The Best Finish Nailers

Make quick work of trim, molding, and finish carpentry jobs with one of the top finish nailers on the market.

Best Overall

The Best Finish Nailer Option: DeWalt 20V Max Angled Finish Nailer DCN660B

DeWalt 20V Max Angled Finish Nailer DCN660B

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Runner-Up

The Best Finish Nailer Option: Metabo HPT Angled Finish Nailer Kit

Metabo HPT Angled Finish Nailer Kit

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Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Finish Nailer Option: NuMax SFN64 Pneumatic 16-Gauge 2-1/2” Straight Finish Nailer

NuMax SFN64 Pneumatic Straight Finish Nailer

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Few power tools can save time like a finish nailer. These handy tools replace the arduous act of driving nails into finished carpentry, which involves the tedious process of manually hammering small finish nails using a nail set to prevent damaging the wood.

A finishing nailer makes the process of installing molding and trim or building cabinetry much easier. A nailer consists of a nail gun that holds a magazine of 100 or more finishing nails. A mechanism inside the gun uses gas, electricity, or compressed air to fire a piston that propels the nail out of the gun and into the wood. The best finishing nailer can drive 15-gauge nails up to 2.5 inches long into the hardest woods.

Shoppers who are in the market for a finish nail gun will want to read on to learn more about what features they should look for in these useful tools. And don’t miss the list of some of the top finish nailers on the market.

  1. BEST OVERALL: DeWalt 20V Max Angled Finish Nailer DCN660B
  2. RUNNER-UP: Metabo HPT Angled Finish Nailer Kit
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: NuMax SFN64 Pneumatic Straight Finish Nailer
  4. BEST PNEUMATIC: Senco 4G0001N FinishPro 42XP Finish Nailer
  5. BEST ELECTRIC: Craftsman V20 Cordless Finish Nailer Kit
  6. BEST GAS: Paslode Cordless Finish Nailer 902400
  7. BEST ANGLED: Makita AF635 Angled Finish Nailer
The Best Finish Nailer Option
Photo: amazon.com

Types of Finish Nailers

The three types of finish nail guns use different power sources to drive nails. Read on to learn more about each type’s pros and cons to determine which one is right for you.

Pneumatic

Pneumatic finish nailers are the lightest and fastest option when it comes to finish nailers. They consist of a handheld nail gun that connects to an air compressor via a high-pressure hose. These nailers use an air compressor, so the gun itself is much lighter than electric or gas guns, which carry their power source with them. This makes them much easier to handle. Pneumatic finish nailers are one of the fastest options and allow users to fire nails rapidly.

The downside to pneumatic finish nailers is less portability because they require the user to tote an air compressor along with the nailer. That compressor, in turn, needs a power source to operate. In addition, because they are powered by an air compressor, they can be noisy.

Electric

Electric finish nailers are relatively newer than gas and pneumatic finish nailers. They feature a 20-volt (V) battery that powers a small air compressor in the head. When the trigger is pressed, that air is released, moving a metal pin that drives the nail from the nailer into the wood. Battery-powered nail guns also allow for rapid fire and little maintenance.

They are significantly heavier because of the battery’s weight, so they can be more difficult to handle. However, they do not require an air compressor, so they are more portable than pneumatic finish nailers. They’re also more convenient than gas finish nailers as they don’t require the purchase of disposable fuel cells. As an added perk, their batteries are often interchangeable with the batteries used in other cordless tools from the same manufacturer.

Gas

Cordless gas nailers run off of a rechargeable battery and a fuel cell that creates a small explosion inside a combustion chamber in the gun, moving a piston that drives the nail from the nailer into the wood. Gas nail guns are lightweight and require no cord, making them easy to handle.

They use propane gas, so they do release exhaust with each shot; this can be unpleasant, especially when working indoors. With both a battery and a fuel cell, they do require significant upkeep—the battery must be charged periodically, and the fuel cell will need to be replaced about every 1,000 nails.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Finish Nailer

Consumers will want to consider various factors when shopping for a finish nail gun, including power, gauge, shape, and weight.

Power

Power determines what size finish nail a finish nailer can handle. Although battery-powered nailers offer the most convenience, they cannot match the power of compressed air. Most battery-powered nailers can drive 16-gauge nails up to 2.5 inches into softwood. The most powerful pneumatic finish nailers can drive thicker 15-gauge nails up to 2.5 inches into hardwood.

