Finish nailers are often associated with the thick side of putting up trim, but that doesn’t quite tell the entire story. They are actually a pretty versatile tool. You can use them on trim. You can also use them to put furniture and cabinets together, and attach door and window moldings and thick baseboards. Although you wouldn’t want to use a finish nailer for thin pieces of wood where a brad nailer is more ideal, they are better if you need to anchor trim to drywall where a brad nail isn’t likely to stay fastened.
You can find models that are powered pneumatically and with fuel cartridges. Our reviews here focus on a third option, the cordless finish nailer and the benefits they offer. Our hope is that you find them useful as you surf the Internet looking for the right cordless finish nailer. After our reviews, we put together a buyers’ guide based on the criteria we used in our reviews. It would fill us with boundless joy to learn that you’d found both useful.
|DEWALT DCN660B 20V|
|Hitachi NT1865DMA||8 lbs||4.7/5|
(Best for the Money)
|BOSTITCH BCN650D1||6 lbs||4.4/5|
|Hitachi NT65GAPR||4 lbs||4.1/5|
The DeWalt DCS660B is the finish nailer by which to measure other finish nailers. It has a compact design, weight, and angled head that you can put in trim along the floor or a ceiling corner with equal ease. It’s fully battery-operated, so no compressor hoses or gas canisters. It’s also powerful enough to do everything a finish nailer is expected to do. Compared to competing models, it’s price is also a good value. We looked at models that delivered far less for more money.
Something we didn’t like about it was its tendency to jam. You aren’t going to get through any job that requires to you throw as many nails as installing finish and not have a jam or two. It didn’t jam with alarming frequency. It just jammed more than we would have liked it to, compared to how well it otherwise performed. If we could invent a new word to describe this, it would be “jam-ish.”
Beyond that, it got our top pick for pretty mundane reasons. It is a great finish nailer that incorporates modern features and can push out work.
Count us among the fans of the Hitachi NT1865DMA. It’s got great power and an intriguing design that compresses its own power to drive nails in. It has a suite of the best features currently on the market to make your job easier, safer and hassle free, and it’s angled well so you can get it into hard-to-reach spaces.
Unlike some of the other models we looked at, the NT1865DMA is cordless but not entirely battery-powered. We put that down as a con, which it is only in the abstract. It’s still a lot better than dragging out air hoses and compressors. Whether your finish nailer eliminates that through compressed gas or purely through batteries is probably more a matter of personal choice. It’s important that you be aware of which kind of cordless nailer it is going in.
What did cost it the top spot is that it’s not terribly comfortable to operate. It’s just kind of clunky and uncomfortable and heavy. It was also enough to drop it out of the running for top pick.
We’re a sucker for a great deal, and the Porter-Cable PCC792LA is our pick as best for the money. It’s appreciably cheaper than most of the other models we looked at but didn’t give up so much in terms of quality that consumers will feel cheated.
It’s completely battery operated. There is no compressor and no canister of butane gas to swap out. The battery also seems to have a pretty good lifespan, so you don’t have to take a two-hour break in the middle of hanging a side of finish to wait for it to charge back up.
In fact, it hangs favorably with the big dogs until you get to its straight-head construction. What separates straight from angled heads is when you get into a corner. The angled head means you slide your nailer in and fasten the end securely in place. The Porter-Cable’s straight head construction leaves the edge hanging a little bit. That’s what separates a best for the money model for the top pick and runner-up.
In a just world, the Bostitch BCN650D1 would be hailed as a titan among men. Epic poetry would be written in honor of its powerful, completely battery-powered finish nailing. People would line the main artery into the city to catch a glimpse of its long-lasting brushless motor.
We don’t live in a just world, however. We live in this one, with very real limitations and budget considerations. The simple fact is that while the BCN650D1 is a great finish nailer, it is so expensive that the advantages it brings are simply swallowed up by pedestrian concerns over the terrible vengeance it will wreak on your wallet.
It has features that for tool people are a glory to behold. It carries a price tag, however, that could cause the budget conscience to blow a gasket. We didn’t like dropping it way down to number four, but someone has to go last. At least this is just next to that one.
We hate to call a tool that costs this much a disposable, but that’s about how it comes down. Hitachi’s NT65GAPR is a lightweight, super affordable finish nailer that might get you through a single job before wheezing out its death rattle and never again stirring. Then again, it might get halfway through a job before it’s had enough of you and your so-called “work” and just stop.
We do like its weight. It’s the lightest model we looked at. If the finish you’re putting it is at the ceiling, that could make a pretty big deal. If that’s where you’re working and don’t mind taking a flyer on whether it’ll conk out before you’re done, this is a model worthy of consideration. It’s certainly got the price to do that.
Just be aware that in addition to durability issues, it also struggles pretty mightily with large nails.
If you’re on a very strict budget and don’t actually have a lot of finish to put in, this is an acceptable model to consider. Be aware that it has very severe limitations in terms of nail size and long-term durability. That’s why we’ve dropped it down to the basement of our rankings.
We can understand that you’ve gotten through our reviews and still want to know how to pick the right finish nailer. A finish nailer can do a lot more than its name implies, from installing trim to putting together cabinets and furniture. For a tool intended to drive nails that are comparatively smaller than others, they can also be a pretty stout investment of money. So, it’s understandable that you’d want as much information as possible to make a sound purchase choice.
