A brad nail gun is a specialized and most efficient tool for small or comprehensive wood applications such as moldings, cabinetry, trim, and various DIY home projects. From a visual perspective, a bead nailer looks similar to a nail gun and operates as the same, but unlike all other nailers available on the market today. It doesn’t actually fire the nails; it’s specifically designed to fire brads. It’s for you if you are not familiar with what brads are, brads are essentially thin nails and ideal for binding a very delicate piece of trim. The brad nail gauge is 18 and is usually only 0.0475 inches in cross-section.
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Brad Nailer Vs Finish Nailer
While brad and finish nail guns are often confused with each other, they are not the same. There are some significant differences between finish and brad nailers. The most notable difference is the nail size; brad nailers are designed to drive only 18 gauge nails while the finish nailer designed to drive 15 or 16 gauge nails. Thus, finish nails have much stronger holding power than brad nails and are mostly used for attaching heavy baseboards, crown molding, and cabinets. Here, gauge means how many nails per inch. For example, 18 gauge means 18 nails per inch, and 16 gauge means 16 nails per inch. 18-gauge brad nails are thinner than 15 gauge or 16 gauge nails.
Brad nails Vs Finishing Nails
|#||Brad Nailer||Finish Nailer|
|Nail Gauge||18 gauge only||15/16 gauge|
|Hole size (mm/inches)||1.41 mm/0.055 inches||15 gauge: 1.41 mm/0.055 inches|
16 gauge: 1.68 mm/0.066 Inches
|Nail Length (mm/inches)||Up to 51mm/ 2 inches, a few come up to 2-1/8 inches||up to 63.5mm / 2-½ inches|
|Uses||lighter and delicate wood trim work||Thicker finishing like baseboards|
A brad nailer is slightly smaller than the finish nailer and doesn’t have the same binding power as finishing nailer in terms of performance because the brads that it shoots don’t have heads like finishing nails. Brads are ideal for mounting lightweight trim because it has no head and they are thin. You don’t even have to use wood putty to cover the nail holes. It’s very helpful for fine-detailed woodworking projects as wood putty often looks darker than natural wood when stain or finish is applied to the workpiece.
Professionals and carpenters often use a brad nailer for delicate woodworking projects where has the risk of damaging thin pieces of trim. It is because if they attempt to use finishing nails on a delicate trim to a cabinet front or baseboard, there is a possibility that it could split into pieces as the finishing nails are thicker than brads. However, thanks to the wood structure, brads are efficient and handy for making secure trim attachments to large pieces of wood without its large nail head.back to menu ↑
Uses of Brad Nailers
Brad nailer designed to shoot only thin 18 gauge brads, and the brad nail length comes up to 2 inches. Brads leave smaller holes that are almost invisible, and it reduces the risk to split thin workpieces. They can attach the wood objects firmly and minimize the need to put wood putty to hide nail holes. Since the brad nail gun fires thin nails, so it’s a perfect tool for attaching narrow, delicate wood pieces. However, brad nailer most commonly used for,
- Trim work
- Fastening decorative molding
Advantages and Disadvantages
- It’s an ideal and perfect power tool for attaching narrow, delicate trims and moldings.
- The 18 gauge nails reduce the chances of splitting thin, delicate wood pieces.
- It leaves tiny nail holes and minimizes the need for wood putty.
- A brad nailer can be used on smaller plywood or baseboards up to ½-inch.
- After all, a brad nailer is a perfect tool for small DIY projects such as attaching picture frames, making a jewelry box or attaching decorating trims and edges to cabinetry.
- The 18 gauge nails can’t hold large and thick pieces of wood and moldings. The brads won’t even penetrate MDF or thick plywood.
- If you need to nail hard to reach corners or tight spaces, a brad nailer is not an ideal tool for you.
Brad Nailer Buying Guides
There are many well-known power equipment manufacturers in the market such as Bostitch, Dewalt, Makita, Wen. They produce a wide variety of nailers, including brad nailers. In this buying guide, we will discuss and give you a proper guideline on how you can choose the best Brad Nailer for your woodworking projects. We’ve also included our recommendations of best brad nailers and selected our best following the guides we’re going to explain here.