Corded vs. Cordless

Convenience is the main difference when it comes to corded and cordless finish nailers. Pneumatic finish nailers are less convenient because they require an air compressor and hoses. And, of course, the air compressor needs a power source as well. This limits mobility at the work site as well as making the finish nailer harder to transport.

Cordless finish nailers are much more convenient. However, they do have their downsides. Gas nailers require the purchase of disposable fuel cells, which means recurring costs and inconvenient trips to the store mid project. Though battery-powered nailers last a long time on a single charge, they are significantly heavier than the smaller pneumatic guns.

Straight vs. Angled

Both nailer types use a spring-loaded mechanism that applies pressure to the nails, automatically reloading a nail into the head after being fired. Many magazines feature open sides, which allow the operator to see how many nails are remaining. The difference between a straight and angled finish nailer is the shape of the nail magazines. A straight finish nailer has a magazine that is parallel to the surface the worker is nailing. With an angled finish nailer, the magazine comes up at an angle from the head of the nailer. Angled finish nailers include 21-degree and 35-degree nailers—the higher the number, the sharper the angle.

Though the shape of the nailer doesn’t affect the delivery of the nail, the angled position adds versatility by allowing the user to fit the nailer into tighter spaces than a straight finish nailer. The steeper the angle, the more space the nailer saves. Nails for angle nailers are a bit more expensive and tend to have a larger gauge. Although larger gauge nails do a better job of holding two pieces of wood together, it can be more of a chore to hide the nailhead.

Gauge

As its name suggests, finish nailers are designed for finish projects such as attaching trim, molding, and paneling. For this reason, they use smaller nails than their large framing nailer cousins. Finish nailers use 15-gauge or 16-gauge nails. Nailers that use 16-gauge nails are a little lighter and smaller than the larger 15-gauge variety. That said, the large 15-gauge nails will hold better than 16-gauge nails. Most finish nailers can handle nail sizes from 1.25 inches to 2.25 inches.

Nail Depth and Jamming

Most finish nailers include a depth-adjuster dial. This dial allows the user to set the amount of force the gun uses when driving the nail into the wood. If the depth adjustment is too low, the nail’s head will protrude from the wood’s surface. If it’s set too high, the nail will embed too deeply into the wood.

Setting the nail depth too low can also cause a nail gun to jam. Jamming occurs when there is not enough force to drive the nail into the material, causing it to kick back into the nailer’s head. Most nailers allow the user to take the head apart to remove jammed nails.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of nailers varies depending on the type. Pneumatic finish nailers weigh about 4 pounds, and a battery-powered finishing nailer may weigh twice that because of the weight of the battery and onboard compressor. A gas nailer, which includes batteries and a fuel cell, can weigh about 4 or 5 pounds. Most finish nailers are about 12 inches long by 12 inches wide.

Safety Features

Given that finish nailers fire nails into the wood at high speeds, they are inherently dangerous. Manufacturers add safety features to these guns to prevent the accidental firing of a nail. This includes a safety switch near the trigger that prevents the trigger from working when the switch is engaged. Most nailers also have a contact safety tip at the head of the nailer that must be compressed against an object for the nailer to fire. This feature prevents the user from accidentally firing a nail gun into the air, as one could an actual gun.

Our Top Picks

The best finish nailer can handle up to 2.5-inch nails with high-capacity magazines. Ahead, these recommendations include powerful nailers of all types. Shoppers will want to select from some of the best-known names in power tools.

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This battery-powered finish nailer from DeWalt provides power and convenience. It uses a hefty 20V battery to power a 16-gauge nailer. Although many battery-operated nailers are heavy, DeWalt uses its compact 20V battery to keep this nailer at a svelte 6 pounds, putting it in the same weight class as some pneumatic finish nail guns. This makes it a great portable finish nailer.

This nailer has a magazine capacity of 110 nails and can drive nails up to 2.5 inches long. It features a bump operating mode for rapid nailing and a 20-degree angle for getting into smaller spaces. LED lights flash to let the user know when the battery is getting low. A soft, rubberized grip adds comfort during bigger jobs.

