If you’ve ever tried to use a hammer to drive a brad nail into wood, you’ll understand how difficult it is and why brad nailers are very important.
Brad nails, which are 18 gauge nails, are made to be so tiny that they don’t split or make visible holes in the trim or moldings they’re used to hold, so they can easily be concealed. Because they’re so tiny, using a hammer to drive them into wood is almost impossible.
Because 18 gauge nails are so small, you also run the risk of striking your hand instead of the nail when you use a hammer. That’s why we have brad nailers, a type of nail gun designed to drive these tiny nails into wood.
There are different types you can choose from, and they’re differentiated according to their power source, including pneumatic, battery-powered cordless, and fuel cartridge cordless.
As you may already be aware, pneumatic brad nailers make use of compressed air as their source of power.
On the other hand, the battery-powered cordless requires no air compressor unit to operate. Just the tool and a compatible battery.
Lastly, the fuel cartridge type makes use of air cartridges or fuel cells and a battery as source of power.
Best Budget Unit
Table of Contents
What To Consider When Choosing A Brad Nailer
Consider the following features if you want to choose a brad nailer for your woodworking projects.
The nose of a brad nailer is the part that makes contact with your workpiece when you’re nailing with it. It’s also called the tip.
The nose design is crucial because it affects how precisely you can sink nails with it.
Narrow noses allow more precision by making it possible for you to reach tighter spaces with the tip of the nailer.
A narrow nose provides you a better line of sight, allowing you to place nails more accurately.
This design can be seen in the Bostitch BTFP12233 and the Dewalt DCN680B, which makes both nailers much easier to use.
Tool-Free Jam Release
No matter how good a brad nailer is, there’s always the possibility of jamming. A nail might get stuck in the nose, and you’ll have to remove it quickly to continue your work.
To access the nail and clear the jam, the jammed neck in some nailers needs to be loosened with an Allen wrench. More recent nailers, however, do not require a wrench. Instead, a tool-free jam-clearing mechanism lets you remove the jammed nail by pulling down a simple lever on the neck.
That will save you precious time and make your job easier. If a certain brad nailer needs to be loosened with an Allen wrench to remove a jammed nail, that is your cue to leave it and find something better.
The depth adjustment feature is a must-have feature of any brad nailer. Depending on the size of the nails you are using and the thickness of the material you are nailing into, you might need to adjust how far the nailer sinks the nails or brads into the wood.
In most nailers, it is usually in the form of a dial or wheel close to the nose. Turning the dial clockwise or anti-clockwise increases or reduces how deep a nail will sink when you pull the trigger.
So, ensure the one you choose has a good depth adjustment feature.
Another feature you need to check for, which is not a must but also essential, is an anti-dry fire mechanism to prevent the brad nailer from firing if there are no nails in the magazine.
Pressing the trigger when no nails are in the magazine is a dry fire. When you pull the trigger, the plunger or piston inside the nailer will try to push a nail out, but since the magazine is empty, none will come out.
This incident is not good because the force of the piston going down will leave an impression on your workpiece, which you may not fancy if you are working on something delicate. Remember, people mainly use brad nailers because they are most suitable for working on delicate trim.
Besides dry firing damaging the workpiece, it’s also unsuitable for the tool.
If the dry firing continues, it will eventually damage the nailer in the long run. I don’t know about you, but I want my tools to last long. So, if you’re like me, you must prevent dry fires as much as possible.
Buying a nail gun with an anti-dry fire mechanism is the easiest way to prevent it. The mechanism detects if no nails are in the magazine and will only fire once you reload it with nails.
Exhaust Air Control
Exhaust air control is crucial because the air coming from the nailer is already contaminated with the oil meant for lubricating the nailer.
Hence, that air mustn’t be directed toward the workpiece you’re working on.
It should also be directed towards your face because that will be very uncomfortable as you work with the tool.
The ability to change the direction of the exhaust air will help you position it so that it’s not contaminating the workpiece and not directed toward your face.
Nailing Modes Control
If you’ve ever used a nail gun before, you’ll know that there are two main ways to fire a nail with the nail gun.
Bump or contact firing and
A good framing nailer allows you to choose between the two modes. With a simple switch, you can change from sequential to bump firing or vice versa.
