Reviews

DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer Tested & Reviewed: How Good Is the Popular Trim Tool?

I tested the DeWalt cordless brad nailer in my woodshop. Find out where it excels—and how it could be better.
Glenda Taylor Avatar
DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer Review

Photo: Glenda Taylor

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DeWalt power tools are mainstays for both pros and DIYers, and the brand name has become synonymous with high quality and dependability. I’m familiar with a wide range of DeWalt tools, but I hadn’t tried out the DeWalt DCN680D1Cordless Brad Nailer before, which made it all the more exciting to test this nail gun.

The best cordless brad nailers feature a combination of power, precision, ergonomics, and versatility. I tested several cordless models in my woodshop, and the DeWalt DCN680D1 took top honors. However, it had some tough competition from other leading brands, including Ryobi’s ONE+ AirStrike and Milwaukee’s top-selling M18 FUEL Brad Nailer.

I tested the DeWalt cordless brad nailer by firing more than 200 18Ga brads of varying lengths into oak, ash, and pine. I noted how easy it was to adjust brad depth (a must for brad nailers), how well the tool performed using full sequential (single-fire) mode versus bump (multi-fire) mode, and I took special note of the overall quality of the materials and design of the tool. Ahead, learn what happened when I put the DeWalt cordless brad nailer through its paces, and determine whether this finish carpentry tool would be a good fit for your woodworking tool repertoire.

The DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer: At a Glance

Rating: 9.4/10

DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

PROS

  • Accommodates a wide range of brad lengths (5/8-inch to 2-1/8 inches)
  • Sizeable depth-adjustment dial makes it easy to control amount of countersink
  • Tool-free jam release and additional stall release lever keep projects moving

CONS

  • LED guide lights shine outward rather than on the workpiece
  • At 5.3 pounds, this model is 2-3 pounds heavier than some pneumatic models
  • The capacity of the battery that comes with the tool (2Ah) is underwhelming

Get the DeWalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer at:

What is the DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer?

Brad nailers fire 18Ga brads (or pins), and their primary use is for installing light trim or molding or constructing fine woodworking projects such as bookcases. Brad nailers shoot thinner nails than finish nailers, which fire 16Ga nails. Finish nailers are also used for installing trim, but they’re typically better suited to larger trim, such as window sills, whereas brad nailers are meant for light trim—such as delicate crown molding.

Until about a decade ago, most brad nailers were pneumatic, meaning they required an air compressor and air hose to operate. Many still are, and we tested several pneumatic models in our roundup of the best brad nailers. With the advances in rechargeable lithium-ion technology, many top tool manufacturers are now putting on a cordless version of a brad nailer.

The DeWalt DCN680D1 is an excellent example of a battery-operated brad nailer that meets the same high performance found in pneumatic brad nailers. DeWalt has gone the extra mile and added user-friendly functions that make it a top tool for installing quality trim.

DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

Is the DeWalt cordless brad nailer easy to operate?

The DeWalt cordless brad nailer is simple to use. I found all the functions to be straightforward and beneficial, except for the tool’s two LED guide lights that did not illuminate the workpiece but rather shone outward to the side. Still, that’s a minor downside because most professional trim carpenters will use work lights to illuminate a large area, so tiny guide lights aren’t much more than an afterthought.

DeWalt adds two tool-free clearing functions on the DCN680D1—a jam release on the nose of the tool that allows users to quickly remove a jammed nail and a stall release lever that releases a nail if it becomes partially stuck in the wood while the other part of the nail remains in the tool. Stalls are different than jams, and they are typically caused by a battery running low and not having enough power to fire the nail all the way into the wood. The stall release on the Dewalt cordless brad nailer frees the nail and then resets the tool.

Another perk with this brad nailer is its sizeable depth-adjustment dial that’s easy to see and access. Some of the other models I tested came with tiny adjustment dials that were challenging to use.

Is the DeWalt cordless brad nailer designed for precision or speed?

The DCN680D1 performs both tasks well. The nailer comes with single fire mode and a bump fire mode. When I selected single fire mode, I could carefully position the tip of the DeWalt nailer where I wanted to fire a nail and then pull the trigger. The nailer fired one nail—precisely where I wanted it.

Bump firing is a little different. By switching a small lever located on the inside of the DCN680D1’s casing, I was able to select bump fire. On the DeWalt, single-fire mode is represented by an image of one nail, while bump-fire mode is represented by a picture of three nails close together. While I was impressed with the rapid firing from the DeWalt, I wouldn’t choose a brad nailer just because it offered bump mode.

In bump mode, I could hold the trigger down on the nailer and then simply bump the tip to the wood. Each time I bumped the tip, the nailer fired another nail. Bump firing is a popular option on framing nailers when the user wants to install something like boxing or sheathing quickly, but when it comes to trim work, bump fire is rarely the best way to go if you’re looking for precision. Still, the bump fire mode on the DCN680D1 is well-designed, and I didn’t experience any jammed nails while using it.

DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

How could the DeWalt cordless brad nailer be better?

Make no mistake, the DeWalt DCN680D1 is a formidable power tool, and if I had to choose only one brad nailer from the many I tested, it would be this one. The downsides are minor—but I’d either re-align the LED guide lights so they would shine forward or I’d eliminate them. As it is, they’re slightly annoying because when I was leaning close to ensure I had the nailer tip in just the right spot, they shone in my eyes a couple of times. I solved that problem by putting a couple of small pieces of duct tape over the lights.

The only other downside, and again, it’s minor, is that the DCN680D1 comes as a kit with a battery and charger included. That’s a good option so a new user doesn’t have to go out and buy a battery, but DeWalt only includes a 2Ah battery. For my test purposes, the battery was fine, but for someone who needs to use the brad nailer for an entire day, it might be a different story. And, when batteries start running low, the risk of stalls increases. It’d be great if DeWalt would include a 4Ah or at least a 3Ah battery with this kit.

Is the DeWalt cordless brad nailer worth the cost?

At the time of testing, the DeWalt DCN680D1 is running right around the $350 mark. Compare that to about $130 for the pneumatic Bostitch brad nailer that took first place in our standard brad nailer tests, and there’s quite a price difference.

What is it that makes the DeWalt cordless brad nailer worth the money? Simple—the fact that it’s cordless. Pneumatic nailers are fine in workshops where you can access an air compressor and air hose, but a cordless nailer goes anywhere. I like not being restricted (or tripping over) a long air hose, and I love the fact I can take the DCN680D1 to work on remote projects, such as building a storage shed in the backyard without having to plug a compressor into an outlet. So, for me, this brad nailer is well worth the money, but it’s a personal choice.

DeWalt Cordless Brad Nailer Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

Should you buy the DeWalt cordless brad nailer?

If you’re looking for a top of line brad nailer that you can take on the job site—consider the DeWalt cordless brad nailer. Its finely-tuned firing mechanism rarely jams (It didn’t jam at all in my tests.), and the tool is built to last.

Maybe I’m just accident-prone, but before I even started testing the DeWalt brad nailer, I inadvertently dropped it on the concrete shop floor. I picked it up, expecting the worst, but it only suffered a couple of superficial scrapes on the casing—it went on to perform flawlessly.

However, if you have a small woodworking shop and a central air compressor, you may not need to spend the extra money to get a cordless brad nailer. In that case, you could save some bucks by choosing a pneumatic brad nailer and still get excellent performance.

Where to Buy the DeWalt cordless brad nailer?

Get the DeWalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer at:

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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