Best 18-Gauge Brad Nailers 2019 – Reviews & Buying Guide

an 18-gauge brad nailerFor centuries our poor benighted ancestors made do with manual hammers, swinging them by brute force to drive nails. Luckily for us, engineers invented a way to drive nails into wood using nail guns that run on compressed air.

Now, every tool maker has its own nail gun on the market: big ones, little ones, medium-sized ones, in every color of the rainbow. “Confusing” is an understatement. That’s where we come in.

We’ve done all the work of examining the various products available on the market today, conducted reviews of the products, come up with the best ones, written down what we found, and posted the results for you to use at your leisure.

The fruits of our labor are yours for the asking. Read on to gain all the benefits, find the right tool, and save some money.

Bon voyage!

A list of our Top Picks of 2019:

ModelPriceWeightEditor Rating
Hitachi NT50AE2
Hitachi NT50AE2(Top Pick)

Check Price
5 lbs4.9/5
DEWALT DWFP12231
DEWALT DWFP12231

Check Price
5 lbs4.7/5
WEN 61720
WEN 61720(Best for the Money)

Check Price
5 lbs4.6/5
Freeman PBR50Q
Freeman PBR50Q

Check Price
4 lbs4.3/5
Senco FinishPro 18 Sequential with Case
Senco FinishPro 18 Sequential with Case

Check Price
3 lbs3.9/5

5 Best 18-Gauge Brad Nailers – Our Reviews:

1. Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge Brad Nailer – Top Pick

Hitachi NT50AE2

At a super-light weight of just 2.2 pounds, this nail gun really delivers the goods.

The tool-less depth adjustment is well situated for ease of use, right at your fingertips. It easily handles hardwoods such as oak and maple. It’s comfortable in your hand with a good balance.

The nose tip is excellent at protecting your working materials from the dents that so often result from nail guns. It comes with two extra, non-marring nose pads. More can be purchased as needed.

The adjustable exhaust can be aimed in any direction, which we always like. Why should you have to put up with fixed exhausts that may not be suited for your particular way of working? With this tool, you don’t have to.

It works great on baseboards, trim, doors, windows, and other detail work, and comes with a five-year warranty.

It can’t shoot from an angle, though. It has to be a straight shot or it won’t fire. However, many nail guns exhibit this behavior, so we really can’t detract too much from it for that.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Convenient tool-less depth adjustment
  • Well balanced
  • Handles hardwoods
  • Non-marring nose pads
Cons
  • Won’t shoot at an angle

2. DEWALT DWFP12231 18 Gauge Brad Nailing Gun – The Runner-Up

DEWALT DWFP12231

Our runner-up is a bit heavier than the champ, weighing in at 5.15 pounds. It also comes with a tool-free depth adjustment and an included case.

The rear exhaust isn’t as adjustable as we’d like, but the excellent balance and sturdy grip more than make up for it. It also has a three-year warranty.

Why is this the runner-up and not the top pick? First of all, it jams more frequently than we’d like. It’s not enough to disqualify it but happens a bit too often.

The real problem that keeps it out of the top spot is a known tendency for it to stop working because the piston sealer ring develops cracks. We did quite a bit of research on this issue, and it turns out DeWalt has some design issues with this model. It doesn’t happen all the time, or on every nailer in this line, but frankly, it shouldn’t happen at all.

For this reason, we’re listing it in the second spot in our reviews.

Pros
  • Tool-free depth adjustment
  • Three-year warranty
  • Case is included
  • Good balance and grip
Cons
  • Jams too often
  • Bad piston sealer design

3. WEN 61720 18-Gauge Brad Nail Gun – Best for the Money

WEN 61720

We were surprisingly impressed with this nail gun from WEN.

Made of lightweight aluminum, it weighs right in at three pounds, with a nice rubber grip, and solid performance for such an inexpensive nailer.

It comes with oil, two adjustment wrenches, a custom carrying case, and a one-year warranty. We also discovered that whoever wrote the manual had a good sense of humor. Most manuals are boring, but this one was kinda fun to read.

It operates best at 60 to 100 psi on softwoods and some moderately harder woods.

However, it tries to shoot two nails at a time now and then. It also tends to leave the nail heads sticking out occasionally. Additionally, we found it doesn’t like taking 2″ nails, even though it’s advertised as a 3/4″ to 2″ nailer.