Sequential firing is designed in such a way that you must compress the nailer tip to the workpiece before pulling the trigger. You have to do this each time you want to fire a nail from the nail gun.
It must follow the same sequence every time you want to fire a nail: compress the nailer tip – pull the trigger -nail fires – release the trigger and remove the tip from the workpiece, then repeat that sequence.
On the other hand, bump or contact firing requires you to pull the trigger once and bump the nail tip on top of the workpiece as many times as you want.
A nail will fire each time the nail tip comes in contact with the workpiece.
The sequential firing mode is safer, while the bump firing mode is faster.
Depending on what you’re working on, you may need to use your brad nailer for a pretty long time at a stretch.
This is where a well-designed ergonomic handle comes in handy. Choose one with a rubberized handle, as this will afford you a better grip and prevent it from slipping if you develop sweat on your palms.
It will also ensure the tool doesn’t leave any blisters or bruises on your hand if you handle it for a long time.
A good rubberized handle gives you a soft grip on the tool and provides more comfort as you use the tool.
Pneumatic Brad Nailers vs Battery Powered vs Fuel Cell
The main advantage of pneumatic brad nailers is that they’re lighter in weight, because there’s no additional battery to carry with the tool, no motor and gear contained within. Fewer moving parts makes it lighter and also cheaper.
Pneumatic units are also smaller in size and will fit into tighter spaces than their battery powered counterparts.
However, they’re still quite unwieldy since you have to drag the air compressor hose with it. The user’s range is limited by the length of the hose.
They’re also very prone to cold weather conditions (winter) that cause them to jam or even stop firing. You also have to account for air compressor investment if you don’t already have one, and the noise produced by the air compressor during use.
Battery-powered and fuel cell-powered units are very portable. They can be taken anywhere. No need to carry an air compressor and no need for long hoses. These are best for DIYer’s, weekend warriors and handymen for carrying out projects at home, especially if you don’t want anything to do with the noise of an air compressor machine.
However, battery and fuel cell units are bulkier and heavier, which makes it difficult to use them for a long time without being fatigued.
They’re also more expensive and difficult to maintain. With fuel cartridge or fuel cell units, you have to buy these fuel cartridges continuously throughout the life of the tool, which adds to the total expenses of using that tool.
Batteries and fuel cells also run down, and causes downtime because you have to wait for the battery to recharge, unless you have a charged spare battery. But with pneumatic units, you’ll never run out of air as long as the air compressor is on.
Considering the above points, we’ve listed the 9 best brad nailers below so you can choose the right one for your projects.
1. Bostitch BTFP12233 Pneumatic Brad Nailer Review
Base on the type of nails brad nailers are designed to fire, the design of the tip is a very important factor to consider when choosing one for your projects.
This Bostitch BTFP12233 features one of the best tip designs you’re going to find. It features Bostitch Smart Point Technology which incorporates a smaller nose design on the nailer, making it easy to place nails accurately.
Unlike other brad nailers, you don’t have to compress the tip to fire nails with it as well, which improves the accuracy and prevents denting of the workpiece.
With the Bostitch BTFP12233, you can fire nails from 5/8 inches to 2-1/8 inches length easily. It will fire every nail flush into the wood, even when you’re toenailing with it.
Nail jams are something you’ll not be dealing with a lot when you use this Bostitch nailer, but if you ever had to deal with one, the BTFP12233 features a tool-free jam release lever mechanism you can use to clear the jam easily.
You don’t need any oil to get this nail gun working. It’s an oil-free brad nailer, which means less maintenance and lower risk of oil stains on your workpiece.
It features a selectable trigger which allows you to choose between sequential and contact firing mode, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
You can also adjust the depth of drive or how far the nails sink into the wood using a simple depth control dial that it comes equipped with.
If you’re not working with the tool or handling it, the simple belt hook it comes with will allow keep it within hands reach until you need it again.
All in all, This Bostitch BTFP12233 features everything a carpenter, home remodeller or cabinet maker needs to handle any type of project that involves the use of brad nails.
What I Like About It
2. Wen 61721 Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Considering the low price, I never expected much from this Wen 61721 brad nailer, but after using it, I’d say it’s one of the most impressive and best performing ones you’re going to find out there.
First of all, it’s very lightweight weighing just under 3 pounds, and it’s well designed with an ergonomic rubber handle that makes it very comfortable to hold and use.
