What Kind of Nail Gun Do I Need? [Types of Nailers & their Uses]

Many people are interested in woodworking. It applies in doing several home improvement projects that require the use of essential tools in the market.

One is nailers which can perform a lot of nail work as a substitute for a hammer. They are more convenient and versatile for your nailing needs.

Choosing the right nail gun might be crucial for beginners, so we thought to introduce its different types and how they work.

The discussion will include nail guns by application and their other basic features and functions.

Getting the wrong tool can ruin your project from start to finish, and may also add up more expenses. With this article, you can make your choices a lot easier.

Nail guns are the must-have tool for roofers. The best nail gun depends on a lot on your preference, but here are some of the best ones out there. such as DEWALT, WEN, Ryobi, BOSTITCH, Bolster, etc,.

What Is A Nail Gun?

A nail gun is a carpentry tool and a great alternative for a hammer. It significantly benefits woodworkers by reducing the time and effort in finishing tasks.

The market offers a wide variety of nail guns according to their specific uses. They also come in different sizes and forms to cater to your necessities.

Nail guns are capable of driving nails into wood and some other kinds of surfaces. It is a helpful tool for different carpentry works, such as woodworking, roofing, crown molding, and many more.

Additionally, nail guns operate in so many ways. Select a nail gun based on the power source you can provide.

Examples are pneumatic, electric, cordless, and air compressor. It can be confusing for a while, but you can ask professionals which one will suit your budget and needs.  

The main reason why most carpenters prefer a nail gun over hammers is that it promotes better safety and smoother workflow. Their advanced features are a plus why individuals like using a nail gun.

Different Types of Nail Gun Comparison Table

Types Advantages Disadvantages
Framing Nail Gun
  • Able to drive longer nails
  • Can perform heavy-duty jobs
Brad Nail Gun
  • Perfect for delicate works
  • Leaves no visible marks on surfaces
  • Can hold more nails
For thinner woods only
Finish Nail Gun
  • Highly versatile
  • Has higher holding power
  • Suitable for permanent woodworking jobs
Not easy to remove from surfaces
Flooring Nail Gun
  • Works best for flooring jobs
  • Very handy
  • Has high nail capacities and holding power  
Not versatile
Palm Nail Gun
  • Portable
  • Easy to operate
  • Best for tighter spaces
Only best for seldom nailer usage
Roofing Nail Gun
  • Performs well for roof nailing
  • Desires for a lesser reloading time
  • Provides higher nail capacities
  • Recommended for DIYers and skilled workers
Not versatile
Siding Nail Gun
  • Best in fastening two materials in place
  • Suitable for siding jobs
Not versatile
Pin Nail Gun
  • Benefits DIY wood projects
  • Can help finish works
Not for long time uses
Staple Gun Very versatile Does not hold actual nails

Different Types of Loading Styles for Nail Guns

Although there are several kinds of nail guns, this buying guide will show you its two main types. These styles of nail guns indicate how the nails are loaded into the nailing tool that could meet your requirements.

Coil-Style Nail Guns

The first kind of nail gun is the coil-style. It uses a couple of wires to join all the nails together. It is made of a drum magazine that can store an average of 350 nails depending on the tool’s model.

Keep in mind that some coil-style nail guns can hold more or less of the said number of nails.

Using a coil-style nail gun can offer a lot of advantages. Its nail capacity obviously surpasses the other types of nail guns.

That being said, the coil-style nailer can reduce the times of reloading the tool with nails while finishing the job.

The second benefit of a coil-style nail gun is it is easier to operate than its counterparts. This is despite the presence of a drum magazine. It won’t stick out of the nail gun during the operation, even in tighter spaces.

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Strip-Style Nail Guns

An additional kind of nail gun is strip-style. It is less desired than coil-style nail guns for some reasons, like in terms of nail capacity. The nail gun can only manage up to forty nails compared to over 300 nails by the first type.

Another downside is that strip-style nail guns may hardly reach tight spaces due to their long magazine that might stick out of the bottom of the tool. It holds the nails together with plastic, wires, or paper.

Maybe you are wondering why anyone still uses strip-style nail guns. The truth is this kind of nail gun has a few benefits.

