The Best Brad Nailer Options of 2022

If you’re tackling some finish work at home, these tools will help nail the end results.

By Tom Scalisi | Updated Mar 29, 2022 2:40 PM

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The Best Brad Nailer Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

The brad nailer is one of the tools that helped spur the DIY movement and made many projects accessible to home DIYers and pros alike. Brad nailers use smaller nails (18 gauge) that are less likely to split fine moldings, unlike a finish nailer’s larger 16-gauge nails. Brad nailers also have smaller noses, allowing DIYers to nail into the most intricate moldings without leaving a nailhead standing proud. The result? DIYers can tackle trim, cabinet, and furniture projects without bruising their thumbnails or denting their workpieces with errant hammer blows.

Shopping for the best brad nailer—one that is high-quality and suited to the project—will level up the results. This guide will point shoppers in the right direction when it comes to choosing one of the best brad nailers for most home trim and cabinet projects.

  1. BEST OVERALL: BOSTITCH Brad Nailer Kit (BTFP12233)
  2. RUNNER-UP: Metabo HPT Brad Nailer Kit (NT50AE2)
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WEN 61721 18-Gauge Pneumatic Brad Nailer
  4. UPGRADE PICK: Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Brad Nailer (XNB01Z)
  5. BEST PNEUMATIC: DEWALT Finish Nailer Kit, 18GA (DWFP12231)
  6. BEST ELECTRIC: DEWALT 5-in-1 Multi-tacker and Brad Nailer
  7. BEST CORDLESS: PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer (PCC790LA)
The Best Brad Nailer Option

Photo: amazon.com

Types of Brad Nailers

There are two main types of brad nailers available for DIYers and pros: pneumatic and electric. Each style has its own pros and cons, and there are even sub-categories. Understanding how they work and the benefits and drawbacks of each will help when choosing the best brad nailer.

Pneumatic Nailers

Pneumatic nailers use compressed air to drive a nail into a workpiece. They come in many styles, including framing and roofing nailers, finish nailers, brad nailers, and pin nailers.

The benefit of pneumatic nailers is that they’re generally less expensive than electric nailers. They’re relatively simple tools that the average user can service if they run into an issue. They do need oiling from time to time, but other than that, they hold up well with little attention.

The drawback of pneumatic nailers is that they need an air compressor and a hose. Air compressors are loud and can be inconvenient, and the hose can be a tripping hazard in some scenarios. It can also limit the mobility and range that a carpenter or a DIYer can reach with the nailgun.

Electric Nailers

Electric nailers, as the name suggests, use electricity to fire fasteners. They come in two varieties: corded and cordless.

Corded nailers require the user to plug the tool into an outlet or an extension cord. The benefit is that the user will never have to worry about the battery dying and swapping power sources, so there’s less of a sap on workflow.

Cordless nailers use batteries, and their size and portability make them an excellent option for most DIYers. Since a DIYer isn’t likely to fire 1,000 nails in the course of a day, a battery-operated cordless nailer can be a smart purchase.

What to Look for When Buying a Brad Nailer

Other than the types of nailers available, the following list includes some additional considerations DIYers should be aware of before deciding which brad nailer will work best for a trim, molding, or cabinet project.

Tool-Free Jam Release

Nail guns jam from time to time for many reasons. It could be that the user accidentally fed the wrong-sized nails into the magazine, the pressure isn’t correct, or the user pulled the trigger twice. Regardless of why jams happen, they can grind workflow to a halt.

Look for a brad nailer with tool-free jam release. These nailers feature knurled or textured knobs that allow the user to take the mechanism apart by hand, clear the jam quickly, and screw it all back together. They won’t have to dig for a wrench or a pair of pliers, allowing them to clear a jam from the top of a ladder or a scaffold and keep working.

Depth of Drive

Like all fastening tools, brad nailers will react differently to certain materials. For instance, a nailer may drive a fastener straight through a piece of pine, leaving the head buried beneath the surface for a smooth finish. That same nailer may then drive a fastener into a tougher material like oak, leaving the head of the brad standing proud on the surface by as much as 1/8-inch.

To help users dial in the correct drive depth, some brad nailers come with depth adjustments. They typically adjust with a thumbscrew, allowing the user to choose the perfect result. However, keep in mind that some pneumatic nailers will fire differently depending on the compressor’s pressure.