It doesn’t have the power and reliability of our top two models, but for the price, this is a seriously good nail gun.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Good grip
  • One-year warranty
Cons
  • Sometimes shoots two nails
  • Leaves head sticking out
  • Problems with 2″ nails

4. Freeman PBR50Q Brad Nailer

Freeman PBR50Q

This 3.5-pound nail gun comes with a seven-year limited warranty and a reversible belt hook, but the good news pretty much ends at that point.

The first thing we noticed is the lack of a dry-firing lockout to prevent firing when it misses a nail, which it does quite frequently. When it misses and fires anyway, the piston hits the material, leaving a noticeable dent. It leaves dents anyway, right above the nails, but adding extra ones without even sinking a nail really put us off.

The lack of nose pads aggravates the dent problem. This is just sloppy.

There’s no depth adjustment on the gun itself, so the only way to adjust it is with air pressure, but this is a hit-and-miss arrangement that either leaves nail heads sticking out or, again, puts another dent in the material. This is a frustrating nail gun to use, and it didn’t have to be that way because when it works, it actually works great.

The lack of adjustments, dry-fire lockout, and nose pads will keep this one in fourth place.

Pros
  • Seven-year warranty
  • Reversible belt hook
Cons
  • No nose pad(s)
  • No depth adjustment
  • No dry-fire lockout
  • Leaves dents in wood

5. Senco FinishPro 18 Sequential with Case

Senco FinishPro 18 Sequential with Case

Buy this one for the case, then throw the nailer away. It only has a one-year warranty and we can see why.

The advertising shows an older, metal model, but what comes is a newer model mostly made of cheap plastic. This is the old bait-and-switch. The adjustments require a hex wrench, which forces you to stop every time. There’s no dry-fire lockout, so it’s subject to firing when it misses a nail or the nail strip runs out, leading to denting problems.

There’s no oil included even though the advertising claims it’s included, and we discovered it won’t countersink nails below the material surface for those times when you want to putty over the nail heads. This last item is a small thing perhaps, but it’s emblematic of the deficiencies of this nailer.

It jams frequently, the grip is uncomfortable, and it breaks way too often. Don’t waste your money on it.

Pros
  • Nice case
Cons
  • False advertising
  • Cheap plastic
  • Jams and breaks
  • No dry-fire lockout
  • Uncomfortable grip

Buyer’s Guide

Using these reviews will help you make the decision about which nail gun to buy for your particular requirements and needs. We haven’t covered price because only you know how much you’re willing to spend.

But don’t let money be your only consideration. Due to their nature and possible hazards, power tools demand careful thought and attention. This is why these reviews are here, and why we spend so much time preparing them for you. Don’t let anyone rush you.

What makes a good nail gun?

Safety is an important consideration with nail guns. People wind up in the emergency room all the time because of being shot with one. Safety features such as dry-fire lockouts may appear to slow you down, but a trip to the ER will bring your work to a crashing halt, not to mention all the pain and suffering you’ll have to endure. Good nail guns have good safeties.

They also have speed and reliability. If they weren’t faster than the old-fashioned hammer, there wouldn’t be any point in spending a lot of money on them. They need to work “first time, every time” and do it quickly.

Tips when buying

All the products reviewed here come with a manufacturer’s warranty, but there are differences among them that may affect your final choice. Pay close attention to them and you’ll save yourself a world of grief later on down the line.

Options

With nail guns, there are all sorts of available options, starting with the most basic necessity – an air compressor. All the models we’ve reviewed require them, and if you don’t have one, you’ll need to get one. Most manufacturers will have accompanying models listed for sale, but they’ll add considerably to the bottom line.

You should also get extra packages of nail strips, oil, and if they’re available, spare nose pads. For a finished product that’s dent-free, nose pads are essential. They’re usually small and fairly low-priced. Get ‘em!

Conclusion

The super-light Hitachi NT50AE2 nailer wins the spot of the top pick in our reviews of 18-gauge nail guns. It has everything you want in a nail gun – speed, power, and reliability. It’s well worth the price and you’ll be happy you got it.

We were suitably impressed with the performance of the inexpensive WEN 61720 nail gun. This powerful little nailer hits it on the head in terms of speed and overall reliability, with an occasional hiccup. For use around the house for detail work, baseboards, and finishing, this is the nailer for those on a budget. Get it, use it, enjoy it.

Manufacturers are always trying to outdo each other with their products, flooding the market and over-saturating it with models of all kinds. We take the guesswork out of it for you so you can get on with your life and your projects.

Remember to check back often for more reviews on the products you use. We’ll help you nail it.

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