PORTER-CABLE PCC790B 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer
Best cordless brad nailer
This battery-operated brad nailer eliminates the need for a compressor and is easier to carry around.
1 PORTER-CABLE PCC790B Review
Battery-operated tools aren’t always the most powerful, but the PORTER-CABLE PCC790B impresses with both its power and ease of use. Its greatest advantage is the cordless construction that eliminates the need for a compressor.
Lightweight and relatively compact, it fits seamlessly into a contractor’s kit. Whether you want to install cabinets or window trims, this gun can do the job beautifully.
The battery is a 20V MAX you can use with all other PORTER-CABLE tools in the system. That’s a nice touch if you already own or plan to buy other tools from the brand. It is also faster and quieter than a pneumatic brad nailer and doesn’t jam very often.
In the event a nail does get stuck, it is easy to un-jam even without opening the latch. Designed with pros in mind, it is the best brad nailer you can find.
DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge Brad Nailer Kit
Perfect for a garage workshop
A thrifty kit for casual DIYers and rookies. Jam-free operation plus 500 free nails add up to the perfect balance between value and money.
2 DEWALT DWFP12231 Review
The best brad nailer in terms of value for money, DEWALT DWFP12231 exhibits an array of enticing qualities and is perfect for those who look to merge remarkable features with a competitive price. Constructed with a sturdy magnesium body and equipped with a maintenance-free motor, the DWFP12231 drives 18 gauge nails with a sequential style trigger while the rear exhaust keeps debris away from your face and work area. A soft rubberized handle improves grip and maneuverability, transforming the tool into a revered unit. It even has a 100-nail magazine capacity; 500 nails and a convenient carrying case boost versatility but remember you’ll need a portable air compressor to power up this beauty.
Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge Brad Nailer
Ideated for small carpentry and DIY projects
Ultra-lightweight pneumatic brad nailer perfect for light- and medium-duty work.
3 Hitachi NT50AE2 Review
The Hitachi NT50AE2 is a reliable pneumatic brad nailer that can easily substitute its heavier-duty counterparts thanks to an acclaimed efficacy. It is fabricated in lightweight aluminum but despite its low 2.2 lbs weight, it boasts a robust construction that delivers durability. The NT50AE2 handles brad nails from 5/8-inch to 2-inch and features a convenient bottom-loading magazine that can store approximately 100 pieces. Suitable for a range of projects, this gun also features two firing modes and is comfortable to handle thanks to its Elastomer grip. While aesthetics is often overlooked when it comes to workshop tools, the NT50AE2 shines in this field too thanks to its rugged, aggressive lines.
WEN 61721 18-Gauge Pneumatic Brad Nailer
A cheap pneumatic alternative
Thanks to its depth adjustment wheel, this tool is perfect for driving nails through a variety of materials.
4 WEN 61721 Review
If you need a brad nailer for the odd DIY work, the WEN 61721 is a reliable and inexpensive tool. It is pneumatic, so you’ll have to either buy or hire a compressor if you don’t have one already. That said, it works beautifully with most compressors and drives the brads with incredible precision.
Perfect for all kinds of projects, it features a depth adjustment wheel, a nail gauge, and a rotatable exhaust.
The construction might not be the most durable, but it works well and comes at a very affordable price. More than perfect for DIY projects and weekend warriors.
Best Brad Nailer 2021 Buying Guide
1. Why invest in a brad nailer?
A brad nailer is an essential tool in a carpenter’s workshop; it is designed to fire small 18-gauge nails that would otherwise be incredibly hard to drive in by hand. If you want to use larger 15 or 16-gauge nails, check out our finish nailer buying guide.
Due to the extremely reduced dimension of the nails – or brads, how they are technically called – the tool is particularly useful for precision woodwork jobs that require you to leave no holes in the surface.
Praised by pros and hobbyists alike, this nail gun serves many industrial and domestic applications, such as interior renovation and construction works, carpentry, arts & crafts, precision fixes, and more.
2. Types of brad nailers
Brad nailers can be essentially classified into three categories:
- Cordless, powered by a battery.
- Fuel-driven, operated by a dual battery and fuel system.
- Pneumatic, operated by an air compressor.
3. Cordless brad nailers
A battery-powered nailer is a handy machine that can be used in any setting due to its autonomy. The higher-end models can handle heavy-duty tasks in a breeze and come with a clear advantage over the pneumatic type – they excel in terms of mobility.
Which battery is the best?
The battery is perhaps the most important component of the cordless brad nailer, determining the unit’s performance and autonomy. There are two main battery types to consider:
- Lithium-Ion batteries: Are renowned for their decent runtime and lifespan. Their greatest advantage is the lack of memory which allows you to recharge the battery even if it’s not fully drained without affecting its future performance. Li-Ion batteries also tolerate wide temperature ranges and are typically lightweight.
- Nickel-Cadmium batteries: Have a performance similar to their Li-Ion counterpart but come with a few disadvantages. Their major drawback is the memory effect that affects the runtime. NiCad batteries are also heavier but on a positive note, they are cheaper than Li-Ion.
Since both batteries are similar in terms of performances and lifespan, choosing one over the other is often a matter of preference.
