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Whether you're repairing a roof, redoing a wood floor, or starting any other type of large DIY project, you'll likely need a nail gun (also known as a staple gun). This handy power tool can drive nails or other small fasteners deep into the surface of the wood without cracking or damaging the structural integrity of the wood.
We wanted to see which of today's most popular nail guns would speed up our project and nail accurately - so we decided to put them to the test. We tested a range of nail guns, including finish nail guns, framing nail guns, roofing nail guns, siding nail guns and corner nail guns.
We've tested many nail guns, and the ones in this collection represent the best models on the market today. The following nail guns vary by type - some are designed for building structures, some are made for installing trim or shingles, or for installing siding on houses. Each one has performed well in our hands-on tests, and we are confident in their performance and capabilities.
We didn't intend to choose a finishing nail gun as our best choice, but the 16-gauge DeWalt mitered finishing nail gun excelled in several ways. It's not suitable for building or installing shingles, but we think it offers the best overall combination of function, functionality and versatility.
DeWalt is a well-known manufacturer of DIY and professional tools, so we expected this model to be a top performer, and it didn't disappoint. After the battery was fully charged, we put a 20-degree 2.5-inch 16-gauge nail on the rail. We shot the nails into oak, walnut and pine boards and used the depth adjustment feature to change the head depth to suit the hardness/softness of the particular wood.
Even when we switched to dimple mode and went through the clips quickly, this finishing nail gun shot the nails perfectly. We then loaded a 1¼-inch nail and continued testing. It shot shorter nails just as smoothly as longer ones. In all, we shot over 250 nails and the gun never jammed. This is very impressive, as some nail guns often jam when fired in crash mode.
We found the DeWalt Beveled Finish Nail Gun easy to use and comfortable to hold with its rubber grip and ergonomic shape. This powerful finish nailer is great for installing casings, baseboards, stair risers, or any other project that requires finish nails.
Trim carpenters don't have to spend a lot of money to get a reliable corner nailer or nailer. the Porter-Cable 18-gauge corner head nailer offers everything you need to install small or delicate trim pieces at a very attractive price.
We charged the Porter-Cable's battery, loaded up a 2-inch 18-gauge nail, and began testing. We shot the nails into both hard and soft woods and used the tool's nail depth adjustment as we switched between hardwoods to make sure the nail head was just below the surface of the wood.
Porter-Cable shoots nails smoothly and accurately. The gun jammed once when we shot a nail into a knot in oak (which the carpenter intentionally avoided to prevent the nail gun from jamming), but the tool's jam release level made it simple to remove the jammed nail and continue testing. In total, we drove more than 200 nails with this angle-head nail gun, and we were impressed with its accuracy and power. It performed equally well when we tested it with shorter ⅝-inch nails.
The only downside to this corner nailer is the lack of an angled nail track. It still worked well, but the angled rails could be used more easily in tight places. Nonetheless, for the price, this is the best performer for anyone who needs to install ceiling coves or other delicate trim. It doesn't have a cove pattern, but many corner nailers don't, which is not a bad thing for corner nailers where accuracy is more important than speed.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 21-degree framing nailer kit is top notch when it comes to accurately shoot framing nails. With the battery fully charged, we loaded a 2-inch framing nail and began testing by shooting nails into ⅝-inch plywood stacked on 2×4 pine boards.
This framing nail gun shot the nails hard into the wood - a little too hard (the nail heads sank), so we adjusted the depth gauge and were able to shoot the nails so that the heads were flush with our plywood. We put over 100 two-inch nails through the gun and then tested 3-inch framing nails on a stack of 2x4s. We switched the gun to impact mode and fired the nails quickly. This Milwaukee model is strong. We didn't have any problems with the nails sinking the way we wanted them to. The 21-degree angle of the nail track also makes the tool more compact and easier to use when nailing between 16-inch studs, which is the standard size spacing for studs and joists.
It would be nice to have a quick jam release, but many framing nail guns don't include these, so when we jammed in dimple mode, we just removed the nail strip, used the wrench on the tool to open the front panel, and then used sharp-nosed pliers to pull out the jammed nails.
