Knowing when to use a pin nailer versus a brad nailer is a bit like knowing when to use spinners or flies for fishing – there are as many different answers as there are people.
Pinners, as they’re called, are often used in cases where glue would normally be used to join two pieces of lightweight wood together. The lack of heads on the pins means they’re virtually invisible once the surface is painted or treated. Even there, brad nails are almost as difficult to spot, so it really comes down to a matter of taste.
That being said, which pinner is best for you?
We’ve gone out in your place, done the research, examined the various models, put on our thinking caps, and come up with a list of reviews to help you avoid making a decision that leaves you with a bad case of the “if only”s. So lean back, put your feet up, and enjoy the fruit of our herculean labors.
|BOSTITCH HP118K||5 lbs||4.8/5|
(Best for the Money)
|NuMax SP123||2 lbs||4.3/5|
|Makita AF353||6 lbs||4.1/5|
Our top pick is this two-pound Hitachi pin nailer. The pin loading is effortless, it doesn’t jam, it is comfortable to hold and use, and it has a good range of fasteners it can use.
It has a nice dual trigger safety, and the rear exhaust port directs oil and other debris away from where you’re working. The wrench for making depth adjustments is stored right on the tool itself, eliminating hunting around for it when it’s time to change the depth.
It comes with a solid five-year warranty, which gives you a feeling of comfort when buying this model. The workmanship is superb and the result is a pin nailer with little or no impact, great flush pinning, and hardly any marring of the material.
Our only gripe, and it’s a trivial one, is that while the case looks good it’s actually kind of cheap and flimsy. Still, we’re not using the case for anything except storage, and it doesn’t detract from the nailer itself in any way.
This is the clear winner!
This was a close call. Like the Hitachi, this pin nailer from Bostitch is light, comfortable to hold and use, doesn’t jam, has a dual trigger safety, and uses a wide range of pins.
The seven-year warranty is better than Hitachi’s, so you know this model is going to be around for a while.
The issues that put this one in second place had to do with marring and countersinking.
Few pin nailers come with non-marring tips because of their bulky sizes. But this pinner seemed to do worse than most when dealing with softwoods. It was harder than it needed to be to keep from marring the material.
Conversely, it wouldn’t countersink pins in hardwoods such as oak and maple. Given the pins’ small sizes, this isn’t much of an issue, but it was just enough to relegate this nailer to second place.
The difference between our top two picks was more of the “seconds and inches” variety than anything, so don’t take their rankings too hard if you’re a die-hard fan of one brand or the other.
When it comes to getting the most bang for the buck, this Freeman pinner is the one to beat. At three pounds, it’s small, easy to use, and has a seven-year warranty!
The reversible belt hook is nice, as is the pin size selector switch. There are some trade-offs, though, which is why this offering isn’t in our top two.
It doesn’t have a wide range of pins, only 1/2″ to 1″. That’s usually enough for most applications, but it’s good to have options no matter what you’re doing, and this one doesn’t have them.
The trigger safety works, but it has to be rotated to the side, which then leaves you with no safety at all. Basically, it’s either on or off – not a good situation to be in.
It jams more than it should and sometimes shoots double nails or misses them. There’s also no case, so you’ll have to find some other way of storing it.
Within its limits, and for the low price, this is really a great little pinner. You’ll be happy with it.
This tool uses 1/2″ to 1″ pins like the Freeman pinner above, but you’ll never confuse them. It has a reversible belt hook and rotating trigger safety, along with a decent pin size selector.
However, it only has a one-year warranty on the gun body and 30 days on wearable parts (whatever those are). What this split warranty means is that NuMax is free to claim any particular part is whatever is cheapest for the company. You won’t be getting much in the way of satisfaction on this one.
This is important because the firing pin has a noticeable history of jamming and breaking. There have been numerous complaints on this issue, with no indication NuMax is willing to fix the design flaw causing it.
It jams frequently, misses, and shoots double nails. If these problems started after several years of use, that would be one thing, but it’s happening right out of the box. It works well for a few hours, then it doesn’t. Very disappointing.
Every manufacturer has its clunkers, and Makita is no exception. The only nice things about this pinner are the light weight and the case. Aside from that, it’s a paperweight.
Jamming is a huge problem with this pinner – it does it all the time. In many instances, it jams the first time out of the box. It won’t shoot pins correctly, leaving them standing above the material, or not coming out at all because it missed them or didn’t feed them out of the magazine correctly.
It has an internal problem with the plunger breaking down. Makita claims there is a three-year warranty on this pinner, but complaints about its service on this one are too numerous to ignore. This appears to be a design flaw that’s too expensive for the company to fix, so it stalls for time, hoping the customer gets tired of it and goes away.
Don’t bother wasting your time or money on this model. It’s just not worth it.
Most pin nailers qualify for free shipping, but one or two of them might not, so be sure to check on it before buying. Aside from that mundane consideration, keep in mind what you’re trying to accomplish with your project or work. The main strength for pinners is that they don’t split small and delicate wood pieces along the grain when they fire into them.
Pinners are often used in place of wood glue. Is that what you’re doing? Do you need the expense of a pinner, or can you finish your project with glue? These are some things only you can decide. With pinners, you don’t have to wait around for the glue to dry, so if speed is an issue, a pin nailer is definitely the way to go.
A good pinner should have the widest possible range of pins to cover all the possible projects you might be working on. It should be able to handle hardwoods without leaving pins sticking up. It should be able to function reliably without jamming or misfiring.
As always when working with power tools, have good safety mechanisms in place. Awkward safeties, or “on-off” types, are serious drawbacks. You should think long and hard before committing yourself to them. A good product is one that doesn’t put you in danger.
As with all nail guns, there are several options. You’ll need to consider what size pins you want for your project. Purchasing them with the pinner is a good idea – you’ll save on shipping later.
All these pinners are pneumatic, so an air compressor is required. They also use oil regularly. The easiest way to prevent jamming is to use plenty of oil, so make sure you keep it on hand.
The Hitachi NP35A pin nailer was the winner of our reviews. It was the whole package and more. The only real shortcoming was the flimsy case, which had nothing to do with the pinner itself. It was a joy to work with, and we think you’ll find it to be the same way when you try it.
The prize for best for the money went to the Freeman PP123 pin nailer. If you’re on a budget, or just want something for occasional use around the house, this is the one to pick. It reliably gets the job done. You’ll be satisfied when you use it.
Choices are great, but we don’t want you to be overwhelmed with them. With this review in hand, you won’t be. You can pick your pinner with confidence, then tackle the project you got it for, secure in the knowledge you got what you needed, no more, no less.
More nail gun posts:
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!