homes, building fences and pallets, and installing roofing and sub-flooring.

These heavy-duty models are designed with depth-drive adjustment features that allow you to set the driving depth of your nail based on the intended application. And with their ability to hold up to 3 ½” long framing nails in their magazine, are perfect for driving nails into 2X4’s.

Finishing Nailers

Finishing nail guns are perfect for less demanding projects. Designed to work with 14 to 16-gauge 1” to 2 ½” finishing nails, this tool is one of the best all-around nailers available for indoor trim and other similar projects. These models also feature tool-free depth-drive adjustment features and are ideal for tackling a variety of home renovation and improvement applications. The most popular uses for finishing guns are projects involving paneling, baseboard, crown molding, door and window trim, furniture, shelving, chair rails, and cabinetry.

Brad Nail Gun

Brad nailers are designed to work with 18-gauge brads ranging from 5/8” to 2” in length. While these tools are often confused with finishing nailers, there are several important differences besides the fact that most of these models are slightly smaller than the finishing tools on the market. The major differences are that the magazine isn’t angled like those in finishing and framing nailers and brads are shorter than finishing nails and don’t have a nail head.

These models are ideal for small wood projects that require optimum precision. Because the brads lack nail heads, they leave a smaller hole to fill with putty while still offering impressive holding strength. Due to this, brad nailers are perfect for a variety of home applications such as installing quarter-round, shoe, baseboard, crown, and stop moldings, upholstery projects, adding trim to cabinets and other wood furniture items, and building small hobby items such as picture frames.

Nail Gun Nail Sizes

As we mentioned, each nailer works with different-sized fasteners. So before you go out and purchase a box of plastic-collated nails, you need to take what style of nail gun you’ll be using into consideration. Framing nailers use thicker, angle nails ranging between 1 ½” to 3 ½”, though for most framing applications a minimum nail length of 3” is recommended.

Finishing nailers are thinner than framing nails since they are meant for lighter applications and more precision. These nails are normally 14 to 16-gauge with a length between 1” to 2 ½”. Finally, brad nails come in an even thinner design, perfect for not splitting thin pieces of wood. Brads are normally 18-gauge and range from 5/8” to 2” in length.

Nail Gun Power Options

Since all nail guns require some sort of pressure to be generated in order to fire the nail at high speed, they all need a power source. There are three choices out there: pneumatic, fuel-driven, and electric.

Pneumatic Models

Pneumatic nailers use a separate air compressor that is connected to the tool by an air hose to supply the pressure needed to drive nails deep into thick wood. The most powerful option out there, they’re incredibly popular on construction sites and are the most common model used by professionals. The downside to these models is that you need to be connected to the compressor by an air hose which can sometimes limit your mobility. But what the tool lacks in portability is more than made up for in sheer power and performance.

Fuel-Driven Models

These cordless models offer the benefit of being untethered to air compressors and air hoses, making them far easier to operate. They offer comparable power to pneumatic models but instead of its driving force being supplied by a compressor, these models use fuel-cartridges which feed small amounts of fuel into a combustion chamber. This fuel is then ignited by a spark created by the tool’s battery, creating a tiny explosion that is used to generate the driving force the tool needs to fire nails.

The downside of these models is that most gas-cartridges are capable of firing around 500 fasteners. So for extended operations that call for an extensive amount of nailing, replacement cartridges will be needed, adding to the cost of operation.

Electric Models

Electric nailers use either an electrical cord or a rechargeable battery to generate the driving force needed to operate. The more popular choice out of the two is by far the battery-operated model since it offers increased mobility. These tools operate by using an electric motor to generate the driving pressure of the nail gun (read our top list). While these models might lack some of the power that pneumatic models provide, they are incredibly popular simply because they allow you to use the tool virtually anywhere. And with a spare rechargeable battery on hand, you can simply swap out batteries when the driving power starts to drop.

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