We've always loved Bostitch nail guns and staplers, and this powerful little corner nail gun is no exception. We connected it to our compressor via a hose; inserted an 18-gauge 2-inch nail; and tested the gun on oak, walnut, and pine boards. It had a simple dial depth adjustment as we switched between different hardwoods, and we were able to consistently shoot the corner heads with the heads slightly buried, which is exactly what we wanted to do.
We shot over 200 brads, switching back and forth between 2" and 1" lengths. the Bostitch never jammed, but if it had, we would have removed the jammed nails with its handy quick-clear jam release.
The Bostitch Angle Nailer doesn't have an angled nail rail, which would come in handy when we're shooting nails in tight places, but it's very reliable and even comes with a collision (multi-shot) mode. Collision mode is not usually needed on angle-head nailers, as this type of nailer is primarily used for installing trim, a precise task not suited for rapid fire.
The Bostitch 1¼-inch to 2½-inch coil siding nailer has proven to be very effective in installing siding and wood fencing. Since 3,000 or more nails can be loaded in one loop, this model allows the installer to move quickly without having to stop frequently to reload nails.
We connect a pneumatic siding nailer to our air compressor and insert a roll of 2 in. x 0.092 in. galvanized nails. We nailed the nails into two types of siding: cedar and fiber cement siding. The tool's depth gauge allowed us to adjust the nail depth to fit the siding type, so the nail head was flush with the material. We switched from single-shot mode to collision mode, which allowed us to shoot nails in quick succession on both types of siding.
The gun didn't jam until we accidentally hit a nail that was already on the siding. It can't quickly clear jams, but many coil nail guns don't, so we cleared the jam and continued testing.
The Bostitch siding nail gun also comes with a swivel rafter hook, which we believe should be a belt hook since the tool is designed for siding. Installers will need to pick up new siding strips often, and it would be nice to be able to hang the tool on the tool belt instead of putting it down every time. Also, rafters are not usually nearby when siding is installed, so a rafter hook seems like a poor design choice.
The Bostitch 2-in-1 flooring tool works slightly differently than the other nail guns we tested, but it not only saved a lot of time, but it also ensured that the hardwood strips fit snugly into each other.
We tested it on an actual hardwood flooring installation and we liked it so much that we finished the entire floor with it. It beats the manual way of nailing each flooring strip by hand. We loaded the flooring nail gun with 2-inch-long 16-gauge nails that have a tiny bend in the top instead of a traditional nail head. It also holds 15½-gauge flooring nails.
After connecting the floor nailer to the air compressor via a hose, we started nailing the strips. We placed the Bostitch floor nailer against the edge of the hardwood strip we wanted to secure. Instead of a trigger, the nail gun is equipped with a mallet actuator, a knob that causes the gun to fire a non-slip nail when struck with the included mallet. Getting the nail gun to fire doesn't require a heavy blow - it's more of a hard tap.
Installing hardwood requires driving the nail at an angle through the tongue side of the tongue and groove strip, through the tongue and into the subfloor. With Bostitch, there's no guesswork - the nail gun shoots each nail at the correct angle. In addition, when we hit the mallet actuator, the force of the nail shot helps secure the strip we are installing to the previous strip. Win-win!
Every non-slip nail fired smoothly and the nail gun never jammed. However, if it had, we would have had to manually remove the jammed nails because there was no quick jam release option. We are very pleased with the time this nail gun saved installing hardwood floors.
If there's one place no one wants to refill nail strips too often, it's on the roof. That's why coil roofing nail guns are so popular with professional roofers, and the Metabo HPT 1¾ in. coil roofing nail gun is as good as anything we've ever used. It shoots ⅞ to 1¾-inch-long standard 12-gauge roofing nails. We loaded a loop of 1¾-inch nails and connected the nail gun to our portable air compressor via a hose and began testing.
We used this pneumatic nail gun to secure the asphalt shingles to the roof of the shed. At first, the nail heads were a little too high, so we adjusted the depth adjustment of the tool until they were flush with the shingles. We tested the Metabo in both single-shot and impact modes and found it to be a fast and powerful shot. At one point, we must have nailed a nail in the sheathing under the shingles and the gun jammed. Clearing the jam was easy though. We just opened the nose of the nail feeder and hammered it out with a small rod and a hammer.