Product Specs

  • Type: Cordless electric (battery sold separately)
  • Gauge: 16
  • Weight: 6 pounds (with battery)
  • Nail depth: 1.25 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Reputable brand
  • Cordless convenience
  • Tool-free nail-depth adjustment
  • Built-in lights for workspace illumination

Cons

  • Battery and charger not included

Get the DeWalt finish nailer at The Home Depot, Acme Tools, Blain’s Farm & Fleet, or Toolbarn.com.

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This pneumatic finish nailer from Metabo, formerly Hitachi, offers unprecedented power coupled with some excellent user features. With the power of compressed air behind it, this nailer fires heavier 15-gauge nails, which create sturdier connections compared to their smaller 16-gauge counterparts. A convenient switch allows the user to toggle between single shots and rapid-contact nailing, for when they want to speed up the job. A depth dial allows for quick changes to nail-depth settings. It will drive nails up to 2.5 inches long.

Metabo also helps users keep the work area clean thanks to an integrated duster that fires compressed air into the work space to clear away dust and debris from the work surface. With its angled clip and weight of just over 4 pounds, this lightweight nailer is easy to handle and fits into tight spaces. This pneumatic air gun requires a compressor and air hose, which are sold separately.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Gauge: 15
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Nail depth: 1.25 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Lighter than other models
  • Easy depth adjustment
  • Integrated duster keeps area clean

Cons

  • Air hose and compressor not included

Get the Metabo finish nailer on Amazon or at Lowe’s.

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Nailers can be one of the pricier power tools a shopper can buy, which is why this package deal from NuMax is such a great option. For the same price as some finish nailers, buyers get the nailer, compressor, and a host of compressor accessories. This not only allows them to knock out that finish nailing job but also to have a compressor on hand for use in a variety of other applications, from pressure-washing to paint spraying.

This kit includes a powerful 16-gauge pneumatic nail gun capable of firing finish nails up to 2.5 inches long. An adjuster dial makes setting the proper nail depth quick and easy. With its soft, rubberized grip and light 4.07 pound weight, this nail gun is easy to operate. The 6-gallon air compressor produces plenty of power with a 110 max pounds per square inch (psi).

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Gauge: 16
  • Weight: 4.07 pounds
  • Nail depth: 1 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Comfortable ergonomic grip
  • Adjustable exhaust to avoid face

Cons

  • Some users report difficulty loading nails

Get the NuMax finish nailer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowe’s.

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One of the first things shoppers will notice about this pneumatic finish nailer from Senco is its durable construction. It features a magnesium housing designed to handle heavy-duty professional jobs. With an operating pressure between 70 and 120 psi, this is one of the more powerful pneumatic finish nailers on the market. It’s capable of driving 15-gauge finish nails up to 2.5 inches long into hardwoods.

With its large-capacity 104-nail magazine, users don’t have to worry about repeatedly stopping to reload. Despite its heavy-duty construction, this nailer weighs just 4.7 pounds. This light weight, combined with its ergonomic grip, means that operators won’t wear out before they finish the job. This pneumatic nailer requires an air compressor and air hose.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Gauge: 15
  • Weight: 4.7 pounds
  • Nail depth: 1.25 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Large-capacity magazine
  • Powerful enough for most projects

Cons

  • Can occasionally misfire

Get the Senco finish nailer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.

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This Craftsman choice has the popular straight magazine, taking 100 16-gauge nails. It sequentially fires nails from 1 to 2.5 inches long, and a starter pack of 100 2-inch and 100 2.5-inch nails comes with the kit.

Tool-free depth adjustment and jam clearing have easy-to-use controls. The included 2Ah battery is rated to drive 375 2-inch nails per charge, which is less than some competitors, but swapping in a more powerful battery would make a considerable performance improvement. At just under 6 pounds, the weight is fairly reasonable. Twin LEDs provide illumination.

Product Specs

  • Type: Cordless electric
  • Gauge: 16
  • Weight: 5.8 pounds
  • Nail depth: 1 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Easy jam release
  • Soft tip prevents damage to work surface
  • Includes 2 nail packs

Cons

  • Quite heavy with the battery

Get the Craftsman finish nailer on Amazon or at Lowe’s.

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Operators can free themselves from that burdensome air compressor and keep things lightweight with this gas-powered finish nailer from Paslode. A propane-fuel cell and 7V lithium-ion battery provide enough juice for this nailer to drive up to 12,000 nails before needing a recharge or more fuel. It takes angled 16-gauge nails up to 2.5 inches long. This nailer requires no cords or air compressors, and, at just 4.5 pounds, it’s significantly lighter than battery-powered finish nailers.

