Nail Gun Review and Knowing Which Ones For You!

An old pro tradesman was asked not so long ago what the best nail gun was to use for general use. His answer was a good old claw hammer! He was right, in some ways. The trusty hammer can be used for virtually any type of job, never runs out of power and doesn't need any special type of nails. But if you've ever had to do any job that required hammering in lots of nails, you will really appreciate what a nail gun can do for you.


Nail guns, or nailers as they're also known, have come a long way since their introduction in the 1950s. There's now one for almost every job you can think of and it can be confusing to pick the right one. That's where we can help, as we've researched all the best nailers for you and have picked out what we think is the best one for each task. The tasks we’ve covered are the main areas that have a different nail gun specifically made for them. If you are only interested in one particular type then feel free to jump straight to that section, we don’t mind!

The Best Hardwood Floor Nailer

Flooring nailers are designed to make laying tongue and groove floor boards quick and easy. These guns have a handle on the top for extended reach, so you can place the nailer on the flooring at the right place without having to kneel down. There is a plunger just to the side that you then give a moderate whack with the rubber or nylon hammer provided. The nail will be driven in at the right depth and angle every time. Many of these types of nailers are air powered and so need an air supply of some kind to work.

Here is our selected model in this category:

Freeman PFL618BR 3-in-1 Pneumatic Flooring Nailer

Capacity & Performance

This air powered flooring nailer has been designed with both the professional and home user in mind. The 3-in-1 name comes from the fact the magazine can hold 3 different types of fasteners.

The first type 15 1/2 gauge staples with 1/2" crown, 1.5" to 2" lengths. The next type is 16-gauge L cleats ranging from 1.5" to 2". Finally, it can take 16-gauge T cleats ranging from 1.5" to 2".

Capacity wise this popular gun can hold between 100 cleats or 120 staples and the hard-wearing anodized aluminum rail is easy to load up. The nail gun can handle 1/2" to 3/4" solid tongue and groove hardwood flooring without a problem.

Most reviewers are very happy with the performance of the Freeman. Some comment that it even outperforms one or two of the more expensive contractor level machines!

After putting in around 300 sq. ft. of 3/4" oak floor I'm sold on this unit. Not one jam.

Aaron M.

Useful features

Comes with two interchangeable base plates that allow you to work with 1/2" and 3/4" flooClick to replace anchor textring. These base plates are easy to swap out and provide a non-marring face so that the hardwood boards do not get scratched or dented. The supplied air pressure for this model can be adjusted from 70-115psi. This lets you set the gun up for many different types and depths of wood. Check the manual for further info. The PFL618BR also features an internal air filter and high-quality O-rings for a better seal. The drive blade is also just one piece of hardened steel and seems to be pretty tough in use.

Weight & power supply

The Freeman nailer weighs in at just 12lbs thanks to its lightweight but durable aluminum construction. This is about right for a flooring nailer. Dimension wise it is 22.75" tall, 16.75" wide from front to back and 3.5" across. The power for this nailer comes from the air compressor and the force you provide when you hit the plunger. There is no electrical power needed for the unit itself.

What's in the box?

Besides the pneumatic nailer itself, you get everything you need with this model. A sturdy and roomy plastic case comes as standard together with some safety goggles, a small bottle of oil, a rubber mallet, and some hex keys. The hex keys are used for removing jams and checking the drive blade.

The gun arrived in a nice case with a sturdy hammer and an easy to understand manual. I never had a nail jam and the gun worked great

Steve O.
Maine US

The product also comes with a 7-year warranty! There are several reviews commending the service provided by the manufacturer. All report that their problem was dealt with quickly and easily.

Things to look out for

Despite the many positive reviews, there are just a few complaining about the gun jamming. This is a common problem with most nail guns and can be related to the way the gun is used as much as anything so be sure to read the user manual before use.

Note that fixing a jam involves using the hex keys to access the problem area. One reviewer mentioned that the hex keys provided are not long enough so you may want to make sure you have your own set.

There are many comments about how important it is to lubricate the gun with a drop of oil every 100 nails or so. This seems to avoid most common problems.

Summing it up

Available from Amazon the Freeman PFL618BR 3-in-1 Pneumatic Flooring Nailer is a real workhorse of a machine. You will find that it costs far less than many high end, contractor type guns but still performs well in comparison. It will help you get through most hardwood flooring jobs without wearing your knees out! The Freeman Flooring nailer comes highly recommended by most reviewers with few problems reported. If you are searching for a reliable, good value and efficient flooring nailer, we think you will be happy with the Freeman PFL618BR 3-in-1.

So, what are you waiting for??

