9 Types of Nail Guns and How to Choose

Choosing the right nail gun for your project can seem daunting given the many types available. However, understanding the key differences between the main nail gun types will help you select the most suitable option.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the 9 most common categories of nail guns and what to consider when deciding which type best meets your needs.

Pneumatic Nail Guns

Pneumatic nail guns are powered by compressed air and are one of the most common types used in construction and home improvement projects. They require an air compressor to function and deliver strong driving power.

Some key advantages of pneumatic nailers include:

  • Powerful – The compressed air provides high driving power to sink nails efficiently into a variety of materials. This makes them suitable for heavy duty applications.
  • Versatile – Pneumatic guns can be used for framing, roofing, flooring and trim applications. Different models are equipped to handle nails from 3/4″ up to 3-1/2″ in length.
  • Professional use – Contractors often choose pneumatic tools for their reliability and strength on demanding job sites. Brands like Hitachi, DeWalt and Paslode are popular among professionals.
  • Large magazine – Some pneumatic framing nailers can hold over 100 nails, reducing downtime spent reloading.

Potential downsides to consider include:

  • Compressor required – The need for a separate air compressor makes them less portable than gas or battery models. The compressor and hose also take up space.
  • Higher cost – Pneumatic tools are pricier than other nail gun options. Expect to pay $200-$500 or more depending on features.

Overall, pneumatic nail guns are a leading choice for frequent nailing tasks and the power required by professional carpenters and builders. They deliver unmatched driving capabilities not matched by many alternatives.

Coil Roofing Nailers

Coil roofing nailers are designed specifically for installing roof shingles and designed with angled magazines to shoot nails upward. The nails are collated in coils rather than strips.

Key benefits of coil roofing nail guns include:

  • Specialized for roofing – The angled magazine and ability to handle coil nails make these ideal for roof shingle installation. Most models can drive nails up to 1-3/4″.
  • Increased speed – Quick-loading coil magazines help increase productivity versus using a hammer. Most experienced roofers can install approximately 300-400 shingles per hour.
  • Reduced fatigue – Roofing work requires extensive overhead nailing. Nail guns alleviate strain on the arms, shoulders and back versus hammering each nail.
  • Safety – Nail guns provide better traction and stability on rooftops compared to swinging a hammer. This can help prevent accidents.

Potential limitations include:

  • Single purpose – Coil roofing guns can’t be used effectively for other nailing jobs, limiting their versatility for occasional users.
  • Bulky – The angled magazine makes them harder to transport and store than standard guns. Weight ranges from 9 to 11 pounds on average.

For roofing contractors or DIYers needing an efficient tool for shingle installation, coil nailers are the top choice for overhead nailing power and speed. Models from Hitachi, DeWalt, Bostitch and other brands offer reliable performance.

Brad Nailers

Brad nailers are lightweight and compact tools best suited for precision nailing tasks. They drive small headless nails ranging from 3/8″ to 2″ which don’t require filling prior to staining or painting.

Key features and benefits of brad nail guns include:

  • Pinpoint accuracy – Their small nose opening provides accuracy needed for detailed trim and finish work. Some models include depth adjustment and trigger controls for precision fastening.
  • Minimal surface damage – The small nails leave only tiny entry holes that are easy to conceal with wood filler or paint if needed. This allows fastening near edges without splitting.
  • Lightweight – Most brad nailers weigh around 3 pounds or less, making them comfortable for extended overhead nailing and reducing fatigue.
  • Quiet operation – Brads don’t require as much driving force, so brad guns operate more quietly than heavy-duty models. This makes them suitable for indoor jobs.

Limitations to consider:

  • Less driving power – While fine for detailed work, brads lack the strength to substitute for framing, flooring or roofing applications. Maximum nail size is 2″.
  • Increased jamming risk – The small magazine and nail size make certain models prone to jamming, especially when using cheaper brads.

For finish carpentry and woodworking where precision is paramount, brad nailers provide an indispensable tool for attaching trim, molding, cabinets and other fine work.

Finish Nailers

Finish nailers bridge the gap between heavy-duty framing guns and smaller brad nailers. They typically handle nails from 1″ to 2-1/2″ in length making them versatile for finish work, trim, paneling and other medium nailing tasks.

Key benefits of using a finish nail gun are:

  • Better holding power – Finish nails have more holding strength than brads, allowing use for some framing projects and thicker materials.
  • Minimal holes – While larger than brads, finish nails still leave smaller holes than common wire nails. Filling prior to staining or painting is seldom required.
  • Tool-free adjustments – Many models allow easy tool-free depth and power adjustments for better fastening control. Quick jam release mechanisms are also common.
  • Reduced hand fatigue – Their light weight of around 4-5 lbs. allows for extended use with less fatigue compared to hammering. Vibration is also minimal.

Potential downsides include:

  • Limited power for framing – While sufficient for light duty framing, finish guns lack the full power of pneumatic framing nailers for structural work.
  • Risk of tear-out – Improper nail placement can cause the edges of soft wood to tear more readily with finish nails versus brads.

