For virtually every construction or craft project, including heavy-duty roofing and light upholstery work, there’s a nail gun to simplify and speed the process. Finish nailers make excellent light carpentry and trim tools, while brad nailers are the go-to tool for finish carpentry and nonstructural trim.
Some nailers require an electrical cord or compressor for power, but dragging around a cord or an air hose is cumbersome and can be a tripping hazard. A cordless brad nailer powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is a convenient alternative—but only if you get the right one for your project.
We’re always on the lookout for great power tools, so we decided to test the top cordless brad nailers on the market today. We put them through their paces in our woodshop, firing brad nails into hard and soft woods, and noted how well each tool performed.
Ahead, learn what to consider when choosing a cordless brad nailer and find out how the following models earned a spot on our lineup of the best cordless brad nailers via our woodshop tests.
- BEST OVERALL: DeWalt 20V MAX XR 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit
- RUNNER-UP: Ryobi 18V One+ AirStrike 18GA Brad Nailer and Battery
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Freeman 18V 2-in-1 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer
- BEST FOR DIY: Porter-Cable 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer
- BEST PROFESSIONAL: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18GA Brad Nailer Kit
- BEST COMPACT: Metabo HPT 18V Compact Cordless 18GA Brad Nailer
- BEST FOR TRIM: Kobalt 2.125-Inch 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer
- ALSO CONSIDER: Craftsman V20 Cordless Finish Nailer Kit
How We Tested the Best Cordless Brad Nailers
Choosing which cordless battery-powered nailers to test was no easy task. We started by selecting cutting-edge models from reputable manufacturers, such as DeWalt and Milwaukee, but we didn’t automatically eliminate lesser-known brands, especially if their brad nailers were highly rated. We researched each tool’s features and included models that serve various purposes, from being budget-friendly to offering professional-quality results.
In actual testing, we used these cordless tools in the manner both DIYers and pros would. We charged their lithium-ion batteries overnight to ensure each was fully juiced, and then we fired brads (also called pins) over and over into hardwoods, including oak and ash, as well as softer pine boards.
Brad nailers are designed for light-duty trim and finish work, and to be effective, they must set the head of the brad just below the surface of the wood. This requires being able to adjust the depth of the brad to suit the density and thickness of the wood, so we tested the accuracy of the depth-adjustment dial on all the cordless brad nailers.
In all, we fired more than 200 brads through every cordless nailer and we awarded points based on a rubric. The better a tool performed, the more points it received. We also awarded points based on our inspection and analysis of the tool’s design, ergonomics, and ease of use. After testing, we added and averaged the points and used the scores to help determine the best categories and uses for each tool.
Our Top Picks
Below are some of the best cordless brad nailers available on the market—we know because we tested each one. In addition to noting their best features, we also made notes of their weaknesses and where we feel they could be improved. While features may vary, along with costs, each one is a standout in its category. One is certain to be a prime addition to any power tool collection.
The DeWalt cordless brad nailer performed beautifully in our hands-on woodshop tests. That didn’t surprise us at all: We’ve long been fans of DeWalt’s power tool line, which is made for both pros and prosumers, but we’d never tested one of their cordless brad nailers.
The DeWalt brad nailer comes with a 2-amp-hour (Ah) lithium-ion battery and a charger, so we charged the battery overnight before testing the following day. The first thing we did—quite by accident—was drop the brad nailer on the concrete shop floor. Fortunately, the tool has a rugged casing, and we needn’t have worried—it went on to perform flawlessly.
This model fires a range of 18-gauge (Ga) brads from as short as ⅝ inch to as long as 2⅛ inches, making it versatile for several nailing projects. We fired more than 200 brads into a variety of wood types, including hardwood and softer pine. We didn’t experience any jams or stalls, but if we had, we could have removed them quickly using the tool-free jam release or the stall release lever. A jam release allows users to remove a brad that misfires and gets stuck in the nose of the tool. A stall release—virtually exclusive to battery-operated nailers—releases a brad that gets stuck halfway in the wood and the nail gun.
We tested the DeWalt brad nailer in both single-fire mode and bump mode, which is designed to fire brads rapidly for making quick work of attaching sheet-type materials, such as plywood. We like the sizable depth-adjustment dial on this model, but we weren’t too impressed with its guide lights—they shone outward rather than on the workpiece—so don’t count on them for illumination when working in dim areas. This model includes a belt hook that we found handy for stowing the nailer on our tool belt when not in use.