How to choose the right brad nailer
As you already know from our early discussion that what is a brad nailer, how they work, and where they are used. If you missed, scroll to the top and read on. We’re not going to repeat them here anymore; rather we will introduce you to its technical aspects and explain what features you should consider before buying a Brad nailer.
Corded vs. Cordless
Whether you buy a corded or a cordless brad nailer, this is the most important decision to make before purchasing a brad nailer. You can choose either fuel/gas/battery run cordless brad nailer or pneumatic and electric powered corded brad nailer.
Fuel or gas powered brad nailer is the most powerful in the cordless category and mostly used in small DIY works. On the other hand, the pneumatic brad nailer is the first preference of professionals because of its steady power and mostly used in large woodworking projects. The pneumatic brad nailer requires an air compressor to operate, though you have to be within the length of the air hose attached to the air compressor.
You can get better mobility from battery run cordless brad nailer, but they are not as powerful as fuel/gas-powered or pneumatic brad nailers. Also, you will get limited runtime from a single battery charge. In addition, the battery increases the nailer weight and is more expensive than fuel/gas-powered or corded brad nailers. However, they require less maintenance and don’t require oiling.
Above all, Pneumatic or air-powered brad nailers are simultaneously the most powerful and popular. Also, lightweight and average weight is around 3 pounds. While pneumatic brad nailers provide excellent firing power but require additional investment on an air compressor. In addition, pneumatic brad nailers require regular maintenance and oiling.
Brad Nailer by Power Source
Selecting the right brad nailer depends on the type of work, materials, and budget. Each brand of brad nailer designed to do the same job, drive 18 gauge brads. However, you already know about the corded and cordless brad nailer, but another technical difference between them is the power source. Choosing a brad nailer considering power source will define how much mobility you want when using it. Hence, we will discuss some useful information about brad nailer power sources that you should know before making a purchase decision.
Most professionals prefer a pneumatic brad nailer for its efficiency and low cost than battery-run or electric-powered brad nailers. It is mostly used in large and professional woodworking projects. It can give you a professional finish without wasting your precious time. It’s lightweight (not more than 3.5 pounds) and inexpensive (Cost ranging $40 to $110) brad nailer but requires an additional investment on the air compressor. However, it belongs to the corded category. It doesn’t offer optimal mobility as you have to carry an air compressor to your workplace, and the attached air hose will not give you too much space to move around freely in your workplace. Another essential safety issue you should keep in mind that it drives nails by pressurized air, which can cause major accidents. So, you should wear protective glasses and handle this tool carefully. Also, be sure to oil the machine to keep it running smoothly after each use.
If you are looking for a brad nailer that works like a power drill, the electric-powered brad nailer is the right choice for you. Simply connect the tool to the power source and start using. All you need is an electrical board to plug in the tool, no additional equipment required like a pneumatic brad nailer. Also, make sure it’s connected with a heavy-duty power line as it requires a lot of loads that a regular extension can’t handle. So, you have to use a heavy gauge cable extension. It’s powerful but comes with a slightly higher price tag (Cost ranging $20 to $75). Though its heavy internal motor increases the weight but rarely requires maintenance. However, the limited length of the electrical cord is not an ideal choice for large wood projects but not bad for small household DIY projects.
Gas or fuel-powered brad nailers are the newest addition to the cordless family. It has the capability to do all the jobs that a pneumatic or electric brad nailer does. You don’t need to carry an air compressor and hose and will get optimum mobility. Apart from its high cost, it can effectively deal with hardwoods as well as softwoods, which makes it a smart alternative to the pneumatic brad nailer. Depending on the brand and models, it can shoot up to 2000 – 4000 brads on a single charge and 1200-2000 brads per fuel cell. The most significant advantage of this brad nailer is its mobility, weight, and shape. Hence, if you don’t want to make any additional investment on an air compressor or not to be coded with an air hose all the time and ready to pay extra (Cost ranging $200 to $450) to get maximum mobility, you can think of gas-powered brad nailer. However, some carpenters have complained about the awful smell that is produced by their gas. Thus, it can be uncomfortable to work in a confined space for a longer time.