Dry Lockout

Running out of nails isn’t the end of the world. However, firing an empty nailer against a workpiece can leave an unsightly mark that DIYers will have to fill before the project is complete. Also, when working above a cabinet, along the floor, or in a tight spot, it’s often difficult to tell when the brad nailer is running low.

Brad nailers with dry-lockout features let users know when they’re out of brads. The nose won’t depress, preventing the user from activating the trigger. This prevents unnecessarily marring of workpieces, or users thinking that they’ve fastened through the field of a trim piece only to find it falls over the second they walk away.

Exhaust Air Control

Adjustable exhaust ports can make a huge difference in how safe or comfortable a job can be. Look for brad nailers with exhaust air control settings that allow users to direct the exhaust port away from their face or a pile of compound dust above a cabinet.

By twisting the plastic covers on the rear of some brad nailers, users can point the burst of air away from their face, eyes, and ears. The cover keeps things cleaner and safer, as the tool is less likely to blow dust under safety glasses or into the eyes.

Nailing Modes Control

Brad nailers work in one of two ways: single shot and automatic. While trim work is rarely a production-oriented project, there are reasons why one setting might be better than the other.

When nailing a large workpiece to a stable sub-material, like wainscot frames over a plywood substrate, switching a brad nailer to automatic, or “bump” mode, can help the job go faster. In this mode, the user holds the trigger down and bumps the nose against the workpiece to fire brads.

For more intricate nailing, like small trim or crown molding, users switch the nailer to single-shot mode. They can then position the nailer exactly where they want it by pressing the nose against the workpiece and adjusting as needed. Once satisfied, they can pull the trigger and fire one nail.

Ease of Use

Since all nailers work similarly, the ease of use comes down to some finer details. The quality of the product matters since poorly-built brad nailers won’t function properly. The nose may jam while pressing it into off-angled moldings, and fasteners may not drive as deeply as necessary.

Also, how easy it is to load the nailer with a fresh set of brads makes a significant difference. Refilling the tool while kneeling or on the top of a ladder is common, so it should be as easy as possible to load. The best brad nailers typically allow users to feed a stick of brads into the magazine and then pull a spring-loaded latch down to feed them into the nailer.

Maintenance vs. Maintenance-free

Pneumatic brad nailers come in two styles: maintenance required and maintenance-free. While the actual maintenance involves just a few drops of oil down the inlet port, there is a reason why maintenance-free might be the preferred option.

Brad nailers that require oil circulate that oil throughout the nailer using air pressure. That air pressure then exits the nailer, and along with it, some oil. In most cases, this isn’t a big deal, but for delicate surfaces that might receive paint or stain, this oil can affect the final product’s finish.

Our Top Picks

This list of top picks for the best brad nailers was compiled using all of the key considerations listed above. There are electric and pneumatic options on the list, as well as some cordless options to improve the user’s range and workflow. Choosing one of these brad nailers will help ensure great results for trim, molding, or cabinet projects.

Best Overall

The Best Brad Nailer Option: BOSTITCH Nail Gun, Brad Nailer, (BTFP12233)
Photo: amazon.com

Anyone looking for an overall top-quality brad nailer may want to check out the Bostitch BTFP12233. This brad nailer fires 18-gauge brad nails between 5/8 and 2 ⅛ inches long. It also features a tool-free jam release mechanism that allows the user to quickly and safely clear jams.

The Bostitch’s Smart Point nose tucks into some very tight spaces due to its reduced size and wedged shape. Users can adjust the fastener depth with Bostitch’s Dial-A-Depth system for the best control. It comes with a 1/4-inch fitting for air hoses, a hard carrying case, and extra tips. The BTFP12233 is an oilless brad nailer, meaning maintenance is relatively low, and it won’t spray oil on a workpiece or molding. Users can also switch between single shots and bump-activation, and the integrated belt clip features a built-in pencil sharpener. Just beware that the contact tip of the brad nailer does not need to be depressed to fire a brad.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Tool-free clearing: Yes
  • Modes: Single or bump

Pros

  • Smart Point nose fits in tight places
  • Toolless depth control and jam clearing
  • Oil-free design for less mess and maintenance
  • Features single- and bump-firing modes

Cons

  • Fires without contact tip depressed

Get the Bostitch Brad Nailer Kit (BTFP12233) on Amazon

Runner-Up

The Best Brad Nailer Option: Metabo HPT Brad Nailer Kit (NT50AE2)
Photo: amazon.com

The NT50AE2 Brad Nailer from Metabo HPT is worth a look for those wanting a high-quality nailer with toolless jam clearing and adjustments. This 18-gauge nailer can fire brads between 5/8 of an inch and 2 inches, a wide enough range for most remodeling and trim projects.

