The Best Palm Nailers of 2022

When there isn’t space for a standard nailer or room to swing a hammer, a palm nailer is an effective alternative. Many are very affordable and lightweight, too.

By Bob Beacham | Updated Sep 27, 2022 9:53 AM

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The Best Palm Nailers Options

Photo: Amazon

Palm nailers are light, compact, highly maneuverable, and easy to use. Just load a nail into the front, position it, apply pressure to activate the hammer action, and drive the nail home. Though they don’t have the speed of a finish, framing, or roofing nailer, they will go into tight spaces where those big tools can’t reach. They are usually lighter and therefore less tiring to use, too.

Not surprisingly, palm nailers are very popular, and it’s a crowded market. Choosing the right model can be challenging. In this article, we explain the tool’s key features and share examples of some of the best palm nailers in several different categories to help users quickly identify the right tool for their needs.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Freeman 2nd Generation Pneumatic Mini Palm Nailer
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: 3Plus HMPN50SP Mini Palm Nailer
  3. BEST CORDLESS: Milwaukee M12 Cordless Palm Nailer
  4. BEST FOR JOIST HANGER: Bostitch PN100K Impact Nailer Kit
  5. BEST FOR HARDWOOD FLOORS: Powernail PowerPalm Hardwood Flooring Nailer
  6. BEST KIT: Metabo HPT NH90AB 3½-Inch Palm Nailer
The Best Palm Nailers Options

Photo: Amazon

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Palm Nailer

Unlike most great nail guns that hold dozens or even hundreds of nails, palm nailers load just one nail at a time. They drive it using a hammer action that is usually activated by pressure on the back of the tool. Rest the tool against the palm and just push gently to drive the nail home. The action does make palm nailers quite loud, and most are used with an air compressor, so ear protection is recommended. The following are key features that differentiate the many models available.

Power Source

The majority of palm nailers are pneumatic, so they need an air compressor to drive them. Specifications for power are given in pounds per square inch (psi) and cubic feet per minute (cfm). The actual air pressure generated by the compressor is the psi, and cfm is the volume of air.

If the psi from the compressor is too low, it won’t be enough to drive the nail properly. If the cfm is too low, it might drive a few nails successfully but will then need to pause while the volume of air builds up again in the compressor.

Unfortunately, these figures can be difficult to find, even on manufacturer websites. However, palm nailers have fairly modest demands, and many portable compressors have sufficient capacity. We recommend a compressor that produces 90 psi or more and at least 2 cfm.

Cordless palm nailers are a battery-powered alternative. With no need for an air hose or cord, a battery palm nailer offers great freedom of movement. However, the battery does make them heavier and bulkier than pneumatic palm nailer models. Currently, cordless models are rare.

Grip

The main body of the palm nailer is usually made from aluminum. Though it’s not difficult to grip, some of the higher-quality models have a rubberized shell covering the back. This not only makes for a more positive hold but also helps absorb some of the shock of the hammer action, reducing hand fatigue.

A few palm nailers attempt to improve the grip even further by including a “glove,” or hand strap. The tool drops into it, and it is secured around the back of the hand with a hook-and-loop strap. This reduces the effort needed to grip the palm nailer, though some find the strap uncomfortable. The strap isn’t a permanent attachment and is very much a matter of personal preference.

Size and Weight

Palm nailers are generally very compact tools, but they do vary in size. Those who have small or large hands benefit from checking the tool’s physical dimensions before purchasing. For example, a cordless palm nailer can have a more slender design, which will make it easier for some to hold.

An aluminum body helps keep weight down, but palm nailers can still weigh anywhere from around 1 pound to more than 3 pounds. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but even a little extra weight will make a difference if the tool is used for long periods, particularly if working overhead.

User fatigue isn’t just based on the weight of the tool, as the impact of the hammer action is also a factor. A heavier tool tends to create more recoil, which can lead to increased hand fatigue.

Additional Features

Although palm nailers are a fairly simple tool, a few key variations and features are worth considering:

  • Most palm nailers drive round-head nails, also called penny nails. These are typically between 6D (2 inches long) and 16D (4 inches long), though heavy-duty palm nailers can drive larger nails. Tool abilities do vary, so it’s important to check.
  • As nails get longer, the diameter of the head also increases. Some palm nailers have a useful magnetic tip to hold the nail in place. Others have interchangeable heads for different diameters.
  • Depth adjustment is not a common feature of palm nailers since the main task is usually to ram the nail home as quickly as possible. However, some palm nailers offer this option. It is a feature that will reduce the damage to visible surfaces.
  • Pneumatic tools need regular lubrication, and some manufacturers include a small bottle of oil.
  • A carry case is a nice addition, though often not provided with the tool.

Our Top Picks

Having dealt with the technical aspects of palm nailers, it is now time to look at some practical and stand-out examples. We have assigned categories to make it easier to identify some of the best palm nailers for particular tasks.