Most of the renowned brands are now offering 18 or 20-volt (Lithium-ion) battery run cordless brad nailers. Some models come with a NiCad (Nickel-cadmium) battery. The features and functionality are similar to other brad nailers types, but the size and shape of this nailer have more in common to 15 or 16 gauge finish nailers. So, this nailer is relatively large and heavy. Apart from this, it’s really a very well designed and well-balanced brad nailer to shoot nails from any angle. Even when you are driving overhead, and have enough power to drive long brad nails in dense hardwood. If you already own any 18 or 20-volt cordless nailer, you can buy this nailer without battery and charger to save some money, and you can easily use your existing nailer battery and charger to run this nailer. For example, if you already have battery-powered tools from Ryobi, and bought the Ryobi P320 Airstrike 18V One+ as a bare tool, you can use the existing battery and charger for P320.
Battery-powred brad nailers are undoubtedly quite perfect without a few exceptions. However, they are expensive (Cost ranging $110 to $340) but less costly than gas-powered brad nailers, but some users have reported an issue with continuous firing.
Essential features to consider
In addition to corded and cordless or power sources, choosing a brad nailer also depends on some essential built-in features that you should check before making a purchase decision. They are somewhat technical that qualify the tool to function properly and gives the best performance as per your needs. Understanding these essential built-in features will help you to choose your best performing brad nailer from 100 or more models available on the market. All the features are related to the product’s durability and performance; it’s easy to deal with. However, you will find many features (technical, non-technical) on the tool that varies from brand to brand, model to model. So, identifying the most essential features before buying a brad nailer can be a daunting task. Well, we’ve identified a few and will try to explain them in simple terms in this section to make your next purchase easier.
Please note, you’ll not find all the features in a single brad nailer, but make sure that your brad nailer is equipped with most of the features we listed here related to durability, usability, and performance.
This is the most important feature that you must look into a brad nailer. You already know that this nailer is designed to fire only 18 gauge brads ranging from 5/8 inch to 2-inch in length. So, you can sink, countersink, and flush nails using depth adjustment settings. This feature will allow you to drive nails deep or shallow into a workpiece depending on the properties of the wood. However, some models require additional tools to adjust the depth, and some come with built-in depth adjustment dial or wheel, known as tool-free depth adjustments that are more user-friendly.
Nose Piece Design
Brad nailers are specifically designed to shoot tiny and thin nails with high accuracy within compact spaces. Thus, the nailer nose piece design should be small enough to point the nailer in tight spaces with high precision. Without having a slim and compact nose, it can be challenging to drive nails in hard to reach areas. From our analysis, we found that most of the brad nailer models come with the standard nose design, but few of them remarkably took nose piece design to the next level.
Brad nailers are usually used for delicate wood trim, cabinetry front trimming, or upholstery projects. The last thing you will notice is the dent or damage on the work surface created by the recoil and dry firing of the nose tip. So, you should look for a brad nailer with a no-marring nose tip to prevent such types of damages. It’s a small piece of plastic attached to the head of the nose that prevents markings made from the nose tip.
It means the minimum and maximum length of nails your nailer magazine can hold. Brad nailer is precisely designed to fire 18 gauge 5/8 to 2-inch nails, but you will find some nails are slightly longer than regular 2-inch nails. Most brad nailer model’s magazines don’t support nails longer than 2-inch. For example, maximum electric brad nailer’s magazines can load nails ranging from 1/4 to 1-inch only. So, you should take it to your consideration before making a purchase decision. If most of your project requires 2-inch nails, our suggestion is to consider a brad nailer like BOSTITCH BTFP12233 that can accommodate 2-⅛ inch nails in their magazine. Apart from that, up to 2-inch will be more than enough.