It is perfect for consumers with a lesser budget. This nail gun is also best for seldom use and not like the coil-style that can go for more projects.

Its magazine evenly distributes the weight of the nails for more accuracy driving them into the surface. Strip-style nail guns are also easier to manage with a lightweight structure.

Different Types of Firing Methods For Nail Guns

One more factor that you should consider when selecting a nail gun is the firing methods. There are two types, dual-contact and sequential firing methods. Each of them can offer many advantages and disadvantages.

Dual-Contact Nail Guns

These are also called bump nailers. Using a dual-contact nail gun can be risky due to the simultaneous release of nails into the surface.

You need to hold the trigger and place the nose of the nail gun on the working piece. Do not release the trigger while firing the nails which saves more time.

The risky part is the unintentional firing of nails that might cause injuries to the worker. That is why bump nailers are better recommended for professional woodworkers.

Sequential Nail Guns

Sequential nailers are the total opposite of dual-contact nail guns. It supports single-shot firing of nails and so extends the time to finish a project a little longer.

Pulling the trigger will shoot a nail into the surface, one at a time. Assure to press the safety tip before pulling out the trigger for better control.

It is obviously the favorite kind of nail gun by many contractors.

What Kind of Nail Gun Do I Need? Nail Guns by Application

After deciding which style of nail gun is the right choice for you, here is a section to reveal all the possible options when buying a nailer.

Pay close attention to every type of nail gun that might meet your personal needs. Select the item that will increase your quality of work in the long run.

Framing Nail Gun

To begin with, it is a nail gun for heavy-duty tasks. A framing nail gun is designed to drive long nails into robust wood frames.

This works for a variety of applications of construction jobs, such as house framing, wood siding, deck and fence works, and many more to mention.

Since a framing nail gun is great for massive works, it comes with three different versions to cater to your specific projects. You can choose between pneumatic, gas-powered, and cordless framing nailers.

Pneumatic framing nailers make use of an air hose. It has a limited range of function due to the length of the hose. This also demands an added cost because of the air compressor.

On the other hand, gas framing nailers are more reliable in completing a task. They are battery-powered which can push nails effectively.

And lastly is the cordless framing nailer which is powered by a lithium-ion battery. Backup batteries are necessary to keep the tool working.

Moreover, framing nail guns also have two styles. The round-headed framing nail gun can contain lesser pins while the clipped head nailers can have more nails. Both can do high-volume jobs and are not limited to construction works.

The framing nailer can hold up to 3 ½ inch long nails suitable for a housing frame. If you are about to build something huge, then a framing nail gun is a good buy for you.

Brad Nail Gun

A brand nail gun is intended for lightweight trimming that promotes better accuracy. It is often compared to pin nailers when it comes to finishing tasks.

The fact is brad nailers can hold ultra-thin nails such as 18-gauge nails compared to the 23-gauge nails for pin nailers.

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Brad nailers are made for a wide range of household repairs and woodwork projects. However, it cannot shoot regular nails into a piece of hardwood but only on lightweight trims. It won’t split up thin molds and trims, unlike those 16-gauge nails.

The tool is very handy and best applied for crown molding and other delicate woodworks. Also, because of its thinner appearance, it just creates tiny holes on a surface that are barely noticeable.

Professional contractors prefer using a brand nail gun for this reason. Its nail capacity is over 80 thin nails with lesser holding power perfect for almost every use.

You can opt for a cordless brad nail gun which is a powerful tool that needs extra batteries for longer use. Another best option for brad nailers is the pneumatic model which has steadier power with the use of an air compressor and a hose.

Brad nailers are best applied for gentle materials that produce workpieces with a better appearance. There will be no damage to wherever it is you are working on.

You may also use the nailer for small woodworking jobs, such as birdcages, jewelry boxes, and others that do not require a stronger holding strength.

Finish Nail Gun

Next is the finish nail gun, a versatile woodworking tool that is suitable for specific nail sizes. It can hold nails that vary from 15 to 16-gauges.

When it is compared to brad nailers, this one has higher holding power and is used for a wider range of woodworking jobs.