With its angled profile, this nailer can get into tight corners, making it a suitable tool for installing trim and molding. An ergonomic grip helps users keep a tight hold, whether nailing while kneeling or from a ladder.

Product Specs

  • Type: Gas fuel cell and battery
  • Gauge: 16
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds
  • Nail depth: 1.25 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • Great for tight corners
  • Heavy-duty and powerful

Cons

  • Expensive

Get the Paslode finish nailer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Lowe’s.

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This formidable finish nailer from Makita features sturdy construction in a mighty pneumatic finish nailer. With a magnesium body and aluminum magazine, it’s tough enough to withstand the rigors of a jobsite, and its powerful motor can drive 15-gauge nails up to 2.5 inches long.

It also includes plenty of useful additional features, including a tool-free depth adjustment; a nail lockout mechanism that prevents the nailer from accidentally firing; and a built-in air duster to clean off the work surface. The open-magazine design allows users to see just how many nails they have left in the chamber. At 4 pounds and with an angled design, enabling buyers to fit it into tight places, this nimble nailer is easy to use.

Product Specs

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Gauge: 15
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Nail depth: 1.25 to 2.5 inches

Pros

  • Lightest option available
  • Users can see how many nails are loaded
  • Built-in air duster for cleaner work

Cons

  • Can struggle to sink 2.5-inch nails

Get the Makita finish nailer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Our Verdict

The DeWalt finish nailer is a reliable option from a highly reputable brand that will deliver impressive results to most users. Note that the battery is sold separately in case the buyer doesn’t already have other DeWalt batteries from other tools.

Alternatively, DIYers looking for a more budget-friendly solution to cover some occasional house projects will want to consider the NuMax finish nailer, which includes several useful accessories, all at a great price point.

How We Chose the Best Finish Nailers

When gathering our list of recommendations for finishing nailers, we looked at popular brands on the market to provide shoppers with a wide selection of pneumatic, electric, and gas options. All of our picks boast impressive power, with both 15- and 16-gauge options to choose from, most of which offer a toolless adjustable nail depth from 1 to 2.5 inches.

Weight and maneuverability were important aspects in our research for these power tools. As such, we took care to provide suggestions for finish nailers that are light enough to avoid user fatigue while also being powerful enough to drive nails fully into the desired work surface. This balance brought our attention to an array of models that should cover most users’ requirements. The most powerful options on our list tend to be slightly heavier, but the lightest models are still capable of getting the job done without frustration.

FAQs

If you’re still trying to nail down a few concerns before making a purchase, look below for answers to the most common questions about nailers.

Q. Can a finish nailer be used for framing?

You cannot use a finish nailer for framing because they do not use large enough nails. The most powerful finish nailers are capable of shooting only 2.5-inch-long 15-gauge nails. Framing requires 3.5-inch-long 16D nails, which have a much larger gauge than finish nails. A framing nailer can fire these larger nails.

Q. How do you use a finish nailer?

Use the following directions to operate a finish nailer safely and correctly:

  • Load the nailer with finish nails by sliding the nails into the back of the magazine.
  • Set the depth dial to the desired nail depth. Keep in mind that you’ll want to use a higher setting for thicker material and hardwoods.
  • Many finish nailers feature a safety that prevents the nailer from firing, so make sure the safety is off, which will allow you to engage the trigger.
  • Remember that nailers feature a contact safety tip on the head that must be pressed down to fire the gun.
  • Make sure to line the tip up with the area you wish to nail.
  • Press the safety tip firmly onto the piece you want to nail, and then pull the trigger. This will drive the nail into the wood.
  • Pull the nailer away from the wood to disengage the motor.

Q. Can a finish nailer use brad nails?

Finish nailers are capable of firing only 15- or 16-gauge nails. Brads are 18 gauge, so finish nailers cannot use brad nails. You will need a brad nailer to use brad nails.

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Tony Carrick

Contributing Writer

Tony Carrick is a freelance writer who has contributed to BobVila.com since 2020. He writes how-to articles and product reviews in the areas of lawn and garden, home maintenance, home improvement, auto maintenance, housewares, and technology.

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