Read our full review: DeWalt 20V MAX XR 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inches
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Model number: DCN680D1
- Rugged casing resisted damage even when dropped on a concrete floor
- Large, sizable depth-adjustment dial is easy to see and operate
- Tool comes with a stall-release lever and a tool-free jam release
- Guide lights shine outward rather than illuminating workpiece; more difficult to see
Get the DeWalt cordless brad nailer at Amazon, Ace Hardware, or Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
Ryobi (The Home Depot’s flagship brand) has produced a winner with the AirStrike brad nailer. It fires 18-gauge brads from ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inches, and it comes with both a tool-free jam release and a stall release. We fired more than 200 brads of varying lengths through the Ryobi nailer using both single-fire and bump modes, and only one brad jammed in all that time. We were able to remove it quickly via the jam release and get back to testing.
We didn’t experience any stalls, for which we largely credit the 4Ah battery (included): We began our test with it fully charged, and it’s a powerful, long-lasting battery. (Stalls often occur when the battery in a cordless nailer starts to run down. A low battery doesn’t have quite enough juice to fire the nail completely into the wood, so it fires it halfway—and the other half sticks in the nailer.) To state the obvious, a 4Ah battery will run an average of twice as long as a 2Ah battery—and result in fewer if any stalls.
We also found the Ryobi brad nailer to be a treat to work with. Its nonslip, ergonomic handle reduces hand fatigue, the depth adjustment dial is large and easy to use, and the LED guide light shines directly on the workpiece. Plus, it came with a box of various-length brads, making this tool ready for use. The only downside worth mentioning was the lack of a belt hook. Slipping a nailer on a tool belt is convenient when using both hands to move and adjust a woodworking project.
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inches
- Weight: 5.4 pounds
- Model number: P322K1N
- Comes with a high-capacity rechargeable lithium-ion battery (4Ah) plus a charger
- LED guide light is bright and illuminates the workpiece well
- Nonslip, ergonomic grip is well designed and reduces hand fatigue
- Lacks a convenient belt hook; not ideal for frequent users
Get the Ryobi cordless brad nailer at Ryobi.
The features of the Freeman two-in-one brad nailer and stapler kit read like a DIY enthusiast’s wish list. It fires brads from ¾ inch to 2 inches long and crown staples from ¾ inch to 2 inches. In addition, it also fires ¼-inch crown staples that range in length from ¾ inch to 1⅝ inch. We felt the ability to fire staples added a whole new dimension to this tool. Staples are typically used to fasten the fold-out strips of insulation batts to studs and rafters, so this is an excellent addition for stapling duties, such as installing faced batt insulation or affixing roofing underlayment to a roof deck. And all that versatility comes at an attractive price point.
We fired more than 200 brads of varying lengths through the nailer without any jams in the single-fire mode. We experienced eight jams when using the tool’s bump mode, but the tool-free jam release made quick work of clearing them. That said, we’re not big fans of bump modes on brad nailers anyway because these tools are typically intended for attaching trim and molding, which requires the precision of a single-fire mode. We didn’t experience any stalls with the Freeman model—a good thing, since we saw the tool has no stall release. Pro Tip: The best way to avoid stalls is to work with fully charged batteries.
A pair of LED work lights helped illuminate the workpiece, and we liked the inclusion of a belt hook to make trimming tasks easier. Another perk is the included box of brads and staples, making the tool ready to go right out of the box.
- Brad length: ¾ inch to 2 inches (¼-inch crown staple length), ¾ inch to 1⅝ inches
- Weight: 6.17 pounds
- Model number: PE2118G
- Brad nailer does double duty by accepting ¼-inch crown staples
- Two 2Ah lithium-ion batteries are included—charge one while using the other
- Tool-free depth adjustment is easy to use and precise
- This model does not come with a stall release lever
Get the Freeman cordless brad nailer at Amazon or Lowe’s.
For some, the lack of a bump-firing mode on the Porter-Cable brad nailer may be a deal breaker. But those who plan to use this tool strictly for trimming and woodworking projects (the most common use of a brad nailer) may never miss it. We didn’t.
We fired more than 200 brads of varying lengths through the Porter-Cable model, using just single-shot mode, and we didn’t have a single jam or stall. However, the nailer does boast both a tool-free jam release and a stall release lever. The brad nailer fires brads from ⅝ inch to 2 inches, making it versatile and well suited to installing several types of trim and molding.
