Let’s face it: there is no house repair or renovation project without the best pneumatic nail gun to help you out. Professionals and DIYers around the world are familiar with the fact that a lot of projects depends on the tools you use. Nail guns are versatile and they come in all sorts of sizes with all sorts of specialized purposes, but they have one thing in common – they are irreplaceable.
As it turns out, choosing which nail gun to get for the job is not that easy. We took the most popular models and gave them a test run. Everything that we have discovered will be summed up in our guide, and our pneumatic nail gun reviews. Stay tuned, because we are about to hit the nail in the head!
What is a Pneumatic Nail Gun and Who Needs One?
You can say that everything is in the name and that a nail gun is just that: a handgun that shoots nails at the target. Sounds simple, right? Well, not everything is black and white, and some handymen might argue that the topic of nails guns is possibly the most complex topic when it comes to air tools.
Where does the complexity come from? Well, nail guns cover a wide arrange of jobs, like framing, roofing, flooring, finishing, and some pneumatic nail guns can even go through concrete and nail large bolts in. As you can see, everything from the floor up to the roof is fair game, and whichever work site you stumble upon, you can always expect them to have more than one nail gun on it.
If you are looking for a reason to get one for yourself, let’s say that the time you save will speak for itself, as well as the quality of nailing that a nail gun provides. You can go full old-school and drive every nail using a hammer, but that will take approximately 50 times longer.
As far as efficiency goes, a pneumatic nail gun will enable you full control of range, depth, and ultimately the number of nails you want to drive through, even if it’s in the hundreds or even thousands.
Above all, in the opposite of electric nail guns, pneumatic (or air) nail guns do not need any additional power source and are safer than other devices you can use for the same task. Additionally, learning how to use one is a piece of cake, with the best thing being the affordability of practice. With some other heavy-duty machinery, you do not get the chance to practice and get the hang of it all. With a pneumatic nail gun, on the other hand, all you need is some nails and an old piece of the wood board.
Best Pneumatic Nail Guns Comparison Chart
DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit
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BOSTITCH F21PL Round Head 1-1/2-Inch to 3-1/2-Inch Framing Nailer
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Freeman P4FRFNCB 4-Piece Pneumatic Nail Gun Kit
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DEWALT D51257K 1-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch 16 Gauge Finish Nailer
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NuMax SFR2190 Ergonomic & Lightweight Pneumatic Nail Gun
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Best Pneumatic Nail Gun Reviews
1. DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit
DEWALT is a renown power tools manufacturer, and their air tools line is one of the most popular in the world. This pneumatic nail gun is made to handle brad nails, which generally means that you will not have to use a super-powerful air compressor alongside the nail gun. The boy is made of magnesium and plastic, making it lightweight and compact.
The trigger on this brad nail gun is sequential which is considered a safer option, although, you will need some time to get used to the rhythm of the nail driving with it. The magazine is a straight type, and it is perpendicular to the nailing surface. This particular brad nail gun handles 12-gauge 2-inch brad nails.
A great feature installed is the rear exhaust for excess air, which doesn’t allow contamination of the workspace while you are using the nail gun. It also has a belt hook, which is extra-convenient for working around a larger construction perimeter.
2. BOSTITCH F21PL Round Head 1-1/2-Inch to 3-1/2-Inch Framing Nailer
One of the most potent framing nail guns in its class, the BOSTITCH F21PL. It is an industrial grade pneumatic nail gun made for framing, yet it is lightweight due to its magnesium housing. This model has to offer more than meets the eye.
Besides being a frame nail gun, it has the feature to transform into a metal connector. Alongside the gun itself, the manufacturer included two changeable heads, one that makes it into a frame-type gun, and the other into a connector. With this gun, you can use 1.4-inch nails and 3.5-inch nails, depending on the situation. Essentially, this is a 2-in-1 nail gun.
What’s more exciting is the patented push button that allows you to adjust the depth of nail driving, which increases the nail gun’s versatility even further. The default angle on the nail gun’s ruler is 21-degree, which is considered a framing standard.
3. Freeman P4FRFNCB 4-Piece Pneumatic Nail Gun Kit
What we have here is a multi-purpose pneumatic nail gun set from Freeman, all packed up in a nice, convenient canvas bag for more comfortable carrying around the workplace. They are industrially designed, and pretty compact considering the power they exert.
The first tool in the set is a 21-degree framing nail gun. It has adjustable depth, and a 360-degree exhaust allowing you to adjust it to face away from you at any time and position.