The Best Framing Nailer

The framing nailers are the heavy-duty guys in the nail gun world. Used in the construction industry for wood framing in a building (hence the name) and anything requiring a powerful nailer. They frequently have to drive up to 3.5" nails (to join 2x4 pieces of wood) so they need to be rugged and dependable. It's also important for them to be as lightweight as possible as they are often used up ladders or in roof spaces. Like the flooring nailer, these beasts are powered by air so will need connecting to a standard compressor.

Let's take a look at our recommended model.

BOSTITCH F21PL Round Head Framing Nailer

Capacity & Performance

The Bostitch F21PL is a 21-degree pneumatic framer that is equally capable in both the hands of a professional or a weekend do-it-yourselfer. The 21 degree bit refers to the angle of the magazine in relation to the gun body.

You just need to make sure you buy the right type of nails to go in them. This nailer can hold up to 60 nails in the magazine and can drive plastic collated 2" to 3.5" full head framing nails or 1.5" to 2.5" metal connector nails.

Performance wise, you will not find a better framing nailer for the price. Most reviewers are very happy with their purchase with just a few reporting isolated issues.

It is light, powerful and never jams. Nails are readily available in many lengths, gauges, and finishes.

Seattle WA

This framer features one of the best power to weight ratios in its class with driving power of 1050 in/lbs. It does give quite a kick in use so something to be aware of when working up a ladder for instance.

Useful features

This model features two quick change nosepieces. One is for using it either as a straightforward framing gun and the other for fixing metal connectors. There is a smart trigger that allows you to use the gun in two different modes:

  • Sequential trip mode - a safe mode for driving individual nails more precisely. In this mode, you have to press the gun nose fully against the item being nailed and then press the trigger to fire.
  • Contact trip mode - in this mode, you can hold the trigger in and 'bump' the nose against the surface to fire a nail. Very useful for rapid nailing of sheet materials etc.

The magazine has a useful 16" layout indicator printed on it to help with accurate measuring of common nail spacing when nailing studs. This nailer can be used with HurriQuake disaster-resistant nails which may be important for you. There is also a patented nail drive depth adjuster which works at the touch of a button and many reviewers have found this a useful feature.

Easy to adjust for proper nail depth. Has a good solid feel with plenty of power. A little heavier than my prior gun but well balanced.

Walt G.

Weight & power supply

This framer is quite light in comparison to some other models, coming in at just 8.1lbs. This is the reason it has that class leading power to weight ratio. This is thanks to its lightweight magnesium design which is also extremely durable. It is however quite bulky at 20.25" long and 14.25" high.

There are few comments from reviewers that this makes it difficult to get into tighter spaces but it doesn't appear to be a big problem for most.

The Bostitch framer uses compressed air to provide the driving power so no electrics needed on the unit itself. It's rated to work at an operating pressure of between 80 and 120 psi which is fairly standard for most compressors.

What's in the box?

Beside the Bostitch framer you just get the two interchangeable nosepieces and the joist hanger in the box. The F21PL comes with a 7-year limited warranty against any problems caused by defects in materials and workmanship.

Things to look out for

As you should when using any power tools, make sure you are wearing eye protection when using this nailer. Besides the danger from misfired fasteners, the plastic used to collate the nails sheds small pieces during use. That's not a problem with the nailer, just a general issue with plastic collated nails.

Some people have found the sequencer mode to be a little difficult to get the hang of, but once mastered is a very safe way to use the nail gun. When using the metal connector nose piece, you will be unable to adjust the nail drive depth.

You will also only be able to use special metal connector nails with this nosepiece fitted. To switch between sequence or contact trip mode you need to change over to a different trigger. The type of trigger fitted determines which mode the nailer operates in.

The power that makes this such a great nailer does produce a big recoil so you need to take that into account when using up high. Practice first on some scrap wood down at ground level. There is no case at all provided and you will also need to make sure you have the correct oil readily available when using the nailer.

Summing it up

The Bostitch F21PL Round Head Framing Nailer is both lightweight and powerful enough for all framing jobs. It can handle subflooring, sheathing and bracing jobs as well and with the metal connector attachment, it is a truly versatile tool.

Once you get the hang of it, the sequencer mode is popular if you want to make sure you get the nail in just the right place. It also prevents unwanted extra nails being driven in that can happen in 'bounce' mode.

It's a shame the nail gun doesn't come with a case as there are few available that the Bostitch will fit into. Luckily, this nailer is very rugged so it will stand up to the knocks and bumps it gets through not being in a case.

This is a great frame nailer at a reasonable price from Amazon which is why we have recommended it as the best one to buy. Get the Bostitch F21PL for all your framing and construction jobs, and we think you will not be disappointed.