It also comes with a high-capacity 4Ah lithium-ion battery and a charger. The LED lights on the Porter-Cable brad nailer were some of the best on any of the brad nailers we tested—they clearly illuminated the workpiece, making it easy to see exactly where we were firing the brads.
When we first unboxed the Porter-Cable nailer, we thought it looked top-heavy—but nothing could be further from the truth. The shape of the nailer is slightly different than most—looking a bit like a science fiction ray gun—but we found it to be very comfortable to hold and use. It features an ergonomic, nonslip grip, and the depth-adjustment dial is sizable and located on the side of the tool where it’s easy to access.
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2 inches
- Weight: 5.9 pounds
- Model number: PCC790LA
- Brad nailer is ergonomic and comes with a nonslip padded grip for comfort
- LED lights are well positioned to illuminate the workpiece in dim lighting
- Comes with a high-capacity 4Ah lithium-ion battery a well as a charger
- Porter-Cable brad nailer does not have a bump mode
Get the Porter-Cable cordless brad nailer at Amazon, Ace Hardware, Grainger, or Acme Tools.
Milwaukee has a proven reputation for tough jobsite tools, and its cordless brad nailer is no exception. It delivers powerful, consistent firing for brads ranging in length from ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inches without missing a beat. We fired more than 200 brads of various lengths into hardwood and pine and didn’t have a single jam or stall—even when we fired it repeatedly on bump mode.
It comes with a precision tip that allowed us to position the brads precisely, which is a must for finish carpenters and cabinetmakers who want professional-looking results. While the depth-adjustment dial is relatively small, it’s easy to access on the side of the tool, and we didn’t have any trouble adjusting it.
For the most part, this is a powerful precision nailer that will be a welcome addition to any professional carpenter’s tool arsenal. Still, we weren’t big fans of the digital selector switch for changing from single-fire to bump mode. To switch modes, we had to first press and hold the on button on the digital pad, which took about 5 seconds to power on, before we could select the desired mode. That may not sound like a long time to wait, but it might be slightly annoying for pros who want to switch modes quickly and keep working.
The LED guide lights are handy and illuminate most of the workpiece, but they create a small shadow right at the tip, which is a little distracting. The Milwaukee brad nailer comes with a 2Ah rechargeable battery, charger, and carry bag.
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inches
- Weight: 6.3 pounds
- Model number: 2746-21CT
- Powerful brad firing in both single-fire and bump-fire modes
- Kit comes with brad nailer, battery, charger, and a carry bag
- Nonslip grip and belt hook make the tool easy to use and versatile
- 2Ah included battery may not be powerful enough for all-day trimming
Get the Milwaukee cordless brad nailer at The Home Depot, ToolBarn, Acme Tools, or Grainger.
Pneumatic nailers earned their reputation as the industry standard because of their powerful nail-driving ability. Metabo’s spring drive system offers comparable performance without an air hose or compressor. It fires brads from ⅝ inch to 2 inches with the speed and precision that trade professionals demand, and it does so even though it weighs a mere 4.4 pounds. Metabo includes an above-average higher-capacity 3Ah battery and charger, so there’s nothing extra to buy, and it comes with a handy canvas carry bag to boot.
After charging the battery overnight, we started testing the following day. We fired more than 200 brads of varying lengths into hardwood and pine and didn’t experience any jams, even though the Metabo has a high-speed bump mode that fires up to three brads per second. The nailer comes with a tool-free jam release for quickly clearing any jams that might occur, and we liked the handy belt hook.
The Metabo’s light weight makes a difference for either a professional finish carpenter or a DIYer who plans to install a lot of overhead crown molding. While the mode selector switch is digital, we found it turned on as soon as we pressed the button—no waiting. The only downside we noticed was the lack of a stall release, which is typically found on most cordless nailers. Stalls often occur when battery power is getting low, so recharging the battery—or buying an extra and keeping it charged—will likely solve the problem.
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2 inches
- Weight: 4.4 pounds (5.26 pounds with 3Ah battery)
- Model number: NT1850DF
- The Metabo brad nailer offers both single-fire mode and bump mode
- Bump mode is very fast, firing up to 3 brads per second
- 3Ah battery, charger, and carry bag included with purchase
- This Metabo cordless brad nailer does not include a stall release
Get the Metabo cordless brad nailer at Amazon, Nail Gun Depot, CPO Outlets, or ToolBarn.
While Kobalt is a Lowe’s flagship brand, its tools tend to hold their own against models from big names like Metabo and DeWalt. This Kobalt brad nailer sure did in our tests. It accepts a full range of brad lengths, ranging from ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inch, putting it in the running with other wide-range nailers we tested.
