If you are looking for a powerful tool to use for your DIY and home improvement projects, you might want to look into purchasing a brad nailer. A brad nailer is a popular tool in any DIY kit because it is very convenient and can be used for a variety of projects. However, there are some things you need to know about them before you purchase one.

In this guide we’re going to walk you through the different types that are for sale, educate you on some of the key components of nailers and why they’re important, how to choose the rights ones, and then wrap up with reviews of the 7 best options on the market today.

First, you have to understand what a brad nailer is and what it is not.

What Is a Brad Nailer?

Brad nailers are electrically powered nail guns that are used for smaller applications wherein you want to avoid splitting wood surfaces. Most brad nailers shoot 18-gauge nails, often called brads, which are the smallest kind of nails, with a length of 5/8 to 2 1/8 inches. They are so small that there is no need to refill the nail holes with wood putty to cover it. They are almost invisible on most wood surfaces and that’s one of the primary benefits of using one. If you looked around your house, I’m sure you’ll be able to find dozens of places where these have been used.

Is a Brad Nailer the Same as a Finish Nailer?

Some people confuse brad nailers as the same as finish nailers. However, they are two different tools. Below is a comparison between the two:

Brad Nailers:

  • Uses 18 or 21-gauge nails. The most commonly used is the 18-gauge option.
  • Best for small applications where damaging the wood is an issue, such as casings, baseboards, paneling, etc.
  • Reduced hole size will leave a smaller mark on the wood.
  • Comes in pneumatic and electric versions.

Finish Nailers:

  • Uses 15 or 16-gauge nails.
  • Creates a stronger and more permanent hold than brad nailers.
  • Designed for heavy duty projects such as cabinets, staircases, windows, crown and base moldings, etc.
  • Comes in straight and angled designs.
  • Comes in pneumatic and cordless versions.

Uses of a Brad Nailer

Brad nailers are very versatile and can be used for many different small woodworking projects such as the following:

  • Installing baseboards
  • Installing paneling
  • Installing casings
  • Upholstery projects (one of the most common use cases)
  • Replacing or repairing trim work around windows and doors
  • Replacing the decorative crown molding
  • Making chairs, cabinets, and other furniture (irreplaceable tool for this!)
  • Arts and crafts projects for your home or office (e.g. picture frames, creating models, making children’s toys)
  • Small construction projects

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Brad Nailers

While brad nailers can be a very handy and useful tool for your projects, it is important to consider its advantages and disadvantages prior to purchasing one.

Pros:

  • It leaves very small nail head holes on the wood that you won’t need to cover.
  • They are very accurate, precise, and great for detailing work.
  • Its nails are perfect for a wide variety of small projects.
  • You reduce the risk of damaging or splitting delicate or thin pieces of wood.
  • They are very lightweight and easy to use. They are especially great for hard-to-reach places such as corners and doorways.

Cons:

  • Brad nailers can’t be used for larger and thicker pieces of wood because it is not capable of penetrating them fully.
  • You will need to invest in an air pump if you choose to use a pneumatic nailer.

The 7 Best Brad Nailers

Now that you’re sure that a brad nailer is what you need, you’re probably wondering what the best brad nailer is for you.

It depends on a few different factors, including your budget and the projects you plan on using it for. However, to give you an idea of what’s currently available in the market, we have listed down and reviewed the top 7 models that you can choose from.

These are the seven products that we’ve narrowed our search down to from over 30 options presented to us from other online resources and the hardware stores we were able to get to in Austin. Not only have we actually tested these seven, we’ve had a professional construction team compare them side-by-side, gone through every single Amazon review and consumer complaint you can imagine, and had complete rookies try to use them as per instructions.

Here are the survivors and what’s good and bad about each of them.

1. The WEN 18-Gauge Brad Nailer - Best Affordable Pneumatic Brad Nailer

This entry-level nail gun looks quite unassuming with its simplistic design. However, it has all the basic features you will need for most jobs, which is great considering how affordable it is. The package includes a durable blow mold case, hex keys, air tool oil, rubber-grip handle, and is backed with a one-year warranty.