For trim carpentry, cabinets, furniture, and similar middle-of-the-road fastening applications, finish nail guns provide the best balance of precision, power and versatility.

Flooring Nailers

Flooring nailers are specialty nail guns designed for installing tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring. They typically drive fasteners ranging from 1-1/2″ to 2-1/2″ in length.

Key features and benefits include:

  • Nail variety – Most flooring nailers can switch between cleats and flooring staples as needed to adhere to manufacturer recommendations.
  • Depth control – Tool-free adjustment makes it simple to control nail depth for consistent fastening and to avoid damaging floors.
  • Nose design – The narrow nose cone is designed to fit in the tongue-and-groove space between floor boards for accurate placement.
  • Reduced mallet requirement – Quality flooring nailers require less tapping with a mallet versus generic nail guns. Some models are nearly mallet-free.

Limitations include:

  • Limited versatility – Flooring nailers are only designed for tongue-and-groove hardwood installation. They lack the size range for other jobs.
  • Prone to jamming – Poor nail collation, dusty/dirty conditions or incorrect adjustment can cause jams that halt progress. Proper cleaning and maintenance is key.

For those engaged in regular hardwood floor installations, a purpose-built flooring nailer provides essential time savings, proper nail placement and adjustment flexibility needed for quality flooring work.

Siding Nailers

As their name indicates, siding nailers are nail guns designed specifically for installing various types of lap siding including wood, composite, vinyl, aluminum and fiber cement. They typically drive nails from 1″ to 2-1/2″ in length.

Benefits of using a siding nailer include:

  • Gun tip – The narrow nose makes it easy to get close and nail precisely into laps and corners.
  • Depth settings – Quick depth adjustments prevent overdriving to protect siding from damage while maintaining holding power.
  • Angle flexibility – Most models allow pivoting the head up to 45 degrees for nailing in corners or upward on soffits.
  • No pre-drilling – Siding nailers eliminate the need to pre-drill siding to prevent cracking and splitting.

Potential downsides to consider:

  • No nail variety – Most siding nailers can only use the manufacturer’s designated coiled siding nails. Flooring and common wire nails won’t function.
  • No framing uses – While ideal for lap siding, siding guns lack the power and nail size capacity for structural applications.

For installing vinyl, wood or composite siding efficiently and with correct fastener placement, siding nail guns provide consistent quality that would be difficult to match with a hammer.

Framing Nailers

Framing nailers are designed for nailing structural lumber and engineered wood products when framing walls, roofs, subfloors and other building components. These versatile yet powerful guns can drive common nails from 2″ to 3-1/2″.

Key advantages of using a framing nailer include:

  • Power and depth – Pneumatic framing guns provide ample force to consistently sink nails into solid framing lumber from a safe grip distance.
  • Speed – Experienced framers can nail up to 700 nails per hour, allowing fast assembly versus hand nailing. Labor costs are reduced significantly.
  • Convenience – Large nail capacity and easy reload features like slide-open chambers minimize downtime spent reloading.
  • Reduced injury risk – The Security tip contacts the work before the nail exits to reduce risk of angular nails causing leg injuries on sites.

Limitations to consider:

  • Heavy tool weight – Durability comes with weight, making framing guns up to 10 lbs. Avoiding fatigue requires proper handling.
  • Safety awareness – The power to drive large nails requires strict eye and ear protection. Keep fingers clear and do not disable safety mechanisms.

Framing nailers provide the essential power and ruggedness to withstand daily structural wood nailing tasks on nearly any construction job site. Brands like Hitachi, Paslode and DeWalt offer reliable performance.

23 Gauge Pin Nailers

23 gauge pin nailers drive thin, headless 23 gauge pins ranging from 3/8″ to 1-3/8″ in length. The tiny pins allow near invisible fastening ideal for molding, trim, cabinetry and other detail work where minimal surface impact is desired.

Advantages of using 23 gauge pins and nailers include:

  • Very small holes – The .023″ pin diameter leaves only a tiny entry hole. In most cases, no putty or concealing is required.
  • Precision – Their accuracy suits detailed molding, trim and hobby work requiring a flawless finished appearance.
  • Minimal surface splitting – The pins are so thin that they seldom cause wood surface splits, even in fragile materials or near edges.
  • Micro pins – Some models can shoot micro pins as small as 5/8″ for fastening delicate moldings or creative craft work.

Potential limitations:

  • Lower holding power – The tiny pins lack the holding strength of larger headless brads. Bonding with glue is recommended for critical joints.
  • Frequent jamming – The small nail size makes pins prone to jamming if the nails are even slightly out of specification or the gun is dirty.

For truly invisible nailing needing no putty or concealment, 23 gauge pin nailers allow flawless fastening of trim, beads and delicate moldings. When paired with adhesive at critical joints, the holding power is sufficient for most light-duty applications.

16 Gauge Finish Nailers

Positioned between full-head 15 gauge finish nails and smaller brad nails, 16 gauge finish nailers provide an intermediate fastener option combining smaller holes with adequate holding power. The nails range from 1-1/4″ to 2-1/2″.

