No home improvement project comes together quicker than one facilitated by a dedicated nail gun. Unlike traditional mechanical tools, nail guns lend speed and efficiency to any project that requires secure fastening of wood, metal, and other surfaces. Whether it’s mounting molding or trim, framing a doorway, or affixing sheet metal to concrete, nail guns are essential equipment for saving energy—delivering predictable results without requiring you to pick up a hammer. Below, we’ve selected and compared a few of the best nail guns out there. Get ready to nail your next project.
- Best pneumatic nail gun: Makita 2-Inch Brad Nailer
- Best framing nail gun: Bostitch Nail Gun
- Best concrete nail gun: ITW .22 Caliber Fastener
- Best cordless nail gun: Porter-Cable 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer
- Best cheap nail gun: WEN Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Finding your best nail gun comes down to the materials and scale of the job
The best nail guns on the market are known by many different names and come in a variety of subtypes suited to specific tasks, so it’s important to consider the nature and the demands of your job when selecting a model. Some of the most commonly used nail gun products include brad nailers, finishing nailers, and powder-actuated fasteners, and each of these excels at different uses with some degree of overlap.
The most basic, affordable models of nail guns are brad nailers and finishing nailers. A brad nailer is perfect for more delicate applications, like the initial attachment of trim and molding to walls without the threat of splitting, while a finish nailer drives thicker nails with more holding strength to, well, finish the job. Most designs are pneumatic, meaning they’re powered by compressed air, which keeps their cost down while delivering maximum power in a small package. Some brad nailers and finishing nailers are electric-powered and include cordless nail gun designs, which excel in situations where portability and space efficiency are limiting factors.
More critical applications that require larger nails may need a framing nail gun, roofing nail gun, or concrete nail gun to get the job done properly. Structural work, as well as finishing of siding and roofs, requires robust fasteners and more driving force to achieve optimal results safely, so look at how heavy duty your project is and pick a nail gun to match.
When stability and power are critical, a pneumatic nail gun is a must
Unlike traditional electric power tools, pneumatic tools rely on a supply of compressed air to complete various tasks without the need for a direct source of electricity to enter the tool itself. This design is greatly favored for items like nail guns, as it allows for more power to be packed into a much smaller size and renders a more maneuverable tool than in electric designs. Without a flow of electricity present in the tool itself, the potential of short-circuiting and other electrical mishaps is also eliminated.
Pneumatic nail guns are generally inexpensive and provide an excellent power-to-weight ratio, which makes them superior to electric models. One potential drawback is that they require an air compressor to operate, and those units can be costly, bulky, and noisy. However, an air compressor is still a worthwhile and versatile investment that should in most cases be present in any workshop or worksite where construction takes place. Pneumatic tools do require a good deal of cleaning and oiling, however, so keep that in mind to assure the longevity and reliability of your tools.
Best pneumatic nail gun: Makita 2-Inch Brad Nailer
This brad nailer from Makita tackles a range of jobs with nails up to two inches while weighing only 2.9 pounds, making it one of the best pneumatic nail guns available on the market. A dedicated depth adjustment dial allows for quick and easy changes to be made on the fly, and its integrated air duster allows for quick cleanup of debris from work surfaces. If you’ll be working in confined spaces, the Makita excels at such applications thanks to its narrow nose design combined with its light weight.
Kicking off a building project? Start with a framing nail gun for consistent results
Framing is a key step in the construction of various structures that involves erecting the initial skeleton of a building before other elements are added. Precision and integrity are crucial to the success of this step and the ultimate stability of the structure, so it’s important to choose the best framing nail gun available to ensure that the job is done properly.
The best framing guns are usually pneumatic designs that stand out by including integrated measuring features allowing users to quickly gauge the distance between nail insertions, studs, and other key items. When shopping for a framing gun, opt for a lightweight option that offers interchangeable tips to ensure maximum versatility across a wide spectrum of materials and potential jobs. These models are perfect for securing bracing and subflooring, too.
Best framing nail gun: Bostitch Nail Gun
This Bostitch nail gun boasts 1,050 inch-pounds of pneumatic driving power at an operating pressure of between 80 and 120 psi, making it one of the best framing nail guns for its performance-to-weight ratio. It’s compatible with nails from 1 ½ inch to 3 ½ inches in size and features quick-change nose pieces that allow users to quickly switch from framing use to metal connector fastening.
Fastening heavy materials like concrete and metal? A concrete gun is the right tool
More robust materials like thick metal and concrete require a bit more power to be applied during fastening operations, which requires the use of a dedicated concrete nail gun. These types of nail guns are also known specifically as powder-actuated fasteners, and they utilize miniature explosive cartridges to drive fasteners into tough materials using an internal piston. These tools don’t require air compressors or electricity to function, which makes them very effective for delivering fasteners reliably into substrate, concrete, and other thick surfaces, especially in tight and awkward spaces.