This model features a 360-degree adjustable exhaust port to direct the air away from the user’s face. The NT50AE2 features a reload indicator in the magazine that clearly shows when the tool is low on brads with a quick glance. Users can also quickly switch between single-shot mode and automatic bump-style firing. The hose fitting port sits at an angle, allowing users to tuck this brad nailer into tighter spots. It comes with the fitting for an air hose, safety glasses, a hard case, and extra tips. Keep in mind that Metabo HPT was formerly Hitachi, so some of the branding and parts might be confusing.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Tool-free clearing: Yes
  • Modes: Single and bump

Pros

  • Adjustable exhaust port
  • Reload indicator that alerts when low on brads
  • Angled hose attachment for easier use

Cons

  • Confusing branding

Get the Metabo HPT Brad Nailer Kit on Amazon, at Lowe’s, or at Ace Hardware.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Brad Nailer Option: WEN 61721 18-Gauge Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Photo: amazon.com

When it comes to tools that pack a lot of value into low price tags, WEN leads the way. The 61721 Brad Nailer is an 18-gauge nailer that fires 3/8-inch to 2-inch long brads, making it more versatile than some much more expensive nailers. It features a spring-loaded magazine, an adjustable depth-drive, and toolless jam clearing for more ease-of-use features than many other value-minded tools.

The WEN’s 61727’s exhaust port is adjustable, allowing users to steer it clear of their faces or dusty surfaces. This brad nailer is a little heavier than other options on the list, and doesn’t feature an automatic bump setting. However, the WEN comes with a hard carrying case for safe storage and easy organization.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Tool-free clearing: Yes
  • Modes: Single only

Pros

  • Value-minded price point
  • Tool-free adjustments and jam clearing
  • Adjustable exhaust port

Cons

  • Heavier than other models
  • Doesn’t feature bump firing

Get the WEN 61721 brad nailer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Brad Nailer Option: Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Brad Nailer (XNB01Z)
Photo: homedepot.com

For those DIYers willing to invest in a more expensive brad nailer, the Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Brad Nailer might be the one to have. This cordless brad nailer comes with a 5.0 amp-hour 18-volt battery that has a battery-life indicator, and fires 18-gauge brads between 5/8 and 2 inches long. The battery charges in under 45 minutes, allowing users to charge it during a short break.

While the body of the nailer is larger than most pneumatic options, the micro nose fits in tiny crevices for fine and delicate work. It also features onboard LED lights to help users see in dark corners. While the styling is a bit unconventional, its lower center of gravity makes it more comfortable to use than other models. Unfortunately, clearing a jam will require an Allen key, but the portability more than makes up for that inconvenience.

Product Specs

  • Type: Cordless
  • Tool-free clearing: No
  • Modes: Single or bump

Pros

  • 5.0 amp-hour battery charges in under 45 minutes
  • Onboard LED lights
  • Nose designed to fit into tight spots
  • Toolless adjustments

Cons

  • No toolless jam clearing

Get the Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Brad Nailer at The Home Depot.

Best Pneumatic

The Best Brad Nailer Option: DEWALT Brad Nailer Kit, DWFP12231
Photo: amazon.com

DIYers serious about arming their toolkit with the same nailer many pros prefer may want to consider the DWFP12231 brad nailer from DeWalt. This pneumatic brad nailer handles 18-gauge brads between ⅝ of an inch and 2 inches. It also has a tool-free jam release to clear jams quickly and easily.