Features:

  • Can shoot brad nails from ¾ to 2 inches in length
  • Operating pressure is 60 to 100 PSI with a ¼-inch NPT air inlet fitting
  • Has a 3-pound lightweight aluminum body and comfortable rubber-grip handle
  • Can hold up to 100 nails in its magazine that has a quick release for easy jam clearing
  • Comes with oil, two adjustment wrenches, and a custom carrying case

Pros:

  • Very basic and simple design
  • Lightweight and ergonomic
  • Easy to use
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Limited maximum power
  • Occasional jamming but the quick release mechanism solves that issue
  • Needs a compressor but it can work even with low quality ones

2. BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT 3-Tool Portable Air Compressor Combo - Best Value for Money Brad Nailer Kit

This professional-looking kit is comprised of three impressive tools – a nailer gun, a finish nailer, a crown stapler, and a powerful compressor pump. This makes the kit useful for all kinds of projects. It can handle even the most demanding projects with the compressor’s high efficiency motor and powerful airflow.

The tools are built to last and made from composite shroud which helps protect the controls and gauges from impact. The package comes with a 1-year limited manufacturer warranty.

Features:

  • Cordless air compressor, 6 gallons 150PSI, and 2.65SCFM with high efficiency motor
  • Drives 18-gauge brad nails from 5/8″ to 2″ for a wide variety of applications
  • Straight finish nailer
  • Heavy duty crown stapler
  • 15-foot 1/4″ x 25′ PVC air hose with fittings
  • Fasteners

Pros:

  • High efficiency motor is easy to start
  • Ergonomic
  • Reliable and durable
  • Can handle a wide range of projects

Cons:

  • Maintenance-free pump
  • Oil-free compressor but tools still need to be lubricated
  • Can be loud in enclosed spaces but not as loud as other similar pancake compressors

This is definitely one of the best value for money options you’re going to see on the market due to the sheer amount of tools that are included. For the price, you’re not going to find much that will be able to compete with this kit.

3. PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA 20V MAX Lithium 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit - Best Portable Choice

This is a fantastic finishing tool because it is highly portable, offers many features, and requires minimal maintenance work. It has multiple tool-free settings that make this brad nailer super easy to use, which increases productivity and reduces the risk of injuries. As long as you charge the battery, you can use it for a long time without experiencing jams or misfires. The charger is quite compact as well and it won’t take long going from 0-100%, in fact, with a 5-minute charge from zero we were able to finish off a project without having to wait.

Features:

  • Battery-powered, no compressor needed
  • Consistent driving depth, nail diameter: 18 gauge
  • Tool-free release lever, jam release, and depth adjustment wheel
  • Includes 1.5 Ah 20V MAX Lithium-ion battery that lasts longer than NiCad, Charger included
  • Integrated belt hook

Pros:

  • Cordless and very portable
  • Consistent firing power
  • Can be used in any climate condition
  • Low maintenance
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Multifunctional LED lights that light up the work area
  • Easy nail and jam removal
  • Easy depth adjustment

Cons:

  • Need extra battery life
  • Somewhat heavy
  • No fuel gauge for the battery
  • Best for medium level and DIY projects only

4. DEWALT DWFP12231 Finish Nailer Kit - Best Pneumatic Budget Option

This is a great basic pneumatic brad nailer considering its moderate price and handy all-around features. Dewalt is a well-known brand that is highly recommended and so this nailer will satisfy most DIY and home users.

True to the DeWalt philosophy, this nailer boasts of a superior design that is super lightweight and portable. At the same time, it even includes 500 nails of 1 1/4″, fittings, and owner’s manual.

Features:

  • Long life maintenance-free motor to keep from staining the work surface
  • Tool-free jam release mechanism for easy nail removal
  • Drives 18-gauge nails from 5/8″ to 2″ length
  • Adjustable belt hook allows the tool to be kept near the user
  • Removable non-marring nose tip with on tool storage
  • Sequential style trigger
  • Tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment with detents for proper setting of nail heads
  • Rear exhaust to keep contaminates away from work
  • Magnesium body delivers strong & lightweight design
  • Integrated rubber grip for improved comfort

Pros:

  • Maintenance-free motor, no need for oil
  • Lightweight and durable body
  • Very portable
  • Easy and comfortable to use
  • Rear exhaust
  • Removable non-marring nose tip protects work surface

Cons:

  • Some spare parts are not easy to find
  • Not suitable for some large-scale projects
  • Can be difficult to use in tight spaces due to the straight angled magazine

5. DEWALT DCN680D1 Cordless Nailer Kit - Best High-End Kit

Overall, this nailer is a great tool to have because it can be used for pretty much any project. Although it can be somewhat pricey, with this one you really get what you pay for in terms of its features and inclusions. Whether you’re a professional or just like to work with the best equipment possible, Dewalt have you covered.