We fired more than 200 brads of different lengths through the Kobalt, and it only jammed once, when we tested out bump mode. Fortunately, the jam was easy to remove by using the tool-free jam release. The tool doesn’t have a stall release, however.
We liked the dual LED guide lights that did a good job of illuminating the work piece in low-light situations. While a little on the bulky side (lengthwise), it still does an excellent job of getting into tight spots for firing precise nails when trimming or constructing woodworking projects. The Kobalt nailer comes with a 2Ah battery and a charger, but it doesn’t include a belt hook.
The Kobalt brad nailer also comes with a nice blue canvas bag, but unfortunately the nailer doesn’t fit into it! We could get the top three-quarters of the tool inside, but its rear end stuck out, so we couldn’t zip the bag up. That was strange, but we don’t consider it a deal breaker for what is a precise brad nailer that’s well suited to trimming and other types of finish carpentry work.
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2⅛ inches
- Weight: 6 pounds
- Model number: KNA124B-03
- Brad nailer comes with a precision tip that’s useful for exact brad positioning
- Easy to access adjustment dial for fine-tuning brad depth
- Comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger
- No stall release lever, so keep battery fully charged to reduce stalls
- The canvas carry bag is too small to hold the nailer
Get the Kobalt cordless brad nailer at Lowe’s.
For those looking to use a brad nailer solely for installing trim, molding, or creating high-end woodworking projects, the Craftsman V20 cordless nailer could be just the ticket. It doesn’t come with a bump mode or a stall release, focusing solely instead on the most important uses for a traditional brad nailer: trim and finish carpentry.
We charged the 2Ah lithium-ion battery that comes with the tool overnight to ensure it had a full charge for testing the following day. We were pleasantly surprised that the Craftsman cordless brad nailer seemed to have every bit as much power as a pneumatic brad nailer—but we didn’t have to drag an air hose around to use it. We would have preferred a higher-capacity battery, but after shooting more than 200 brads of varying lengths into hardwood and pine, the battery was still going strong. The depth adjustment is sizable and easy to access.
We did experience one jam, but it was easy to remove via the tool-free jam release on the nose of the nailer. At just 5.3 pounds, this was one of the lighter brad nailers we tested. Along with its ergonomic nonslip padded handle and contoured grip design, we were able to use the nailer for extended periods without experiencing hand fatigue.
- Brad length: ⅝ inch to 2 inches
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Model number: CMCN618C1
- Fires a range of brad lengths with precision and power
- Accepts a range of brad lengths from ⅝ inch to 2 inches
- Sizeable and easy-to-use depth-adjustment dial for custom nail depth
- Doesn’t come with LED guide lights, so use in well-lit area
- No stall release and no bump mode included with this model
Get the Craftsman cordless brad nailer at Amazon or Ace Hardware.
What to Consider When Choosing a Cordless Brad Nailer
Brad nailers are known for their narrow noses—a feature that’s essential for positioning the nailer when installing detailed trim and moldings. The brad nailer replaces the process a trim carpenter had to follow only a couple of decades ago, which involved drilling a tiny hole in the wood to keep it from splitting, carefully hammering in the nail, and then using a nail set to countersink the head of the nail.
With today’s cordless brad nailers, all those steps are taken care of with one pull of the trigger. Still, it pays to consider additional features before investing in one of these finish carpentry tools.
Brad Length and Capacity
Brads are all the same thickness (18Ga) and they have small heads that leave only tiny holes in the wood’s surface. The minute size of the holes makes it easy for the woodworker to fill the hole with putty and it may be barely noticeable—if at all—when finished with a sealer or paint.
Brad length varies from ½ inch to 2⅕ inches, but few cordless brad nailers accommodate the full range of sizes. The required length typically depends on the thickness of the wood being used. The desired length should hold the wood in place without blowing out the backside.
Brads come in collated strips, which make them easy to load. Most cordless brad nailers hold around 100 brads at a time.
Cordless brad nailers use “sequential firing.” That means the nailer fires only one brad per trigger pull. However, some models also offer “bump” or “contact” firing in which the user doesn’t have to pull a trigger to fire a brad. Instead, the nailer automatically fires a brad when the user bumps the tip against the wood.
Bump firing allows for more speed but significantly reduces efficiency, so this firing mode isn’t used for attaching intricate trim pieces. It may come in handy for attaching large sheets of plywood that don’t require precise nail placement.