It fires brads within the range of 3/8 to 2 inches in length and operates between 60 to 115 PSI of pressure.
Apart from adjusting the pressure of the air compressor, making depth adjustments can be done easily simply by turning a wheel close to the trigger.
The magazine is capable of holding 106 nails which reduces downtime because you’ll hardly run-out of nails, and there’s a transparent window in the magazine that acts like a little gauge, helping you know if you’re running low of nails. Loading the magazine is also very easy because it’s spring loaded.
It’s an oil-lubricated brad nailer, that’s why the exhaust port is located at the back to prevent it from contaminated or staining your material. The exhaust port can also be rotated so you can direct it away from your face or whatever you don’t want the air to come in contact with.
A jammed nail can cause a whole lot of frustration and increase downtime, that’s why this Wen 61721 comes equipped with a tool-less nose latch to open up the nose and clear the jam.
It comes with a ¼ inch NPT air inlet fitting you can use to hook it to your air compressor.
Overall, the Wen 61721 pneumatic brad nailer is definitely one of the best performing budget units you can get for your woodworking projects.
What I like about it
- It’s inexpensive
- Great performance
- Easy to use
- Easy to adjust
- Very lightweight – just 2.7 lbs in weight
- Clear jams easily.
- Just one firing mode.
3. Dewalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of using an air compressor and dragging air hoses with you, one of the best cordless brad nailers you can opt for is this Dewalt DCN680D1.
There’re other Dewalt brad nailers, but this one tops it for me. It has a narrow nose design that improves your line of sight and helps you sink brads accurately without missing the mark or damaging the material.
With the DCN680D1, you have an 18 gauge brad nailer with the capacity to drive brad nails from 5/8 inches to 2-1/8 inches in length.
It’s the ideal unit for fastening decorative moldings, window trims, shoe moldings, and casings.
It comes equipped with a brushless motor which is very efficient. You can power it with any of Dewalt’s 20V MAX Lithium-Ion batteries.
This Dewalt DCN680D1 has everything you need to tackle projects on and off the jobsite, whether large or small, professional or DIY.
It features a tool-free selectable trigger you can use to choose between bump firing and full sequential firing modes.
You can countersink nails at precisely the right depth you want using the tool-free depth adjustment dial it’s equipped with.
Though you’ll have very few nail jams, you can clear jams quite easily using a tool-free jam release lever right at the nose of the tool.
If no nails are in the magazine, the Dewalt DCN680D1 will not fire when actuated. A low nail lockout prevents any dry firing that might damage your material or leave unwanted marks on the surface.
It comes with a belt/rafter hook you can fix on either side of the tool depending on which side of your belt you want to hang it when it’s not in use.
In case there’s a jam, there’s a tool-free jam release lever to clear the jam and reduce downtime.
Overall, the Dewalt DCN680D1 brad nailer comes with everything you need in a brad nailer. It’s got the features of a pneumatic nailer with the freedom only a cordless tool can provide you.
- It has a very small tip which makes it very easy to position where accuracy is paramount.
- The battery lasts all day. So you don’t have to worry about the battery running down before you finish for the day.
- Trigger selection is a plus. You can choose between sequential and bump fire with ease.
- It’s very portable. No air compressor or hoses are required to run it.
- It’s heavy and a bit cumbersome to hold.
4. Metabo HPT NT50AE2
I’ve reviewed several Metabo HPT nail guns, and I’ve discovered one thing about all of them. They are very lightweight. The Metabo HPT NT50AE2 is no different.
Weighing just 2.2 lbs, it is the second lightest brad nailer in this list. The first one is the Porter-Cable BN200C.
When choosing a brad nailer, it is important that you also consider the weight. The less weight it has, the better it will be. Trust me, if you’re a contractor that works with these things all day, the weight of your tools should definitely be your concern.
The nose should be narrow enough so you can be very precise and place nails more accurately with it. Although that of the Metabo HPT NT50AE2 isn’t the narrowest nose I’ve seen, it definitely fits the description. It also comes with a no-mar tip that can be attached to the nose to prevent damage to the workpiece.
Metabo equipped the NT50AE2 with a solid magazine capable of holding up to 100 brads. This will definitely reduce tool downtime because, the more nails the magazine can hold at once, the longer you can work with it without reloading. The high capacity magazine is definitely a plus for the NT50AE2.