It is not limited to temporary nailing tasks but can do permanent jobs like building furniture.

A finish nail gun promotes a more precise work than a brad nailer in many applications. You can install trim in place using a finishing nailer that is more secure. The downside is it can leave visible marks, unlike brad nailers that leave only small holes.  

Finish nailers hold thicker nails suitable for both hardwood and softwood. It can drive nails into a piece of wood up to 2.5-inches. It might split up thinner woods, so better opt for a brand nail gun with that specific job.

It has two models to offer, a pneumatic and cordless finish nailer. With the use of an air compressor, the pneumatic finish nail gun will have continuous power for finishing jobs. It delivers a highly accurate finish, however has limited range due to the attached air hose.

The cordless model has two kinds, a straight and angled finish nailer. If you are working with staple molding, the straight finish nailer shall be applied.

Corners that are difficult to reach will require the use of an angled finish nailer. It has improved maneuverability and there is no need to replace the batteries more often.

When all you have are uniquely shaped nails, a finish nail gun could be best for you. Once the nails are driven into a wood material, they cannot be easily pulled out.

Flooring Nail Gun

A floor installation tool is added to the list. The flooring nail gun is specifically designed for installing wooden floors. It looks different from the other nail guns and only suits for laying floorboards. Flooring nailers do not have any other uses.

Flooring jobs would be easier and faster with a flooring nail gun. It brings comfort to the user’s knees and palms while at work. The tool is prepared for tongue and groove floorboards, making them easier to install.

Like the other nail guns, flooring nailers have two types, pneumatic, manual, and cordless. You can find pneumatic flooring nailers useful with an air compressor pushing the nails into the floorboard.

It differs from a manual flooring nail gun that consumes human force to begin working. And lastly, cordless guns are more flexible but not as powerful as pneumatic flooring nail guns.

How do these nailing guns work? The nailer must be working at the proper angle and depth at all times. If so, a nylon mallet is used in operating the plunger while the nailer must stick on the board’s edge.

It overall saves your time and energy, regardless of its limited functions. Just make sure that the nails are inserted at a 45-degrees angle.

The flooring nailer can hold up to 2-inches long nails or particular staples at 100 capacities. It will go for hardwood flooring jobs with its high holding power.

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Palm Nail Gun

A palm nail gun is a compact nailer that can be operated with the palm. The equipment is the same as the regular nailers but on a smaller scale.

It is best for tighter spots, such as the corners and edges of a woodworking project. Fixing the ceilings is what a palm nail gun does best.

The palm nailer is built with a strap to be wrapped around the arm of the user. This adds up comfort during the operation for the nailer won’t slip out of your hand.

It is highly portable and you can easily bring it anywhere. In addition to that, it helps reduce fatigue for a longer period of use.

This kind of device can drive nails about 3.5-inches in length into woods, with higher accuracy. It also offers a bulk of nail capacity for continuous work. You can buy larger units that can hold up to 6-inches long nails.

The palm nail guns only shoot one nail at a time, unlike some other nailers. It is recommended for smaller projects due to the additional time it can consume for the overall task.

Similar to other nail guns, palm nailers have three variations, a pneumatic, electrical, and cordless model.

The latter is the most preferred tool that provides greater comfort for the users. It runs through batteries that should be replaced every once in a while for better performance.

If you do woodwork projects very seldom, then a palm nail gun is highly suitable for your needs.

Roofing Nail Gun

A house with a durable roof will give better comfort to the whole family. The roofing nail gun can help to keep a new roof in place, as recommended by professional contractors.

It is similar to a framing nailer, however, specified for rooftop works. It is not only the professionals who are using this nailer but also the DIYers handling roofing tasks alone.

The different types of roof nailer include four good options. First is the simplest type, a spring-loaded roof nailer. It uses a spring to drive the nails from the gun.

The next one is the solenoid roof nailer which operates through an electromagnetic polarization while the pneumatic type with an air compressor.

Last of all is the cordless roof nailer that works with batteries for better control in case of reaching tight spots.

 This type of nail gun is recommended for skilled roofers. It consumes less time to reload the nail gun with its versatile structure.