So, what are you waiting for??

The Best Cordless Finish Nailer

The finishing type of nail gun is just the job for all-round use indoors. They are usually used for fixing moldings around doors and windows and many other types of trim and other similar fittings. The type of fastenings used here are shorter than with the frame nailers, typically 1" to 2.5" and 14 to 16 gauge nails. Unlike our previous two types of nailers, these come powered either by air or as cordless electrical models. The usual features of this type of nailer include sequential or contact trip modes, tool-free jam clearance and drive depth adjustment. The model that we are recommending from this category is a cordless electric type, so let's take a closer look.

DEWALT DC618K XRP 18-Volt Cordless Angled Finish Nailer Kit

Capacity & Performance

The Dewalt DC618K gives you the power of a pneumatic air powered nailer with the convenience of a cordless and air hose-less design!

This finishing nailer can drive 16 gauge nails with lengths from 1.5" to 2.5" and holds up 120 nails in the 20-degree angle magazine. In bump mode, this powerful nail gun can fire up to 5 nails per second, so will have no problem keeping up with you no matter how quick you are.

Reviews are positive about its strong performance in the workplace. Many mention reliable, consistent results as being one of the best points about the Dewalt nailer. It's also much quieter than an air powered machine.

After 11 years of owning this Dewalt finish nailer I can say it is still a very dependable, well-built tool that can put up with worksite abuse.

Brockton, MA

Useful features

The DC618K comes loaded with lots of features that make it easy to use and work with. Easy access to the nosepiece provides tool-free removal of jammed nails. A simple selection switch changes between bump and sequential modes. There is also a trigger lock off function to disable trigger in contact trip (bump) mode. See the FAQ section at the end for an explanation of these modes. Drive depth is easily changed via a 6-position dial on this model with position 1 being the shallowest and 6 the deepest. Up front, there is an integrated LED headlight so that you can see where to put the nail. An integrated hook is included that allows you to hang the nail gun from a tool belt or on a joist. Also, the nose tip is built so that it will not mark the wood as you fire the nail into it.

Weight & power supply

At 8.5lbs the Dewalt Finish Nailer is not the lightest nailer out there and in fact, some users reported some arm fatigue using it for long periods.

Many others suggested it was not really a problem and the fact there was no compressor and air hose to lug around meant that it was much easier to use.

Size wise this model is not too chunky at 12.4" high, 12.5" long and 4.18" wide. Small enough to get into the places you would need to use it most of the time.

The DC618K is a cordless model so no surprise it runs off Dewalt 18V XRP batteries. These are much better than standard Ni-Cads but not as good as the Lithium Ion type.

They do provide ample run time for most uses and the nailer kit comes with one battery and a 1-hour charger. Extra battery packs are easily available.

What's in the box?

As well as the nailer itself, this kit comes with a 1-hour charger, 18V battery, reversible belt hook, safety glasses and a nice kit box. The Dewalt also comes with a 3-year limited warranty and 2 years free servicing. The warranty covers defective materials and workmanship as most do. The free servicing, however, means Dewalt will replace any parts worn out through normal use for free!

Things to look out for

This nailer is just for driving 16 gauge nails, you can't use it for staples or any other kind of fastener.

Love the flip out lever that allows easy change out of bent nails - it doesn't happen often - but when it does its fast and easy to unclog the unit.

S. Phillippy
Pennsylvania US

Some people have found this quite a heavy unit to use for all day use. Balance this with the convenience of no wires or hoses though when deciding if it's a factor. Remember also that it's much quieter than a pneumatic nail gun which may be an important factor. It is a bit more expensive compared to some of the air-powered finish nailers available, so check if that is going to affect your budget.

Summing it up

If you are not going to be using this finish nailer all day, then the Dewalt DC618K XRP 18-Volt Cordless Kit is pretty hard to beat. Reliable, easy to unjam and with enough power to cope with all finishing jobs there is a lot to like about the Dewalt. There are many reviews singing its praises and even some long-term users who have come back to comment on how rugged and long lasting the DC618K is. We think that with all its features and great free servicing for 2 years, there is no better buy on Amazon for a cordless finishing nailer at the moment.

So, what are you waiting for??

The Best Roofing Nail Gun

Roofing nail guns are built to use shorter nails with the larger heads used in roofing and siding. Lightweight and powerful they are air powered usually and the nails are held in a coil type magazine. Other common features are tool-free jam clearing and drive depth adjustment for ease of use when on the roof. Our chosen model below fulfills all these criteria with some other very useful features.