I would also not forget to mention the dual firing modes of the NT50AE2. With just the flip of a switch by the side of the tool just close to the trigger, you can change the firing mode from sequential to bump firing, and vice versa, depending on what you prefer.
Depth of drive adjustment is also something important, and Metabo did not fail to equip the NT50AE2 with one. It consist of a simple dial just beneath the handle and trigger. Just by turning the dial, you can adjust how deep you want the nail to sink into the wood.
The exhaust vent is located at the rear to prevent staining the work piece, and you can easily adjust the direction so as to prevent the puff of air from getting into your face.
Conclusively, I would say the Metabo HPT NT50AE2 is definitely the type of brad nailer suited for both DIY users and professional contractors that use this type of tools day after day on the job site.
What I Like About It
5. NUE Master | Budget Option
If you want a very budget-friendly brad nailer without any bells and whistles, this NEU Master pneumatic brad nailer is the way to go.
This thing is below 40 bucks, which is very cheap compared to some of the premium units that cost over 300 bucks.
Although it’s cheap, it gets the job done. In fact, it’s a 2-in-1 nail gun. It’s a brad nailer, and also a staple gun.
You can use it to drive brad nails 5/8 inches to 2 inches in length, and you can also drive 1/4 inch to 1-5/8 inch crown staples.
The operating pressure for this NEU Master nailer is between 60 and 120 PSI. However, it works better when the pressure is between 100 and 100 PSI.
The exhaust air vent can be rotated 360 degrees to keep contaminants away from your project and from your face if necessary.
Apart from the nail gun, it also comes with 1000 pieces of nails and staples to get you started. They include 400 pcs of 18 gauge 2-inch nails, 400 pcs of 18 gauge 1-1/4 inch nails, and 200 pcs of 1/4 inch and 1-1/4 inch crown staples.
It only uses a sequential trigger; jam clearing is tool-free, and the nail magazine can hold up to 100 nails per load.
In terms of ergonomics, the NEU Master is very lightweight. As a result, you can use it for a long time without getting fatigued in your arm. It also has a rubber over-mold in the handle, making it comfortable to hold.
- It’s very cheap. Easy to afford.
- It’s very lightweight and easy to use.
- The performance is great, and it doesn’t jam easily. Even if it does, there’s a tool-free jam release lever to clear the jam.
- It also comes with free nails and staples, up to 1000 pieces to get you started.
- It only has one trigger.
- The tip is not narrow and can mar the workpiece if you’re not careful.
Related: 16 Types Of Joinery For Woodworking
6. Porter Cable BN200C Brad Nailer
Porter Cable brings something else to the table, with their BN200C brad nailer. They in-cooperated a maintenance-free motor in it, which means you don’t need to oil it to keep it in good working condition.
And since you don’t have to oil it, you eliminate any risk or chance of staining the trim or furniture you’re working on. This singular feature, though possessed by a few other nailers, is what makes the Porter Cable BN200C among the few that stands out in the crowd.
To get the BN200C firing properly, you need to set your compressor to a pressure range of 70 to 120 PSI depending on how much force you need. Provided the pressure is within that range, the nailer will fire. I personally would set it somewhere in the middle, preferably at 100 PSI.
As for firing modes, the BN200C features only one firing mode, which is the sequential firing mode. There is no contact or bump fire mode.
The BN200C can drive brad nails ranging from 5/8 inch in length to 2 inches. So, you can be sure that it’s suitable for any kind of project which will require you to use those size of nails.
Being lightweight is an essential feature of any nail gun. Porter cable made sure the BN200C is lightweight by using magnesium metal for making the frame. With a weight of only 2.6 lbs, the BN200C can be used all day without getting fatigued.
The exhaust of the porter cable BN200C is located at the rear of the nailer. This is so, in order to keep contaminants from staining or messing up what you’re working on.
To alert you when the magazine is getting empty, it’s equipped with a reload indicator at the side, so that you can quickly reload and prevent any dry fire that will definitely occur if there is no brads in the magazine.
Setting nail depths with it is very easy. It is equipped with a pretty decent depth of drive mechanism just beneath the trigger for setting the nail depths easily.
