There are so many nail guns to choose from; pneumatic, battery, gas, framing, brad, finish, and the list goes on. That is the reason why we sat down and wrote an overview of the different types of nail guns. This should hopefully give you a much better overview, and a clearer idea of which one you will need for your next project. Let’s get started!
Framing nailers are heavy-duty nail guns, intended to drive long nails deep into lumber. These guns get their name from their first-intended task, which is to build housing frames. If you’ve got other big tasks to do, however, these are the nail guns you’ll want to start with.
The most common framing nail gun is powered by an air compressor connected to the gun by a hose. That makes it lightweight compared to other guns, but the range you can use it is limited to the length of the air hose.
Framing nail guns that operate purely by battery power are a new thing on the market, made possible only by advances in battery technology. A 20-volt lithium-ion battery with a brushless motor can create enough punch for a framing nailer. Just keep several backup batteries available to swap out as needed.
A quick electric jolt ignites a gas cartridge to drive nails deep into lumber. These tools were a very popular alternative to pneumatic guns when they first hit the market, and they remain so even as battery-powered guns become more reliable. Just make sure you have enough gas cartridges to get your work done.
Roofing nail gun
A roofing nail gun is just what its name implies; it’s designed primarily for roofing projects. They aren’t as powerful as framing nail guns and are geared toward setting the depth of how far the nail goes in. If you’re in the market because you have roofing work to do, keep in mind that you’ll be working off the ground, so you’ll want to place a premium on portability.
Connecting a nail gun to an air compressor offers the most reliable access to power, but what you sacrifice is mobility. Considering that you’re working on a roof, this can be a pretty big deal. On the other hand, you don’t have to continuously swap out batteries or load gas cartridges.
A cordless roofing nail gun offers a lot of portability—an invaluable asset when you’re working on a roof. The biggest drawback is that portable sources of power like batteries and gas cartridges have to be carried along with you. That means keeping track of yet one more thing while aloft.
Flooring nail gun
Flooring is a specialty. It requires skill and a pretty specialized nail gun. You don’t want to attach flooring hard to the frame because once the frame starts expanding and contracting with the weather it’ll create issues. So, flooring nail guns are specialty tools.
Air-powered nail guns are great because their power is consistent enough that you can work quickly if you have the flooring properly set in place. No need to worry about swapping out gas cartridges. As with all pneumatic tools, however, you are limited by the range of the air hose.
These cordless guns use a gas cartridge—the battery delivers an electrical charge that ignites it. As long as you can keep swapping out gas cartridges, these guns are more flexible in range than a pneumatic. They just aren’t as powerful or as fast.
These are slower moving than their powered counterparts, but a manual flooring nail gun does provide a couple of plusses worth considering. They’re cheaper and give a satisfying crunch when you press in a nail. It’s also easier to manage the depth because the user is in control of that.
Finish nail guns
On the smaller side of nail guns are the finish nailers. They use the tiniest nails and are intended for pretty small jobs, such as fastening in molding, building furniture, or putting together large cabinets.
There are two basic models of cordless finish nail guns, the straight ones for stapling molding into place and the angled ones for getting into corners. You’ll want to keep an eye on the batteries when using these because they can run out pretty quickly.
The chief advantage of a pneumatic nail gun is that the air compressor provides it with consistent, uninterrupted power. The chief disadvantage is that you’re confined in your range by the length of hose you use. That’s about as complicated as it gets.
Brad nail gun
Among the nails, the brads are the smallest. Nail guns that pop these nails out are used for cabinets, carpet, and light furniture construction. If you buy a gun like this you are investing in very specialized jobs.
At this size, one thing that a pneumatic nail gun has going for it is that it uses so little air for each nail that recharge times are very short. Because these tend to get used for smaller proximity jobs, the hose length limitation is diminished.
The upside of using a battery-powered gun with nails of this size is that the battery is going to last a good, hot minute. The downside is that it’ll still eventually run out and you’ll have to swap it out for another one. Hopefully, you’ve got extra batteries.
The smallest of the nail guns are staple guns. These are guns that pop in fasteners that are really staples, not nails. They’re used to upholster furniture and to install light carpets. They also have certain landscaping qualities.
These are the most common staple guns because they’re the simplest and cheapest. These are perfect if you don’t have a lot of work to do, or your work is outside. These guns can also accommodate a variety of staple sizes and are great for furniture reupholstering.
Hammer staple guns are a very crude power tool. You wield them like a hammer and that action knocks the staple in. They’re good for carpet padding and insulation but might be a bit slow for anything more substantial.
Electric staple guns are a nice blend of power source and fastener; these kinds of nail guns can operate all day long without degraded power. They’re good for upholstery, carpet, and very light cabinetry.
Using compressed air to drive staples might seem like a bit much, but if you’ve got a lot of them using a pneumatic staple gun means you can probably get the work done the fastest way possible. If you already own an air compressor, this is something to consider. If you don’t, this is probably not your best choice.
Specialty nail guns
The nail guns we’ve looked at up to this point were designed with a specific purpose in mind—driving in nails used for flooring, or staples to upholster furniture. There are some nail guns that specialize in either pushing in fasteners of the smallest size, or are small themselves because they’re intended for use in the tightest quarters.
Pinners, in general, aren’t quite nails. They are pins, and headless pinners are guns that push those pins into the smallest of jobs. We’re talking about things like making picture frames and the thinnest of moldings.
A palm nail gun is all about how you hold it—in the palm of your hand. This is the smallest of nailers, intended for use in the tightest of corners and hard-to-reach spaces. They aren’t powerful, but they are mobile.
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!