4. Fuel-driven brad nailers
Fuel-driven brad nailers are also cordless machines operated by a battery but they use fuel to drive the nails. The gun houses a cartridge that releases a small quantity of gas into a combustion chamber when the nose is bumped against the surface.
The gas mixes with the air in the combustion chamber and expands. When the trigger is operated, the battery generates a spark which ignites the fuel and air mixture. The explosion of the fuel provides extra power, and this makes this type of gun more efficient in terms of performance than a battery-operated machine.
However, these tools are usually expensive and require constant maintenance, two drawbacks that explain their lack of popularity.
5. Pneumatic brad nailers
The pneumatic brad nailer is the oldest yet the most widely used. Like all pneumatic tools, it uses air to drive nails, thus it only works when connected to an air compressor and is designed for performance.
A pneumatic nailer is capable of handling heavy-duty carpentry tasks, a feature that outweighs its scarce mobility.
What to consider when choosing a pneumatic brad nailer?
The most important feature to consider when choosing the best brad nailer is the pressure requirement which will determine the unit’s compatibility with a specific air compressor. The two numbers that matter are the PSI and CFM ratings which must be equal to or higher than the requirements of the nailer.
An important advantage of this tool is the lower weight which translates into a more comfortable handling.
On a downside, mobility is limited by various factors, including the size of the air compressor, the length of the air hose and the length of the power cord.
6. Straight clip vs. angled brad nailers
Brad nailers come in two major styles, straight clip and angled.
- Straight clip brad nailers: The most common models on the market, they possess a magazine used to load the brad nails into the unit. The machine places these nails on the cylinder, fueling a continuous drive. Advanced models are engineered with anti-jam systems that lower the chances of malfunction, making them an ideal choice for beginners.
- Angled brad nailers: Represent a specialty category dedicated to the pros. The tools are harder to maneuver due to their awkward construction but they are the real deal when you have to work in tight or oddly shaped spaces. These tools are perfect for trimming and molding works.
7. Do firing modes matter?
In short, yes. Not all brad nailers were created equal and how the tool fires the nails may make or break the deal. The most common operating modes are bump (or contact) and sequential firing.
Is the most rapid way to drive a succession of nails in a smooth, effortless process. It requires nothing more but holding down the tool’s trigger while bumping the nose against the working surface to release the nail.
Praised by professionals who want to get work done fast, this operation mode is unsafe, with accidental firing posing a serious safety hazard.
The sequential firing mode adds some safety to the game, but it compromises on firing speed. This mode requires the operator to actuate the safety tip first and the trigger after or the gun won’t fire, but there is a difference between the single-sequential and full-sequential modes.
- The single-sequential mode requires you to press the safety tip against the surface and then pull the trigger to fire, but after the first nail has been shot, you can just keep the nose pressed against the working surface and just release and reactivate the trigger for continuous work.
- The full-sequential mode follows the same steps but requires you to release both the safety tip and the trigger before operating them again. This boosts up safety but makes the operation dreadfully slow.
Besides the two sequential modes above, there is a third mode that requires you to operate both the safety tip and the trigger, the single-actuation firing. The main difference between this mode and the others is the possibility to operate the controls in any order. This particularity compromises on safety as the first nail can be accidentally bump fired.
8. Best brad nails to choose?
The gun is only part of the picture. To finish your tasks you’re going to need brad nails. All of them have a small 18-gauge size but they differ in length and materials. And while all brad nailers are compatible with the size, some of them may not support all lengths.
Because brad nails are intended to be used for precision work on thin materials, they have short lengths that typically vary from 5/8 inches to 2 inches. Determining the right length is easy by simply measuring the thickness of the material to nail through; then, pick brads at least three times longer than that.
Types of brad nails
Another important aspect to consider is the material the nails are made of. Common choices include:
- Galvanized metal: These brad nails are more expensive than all the other types but their quality is worth every dime. They have an unparalleled resistance to corrosion and are perfect to use on exterior surfaces exposed to adverse weather and elements.
- Copper nails: Are a carpenter’s best friends. Developed specifically for wood, they are perfect to use on trims, frames, skirting boards, sidings, and moldings. They don’t burst durability and resistance but are cheap and easy to source.
- Aluminum brads: Impress with their sharp tips and strength. They are designed for metal but can also be used on the hardwood.
- Stainless steel: These brad nails have an unmatched strength and are perfect for the toughest materials.
9. Other features to look for in a brad nailer
- Weight is an important factor. If you’re going to use the gun for prolonged periods, a lightweight unit is easier to handle.
- The handle must be large enough to accommodate your hands covered in working gloves and must have an anti-skid grip.
- Another important feature is ergonomics. The unit must have a balanced gravitational center for one-hand maneuverability.
- The noise level is often overlooked but these tools can be really loud, especially when working in restricted spaces.
- A low level of vibrations, ensured by a robust construction, reduces the risk of joint problems caused by prolonged use.
- The size of the nosepiece (more specifically its length and thickness) determines accessibility. A thin nose is preferred to a thicker one.
- Also check the capacity of the magazine. Most brad nailers have a magazine capacity of approximately 100 brad nails but some cordless models may accommodate more.