Another useful addition it has is an adjustable belt hook at the side. This will enable you to hang and secure it to your tool belt to keep it within reach, while using another tool.
The rubberized handle is also an essential addition, ensuring you have a good grip on the tool, and maximum comfort while carrying out your projects.
The handle is not the only soft part in the tool. It also has a soft removable non-marring tip that ensures the tip does not dent or damage the workpiece.
What I like about it
There are many features to be admired about the Porter Cable BN200C brad nailer. But I would like to isolate the fact that it is made with a quality, tough and durable metal – magnesium.
This alone, will ensure that the nailer last for years, provided you don’t abuse it. Making it with magnesium also ensures that it is lightweight enough to be used for a long time without getting tired of holding it.
I also like the fact that it is easy to maintain. You don’t need to oil it. All you have to do is keep it safely in the case that comes with it when it’s not in use. Oh yes, it comes with a case for carrying it around.
So, once you’re through with it, just place it back in the case and put it somewhere safe out of the reach of your kids, if you have any. Don’t leave it lying around, or kick it around. Then it will not last very long.
Porter Cable is a good tool manufacturing brand, and the BN200C brad nailer is just another one of the many power tools that represent their class in the power tool industry.
Where it can be improved
Although it comes with a low nail reload indicator, I prefer that it has an anti-dry fire mechanism to prevent it from even firing in the first place if there are no nails in the magazine.
I think even with a low nail indicator, sometimes you may forget to look at it, and will not notice until the magazine gets empty and you’ll actually have some dry fires, which is not good.
Having an anti-dry fire mechanism is preferable, and it will ensure that the nailer serves it full live before breaking down in the long run.
The BN200C also have only one firing mode which is the sequential firing mode. This is bad news for those who regularly use the contact or bump fire mode.
This is not actually a big issue, but it would certainly be an improvement if they can modify the BN200C to bump-fire as well.
Considering everything about this nailer, I’d like to conclude that the Porter Cable BN200C is a top quality brad nailer that will serve you well, if you choose it.
7. Craftsman CMCN618C1 Cordless Brad Nailer
The 20 Volts Craftsman CMCN618C1 cordless brad nailer is designed for professional Craftsmen who need a dedicated and reliable tool to carry out trim work and install crown moldings without the hassle of bringing additional accessories such as hoses and air compressors to the jobsite.
Cold weather can affect nailers in many ways, especially those that use fuel cartridges and even pneumatic ones. It can make them to jam, and even stop firing altogether. The Craftsman CMCN618C1 however is weatherproof, allowing you to carry out projects even during the winter months without jamming, as long as you keep it dry.
Design and Build Quality:
The Craftsman CMCN618C1 is well-built. Although it’s encased in hard plastic material, it feels really solid and sturdy.
The narrow nose design aids visibility and ensures very accurate nail placement on the trim.
Jams rarely occur, but if it does, there’s a tool-free jam release mechanism right at the nose of the nailer for freeing up the jammed nail so that work can continue.
A tool-free depth adjustment dial is included to easily drive nails at their appropriate depth, whether it’s a 1 inch nail or a 2 inch nail.
Firing Modes: Sequential firing mode only.
When fully charged, the Craftsman 20 Volts Max brad nailer can fire over 500 nails on a single charge, making it ideal for both small and large projects.
It can fire different sizes of 18 gauge nails with ease, from 1 inch to 2 inches. This makes it a very versatile tool for installing different types and sizes of trim and moldings.
It features a good contoured rubber over-molded handle design to enhance grip and improve user comfort during use.
The unit also features 2 bright LED lights to improve visibility when working in low light conditions.
When not in use, an included belt hook makes it easy to hang it away on your tool belt and retrieve it once it’s needed again.
The major downside I found is that it has only one firing mode, which is the sequential mode. There’s no bump firing mode which can be used to set multiple pins at the same time. You have to pull the trigger and compress the tip each time you need to fire a nail.
Another downside is that it’s a bit heavy and bulky. You should know this is not the lightest brad nail gun on the market. Pneumatic units are lighter, but they’re not portable, requires you to drag hoses along with you, which is quite cumbersome.
8. Porter-Cable PCC790LA Cordless Brad Nailer
Another cordless brad nailer that dazzled me by its quality and performance is the Porter-Cable PCC790LA brad nailer.
