From heavy-duty roofing to light upholstery work, there’s a nail gun for the task. Finish nailers are a popular general-purpose tool, and brad nailers are suitable for all kinds of DIY and craft jobs.
Nailers typically require a compressor for power, which is fine for professionals but an extra cost for a homeowner. Moreover, manipulating the stiff high-pressure hose can make smaller tools, such as a brad nailer, awkward to operate.
The best cordless brad nailer can compete head-on with its pneumatic counterpart. With no hose or cable, it’s also much easier to handle. The following article takes a detailed look at some of these versatile tools and will help you pick the best cordless brad nailer for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA
- BEST PRECISION: Makita XNB01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 2″ Brad
- MOST VERSATILE: KIMO 20V 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer/Stapler Kit
- BEST RECHARGEABLE: Cordless Brad Nailer, NEU MASTER NTC0023 Rechargeable
- ALSO CONSIDER: DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Brad Nailer
Cordless brad nailers are popular among professionals and DIYers alike. Manufacturers offer numerous features to tempt buyers, which can make choosing the right tool a challenge. To help shoppers choose the best cordless brad nailer for their project, below are each of the characteristics that most impacts purchasing decisions. Keep reading to find out which features matter most.
Brad Length and Capacity
Brads are made of approximately 0.05-inch-thick 18-gauge steel. Their heads are small, which helps hide them in the work surface. The holes they make often are so tiny that filling them before painting is unnecessary.
Brad length varies from 0.5 inches to 2.5 inches, but few cordless brad nailers accommodate the full range of sizes. The required length typically depends on the tasks envisaged for the tool.
Brads come in collated strips, so they’re easy to load. Most cordless brad nailers can hold around 100 brads at a time. The strips are easy to break down if a few are left over after a project.
Nailing Modes Control
For safety reasons, all cordless brad nailers are designed to lack the ability to accidentally fire brads into the air. Squeezing the trigger fires a brad only when the tip of the tool is in contact with the workpiece. This type of nailing, one brad each time the user pulls the trigger, is called “sequential” firing.
Some models also offer “bump,” or “contact,” firing. When the brad nailer is in this mode, the user doesn’t have to pull a trigger; instead, the nailer automatically fires a brad when the user bumps the tip against the workpiece.
In skilled hands, bump firing allows for speed and efficiency, which is particularly useful on long strips of material. However, good control takes practice, so this feature is often only of value to a professional.
Battery and Runtime
All the cordless brad nailers in the list run at either 18 or 20 volts, but in raw power, they’re actually the same. Electric motors surge on start-up, then settle back to what’s called “nominal” voltage. Most manufacturers use the surge figure, which is 20V, while others use the nominal, or 18V.
While voltage is constant, runtime varies considerably. Technically, runtime depends on the battery’s amp hour capability. A 4Ah battery can run twice as long as a 2Ah battery, for example, though the latter is often included with brad nailers to keep costs down. A brushless motor, rather than the older-style brush motor, makes more effective use of battery power and is virtually maintenance-free. However, they’re more expensive.
Some manufacturers provide an indication of the number of brads, typically from 400 to 1,600, the nailer can fire on a full charge. However, the number depends on the length of the brad and the material being nailed, so real-world results may vary.
- Material impacts the depth that the brad can penetrate; for example, pine is easier to penetrate than maple. Each tool has a depth adjustment, usually a tool-free slider or thumbwheel, to compensate for these differences. Markings may be included, but the accepted practice is to test the brad depth on a piece of scrap or an unobtrusive area.
- All brad nailers jam from time to time, which is usually caused by minor inconsistencies in the brads themselves. It’s worth buying a quality product to minimize the problem. When it does jam, clearing should be as quick and easy as possible. Some nailers feature tool-free jam releases.
- Sometimes it can be difficult to see how many brads are left in the magazine, especially when working at an awkward angle. Dry firing when empty can damage the surface of the workpiece, so the best brad nailers incorporate a trigger lockout to prevent this.
- Cordless brad nailers don’t have a hose or cable, but the battery makes them heavier than their pneumatic counterparts. It won’t make much difference on small jobs, but if using the tool all day, particularly above head height, the difference between a 5-pound model and a 7-pound model is significant.
- Many cordless brad nailers include one or more LED work lights. Some units have an LED light to indicate a fault or jam. A belt hook is a convenient addition, especially when working from a ladder.