The best concrete nail guns are known for their speed of operation relative to the force they produce, making them an essential part of any construction project tool kit. Powder-actuated fasteners also excel at fastening steel and thick metal, so their use isn’t just limited to concrete projects. While these tools are nearly unparalleled in their power-to-weight ratio and flexibility, they are much more powerful than other types of nail guns and often require certification to use in some localities.
Best concrete nail gun: ITW .22 Caliber Fastener
This .22-caliber fastener from ITW is a tough, reliable powder-actuated unit that offers a level of performance that’s up there with the best concrete nail guns on the market. It utilizes single-shot rounds to deliver fasteners into masonry, steel, concrete, and other hard materials with ease and is equipped with a silencing handle to cut down on the amount of noise produced. An ergonomic ejection slide allows for easy removal of the spent load from the chamber and resets the piston for the next round.
Go cordless for portable projects and low-noise applications.
Broadly speaking, cordless power tools have a reputation for providing the same power and performance as their corded counterparts, but the truth is a little more nuanced when it comes to nail guns. The most common types of nail guns run on pneumatic power because they can deliver the high pressure required to drive brads and nails through a variety of surfaces. However, this system is not portable or quiet by any means. The best cordless nail gun aims to eliminate these issues while offering the highest level of performance possible without the use of bulky and noisy air compressors, making it well-suited to lower-impact tasks and use in small spaces.
Users who might prefer a cordless nail gun include do-it-yourselfers with limited storage space who won’t be performing structural work, flooring, or roofing. Because cordless models are easy to store and very easy to maneuver, professional contractors can also benefit from adding one to their tool kit as a go-to choice for quickly performing small auxiliary tasks on a worksite.
Best cordless nail gun: Porter-Cable 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer
This cordless brad nailer from Porter-Cable offers easy maneuvering and lightweight action in a powerful package, making it a great nail gun for trim and a good choice for small home projects. An included depth adjustment wheel lets users set countersink depth consistently and makes work that much easier alongside other features, including jam release and a tool-free release lever. It’s compatible with all 20V-volt MAX batteries and sports an integrated belt hook for efficiency.
Smaller projects don’t need bigger investments. A cheap nail gun might be all that you need for smaller projects
There are many factors that can lower the cost of a nail gun and, fortunately, most of them have no bearing on overall quality or ease of use. A cheap nail gun is typically a compact brad nailer best suited for light duties, such as fastening molding and trim and other cosmetic details. If you’re shopping on a budget, you’ll find the most cost-effective nail guns are also pneumatic designs, which keep costs down but requires storing and maneuvering an air compressor.
For tasks like framing, flooring, and roofing, users should opt for more powerful and sturdy designs, but the best cheap nail guns should stand up to light tasks without a problem. Keep in mind that all pneumatic tools require frequent cleaning and oiling to continue working properly, and you may find that a cheaper model requires even more maintenance than a pricier design depending on its build quality.
Best cheap nail gun: WEN Pneumatic Brad Nailer
This WEN pneumatic nailer is an incredible value for the money, offering compatibility with 18-gauge brads up to two inches in length for light duties including trim and molding fastening. The magazine holds 106 nails at a time and the nailer itself features a depth adjustment wheel, nail gauge, a quick-release mechanism, and adjustable air exhaust. A convenient operating pressure of 60 to 115 PSI and a one-fourth-inch inlet round out this unit to be one of the best cheap nail guns available.
Q: Should I buy a brad nailer or a finishing nailer?
Brad nailers are perfect for most light duties up to and including cosmetic finishing thanks to their use of small-gauge wire, which allows for more subtle results. Finishing nail guns are used for completing these tasks, often using thicker wire, which makes them ideal for securing heavier molding or baseboards where splitting is not a concern.
Q: What is the best nail gun for home use?
A cordless nail gun is by far the easiest to store and pull out for infrequent home use due to its ability to function without a bulky air compressor. Powering a cordless nail gun is much the same as powering any wireless tool and involves attaching a battery to the body of the tool, so don’t forget to keep those charged!
Q: What gauge nail gun should I buy?
Eighteen-gauge nails are by far the most widely used thickness for most brad nailers, and these should be more than adequate for the majority of construction uses. If you’re fastening concrete and metal, you may want to look for a system that’s compatible with thicker 16- or 15-gauge fasteners.
Some final thoughts on nailing the right tool for the job
Want to save time and effort on your most critical structural tasks? All it takes is the right fastening tool. Finding the best nail gun for construction projects large and small is highly dependent upon the toughness of the materials being attached, so choose a model that has specifications matching your needs to avoid damage or injury. Whether it’s a cordless or concrete nail gun, or something in between, the right tool gives you the best shot at a successful project.