Best Overall

The Best Palm Nailers Option: Freeman 2nd Generation Pneumatic Mini Palm Nailer
Photo: Amazon

Freeman has a widely acknowledged reputation for reliable, affordable, feature-rich tools, and its palm nailer is a fine example. It is light, powerful, and—thanks to the rubberized grip—comfortable to use for long periods. However, this does make it a little bulkier than some, so it may be cumbersome for those with small hands.

Freeman quotes nail sizes from 6D to 16D, which the company says is 2 to 4 inches. This is confusing because 16D nails are actually 3½ inches long, and 4-inch nails are 20D. Most palm nailers with a similar specification drive 3½-inch nails, so we feel it safer to give this as the maximum.

A magnetic tip provides a positive hold for nails during positioning. Recommended air consumption is 80 to 100 psi, so most portable compressors will provide sufficient power. The Freeman palm nailer is a little noisy, though it’s typical of a device with this kind of hammer action. Wrenches and oil are provided for lubrication, but there is no included case.

Product Specs 

  • Power source: Pneumatic
  • Nail range: 6D to 16D (2 to 3½ inches)
  • Weight: 1.38 pounds

Pros

  • Renowned durability and reliability
  • Rubberized grip for comfort
  • Magnetic tip

Cons

  • No carry case
  • A little noisy

Get the Freeman palm nailer at Lowe’s.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Palm Nailers Option: 3Plus HMPN50SP Mini Palm Nailer
Photo: Amazon

For those who want the palm nailer’s ability to get into tight spaces but are unlikely to use the tool often, the 3Plus offers a low-cost solution that sacrifices little in terms of performance or features.

The aluminum body is the lightest we considered, weighing just 1 pound. There is no rubber grip, but the compact size can be appealing to those with smaller hands. It drives nails from 6D to 16D (2 to 3½ inches), and it has a magnetic tip to keep them in place. Although air consumption is not stated, any compressor delivering 90 psi will work fine.

There is no case, which is no surprise at this price point, but the lack of oil is a little disappointing. While most users seem happy with the 3Plus palm nailer, some units have either not worked on arrival or failed shortly after. Although this could be as simple as a faulty O-ring seal (which lets air escape), it is understandably frustrating.

Product Specs 

  • Power source: Pneumatic
  • Nail range: 6D to 16D (2 to 3½ inches)
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros

  • Lightweight body
  • Magnetic tip
  • Low price

Cons

  • Inconsistent quality control
  • No accessories

Get the 3Plus palm nailer on Amazon.

Best Cordless

The Best Palm Nailers Option: Milwaukee M12 Cordless Palm Nailer
Photo: Amazon

At first glance, there might be some concern that the 12-volt Milwaukee palm nailer would be underpowered when compared with pneumatic tools. Milwaukee reassures potential buyers by quoting an impact rate of 2,700 blows per minute, which compares favorably with several midrange air tools. Also, similar to those rivals, it will drive nails from 6D to 16D (2 to 3½ inches), and the tip is magnetic.

At 3.4 pounds, the Milwaukee palm nailer is comparatively heavy, though the slender body and rubberized grip areas make it easy to hold. There is a useful light-emitting diode (LED) work light on the front of the tool and a battery-level indicator on the side. Battery and charger are included, as is a hand strap and a tool bag.

Despite the quite rapid 30-minute battery recharging, it is likely that professionals would want to buy a spare battery. This would add to what is already a significant investment.

Product Specs 

  • Power source: 12V battery
  • Nail range: 6D to 16D (2 to 3½ inches)
  • Weight: 3.4 pounds

Pros

  • Competitive performance
  • Battery and charger included
  • LED work light

Cons

  • Heavier than most
  • Expensive

Get the Milwaukee palm nailer at The Home Depot or Acme Tools

Best for Joist Hanger

The Best Palm Nailers Option: Bostitch PN100K Impact Nailer Kit
Photo: Amazon

Bostitch is one of the world’s leading nailer brands, and it is known for high-quality, professional-standard tools. The Bostitch palm nailer is capable of driving nails from 1¾ to 5 inches (5D to 40D), making it ideal for joist hangers, framing, and heavy-duty fencing.

Rather than depth adjustment, Bostitch provides three different-size nosepieces. These combine with the company’s Smart Point technology, adjusting impact power as required and thus reducing surface damage. Despite the high performance, air consumption is within the range of most small compressors at 70 to 100 psi.

At 2.9 pounds, the Bostitch is relatively heavy, though this is a reflection of its robust build, as it isn’t a particularly large tool. A full set of accessories includes comfort glove, wrenches, lubricating oil, and a spare “O” ring, which is the component most likely to wear out first in any air-powered palm nailer. It all comes in a durable case.

Product Specs 

  • Power source: Pneumatic
  • Nail range: 5D to 40D (1¾ to 5 inches)
  • Weight: 3.320 pounds

Pros

  • Heavy-duty nailing performance
  • 3 nosepieces
  • Comprehensive accessories

Cons

  • Premium price
  • A little heavy

Get the Bostitch palm nailer on Amazon or at Acme Tools.