BOSTITCH RN46-1 Coil Roofing Nailer

Capacity & Performance

The air powered Bostitch RN46-1 has been designed as the must have tool for roofers and construction workers. It certainly lives up to its promise with plenty of great reviews and comments.

The high capacity magazine holds up to 120 coil nails that load through a side loading canister. It can fire nails with a length of 0.75" to 1.75" and that have a shank of up to 0.120 in diameter.

This roofing nailer is extremely powerful, delivering 410 in/lbs of force at 100 psi. More than enough power for most jobs. In the usual 'bounce' mode the RN46-1 has the ability to drive up to 100 nails per minute so it will be able to keep up with the most efficient of roofers.

Excellent tool, worked perfectly almost nonstop action for entire roofing job, made work so much easier.

R. Edmonds
Maine US

Useful features

The RN46-1 Roofing Nailer has quite a few useful features that make it stand out from the crowd. A zero-nail lockout feature stops the gun from firing when it's 'dry' i.e. there are no nails left in the magazine. It's also handy for letting you know when you need to reload.

The canister for loading the coil of nails has a single-action, side loading feature. This allows for quick and easy loading which is important considering where you might be when you need to reload! Drive depth control is provided by an integrated 5 position dial for easy changing on the go. This allows you to set up for any depth from shallow driving to countersinking and flush mount driving.

Two firing modes are available via different triggers - sequential trip and contact trip. The first one is for precision nailing and the other to rapidly drive nails using a bouncing motion. See the FAQ section at the end for more details. For shingle work, a tool-less gauge has been incorporated to allow for easy shingle spacing.

There is also easy access to the nosepiece to clear jams and check the drive mechanism. Integrated wear guards and skid pads provide protection for the nailer body and tip against the abrasive surfaces found on roofs. Last, but not least, an over-molded grip provides great gripping ability even in poor weather.

Weight & power supply

The Bostitch roofing gun is quite light coming in at just 4.9lbs making it one of the lightest roofing nailers available. Like other Bostitch nailers, this is mostly due to being made with a magnesium body which provides a light but strong construction.

Well balanced and one of the lightest guns I have ever used.

P. Holley
Albuquerque, NM

At just 10.5" long, 10.6" high and 4.6" wide the RN64-1 is a nice size for handling at height as well. This is an pneumatic machine so needs no electrical connections for the unit itself. The operating pressure is between 70 and 120 psi so this is well within the capabilities of most standard compressors.

What's in the box?

In the box, you just get the roofing nailer and nothing else. It does come with a 7-year limited warranty as well which covers you for defects in materials and workmanship.

Things to look out for

As with most roofing nailers, there is always the possibility of the unit jamming up. This can often be caused by using the wrong nail type or incorrect air pressure settings so always check those first. Even selecting the wrong shank diameter nail can make a difference. This model has been reported to have quite a kick in some reviews so make sure you hold it down securely when nailing. Unfortunately, this model does not come with a case, so you will need to buy something to carry it around in. The hard-wearing magnesium body means it will survive most knocks, though.

Summing it up

The Bostitch RN46-1 Coil Roofing Nailer is a tough, hardworking nail gun that will get the job done without any fuss or bother. It's suitable for all manner of roofing and siding materials including insulation board, exterior drywall, and fiber cement applications. Available at a very reasonable cost from Amazon, we don't think you will regret buying the Bostitch RN46-1 if you need a roofing nail gun with a solid performance.

So, what are you waiting for??

The Best Budget Brad Nailer

Our final category in our selection is for so-called brad nailers. These are used mainly for lighter, more delicate work. Common uses include upholstery and small wood projects or other work needing more precision. They get their name from the type of nail they use, which are small, thin nails, usually headless. These are specified as 18 gauge nails that vary in length from 5/8" to 2". Brad nailers run off either air power, cordless battery power or corded electrical power. They have the usual features found in other guns we've reviewed so let's take a look at our recommended model.

Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Brad Nailer

Capacity & Performance

For our final selection, we've gone for the Hitachi NT50AE which is an air powered model. This model takes 18 gauge 5/8" to 2-inch brad nails and the magazine can hold 100 nails at a time. The magazine is bottom loading which helps to make it quick and easy to load.

The Hitachi brad nailer has plenty of power to complete most jobs you would think about using it for. To back this up, many reviews are very positive about the performance of the nailer when used for all sorts of small carpentry projects.

This is one of the best tools I have ever had. Operates flawlessly every time.

J. Willard
El Paso, TX

Useful features

Many of the features on the NT50AE come as standard these days with most modern brad nailers, but let's take a quick look at some of them. There is an easy selection mechanism to switch between bump fire and sequential firing modes. A visual indicator on the magazine indicates when nail quantities are getting low. This helps to avoid driving a blank without realizing.