The fact that it is one of the best-selling cordless brad nailers out there stands testament to the fact that it’s really a top quality nailer.
Just from a first look at the Porter-Cable PCC790LA, you’ll easily discover that it comes with a body that is ruggedly built, with nice rubberized ergonomic handles. Well, the performance does not betray the looks. It does perform well, and it’s got nice features as well.
The tool comes with a 1.5 Ah 20 volts Max lithium-ion battery which powers the nailer, and a charger is included as well. But it doesn’t come with a case to hold them.
Clearing jammed nails is very easy with the Porter-Cable PCC790LA, because it comes equipped with a jam release lever for opening the nose and removing any jammed nails from it.
Also included is a depth of drive adjustment dial for adjusting the depth of drive according to the thickness and hardness of the wood you’re nailing.
The Porter-Cable PCC790LA brad nailer is one of the few ones that comes with a LED light to illuminate what you’re working on. This will be especially useful and help you to be more precise when nailing the inside of cabinets, or any area of your work that is not properly illuminated.
Weighing just 5.9 lbs, it’s the lightest cordless brad nailer in its class. With all these features, I’m sure you can see why the Porter-Cable PCC790LA makes this top 10 list of the best brad nailers.
What I like about it
For a brad nailer to be effective, it has to deliver consistent power and driving force to sink the brads to the set depth consistently. That is where the Porter-Cable PCC790LA really shines a lot.
You don’t have to wonder whether it will leave some nails above or below the wood surface, it really sinks them to the same depth every time you pull the trigger.
Obviously, I also like the fact that you don’t have to use a compressor and drag and air hose around with the Porter-Cable PCC790LA in your hands.
Like I said earlier, I also like the overall rugged look of the nailer. It really makes you feel confident that it will hold up over time.
Where it can be improved
After firing one nail, the Porter-Cable PCC790LA takes about a second to fire another nail, which is a little bit slow compared to other nailers in its class. It’s not very slow, but some might view that as slow, and I think that little delay can be removed to improve the overall performance of the nailer.
To me though, a less than 1 second delay is not really a big deal to me, provided brad nailer sinks the nail properly, which the Porter-Cable PCC790LA brad nailer does exceptionally well.
Plus it’s a battery powered brad nailer, it may not catch up with a pneumatic nailer in terms of speed, but you get to escape the stress and noise of a compressor and dragging a hose along with you.
9. SENCO FinishPro
We probably would not post this article without mentioning the SENCO FinishPro 18 gauge pneumatic brad nailer in it.
It’s highly durable and feels solid and sturdy when held in the hand. It’s also very lightweight because it’s made with high quality magnesium components. As mentioned earlier, it’s a pneumatic brad nailer. Which means, you have to own a compressor to use it.
With the SENCO FinishPro brad nailer, you can fire nails from 5/8 inches in size to 2-1/8 inches flush into any wood you intend to use it for.
It equipped with a selective actuation trigger to easily switch between sequential firing and bump firing modes.
When firing nails you have to check the red indicator that warns if the nail in the magazine is running low, because it will dry fire if there is no nail in the magazine. Though there is no anti-dry fire mechanism, but with the indicator, you can reload your magazine in time and prevent any dry fires.
The tapered nose design really makes the nose very narrow and makes it possible to fit the nailer into tight spaces and place brads more accurately.
If you looking for a good brad nailer to carry out any kind of finish cabinetry work, install door and wind casing, or install moldings, then consider choosing the SENCO FinishPro. It’s portable, countersinks brads well, easy to adjust, and it’s definitely one of the best brad nailers you can get your hands on today.
What I like about it
With a tool weight of 2.48 lb, it’s really lightweight and easy to use. If you’re going to be sinking nails for a very long time, especially overhead, you can be sure that a lightweight tool will definitely make a difference on how your hand feels at the end of the day.
Where it can be improved
It dry fires when there’re no nails in the magazine. When it does, it leaves an impression or dent on the trim. Many modern nailers are designed not to fire if the magazine is empty. This one is not. It fires and dents the trim.
So, I’d advice you watch the reload indicator frequently to ensure the magazine is not empty.
The SENCO FinishPro is a top quality unit. However, I think having an anti-dry fire mechanism will definitely make it a better.