There’s also a safety aspect to bump-fire mode that can result in brads being fired into the air or injuring the user or a bystander if the tip of the nailer accidently bumps on an unintended object. In our experience, the most important firing mode on a brad nailer is single-fire mode, and we would rarely, if ever, use bump fire with this type of nail gun. For the safest experience, check out our guide to nail gun operation.
Battery and Runtime
All the cordless nailers on our list run at 18 or 20 volts, but they’re the same in raw power. Electric motors surge on start-up then settle back to what’s called “nominal” voltage. Most manufacturers use the surge figure, 20 volts, while others use the nominal, 18 volts.
While voltage remains constant, runtime varies considerably. Technically, runtime depends on the battery’s Ah capacity. For example, a 4Ah battery runs twice as long as a 2Ah battery. A virtually maintenance-free brushless motor makes more effective use of battery power than an older brush motor. However, brushless motors cost more.
When shoppers invest in a cordless brad nailer, they want it to last. They will want to make sure the design protects the motor and firing mechanism not only from accidental impact but also from dust and dirt. They’ll want a good-sized slide (that holds the brads in place) and switches. The latter shouldn’t protrude too far from the body of the tool.
Some premium brands build a reputation for quality and durability, and their prices reflect that. However, a DIYer may not need that kind of jobsite toughness. While we recommend steering clear of the cheapest cordless brad nailers, good customer feedback may make it worthwhile to check a more affordable model out. Some budget tools provide outstanding value for the home user.
Weight may be a consideration when looking at cordless brad nailers. The rechargeable battery and the extra casing to hold the battery make cordless brad nailers heavier than their pneumatic counterparts.
It may not make much difference on small jobs, but if using the tool all day, particularly above head height, users will quickly experience the difference between a 3-pound pneumatic model and an 8-pound cordless one. DIYers and weekend warriors who are not used to the constant handling of heavy tools may prefer a lighter-weight pneumatic model. It’s a personal choice.
- Each tool has a depth adjustment, usually a thumbwheel that adjusts the depth of brad, which will depend on the density of the wood. For example, pine (a softwood) will require a different depth adjustment than maple (a hardwood).
- Most of today’s brad nailers—and every model we tested—feature tool-free jam releases. All brad nailers jam from time to time, usually due to minor inconsistencies in the brads themselves. When it does jam, a tool-free jam release allows the user to remove the stuck nail easily and get back to work.
- Trigger lockouts prevent dry firing when the gun runs out of brads. Dry firing can damage the surface of the workpiece, so the best brad nailers incorporate a trigger lockout to prevent this.
- Many cordless brad nailers include one or more LED work lights, though some illuminate the workpiece better than others. Some models also have an LED light to indicate a fault or jam.
- A belt hook makes a convenient addition, especially for working from a ladder.
This guide should help you find the best cordless brad nailer for your needs. However, a few general questions may crop up. Keep reading to find frequently asked questions along with their answers.
Q. What’s the difference between a brad nailer and a finish nailer?
Brad nailers fire brads (aka pins), which are thinner (18Ga) than the 16Ga nails fired by a finish nailer. Brads are better for fixing lightweight trim, such as thin baseboards, while finish nailers are better suited to thicker trim types, such as windowsills.
Q. How do you load a brad nailer?
The magazine contains slots to hold different-length brads. The user simply slides a strip of collated brads into the magazine slot. When the user slides the magazine cover closed, a spring pushes the strip of nails into firing position.
Q. How do you use a brad nailer?
For the most precise results, position the nailer’s nose against the wood and slowly pull the trigger.
Q. How long should brad nails be?
In general, brad nails should be three times longer than the thickness of the material being attached. So for ½-inch boards, use 1½-inch brad nails. However, if this causes the nails to protrude through the back of the base material, just use the longest nails that can be accommodated without poking through.
Q. Can you use a brad nailer for baseboards?
You can use a brad nailer for standard baseboards. However, if the baseboard is thicker than 1 inch or if it is a very dense wood such as ironwood, consider using a finish nailer, which offers a bit more firing power.
Q. How do I maintain my cordless brad nailer?
Remove the battery when not in use and store both the nailer and the battery in a dry spot. Some cordless brad nailers may need an occasional drop of oil to keep their firing mechanism lubricated, so check the owner’s manual to see if yours does.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in construction, remodeling, and real estate. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and she is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.
Additional research provided by Bob Beacham.