Buyer’s Guide: Nail Guns
Get the lowdown on the various types of nail guns available—and check out our top picks in each category—to choose the best tool for you.
Whether you’re repairing a roof, redoing your wood floors, or starting any other type of major do-it-yourself project, chances are you’ll want a nail gun (also called a “nailer”). This handy power tool drives nails or other small fasteners deep into the surface of wood without splintering or otherwise harming its structural integrity. Today’s nailers are tailored to specific tasks, but they all have two power source options and two basic delivery systems. Ahead, all the info you need to get the nail gun that’s perfect for your project.
When it comes to the source of your nail gun’s juice, you’ll choose from battery-powered or pneumatic.
- Battery-powered nail guns are cordless, pricier, and can deliver anywhere from 400 to 1600 shots per charge. Because they’re not tethered to a cord, they can be used anywhere, but they can weigh a hefty seven pounds or more.
- Pneumatic nail guns are powered by air compressors, so they can continue shooting for as long as they’re plugged in and loaded with nails or brads. They weigh in at two to five pounds on average and are generally less expensive than, or comparable to, battery-powered nailers. Thanks to their lightweight, easy handling, and long runtime, pneumatic nailers remain the more popular choice among DIYers.
Coil Nailer vs. Strip Nailer
Nail guns deliver their hardware with either a coil nailer or a strip nailer (also called a “stick nailer”), terms that refer to how nails are housed inside the tool. Because coil nailers hold nails in a tight coil, they offer a larger capacity, allowing you to shoot more nails in rapid succession. Stick or strip nailers hold nails in a straight line, so they take a bit longer to load and shoot. If you’ve got a large, time-consuming project, opt for a coil nailer that won’t slow you down.
Types of Nail Guns
The expression “the right tool for the job” has never been truer than in regard to nail guns! Select yours based on the task(s) you need it to perform from this list of the six most common types of nailers.
- Framing nail guns are the go-to when you’re putting up wood framing and need a fast tool to secure it firmly. A framing nailer offers the power and precision to hold everything in place for decades to come.
- Finish nail guns are designed for installing trim, like baseboards, doorways, and chair rails. They can handle tougher projects too, like securing a standard floorboard to the drywall behind it.
- Brad nail guns, which fire nails that are slightly smaller in diameter, called brads, are best for delicate trim projects and custom woodworking pieces in which a larger nail might ruin the wood.
- Flooring nail guns, also called “cleat nailers,” secure floor planks to the sub-floor below. They serve the same general purpose as a flooring stapler but are considered superior due to the durability and longevity of driven nails versus staples.
- Roofing nail guns are made to drive nails into roofing materials such tar paper, asphalt, insulation, and shingles.
- Palm nail guns are lightweight nailers that fit in the palm of your hand to deliver ultimate precision, making them the preferred tool for the tight corners and funky angles on woodworking projects. While not practical for framing or large-scale projects, they literally come in handy in close quarters.
Best Nail Guns
We’ve researched the best nail guns based on the criteria above and owner testimonials for each tool type, so you can make the right purchase for you needs and get to work on your to-do list right away.
Best Framing Nailer: GripRite Prime Guard Framing Nailer
This lightweight, dual-magazine pneumatic stick nailer ranks at the top for its combination of easy loading and high performance.
Best Finish Nailer: Metabo (Hitachi) 15-Gauge Finish Nail Gun
This pneumatic strip nailer is great for trim projects and popular among DIYers and pros for its durability and consistent performance. Helpfully, its swiveling exhaust portal lets you point the airflow away you, no matter how you’re holding the tool.
Best Brad Nailer: Ridgid 18-Gauge Brad Nailer
The favored tool for custom woodworking and delicate trim installation projects, this pneumatic brad nailer lasts for years even with hard, daily use.
Best Flooring Nailer: NuMax Pneumatic Nailer/Stapler
This two-in-one pneumatic tool can secure flooring via nails or staples and boasts a high-capacity magazine stick and an extended handle for comfort. For its reasonable price point and most of all, for its dependability, DIYers and pros come back to the NuMax again and again.
Best Roofing Nailer: Metabo (Hitachi) Coil Roofing Nailer
This pneumatic roofing nailer uses a side-loading magazine coil to deliver nails consistently until the job is done. It’s appreciated by pro roofers for its durability, extra rubber bumpers, and easy loading.
Best Palm Nailer: Bostitch 360 Degree Mini Impact Nailer
Weighing just one pound, the Bostitch pneumatic palm nailer is beloved for its affordability, ease of use, affordability, and for its small size that enables you to drive nails in the corners and crevices you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.