One feature that some people may overlook is the rubber bumpers on both sides of the tool. This is useful for those times when roofers have to keep the gun on the roof when placing new strips of shingles - the rubber helps keep the tool from slipping off the roof. (This feature is especially useful for this tool because it doesn't come with a hook.) We also liked the rubber-coated handle, which gave us a firm grip when using the tool. the Metabo is a reliable roofing nail gun, and we shot over 150 nails during our testing. Plus, it weighs just 5.5 pounds and can be easily mounted on a roof.
Of the three framing nail guns we tested, we chose the DeWalt 20V MAX Cordless Framing Nailer Kit as the best of the framing rafters. It's also great for other framing situations, such as building a riser wall, joist system or installing subflooring, but we feel its slightly shorter nail rail (4 inches shorter) makes it the preferred narrow spot for the more compact guns on our list. In addition, it has an adjustable rafter hook designed to hang from the rafters.
We rigged the gun with a 21-degree 3-inch framing nail rail and tested it on stacked 2×4 pine boards. It deployed the nails quickly and forcefully. We adjusted the nail depth and shot more than 100 nails using both single shot and impact patterns. We didn't get any stuck nails. Then we switched to shorter 2-inch nails and tested the gun's efficiency in nailing ⅝-inch oriented strand board (OSB) to pine boards. We had to adjust the depth of the nails slightly to accommodate the different materials, but we didn't get stuck. This framing nail gun comes with a release lever to prevent nails from jamming.
The nail gun's 21-degree tilt rail also adds to the ease of using it in tight spots. We wouldn't hesitate to use the DeWalt in any framing situation, but we think it's the preferred choice for rafter framing projects.
Those of you who haven't found the right framing nail gun may want to consider the Ridgid Brushless Cordless 3½ inch framing nail gun. We have not used a Ridgid nail gun before and we were very impressed. It's hard to keep up with national power tools manufacturers like DeWalt and Milwaukee, but Ridgid has done so with this 21-degree angle nail gun.
Ridgid can shoot framing nails up to 3.5 inches long, the maximum length of a framing nail gun (some shoot up to 3.25 inches), and it packs a powerful punch. We loaded a 3-inch nail strip at a 21-degree angle and began testing. We shot more than 100 nails through a stack of 2×4 pine boards using both single-shot and impact modes without any blockage.
We then switched to 2-inch nails and continued testing through ⅝-inch oriented strand board stacked on pine boards. Adjusting the nail depth was simple, but then we ran into trouble. the Ridgid does not have a quick jam removal feature, but it does have a hex wrench on the tool that we used to loosen a couple of screws on the head of the nail gun to remove the jammed nails. It's a relatively quick process, but we would have preferred a quick-release mechanism.
We found the Ridgid to be as powerful as the other framing nail guns we tested, but it costs less and is a good value for those who want a top-notch framing nail gun but don't want to spend a lot of money.
The Ryobi ONE+ cordless corner nailer comes with a tip that helps us insert the nail exactly where we want it. While framing nail guns doesn't always require high precision, installing delicate trim work requires precise fastener placement, and this nail gun shines in that area. We like that it's cordless since many corner nails are still pneumatic and the air hose sometimes gets in the way.
We charged the battery, loaded an 18-gauge, 1-inch corner nail, and started our test by shooting them into oak and walnut boards. At first, the nail heads sat too high, but we adjusted the depth of the nails until they were just below the surface of the wood. We drove more than 100 corner nails before switching to pine boards, and we had to reduce the depth of the nails to accommodate the softer wood.
We jammed three nails with 1-inch nails, but the jam was easily removed with a quick-clear jam release. We also tested the Ryobi by loading a 1.5-inch corner tip and we did not experience any jams. In addition to a precision tip, this corner nailer comes with a bright LED guide light, which we found helpful in low-light situations. It comes with a dimple pattern, which is not often used in precision trim installations. We prefer the angled nailer rail, which makes it easier to use the tool in tight places.
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