It is very user-friendly with tool-free adjustments that help you get the work done fast. You will also find that it has most of the features included in the Dewalt DCN660, which is a larger model.

Features:

  • Diagnostics with LED indicator communicates battery charge status
  • Charges all DEWALT 12V – 20V max li-ion batteries from a vehicle’s power outlet enabling batteries to be charged while driving to work or on a jobsite
  • Automatic shut-off protects excessive discharge of vehicle’s battery
  • Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 20 volts. Nominal voltage is 18

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Portable
  • Consistent depth of drive and speed of fire
  • Rubberized grip makes it comfortable to hold
  • Useful LED lights

Cons:

  • Not great for tight spots
  • A bit heavier than pneumatic brad nailers
  • Pricey

6. NEU MASTER NTC0023 Cordless Brad Nailer - Best Cheap Option

The NEU Master NTC0023 is another good budget-friendly option for a cordless brad nailer, considering that the package also includes 500 pieces of 1″ 18-gauge nails, 1/4″ crown staple, and 500 pieces of 3/4″ legs.

While a bit heavy at 7.9 pounds, it is very convenient, durable, and easy to use. It is great for a variety of DIY projects such as home improvements, wooden handiwork, and upholstery. Also suitable for both hard and soft materials, this nail gun has a power adjustable knob that you can adjust accordingly.

Because it’s so cheap, this is probably the best option if you can’t see yourself using it again in the future (or at least not much) and just need to get some work done or finish a quick repair job.

Features:

  • Cordless Li-ion battery nail gun – No need for compressor, power cord, hose etc, convenience using in everywhere you can reach.
  • Fully charged within 90 minutes and up to 1100 shots per charge.
  • Works with 1/4” crown staple from 5/8” to 1”, and 18-gauge brad nail from 5/8” to 1-1/4”
  • Contacts safety pole setting, which means that the trigger can only be triggered if the safety pole is fully pressed.
  • Non-Marring rubber nose provides a flawless finish.

Pros:

  • Powerful and quick
  • Has a view window for easy tracking of staples
  • Safety mechanism helps prevent accidental firing
  • Comfortable and easy to use

Cons:

  • Heavier than other cordless nailers
  • Can only go up to 1 1/4″

7. DEWALT DCN680B 18-Gauge Brad Nailer - Best Overall Brad Nailer

The Dewalt DCN630B brad nailer would be a great addition to your tool collection whether you are a DIY-er, carpenter, woodworker, or remodeller.

Its brushless motor not only reduces overall tool weight but also gives you a longer tool life, better durability, more stable hands, and a ton more.

It is very versatile and durable with a variety of useful features. Its ability to easily clear up jams, adjust depths and release stalls allow you to make good use of your time completing your project. The price is pretty steep, but it is understandable if you consider decreased downtime, better durability, and higher tool life. For occasional odd jobs, a commercial grade nailer would be the best choice. However, if you are looking for a professional grade one, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Features:

  • Diagnostics with LED indicator communicates battery charge status: charged
  • Automatic shut-off protects excessive discharge of vehicle’s battery
  • Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 20 volts. Nominal voltage is 18

Pros:

  • Strong and powerful
  • Automatic shut-off
  • Better battery mileage
  • LED indicator for battery
  • Easy depth adjustment

Cons:

  • Bulky and heavy
  • The battery is sold separately
  • Pricey

A Guide to Choosing the Best Brad Nailer for Your Project

Just because a brad nailer is listed as one of the top ones to buy doesn’t mean you should automatically buy it. There are so many kinds, models, and brands with a variety of features available in the market.  The availability of choices can make choosing a confusing process.

To help you out on your quest for the best option for your project, we have come up with a guide on what to expect and what to look for when buying one.