Benefits of 16 gauge nailers and nails include:

  • Compromise size – The .062″ diameter 16 gauge shank is sized perfectly between 15g and 18g fasteners. This provides versatility for light finish work and trim applications.
  • Holding strength – While not as strong as 15g full-head nails, the 16g nails have greater holding power than equivalent 18g brads.
  • Compact size – At around 4 lbs., 16g guns maintain the light weight benefit of finish tools for better control and less fatigue.
  • Nail variety – Most 16g nailers can alternatively use 16g brads when smaller heads are desired. This expands project options.

Limitations to note:

  • Less power than 15g – Those requiring maximum strength for framing or flooring tasks would benefit from 15g nailers and full head nails.
  • No specialty features – Unlike some finish guns, 16g models lack adjustable nose valves for precision nailing control.

For carpenters and DIYers needing a versatile finish nailer suitable for interior trim, cabinet installs and similar tasks without the full size of 15g nails, a quality 16 gauge gun provides the ideal solution.

Key Considerations When Choosing a Nail Gun

With an overview of the most common nail gun types and their capabilities, let’s examine the key factors to weigh when selecting the best nailer for your projects:

Appropriate Size Nails

Consider the primary nailing tasks and materials involved. What nail lengths does the project require? Ensure the nailer can handle that size fastener. The nail size range varies significantly between framing, finish and brad nailers.

Gun Power and Depth Control

Larger nails require more force to drive properly. Ensure adequate power based on nail size. Adjustable depth controls allow customizing nail depth for different materials.

Desired Finish Look

Will nails be visible? Brad and pin nailers leave smaller holes requiring little if any filling for an invisible finish. Other factors like tear-out around nails should also be considered.

Gun Weight and Ergonomics

Adequate power often increases weight. Lighter finish guns reduce fatigue for overhead nailing or extended use. Comfort features like grip pads, swivels andtriggers can enhance control.

Safety Mechanisms

Nail gun accidents are common when safety tips and triggers are disabled. OSHA now requires sequential triggering on new nailers to prevent discharge unless the tip is depressed prior to pulling the trigger. Look for this essential safety mechanism. Additional features like lock-outs also help prevent misfires.

Cost and Brand Reputation

Top brands like Hitachi, DeWalt, Paslode and Makita cost more but perform better and last longer than generic nailers. Consider cost versus expected usage. Professional jobs demand proven reliability.

Air Requirements (Pneumatic Models)

Pneumatic nailers require an air compressor with adequate CFM rating to power the tool. The compressor must be portable enough for your work space. Hoses must reach work areas without obstruction.

By thoroughly evaluating these factors and matching them to your planned nailing applications, you can zero in on which nail gun style and features will maximize utility while staying within budget constraints. Within a given type, comparing brands and models can further optimize combinations of power, price, ergonomics and reliability.

9 Types of Nail Guns: Comparison Chart

To summarize key differences between popular nail gun types, here is a comparison chart:

| Nail Gun Type| Common Nail Sizes| Key Applications| Main Pros| Potential Limitations|
| Pneumatic Framing | 2″ to 3-1/2″| Structural framing| Power, depth control, high capacity| Heavier, compressor required |
| Pneumatic Finish | 1″ to 2-1/2″| Trim, cabinets, paneling | Versatility, lower cost| Lower power than framers|
| Pneumatic Roofing | 1″ to 1-3/4″| Roof shingle installation| Specialized for roofing| Single purpose use|
| Pneumatic Flooring | 1-1/2″ to 2-1/2″| Hardwood floor installation| Controls depth, nail variety| Prone to jamming|
| Pneumatic Brad | 3/8″ to 2″| Detailed trim and fine work| Precision, smaller holes| Lower power, jam risks|
| Pneumatic Siding | 1″ to 2-1/2″| Lap and panel siding| Optimized for siding, no pre-drilling| Limited applications|
|Gas Paslode Framing|2″ to 3-1/4″| Framing without compressor | Cordless convenience | Heavier, higher cost|
|Electric Brad| 3/8″ to 2″| Trim and hobby uses| Low cost, no hoses| Less power than pneumatic|
|Battery Finish| 1″ to 2-1/2″| Trim, cabinets, lighter framing| Cordless flexibility| Runtime limits between charging|

This covers the key distinguishing characteristics between the most common nail gun types. When selected and used properly, nail guns allow efficient, high-quality installations not possible with hammer and nails. Understanding your needs and project goals is the first step toward picking the best nailer for the job.

Nail Gun Buying Guide: What to Look For

Since buying a nail gun is an investment, it pays to evaluate models thoroughly to get the best value for your needs. Here are the top features and considerations when choosing within a nailer category:

Power and Runtime

  • Air pressure – CFM requirements for optimal power
  • Battery capacity – Sufficient battery life between charges
  • Gas cartridges – Number required per fuel cell. Look for increased capacity.
  • Nail depth – Ability to fully sink nails in common materials

Durability and Build Quality

  • **