We took all our assembled knowledge and wisdom and compressed it into this space for your benefit. We used it ourselves in writing our reviews.
If you’re here, it’s because you’re researching cordless finish nailers. We get that. In helping you find the right model, we want to start with why you’re looking at cordless finish nailers rather than a pneumatic gun.
Pneumatic nail guns are the most popular power mode. Compared to cordless nail guns, they are much cheaper and get their juice from a line running to either an air compressor or a tank of compressed air. Their limitations are that while the gun itself is much cheaper than a cordless gun, you still need to buy an air compressor. You might have multiple uses for an air compressor, which makes it a better investment. It’s big limitation, however, is that its mobility is limited to the extent of the air hose.
Up until recently, in fact, if you bought a finish nailer it was going to be pneumatic. Cordless nailers were, to put it mildly, something of a joke. That’s changed over the last decade or so, with improvements in design making the extra dollars a worthwhile investment because it delivered quality performance on the go.
It’s important to be clear about what is meant by cordless. It can mean battery-powered, or it can mean that it powers the nail in using either small canisters of butane gas. The gas fills an internal chamber. An electrical spark ignites the gas. We hesitate to call it a very small, controlled explosion because that’s likely to scare people. It’s more like a pop. The pressure of the expanding gas pushes a piston on the nail side of the chamber down onto the nail and drives it into whatever the tip is next to. When you see a finish nailer described as cordless, you will want to double-check what is meant by that.
What makes this important is that if you use the finish nailer for trim, you’re going to be moving around over the course of your job. Lugging an air compressor hose with you can get to be tiresome. That also means potentially moving around an air compressor, which is even more tiresome.
When looking for the right finish nailer, keep this in mind. You’re spending extra because for portability.
The next criteria is whether you want nails driven in at an angle or straight. It’s easy to think that you need to drive them in at an angle because their heads are mostly flush and have little footprint. But, it’s not really necessary. Anchored properly, a nail driven in straight will hold just as fast as one driven in at an angle. Angled-head nailers show their utility in corners. There will be a few inches between the top of the tool and the driving point, and you really want an anchor point closer to the edge of the trim. If you need to drive a nail at that kind of angle, you’ll want an angled finish nailer.
There are two basic kinds of trigger operation: bump fire and sequential. A bump-fire is faster. You maintain pressure on the trigger and press the gun where you want to drive in the nail. It’s faster, so it’s easier to lose control of it, and there’s a greater risk of incidental firing. A sequential operation requires that you release the trigger between nails and press it in again before driving in the next nail. It’s slower, but a little safer and a little more controllable.
You don’t necessarily need to choose one or the other. A lot of models on the market accommodate both. So, if you’re not sure which one you want, or are pretty sure there are times when you’ll want either, look for one of these. These combo finish nailers either have some internal mechanism that allows you to switch between modes of operation, or they require that you swap out triggers. The ones that require that you swap out triggers often don’t come with the additional trigger. You’ll have to make an additional purchase.
All cordless nailers share the same basic safety feature, they require the tip be pressed against what you’re trying to drive the nail into to operate. You can press the trigger all the live-long day and unless that tip is depressed fully, it won’t operate.
They all also come with a fan to clear away the spent butane. When you depress the trigger, you should hear the fan turn on.
Since these are universal to gas-powered cordless nailers, these are features that you should look at in terms of how well their tips are designed and how quietly the fan operates. You will definitely want a nailer with a well-made tip. You might want a nailer with a quieter fan.
Considering the basic cost of a finish nailer, we strongly suggest that you visit a local retailer and find a model that is comfortable in your hands. This is a tool that should deliver consistent results based on how you handle it. The quality of the work starts with your hands. You’ll want a nail gun that isn’t cumbersome.
Finish nailers are a versatile tool. Their prices can also run to a few hundred dollars. If your budget is limited or you’re taking something of a chance on a tool you might use to do side jobs, price could be a pretty big deal. Sometimes you have your budget set ahead of time. This is a case where it’s probably a good idea to figure out what kind of tool you want — straight or angled, mode of operation — and figure out how much you want to spend. Spending a few dollars extra to get exactly what you need in this case is a lot better than skimping and getting a tool that just doesn’t do it for you.
The DeWalt DCS660B grabbed our top spot by combining up-to-date features with power and quality. It was also a much better value than the Hitachi NT1865DMA, which intrigued us by its design. Its lack of comfortable grip turned us off. If not for its straight construction, we could have looked more seriously at the Porter-Cable PCC792LA as a top performer, but instead gave it our best for the money ranking. We were really impressed by the Bostitch BCN650D1’s features and construction, but at its price, it just didn’t deliver the outsized performance to take it seriously. Hitachi’s NT65GAPR is lightweight and super affordable. If you get lucky and buy one that can handle the work, it’s perfect for those uncomfortable, hard-to-reach spaces. It also has trouble with large nails and at without a moment’s notice could throw up its hands and give up.
We hope you found value in our reviews of finish nailers, and that they help inform you on the right choice. We also hope that you read through our buyer’s guide for useful tips in continuing your search. We wish you luck.
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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!