Now, these are key elements to consider and understand if this is a tool you’re intending to use on a regular basis or really care about the output (e.g. woodworking instead of doing repairs). For those of you who just need it for a few quick things, all of the products covered on our review are vetted and will get the job done, and last for quite a few years.

Depending on how much you’re intending to use it, it might make sense to do the additional research or perhaps just buy one of the recommendations and get it over with.

Key Elements of a Brad Nailer

First, you should learn what makes up a typical brad nailer, what they are used for and how they work. A brad nailer consists of the following parts:

Trigger

This is the part of the nailer that is pressed to fire the brad nail from the gun.

Magazine

This part is what holds rows of brad nails. Some might have a nail indicator that will tell you if your gun is already low on brad nails.

Magazine Lock

This part is pressed in order to load the gun.

Latch

This is another lock at the opposite end of the gun that clears the magazine of jammed brads.

Contact Tip or Nose

This is the part of the gun that comes into contact with the trim and where the brad nails are fired.

Exhaustive Valve

This outlet blows compressed air out when the gun is being used but not all products have this.

Air Pressure Dial

This part adjusts how much air is expelled when you press the trigger. More pressure results to deeper brads.

Depth Gauge

This adjusts the distance between the material you are working on and the nailer.

Belt Hook

Some come with a belt hook to make it easy for you to carry the brad nailer around hands-free.

Different Types of Brad Nailers

There are two types of brad nailers currently available in the market – Pneumatic and Electric.

Pneumatic Brad Nailer

A pneumatic nailer uses compressed air in order to work. Aside from the nail gun itself, this needs an air hose, batteries, and a cartridge as well. The lightweight hose is where the compressed air passes through, driving the compressor and powering the gun.

Things to consider about pneumatic nailers:

  • It is available in a variety of sizes and operating methods.
  • It is lighter than an electric brad nailer.
  • It is cost-effective but may cost more long term due to maintenance costs involved in hose replacements, oil checks, and others.
  • There could be safety risks involved due to the high air pressure involved.

Electric Brad Nailer

An electric or cordless brad nailer uses an electric motor or batteries as its power source to drive the nails through. The addition of these makes it heavier but more powerful than a pneumatic version.

Things to consider about an electric brad nailer:

  • It is convenient because there’s less set up time and handy because you can easily lug it around.
  • It requires less maintenance compared to a pneumatic brad nailer.
  • May be more expensive initially but is more cost-effective over time because there is less maintenance required. However, there is battery maintenance costs involved as well and its costs will depend on the type of battery you will use.
  • There could be safety risks involved due to improper use.

Both types have their pros and cons but both can get the job done well. The most important thing to do is to exercise safety precautions when using them.

Brad Nailer Safety Tips

There are always some safety risks involved when it comes to using power tools such as brad nailers. Thousands of injuries each year are caused by the improper usage of these tools. These injuries mostly involve fingers and hands since they are usually the ones that have direct contact to the nail gun. Some of them may just be painful but others can be fatal.

Injuries and accidents are unpredictable, but you can help avoid them by practicing basic safety precautionary measures to keep you safe.

  • Always use protective gear such as safety goggles, hearing protectors, and protective gloves when using a brad nailer.
  • Not all brad nailers are the same. You must always read and follow instructions set by the manufacturer so as to avoid damaging your brad nailer or your project and causing injury to yourself or others.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger while carrying the nailer or while not in use.
  • Make sure that no part of your body will get in the way of the nail ejection point or the area that will be nailed.
  • Always hold the gun properly and never point it to anybody.
  • Always inspect your brad nailers and make sure they are well-maintained to ensure smooth operation. It is important to use the correct type of nails, lubricate all moving metallic parts, regularly tighten all bolts and screws, and avoid exposing them in areas with high salt and moisture content.
  • Give your equipment breaks in between to give it time to cool down. This will minimize mechanical vibrations while the nailer is in use.
  • The air supply must always be disconnected during breaks or after use.
  • Make sure that the air hose is tight, properly fastened and in good condition. If not, replace it immediately.

Brad nailers are very useful and handy tools for all sorts of DIY and home projects. While there are many different types available, the best one for you depends on your specific needs, preferences, and budget.