The DeWalt’s depth of drive easily adjusts without tools, and even features detents to snap into along the way, making these adjustments consistent and reliable. The maintenance-free design means this model won’t spray the work surface with oil—a real benefit for pros. It comes with a hard case for protection, as well as a pair of safety glasses. The one thing it doesn’t have is an automatic bump mode.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Tool-free clearing: Yes
  • Modes: Single and bump

Pros

  • Toolless jam clearing
  • Depth adjustment detents for accurate settings
  • Maintenance-free—no oil necessary

Cons

  • No automatic firing mode

Get the DeWalt Finish Nailer Kit on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Electric

The Best Brad Nailer Option: DEWALT 5-in-1 Multi-tacker and Brad Nailer
Photo: amazon.com

DIYers looking for versatility without a huge investment may find the 5-in-1 Multi-tacker from DeWalt an interesting addition to their tool kits. The Multi-tacker fires five different brad nails and staples, making it a great general-purpose tool. Not only can the Multi-tacker handle trim work or moldings, but it will also tackle some upholstery work and DIY projects like picture framing.

This model’s corded design means users don’t have to worry about charging batteries or losing power in the middle of the project. However, they will have to be mindful of the cord so they don’t trip over it. Other than the cord, the other drawback of the Multi-tacker is that the nose is rather large compared to other options on the list, so it may not be the best choice for nailing into intricate molding details.

Product Specs

  • Type: Corded electric
  • Tool-free clearing: No
  • Modes: Single

Pros

  • Fires brads and staples
  • Constant power source
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Large nose might not fit in tight moldings

Get the DEWALT 5-in-1 Multi-tacker on Amazon.

Best Cordless

The Best Brad Nailer Option: PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit
Photo: amazon.com

For portability and ergonomics, Porter-Cable’s PCC790LA 20V MAX cordless brad nailer might be the answer. This model fires 18-gauge brad nails in lengths between 5/8 and 2 inches, and feature’s ergonomic weight distribution for user comfort in a variety of positions. This also makes it one of the lightest cordless battery-operated nailers in its class.

This Porter-Cable model features a tool-free jam release to allow the user to clear jammed brads quickly and safely. It also has a tool-free depth adjustment wheel with a view window, showing the user how deeply the adjustment is set. It also features LED lights for dark work areas. There is a downside, however: This tool doesn’t feature an automatic bump-firing mode.

Product Specs

  • Type: Cordless
  • Tool-free clearing: Yes
  • Modes: Single only

Pros

  • Lightweight, ergonomic design
  • Tool-free jam clearing and adjustments
  • Onboard LED light

Cons

  • No bump-fire mode

Get the PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer on Amazon and at The Home Depot.

Our Verdict

For all-around capability and reliability, shoppers may want to consider the BOSTITCH Brad Nailer Kit, as it’s a top-notch product with convenient features. But, for those who prefer unlimited portability, the Makita 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Brad Nailer’s cordless design is tough to beat.

How We Chose the Best Brad Nailers

Brad nailers are a DIY favorite, so choosing the best models required a lot of effort. We wanted to ensure we were suggesting only the best products, and that’s a tall order for such a critical tool.

The first thing we did was narrow our choices down to brands we know and trust. Then, we performed extensive product research on each of the models so we knew exactly what they had to offer. We considered what the most important features were, what we look for in a brad nailer, and how the average DIYer would use these models. Then, we relied on our own hands-on experience with some of these models to either rule them out or award them a spot on our list.

FAQs 

Even with all of that background on how to choose the best brad nailers, there might be some additional questions you’d like answered. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about choosing the best brad nailer for a project. If there isn’t an answer to your question below, reach out to the manufacturer’s customer service department.

Q. How do you use a brad nailer?

To fire a brad nailer, make sure that it’s loaded with brads and hooked up to power or air. Then, with your finger off the trigger, press the nose of the nailer against the workpiece where you want to drive a nail. When you’re satisfied with the placement, squeeze and release the trigger.

Q. How do you load a brad nailer?

Most brad nailers load from the bottom of the magazine. Slide a stick of brads onto the bottom of the magazine. Then pull the spring-loaded latch down past the brads to engage them with the nailer.

Q. What is the difference between a brad nailer and a finish nailer?

Finish nailers shoot thicker nails, in the 15- to the 16-gauge range. Brad nailers use thinner nails that are less likely to split fine, delicate moldings. Also, brad nailers have smaller noses, which are easier to tuck into tight spots.

Q. Can you use a brad nailer for baseboards?

Brad nailers are suitable for baseboards. Most fire brads as long as 2 inches, which is enough to penetrate a 3/4-inch thick molding, 1/2-inch thick drywall, and bite into the framing lumber in the baseplate or wall studs.