Secondly, the set contains a 34-degree finish nail gun that can handle any furniture work. It has an air filter installed with an anti-dust cap that preserves the insides of the nail gun. This is extra-convenient if you work with wood a lot.
The third part of this set is a straight brad nail gun, for tasks that are more lightweight than the previous two. This brad nail gun also has a 360-degree adjustable exhaust and an anti-dust filter.
Lastly, we have a narrow crown stapler in this set. The stapler works at a 90-degree angle and has all the safety features as the other model in the set.
4. DEWALT D51257K 1-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch 16 Gauge Finish Nailer
This finisher nail gun proved to be a valuable ally in furniture work, and it can penetrate industrial grade materials and the hardest sorts of wood. It is designed to resemble the DEWALT signature, with yellow plastic covers and a black molded ergonomic handle.
The finish nail gun works at a 90-degree angle, covering nail gauges from 1 to 2.5-inch, 16-gauge nails. The motor is sealed and perma-lubricated, but it also functions as an oil-free nail gun, doubling down on convenience.
Nail drive depth can be adjusted to the job at hand, and the model has an easy jam clearing. Additionally, there’s a 360-degree adjustable exhaust valve, so you can always turn the excess air away from yourself. The trigger action is sequential for extra safety.
The finisher nail gun comes with a carrying case, and it also has some sample nails for you to try out.
5. NuMax SFR2190 Ergonomic & Lightweight Pneumatic Nail Gun
This NuMax is made for the craftsman that require mobility above all. It is made of aluminum which reduces the total weight of the nail gun, allowing you to maneuver with ease. It is industrially designed, with an ergonomic handle with a rubberized grip.
When it comes to the trigger mechanism, we are talking about a sequential trigger safety. Combined with its sizeable straight-line magazine (stores 100 nails) you will not have to worry about recharging every few minutes. This pneumatic nail gun is a finisher. Its strong suit is working with furniture, industrial upholstery, cabinet work, chair and table repairing, etc.
Additionally, the excess air exhaust on this nail gun has an adjustable 360-degree opening. This way you can always turn the exhaust to face away, but it has another purpose. The adjustable exhaust allows you to use the excess pressurized air to blow away the dust off the surface you are using.
6. Freeman PFR2190 Lightweight Pneumatic Nail Gun
Freeman delivered a powerful framing nail gun, with the possibility of driving plastic collated full-head framing nails. The casing is made of magnesium, which makes the whole nail gun lightweight and compact for carrying around the work site. It has an ergonomic grip with an anti-vibration layer, added for extra safety.
The angle of this framing nail gun is the standard 21-degrees, with the option to adjust nail driving depth. What makes this nail gun model stand out is the option to switch between triggering types. If you’re looking for precision, turn on the single-fire mode, and if its quantity you want, you can change it to bump-fire.
Another great feature of this air tool is the anti-dry fire safety. This mechanism makes the nail gun stop firing if the magazine is closing to an empty state. Combined with the dual trigger mode, you will not have to stop for long and will be warned of low ammo.
7. PORTER-CABLE FR350B 3-1/2-Inch Full Round Framing Nailer
Porter-Cable is renown for their air compressing units and their air tools, and this framing nail gun is no exception. It belongs to heavy-duty tools, and it is designed to be lightweight and compact, even though it is used for framing. It has an ergonomic handle that prevents vibrations and wiggling, for those long nailing sessions.
When it comes to the framing angle, there is no innovation there. We are talking about a 22-degree nail gun. The gun allows you to adjust the drive depth and adapt to various framing tasks, providing the ability to nail 3.5-inch full-round nails to the surface.
This particular framing nail gun allows you to change between 2 triggering mechanism: the quick bump trigger for quantity and the restrictive manual nail drive for precision. Many users consider this model to be a good start for people who recently started doing framing jobs.
8. Hitachi NR90AD(S) 2-Inch to 3-1/2-Inch Framing Strip Nailer
One of the most powerful framing nail guns in its class, this Hitachi is a popular pick among house renovators across the globe. The housing of this nail gun is made of several materials, spread out for maximum efficiency and compactness. The rubberized grip makes it extra stable and prevents vibrations by a large degree.
The angle of the nail driver is 30-degree, and it allows the adaptation of nail driving depth. In the nose, you can see an installed hardened claw, designed to reduce wear and tear of prolonged usage. It also prevents slippage, thus furtherly increasing the safety of the gun.
