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Aviation Snips vs Tin Snips: What’s the Difference?

a tin snip

Sheet metal happens, and you don’t want to be stuck with gutters, flashing, or ducts that need cutting and the wrong tool to do it. But what do you need for the job? A good pair of aviation snips or tin snips is essential, but which one should you choose? And what the heck is the difference, anyway? Read on to learn a little more about aviation and tin snips, what sets them apart, and which one you need for which jobs.

Tin Snips

Tin snips look like a pair of long-necked scissors with short blades. They’re best for making straight cuts, though you may be able to get some clean, gentle curves as well. Duckbill tin snips have half-moon-shaped blades that will perform better on curved cuts. Tin snips work better on thinner metal, as they require more manual effort and hand strength.

Looking for a good pair of tin snips? We recommend the DEWALT DWHT70286:

DEWALT DWHT70286 10Inch Tin Snip

They’re good for up to 22-gauge cold rolled steel or up to 26-gauge stainless steel. They’re also nicely cushioned for a comfortable grip.

Aviation Snips

Aviation snips are the most commonly used type of snips, especially for gutters, metal flashing, or ductwork. They have spring-loaded handles to save you half the wear and tear on your hands, and they come manufactured either straight-bladed or with different angles, to give you right- or left-curved cuts. The handles are even color-coded to prevent confusion. A red handle indicates left-angled cuts, a green handle means right-angled cuts, and yellow handles are for straight cuts. Aviation snips are best for curved or precision cutting and are better for thicker metal sheets (up to about 18 gauge).

Looking for a good pair of aviation snips? We recommend the Hurricane 3 pack set:

Hurricane 02-003 10 Inch Aviation Tin Snips Set 3 Pack, Chrome Vanadium Steel

These can cut up to 18-gauge carbon steel, 22-gauge stainless steel, or 16-gauge aluminum. They’re properly color-coded and feature comfortable grips, vanadium steel blades, and a safety latch.


For simpler jobs, grab a pair of tin snips. Just watch out for thicker metal gauges, as they’ll wear out both your tin snips and your hands. For angled cuts or for conquering thicker-gauge metals, aviation snips are best. Be sure to use the right color for the angle you’re cutting for best results. If the metal is too thick for aviation snips, it may be time to grab a circular saw with a metal cutting blade.

Note: we recently compiled a list of the 8 best tin snips on the market. Find that guide here.

Header image credit: MIDwest Aviation

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