Air Nail Gun Buying Guide: Which Nail Gun Do I Need?

Any modern woodworking power tools collection is incomplete without a nail gun. Nail guns make work easier, faster, and more accurate than hammers, which are now becoming old-fashioned.

While nail guns come in different types that work better in specific applications, you might need to stock more than one to be safe in your woodworking. There are many options to choose from, including a roofing nailer, framing nailer, pneumatic nailer, palm nailer, siding nailer, and flooring nail gun.

Woodwork is diverse, and a single project might require the use of more than one nail size, which is why a collection of nail guns with varying gauges is essential.

However, if you intend to use the nail gun for a specific project, like in sign works or decorative pieces, one tool that suits the application is enough.

This article explains the following:

  • How a Nail Gun Works
  • How to Choose a Nail Gun
  • Types of Nail Guns and Their Applications
  • How an Air Nail Gun Compares with Battery-powered Nail Guns

In the end, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on the type of nail gun you’ll need for your project.

How a Nail Gun Works

A nail gun operates on two primary principles, firing the nail and loading the next.

Normally, pulling an ordinary nail gun trigger powers a piston down to a blade mechanism, firing the nail to the target surface with considerable force.

Once you fire the nail, the next one loads from the magazine using a spring that pushes the magazines’ base upwards after every shot.

The major difference in firing mechanisms across different nail guns is the force origin that propels the piston to fire the nail. The power source can either be pneumatic (compressed gas or air), electric, or combustion based on other circumstances.

Choosing a Nail Gun

Nail guns are multipurpose power tools. The power tool is ideal for furniture work, framing, flooring, roofing, and other delicate tasks like tracking and stapling.

However, based on the nature of your project, here are essential factors to consider before making any purchase.

Nail Gauge

As previously hinted in the opening paragraphs, not all guns use the same nail depth and nail length, which is why understanding the relationship between a nail gauge and its proper application is vital.

Generally, an 18-gauge nail gun uses brad nailer nails with a maximum of two inches nail length, whereas 15g and 16g nail guns apply thicker and longer nails of up to two and a half inches.

Then, there are nail gun nails for framing. Such nails are as big as three and a half inches. Other nail guns also available are 20 and 23 gauge nail guns that use much smaller pin gun staples.

Usually, the higher the nail gun gauge number, the smaller the pins it uses. For instance, a-23 gauge nail gun uses tiny pins suitable for delicate applications like decorative pieces or picture frames.

On the other hand, a 15-gauge nail gun will take thicker and longer nails suited for applications such as fencing.

Choosing a Nail Gun

Nail Gun Weight

For accuracy and extended projects, you need a power tool that feels comfortable in your hands for as long as you’ll use it.

Nail guns come in varying weights, and depending on the type of application you intend to use them on, choose a light nailer if you work on extended projects that may require climbing or long hours holding the gun.

However, the good news is that most heavy nail guns have more power and shoot nails faster, relieving you from the tedious prolonged gun holding. There are light options if the weight is a concern to you.

Power Source

Most nail guns use batteries or air in their piston to shoot nails on a working surface. While battery-powered nail guns offer more convenience and reliability, air nail guns or pneumatic nail guns provide a stronger force that drives nails on a surface with much ease.

Pneumatic nailers use a pressure of up to 22B to drive nails to depths of up to 100mm maximum. That’s why they are commonly known as high-pressure nail guns. However, some low-end models will use pressure as low as 8B for light-duty applications.

Other factors to consider when shopping for air nail guns include:

  • Handle ergonomics for a comfortable and firm grip
  • Available nail type – twisted vs smooth
  • Nail gun vibration level
  • Ease of opening and reloading the magazine
  • The nozzle shape or type – some will manoeuvre complex spaces with more ease than others
  • Nail gun sound pressure, measured in decibels (dB) – use an anti-noise helmet to protect you from excessive noise.

Important: An air nail gun uses a gas cylinder and a hosepipe that might be a little tiresome for projects that require frequent movements.

Types of Nail Guns and Their Uses

Below are different types of nail guns and their suited applications:

Finish Nailer

Finish nailers are the best for finishing carpentry work, such as baseboards and crown molding. These nailers are available in 15g and 16g gun options that will shoot nails of two and a half inches long.

Framing Nail Gun

These are heavy-duty-nails guns that fire long nails up to three and a half inches long. They are the best for decking and other wood-based sheathing applications and fencing.

Pin Nailer

Pin nailers are used in more delicate applications that require precise finishing, such as picture frames and other carpentry trim finishings.

Brad Nailer

Brad nailers are the ideal choice in any skirting board application. They are the most common DIY option that uses the two-inch nails in an 18-gauge nail gun. The 20-gauge nail guns are also ideal for any carpentry application, such as furniture making.

Types of Nail Guns

Air Nail Gun vs Battery Powered Options

Nail guns are replacing hammers due to their efficient and fast nailing and stapling capability.

Air nail guns use compressed air applied on the piston, making them more potent than battery-charged nail guns.

From light framing applications to another heavy-duty nailing, an air nail gun is the best and offers a wide range of nail gun gauge options suited for either woodworking, concrete nailing, among other nailing needs.

The major downside to air nail guns is cylinder refilling from time to time. Additionally, you might need long hose pipes for roof nailing that require climbing to access the work surface.

Battery-powered nail guns work well for firing on softer surfaces such as plywoods. You only need to keep an extra battery for replacement when you run out of charge. In addition, they are highly portable, making them suited for applications that involve a lot of movement.

However, battery-powered nail guns do not focus on nail delivery power, which is why they may not be the best for hard surface nailing.

Bottom Line

Different nail guns work well in specific applications. As such, your choice of a nail gun should narrow down to your nailing needs.

For delicate gun nailing, go for nail guns with a higher gauge count that takes smaller pins.

Demanding applications such as fencing require thicker and stronger nails used in low-gauge count nail guns. So, the more precise the application, the higher the nail gun gauge count.

Depending on the project magnitude, pay attention to the number of nails your nail gun magazine will hold at a time.

Otherwise, to be safe in your nailing applications, you need various nail guns with different gauges.

If nail delivery power is your concern or you intend to work on hard surfaces, get yourself an air nail gun rather than the battery-powered ones. 

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