You can select one of two trigger modes, depending on the job requirements. For precision, you can switch to sequential triggering, and for faster nail driving in larger quantities, there is a contact trigger installed.
This particular framing nail gun looks and feels industrial, and it certainly has the power to prove that!
9. PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit
One thing is for sure: you can always run out of pressurized air while you are doing house renovations or setting up new carpentry. That is why you should always have a backup nail gun. This Porter-Cable model can fill in that gap with its cordless design. It draws the power form a rechargeable battery (charger included in the set).
This nail gun deals with brad nails. With a full charge of the battery, it can drive up to 1,300 nails without the need to recharge. Although it has a lithium battery inside, it is pretty lightweight, with a total of 5.9 pounds. It can store a total of 100 brad nails in its linear magazine (which positions the nose of the gun at a 90-degree angle).
On board, there is a safety lock, and an LED to help you light the surface you are working on. All in all, this model will come in handy in the times of need, being it as a main or as a backup brad nail gun.
10. PORTER-CABLE BN200C 2-Inch 18GA Brad Nailer Kit
Porter-Cable made this extremely lightweight brad nail gun for everyone to use, professionals and amateur DIYers. It is simple in design, made of aluminum and weighs a fantastic total of 1.4 pounds. There is an anti-slip grip installed, and the exhaust is set to blow the excess pressurized air away from you at all times.
This brad nail gun has a linear-style magazine, which is designed to fit a 90-degree nail driving direction. The triggering is sequential-style, meaning that you will have to get used to it, but on the other hand, it is extra safe and precise. The nose tip is removable and non-marring, and the nail gun draws less pressurized air than the rest in its class, meaning more extended work hours on a single tank of pressurized air.
The nail gun comes along with a carrying suitcase and is covered by a 1-year limited warranty.
How do Pneumatic Nail Guns Work?
The word pneumatic tells us that these nail guns use pressurized air to perform the action of firing up the nail and driving it into the surface we want to be nailed. For this purpose alone, it is important to remember that besides a good quality pneumatic nail gun, you will also need a good source of pressurized air. This is where air compressors come in. The air is pressurized and tightly stored into an air tank, which pushes the air to the gun on demand.
So, after a sealed hose transfers the air to the nail handle, the nail gun is ready to be used. But there is a step you need to go through first, and that is the act of filling up the magazine. Even though there are several types of nail gun magazines out there, they all serve the same purpose, and that is allowing you to work uninterrupted. Some contain less, some contain more space, but it is important to load it before the pressure enters the nail gun.
After the air enters the nail gun, it is controlled by the trigger, similar to a handgun. This trigger plays the role of an ON/OFF switch and allows you to lock the gun for safety reasons when it is not in use (although block systems may differ from model to model).
The primary working mechanism of a nail gun consists of two parts: firing and the recoil mechanism. Even though we utilize the firing system only, the recoil mechanism is equally essential. It goes something like this: the pressurized air enters the chamber after the triggering (more about that later), and it pushes the piston to the nail. The piston is tightly sealed in a lubricated chamber, and it is the most critical part. Hence the manufacturers made it inaccessible and difficult to reach. So, the piston pushes the nail out of the barrel and drives it through the surface you aimed the gun at.
Now, the rest of the pressurized air escapes, and goes under the piston, thus ensuring that it recoils back to the start position, enabling the repetition of the cycle. Another critical part of the recoil mechanism is drawing another nail from the magazine, and placing it into firing position.
This whole cycle happens a lot of times during a single minute, and for all of it to work, pneumatic nail gun parts are tightly sealed, with no room to wiggle around.
Pneumatic Nail Gun Buying Guide
Ok, now that we know how a nail gun works and how wide is the utility range, it is time to go through the intricate details. Nail gun types, equipment, and trigger mechanisms, these are all the small things that add up. We know that air tools produce a strong force, but the largest strength out there is knowledge, so let’s get strong!
1. Nail Gun Types
In the section above, we mentioned that nail guns could be separated into different groups, depending on the job they help you do. Now it is time to see what are the most popular types of pneumatic nail guns, and what they bring to the table.
1.1 Framing nail guns
These are the big boys. Framing nail guns are designed to drive the strongest of nails into essential components of a frame. By frame we mean the woodwork frame oh a house or any similarly constructed object. Framing nail guns usually require a lot of pressurized air from the air compressor. Logically, framing nail guns are quite dangerous, and usually, manufacturers install additional layers of protection.