Best for Hardwood Floors

The Best Palm Nailers Option: Powernail PowerPalm Hardwood Flooring Nailer
Photo: Amazon

The Powernail PowerPalm nailer has been designed specifically for laying hardwood and engineered (combined hardwood and plywood) tongue-and-groove flooring. It has the power to drive the L- and T-shaped cleats (floor nails) through these tough materials and into joists or subfloors.

The tip is magnetic, and it can be rotated. Though other types of flooring nailers can compete in most areas, nothing else can get as close to walls or into such tight corners as the Powernail PowerPalm. It is also physically compact and very light, weighing just 1 pound, so it is easy to hold. Operating pressure is 70 to 110 psi.

The big disadvantage with this tool is that it is entirely focused on one function. It cannot drive ordinary nails. Given the high price, it is unlikely to appeal to anyone except flooring professionals.

Product Specs 

  • Power source: Pneumatic
  • Nail range: 16 gauge to 18 gauge (1 to 2 inches)
  • Weight: 1 pound

Pros

  • Nails L- and T-type cleats
  • Rotating, magnetic tip
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Cannot drive ordinary nails
  • Expensive

Get the Powernail palm nailer on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Best Kit

The Best Palm Nailers Option: Metabo HPT NH90AB 3½-Inch Palm Nailer
Photo: Amazon

Those who don’t already own a compressor may want to consider the Metabo palm nailer kit that includes Metabo’s 1-gallon compressor and 50 feet of polyurethane air hose.

At 59 decibels, the compressor is one of the quieter models and is relatively light at 25.2 pounds. It will supply air at up to 125 psi, so it could be used for a variety of other nailers and pneumatic tools.

At 1.3 pounds, the Metabo palm nailer is lightweight, and it has a rubber grip. It comes with a swivel connector rather than the usual straight one. This may not seem like much, but having such a flexible link to the air hose actually makes the tool much more maneuverable. The Metabo palm nailer has the usual magnetic tip, but the nail-size range is a little smaller than most at 8D to 16D (2½ to 3½ inches).

Product Specs 

  • Power source: Pneumatic
  • Nail range: 8D to 16D (2½ to 3½ inches)
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds (nailer), 25.2 pounds (compressor)

Pros

  • Complete nailer kit
  • 360-degree swivel connector
  • Magnetic tip

Cons

  • Smaller nail range than many other models
  • No nailer case

Get the Metabo palm nailer on Amazon or at Acme Tools (nailer only).

Our Verdict

The Freeman palm nailer is a feature-rich option from a company known for reliable, durable tools. It is powerful, yet light, and comfortable. It is also very affordable. The 3Plus palm nailer is a low-cost alternative that will be adequate for many DIYers. While fault reports are more common than we’d like to see, most work perfectly well.

How We Chose the Best Palm Nailers 

The author is a keen DIYer and has undertaken the extensive remodeling of two homes. He’s had hands-on experience using palm nailers for framing, fencing, and several garden structures. He knows how they function and how they should perform.

To make sure we had up-to-date information, the BobVila team also researched all the leading palm nailer manufacturers. Cordless palm nailers, for example, are an important recent development.

Many of these tools are very similar, so in choosing the best palm nailers for our list, we looked for particular features that would make them stand out from their rivals. Price was also an important consideration, though we generally prefer established brands rather than cheap palm nailers that lack proven durability.

The Advantages of Owning a Palm Nailer

Although a palm nailer is not quite as fast as other types of powered nailers, it has some clear advantages over most other types.

  • A palm nailer is much more compact, meaning it will fit into spaces where standard nail guns can’t go.
  • Because they fit into the palm of the hand, these tools are more maneuverable, and thus easier to use at awkward angles.
  • In terms of nail length, most palm nailers can handle greater variety than other nail guns.
  • Palm nailers are also lighter than most alternatives, meaning they are comfortable to use for longer periods and cause less fatigue.
  • The relatively simple mechanism means that palm nailers tend to be both reliable and durable.

FAQs

At this point, we have looked at important technical issues that can affect your choice of palm nailer, discussed how to use a palm nailer, and provided a range of examples that we consider to be some of the best palm nailers currently available. Though this information will have answered many questions, some of a general nature are addressed below.

Q. How do I drive nails into tight spaces?

Driving nails into tight spaces is exactly what palm nailers are designed to do. They are shorter from front to back than standard nail guns and are often easier to maneuver, too.

Q. What is the smallest palm nailer?

Most of these tools are very compact, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one that meets your size needs. Though the 3Plus model included in the Top Picks list is currently among the smallest palm nailers available, it may not be for long. New models are regularly introduced.

Q. What kind of nails do palm nailers use?

Palm nailers generally use round-head, or penny, nails. The diameter and length can vary considerably, so this is a key feature to check before buying.

Q. Can I use a palm nailer for roofing?

Yes, you can. Several palm nailers can be used for roofing, including the Bostitch palm nailer on the Top Picks list. However, it is important to check the nailhead size that the tool can accept. Professional roofers often use coil nail guns (which are often considered the best nailers for siding, too). These tools are much faster, but a palm nailer is a viable alternative if you have small areas of repair to do.