The mechanism to clear the nose of any jammed nails is completely tool-less as is the drive depth adjuster dial. This model is fitted with a 360-degree adjustable exhaust port to keep dust and debris from blowing onto delicate work. A narrow nose-piece and short height make this nailer easier to get into tight places and hard to reach corners. Finally, an elastomer grip provides for comfortable use and prevents the nailer from slipping.

Weight & power supply

This is one of the lightest brad nailers, or indeed any type of nailer. It weighs just 2.2lbs and is also compact at 10" long by 9.25" high and 2.4" wide. As with all pneumatic nailers, this unit needs no electrical power itself. To operate properly it will need 70-120 psi operating pressure.

This is by far the best brad nailer I have ever used in my 20 years as a trim carpenter. It is very lightweight, powerful, and looks great too!

M. Tiberg

What's in the box?

The Hitachi Brad Nailer comes with some safety glasses, hex bar wrenches, a carry case and a no-mar tip. It also has a 5-year limited warranty that guards against any defects in workmanship and materials.

Things to look out for

The lightest (or shallowest) depth setting on the driver can still be too powerful and drives the brad too deep. This is only a problem on soft material. Note that the case does not have room to store anything but the items that come with the nailer.

There have been isolated reports that the gun has problems firing the longest nails far enough into the wood. Most reviewers don't mention any problem using these, however.

A couple of reviewers also reported problems with nail jams which is quite a common complaint with most nail guns. Usually making sure you have the right nails and that the gun is lubricated properly can help.

Summing it up

The Hitachi NT50AE2 Brad Nailer is highly regarded by many people who use brad nailers and it's not difficult to see why. Robust design, very light and comfortable to hold plus easy to use features make this a sensible choice. Available at a budget friendly price on Amazon this brad nailer ticks all the right boxes and we don't think you will find a better buy right now.

So, what are you waiting for??

Why Use a Brad Nailer?

If you've read through our entire article from the start, congratulations! You already know why you would want to use a brad nailer instead of the other options. But if you haven't got time to read through and skipped to the sections you were interested in then we will quickly review the options. Really, a brad nailer is only comparable to a finishing nailer as the other types have more specific uses and are heavy duty.

Just to recap, the other types are the flooring nailer, the framing nailer and finally the roofing nailer. So, our question comes down to why would you use a brad nailer instead of a finishing nailer? In actual fact, both these types of nail guns are quite similar with the only difference being the type of nail you can use. Finishing nailers can handle bigger nails whereas brad nailers only use the small, thin nails which are usually headless. If you need to hold something larger or heavier up (such as the moulding around a window) and need a bigger nail, then use a finishing nailer. Anything smaller then a brad nailer will do the job for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which nail gun should I buy?

The answer to this one is very straightforward. Have a read through our article above and you will find out what the different nailers do! There are specific nailers for certain jobs but if you’re looking for one gun that can do a bit of everything, you may be out of luck!

2. Where to buy a nail gun?

We find that you can get really good deals on Amazon for most nail guns these days. They also offer an easy return policy just in case you buy something that isn't right for you.

3. Why use a nail gun

If you've ever had to hammer down lots of flooring or put together some timber framing, you will know the answer to this! Nail guns have made the whole process of constructing things made of wood, laying flooring or hammering down roofing so much easier and faster. No surprise then they are now one of the most widely used power tools in use today and that trend is only going to grow.

4. Are nail guns interchangeable?

Certain nails and fasteners can be used in different types of nailers, but you would just need to check your nail gun specification to be sure.

5. What do sequential and contract trip modes mean?

We discussed this earlier in the article, but to recap:

  • Sequential trip mode - a safe mode for driving individual nails more precisely. In this mode, you have to press the gun nose fully against the item being nailed and then press the trigger to fire.
  • Contact trip mode - in this mode, you can hold the trigger in and 'bump' the nose against the surface to fire a nail. Very useful for rapid nailing of sheet materials etc.

6. What kind of air compressor do I need to run a pneumatic nailer?

There are many standard compressors available these days that can provide enough air power for most nailers. Check on your particular nailer for things like psi (pounds per square inch) and cfm (cubic feet per minute) to make sure the compressor is up to the job.

PowerToolQuest Conclusion

This has been quite a journey covering all the different types of nailers but we hope you have enjoyed it and now have a good idea of which one you are going to buy. Just to sum it up, if you know what job you need to do, then choosing the right nailer should be straightforward. You might end up with one for each task, but that’s a good thing as very often, a nailer advertised as being able to do lots of jobs, does none of them very well!

Happy nailing!

Why not check out our other reviews below!!

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