1.2 Flooring nail guns
As the name suggests, flooring nail guns are used to attach and reattach various sorts of flooring to the floor at your home. They are quite powerful, but their strong suit is not all that raw power, but it’s the angle adaptability. When it comes to flooring, you will have to approach the ground from more than just a perpendicular angle. This type of pneumatic nail gun will allow you to do so with the adaptable angle ruler which is usually attached to the firing end of the barrel.
1.3 Finish nail guns
Not all pneumatic nail guns are used in heavy-duty situations. Finish nail guns found their place in carpentry and furniture-making workshops. They are specialized for nail gauges that are mostly used with, but not limited to, wood materials, meaning that they will not require all the power from your air compressor. Mostly, with pneumatic finish nail guns, you will have the option to work for a longer period without having to wait for the air compressor to recharge.
1.4 Roofing nail guns
Pneumatic nail guns made to be handled while working on a rooftop are designed to be lighter and easier to use than the other types. Their main purpose is to nail the synthetic roofing material to the base layer. Now, another great feature that most roofing nail guns have is a coiled magazine attached to the lower side. Coiled magazines can hold significantly more nails, thus allowing you to stay on the roof until the job is done. After all, keeping the number of actions you have to do has to be minimal, because there is not much maneuvering on the roof, for safety reason of course.
1.5 Brad nail guns
Often considered the lightweight category of nails, brad nails (or brads for short) are used for smaller jobs. However, due to their smaller size, and narrower diameter, it is imperative to nail them accurately. Brad nails are also the safest to use, and pneumatic brad nail guns require no special skills. Everything is intuitive. Sometimes they are used in combination with staplers and finish nail guns.
1.6 Concrete nail guns
Last, but certainly not least, is the pneumatic concrete nail gun type. These heavy-duty nail guns are so powerful that they can drive nails directly into concrete. However, they are not seen often in a residential or amateur environment, since they need a lot of pressurized air, which only the most reliable air compressor can provide.
2. Magazine Types
The whole point of using a nail gun (besides nailing itself) is not having to reach out for a new nail every 5 seconds. That’s why every pneumatic nail gun, no matter the type, has some sort of magazine attached or installed inside. So, make sure to factor these two main magazine types into your decision equation:
- Straight magazine type – the most common magazine a pneumatic nail gun can have. They are usually aligned to follow the angle of nail driving and store nails along their length.
- Coiled magazine type – even though it is not that common, coiled magazine type is made for the extra long working hours. Roofing nail guns usually have them, because of their large storage space. Just keep in mind that they can sometimes get stuck because of the large number of nails that are fired in a single session.
3. Trigger Mechanisms
The usual system of triggering a pneumatic nail gun involves a 2-step safety check. If one of the two safeties are not met, the nail gun will not fire. Now, every nail gun has one safety on the handle, right under your index finger (like a handgun). The other trigger lock, however, is different from model to model.
There are two main groups, though. The far easier to use is the contact trigger. Contact trigger will fire a nail into the surface as soon as you touch it. So, all you have to do is press the nail gun to the surface while holding down the 1st safety with your index finger.
The other, safer, but more complicated system is the sequence trigger. With this type of trigger on board, the pneumatic nail gun will only fire if you apply force to it and press it hard against the surface, depressing it slightly (with the index finger pressing the 1st trigger, of course). Even though this method is safer, it does require some sense of rhythm, because it will fire nails as long as you hold the index finger down.
4. Angle Alignment
Finally, one of the essential features of a pneumatic nail gun is the angle of fire or angle of alignment. Every type of nail gun has some sort or ruler attached under the “firing hole”. The angle of the ruler attachment will determine the angle of nail driving. If you want a versatile pneumatic nail gun, the safest bet would be to get a 90-degree angle model. For specific purposes, like flooring, you might want something different, depending on the situation and the task at hand.
And there you have it, everything you need to know before deciding for the best pneumatic nail gun for your tool kit. As you probably noticed in all the sections above, there are many different types, with some of them intended to fill out a specific role, and some delivering all-around results.
The key is to study our guide, and our air nail gun reviews, and see for yourself. If you need a pneumatic nail gun for a particular type of job, there are options. If you want to start learning how to use them and let your craftsmanship and creativity flow, there are options. As long as you are deciding using valuable info, you’re good to go.