Consider dual trigger mode when selecting a brad nailer. Nailer safety is directly connected with the trigger. There are two options in dual trigger mode, connect trigger and selectable trigger. So, you can switch between two trigger systems according to your firing needs. The contact trigger is commonly used to drive the nail faster. It is considered the most dangerous, and professionals often used this function for continuous nail firing. The sequential trigger is the safest option as it shoots a single nail when you pull the trigger. According to the CDC, using sequential trigger mode can prevent nearly 65% to 69% of injuries caused by contact trigger use. So, our recommendation is to choose a brad nailer that offers dual trigger mode.
Belt hook will allow you to clip your nailer to your belt. The primary purpose of this user-friendly feature is to keep your hands free to do extra work if required in between nailing without keeping you away from your nailer. Also, it will protect your nailer from accidental fall damage and give you an extra layer of protection, especially when working high above the ground. Nowadays, some manufacturers have taken the belt hook to a new dimension by introducing an adjustable belt hook. So, you can now move your nailer right or left whenever you want, which was not possible before.
Nail jamming is a common and unavoidable circumstance that you will face while using a nailer. Even it can happen at some point with a simple stapling machine that we use in our office or home. However, the way you clean the nail jamming can make a big difference in the overall nailer performance. You’ll find several models of Brad Nailer on the market, some require additional tools to clean the nail jam, and some offer tool-free jam clearing. Our recommendation is to go with the models that offer tool-free jam clearing.
You will find this feature in most electric brad nailers. Its variable power setting will allow you to adjust the depth of your nail drive. It relies on high and low power settings as it doesn’t have a piston to push nails into the work surface and runs on a motor. You will need high power to drive the nail deep and vice versa.
Swivel Cord and Adjustable Exhaust
These features are applicable only if you decide to buy a pneumatic brad nailer. Both features are related to the pressurized air that provides the required energy to the pneumatic nailer to drive nails. The swivel cord is a cool device that helps to prevent air hose from twisting while moving around your work area. So, you will get more flexibility and mobility for your corded brad nailer.
Now, what about the air that pushes the piston to move and shoots nails? What happens is that excess air expels through the air vent located at the back of the pneumatic nailer after every time you drive a nail. In most cases, the air vent pointed towards the operator, but today you will find a few models that offer 360 degrees adjustable exhaust. So, you can change the position of the air vent and other debris in your opposite direction.
You will be amazed to know that some manufacturers provide up to 7 years of warranty for their tools and have dedicated service centers. Also, some renowned brands run separate warranty schemes that you can get through an annual subscription. However, if you don’t want to spend extra money on the warranty, our recommendation is to choose a brad nailer that has at least one year of product warranty, which includes repairs and other defects.
Value for Money
At the end of the day, everything will stick to the budget you set for buying a brad nailer. For example, a battery-run brad nailer with all identical features and configurations will cost much more than a pneumatic one. Also, the price of the new version will be higher than the older version. While big brand products come with premium price tags, but relatively lesser-known or newer brand’s products tend to offer pretty competitive prices. Another essential thing you should keep in mind is the accessories included with the packaging. It may include items such as carrying case, safety goggles, gloves, oil, tool sets, and the like. These accessories are not only handy but also return a value of your money.back to menu ↑
A few words about safety
Nail guns are serious construction tools that are usually used in small and large woodworking projects. It fires nails and staple pins of different sizes at the same speed as bullets. Thus, there is always the possibility of misfiring and accidental firing that could seriously injure you or someone close to you. Some injuries can be fatal and can cause death. So, you are recommended to read the safety manual first before handling this tool.
The commercial contractor should check the state or federal work safety regulations for workers before handling any high-risk jobs. You can also check the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health nail guns safety guidelines for information on nail gun accident statistics, types of major nail accidents, and general safety information.
General safety advice:
- Read the nailer safety manual
- Oil your tool before and after use
- Wear protective glass, gloves, and a dust mask
- Keep general people, pets, and kids away from your work area
Our goal is straightforward, we want to deliver all the information that you should know about brad nailers. Where it can be used and how you can find a brad nailer that meets all your needs. However, after following our guidelines and recommendations, we hope that you have plenty of information now and ready to choose the best brad nailer for you. If you are in a hurry and don’t have enough time to research on brad nailers, check out our suggested ten best brad nailers instead. We prepared them based on user reviews, expert opinions, and features.