Our Top Picks
Armed with a better understanding of nailers’ technical differences, it’s time to look at some of the top models on the market. While most of the products on this list are well-recognized brands with established reputations for quality and durability, a couple of interesting alternatives also are included.
This budget-friendly CRAFTSMAN cordless brad nailer reads like many competitors. The 100-brad magazine takes sizes from 0.625 to 2 inches long, and it offers tool-free depth control and jam release. Cost-conscious contractors may be interested in the fact that it offers sequential or bump firing, a feature not often found on lower-cost cordless brad nailers.
The supplied 1.5Ah battery can fire a maximum 420 brads per charge; however, larger capacity batteries are available. While the over-molded handle improves hand comfort, at 7.5 pounds, this CRAFTSMAN model is on the heavy side.
This DeWalt nailer is a high-performance, professional-grade cordless brad nailer. Weighing just 5 pounds, it’s one of the lightest on the market.
This PORTER-CABLE cordless brad nailer, which takes brads from 0.625 to 2 inches long, has a 100-brad magazine capacity. It offers both tool-free depth adjustment and jam release. At just 6 pounds, this tool is lightweight and feels balanced.
It doesn’t have a dry fire lockout, but a useful window in the magazine allows users to check the brad level. This model doesn’t offer bump firing.
The kit includes a 1.5Ah battery, which is smaller than many, although PORTER-CABLE states that 400 brads can be driven between charges. A 4Ah alternative battery is available.
Makita’s cordless brad nailer allows precision nailing via its fine tip, which allows for excellent all-round visibility and easy positioning. With a flip of a switch, the Makita converts to rapid bump firing.
The magazine holds 110 brads, each 0.625 to 2 inches long. The nailer offers tool-free depth adjustment and jam release, plus dry firing lockout. Its 5Ah battery can fire more than 1,600 brads between charges. An LED charge indicator lets users know when to charge the battery.
KIMO offers a competitively priced alternative brad nailer with lots of features. It can fire brads from 0.75 to 2 inches long and 0.25-inch-narrow crown staples from 0.75 to 1.625 inches long. The KIMO cordless brad nailer also offers both sequential and bump firing.
Although physically larger than many rivals, this nailer weighs only 6.2 pounds. KIMO states the 4Ah battery can fire up to 1,400 times before recharging. Dual LEDs help brighten dark corners.
For light-duty nailing or stapling tasks, the Neu Master cordless brad nailer and stapler fires brads from 0.625 to 1.25 inches long and 0.25-inch crown staples from 0.625 to 1 inch long. It offers tool-free depth adjustment.
This nailer may tire its user over extended periods as it’s heavier than the other products on this list. It contains a 2Ah battery, and the manufacturer states that it can fire up to 1,100 fixings on a full charge. This Neu Master product meets ETL testing standards for electrical safety.
DeWalt’s cordless brad nailer operates in either sequential or bump mode. Both depth adjustment and jam release are tool-free. It holds 110 brads in the magazine from 0.625 to 2.125 inches long and has dry fire lockout. Its slender nose allows for good positional accuracy, which is aided by two LEDs that focus light at the tip of the tool.
Although DeWalt doesn’t quote figures for the number of nails this cordless brad nailer can fire on one charge, the brushless motor helps maximize runtime. The included battery is 2Ah, but up to 5Ah is available.
FAQs About Cordless Brad Nailers
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 are a slightly smaller tool than a finish nailer, and they use 18-gauge brads, which are slimmer and have a smaller head than nails. Brads are better for fixing lightweight trim that a finish nailer might split. Finish nailers, which fire 15- or 16-gauge nails, are better for baseboards and other jobs that need a stronger hold.
Q. How do you load a brad nailer?
The magazine contains slots to hold different length brads. The user simply slides a strip of brads into the relevant slot, so the front end of the brad falls nearest the nose. A spring clamp slides up from the bottom of the magazine, holding the brads in place and advancing them each time the user fires the nailer.
Q. How do you use a brad nailer?
Rest the nailer’s nose against the workpiece, and pull the trigger. Find tips for safe and effective nailer use in this handy guide.
Q. How do I maintain my cordless brad nailer?
Dirt can cause jams, so experts recommend a quick cleaning of the tool after each use. The mechanism should be lubricated periodically according to the manufacturer’s instructions.