The roof nailer additionally has a large flat head to boost its controlling power. It yields a higher speed in driving nails into the wood, with up to 300 nail capacities.

The nail gun can accommodate thinner and round-headed nails. Its common applications include asphalt roofing, roof decking, and other heavy-duty construction jobs.

Roofing nail guns are heavyweight, however portable units are also available. The drawback is that cordless roof nailers have no secure access to power, unlike pneumatic units.

Working on a roof could be challenging wherein continuous power is necessary. Then, a pneumatic roof nail gun is a superior choice.

Siding Nail Gun

Another type of nail gun for specific uses is the siding nailer. Joining pieces of wood, both large and thin, is possible with this nail gun.

For example, if you want to fasten a wall and board, a siding nailer is the best option for use. It is used simultaneously with a framing nail gun to deliver the best possible result.

It has a softer tip than the other nail guns to be suitable for any siding job. The perfect sizes of nails to fit in a siding nailer are those shorter with a border head.  

This helps to improve the fitting of nails into the wood. It is unlike framing nailers that prefer longer nails to function well. Siding nailers also use pins with up to 2.5-inches wide head.

Siding nail guns can hold more nails compared to other types of nailers. It is also made for aluminum nails, thus a perfect tool for installing aluminum siding in a house.

You can find two kinds of siding nailers. The pneumatic siding nail gun uses an air compressor to provide a consistent ability to drive nails for wall siding needs.

It will work with or without the help of an air hose. But, an electric siding nailer promotes better mobility and therefore operates more efficiently than the prior.

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If you are joining two different materials, there are no better tools than a siding nail gun that can help.

Pin Nail Gun

Its name can be confusing as a pin nailer does not drive pins, but 23-gauge headless nails. It is seamless for delicate works, such as crown molding, furniture trimming, and cabinetry. This tool has to be the smallest among all nailers but can finish jobs perfectly.

Pin nailers are also suggested for DIY projects and are commonly used with wood glue. The reason is that these nails have no holding power and the glue helps to keep the material in place.

In other words, pin nailers are just good for holding trim temporarily. Some carpenters use this nail gun for upholstery works considering its holding power.

Buyers can select between pneumatic and electric pin nail guns. Getting a pneumatic pin nailer can be useless as these pinners are not often functional.

You better pick the electric pin nailer that works perfectly fine for small crafts while maximizing the lifespan of the nail gun. It also reduces the cost of buying an air compressor.

For woodworkers who do not regularly create stuff, a pin nail gun is made right for you.

Staple Gun

This is a special type of tool apart from normal nail guns. It is designed to drive staples and not any kind of nails.

Staple guns are highly versatile and can be used in a wider application. They are larger than office staples, with more holding power to do heavy-duty tasks.

A staple gun can drive staples into different materials, such as wood, masonry, and plastic. It is handheld and easy to operate. The consumer uses staple guns for upholstery and other home repair jobs.

Staple guns are available in four different types. The cheapest option is the handheld staple gun for minimal work and can be difficult to manage than the other types.

Further, electric staple guns are more powerful and expensive while pneumatic staple guns can do a lot faster.

The least useful type is the hammer staple gun that cannot perform construction works but only for carpet installation.

A staple gun, however, is a great addition to your tool kit. Its wide application will benefit some of your woodworking projects but not as useful as the previous nail gun types.

 3 Types of Power Sources for Nail Guns

Nail guns operate depending on the power sources they are compatible with. Each type of nail gun has a single purpose to drive specific nail sizes into a piece of wood.

The common power sources for a variety of nail guns include pneumatic power, gas power, and batteries.

 Here is a brief explanation of how each power source works to operate a nail gun: 
YouTube video

Pneumatic Nail Gun

A pneumatic nailer is primarily made for professionals in the construction industry. It is very powerful and equipped with an air compressor to supply pressure in driving the nails into the wood piece.

Moreover, this is lightweight but difficult to carry because of the added air compressor and hose.

It is not highly recommended for framing works because of inconvenient mobility due to the air hose. For construction sites without enough power, find a gas-powered air compressor.

You must wear a face shield when using a pneumatic nailer for safety purposes. The exhaust air can be dangerous for your health.

Gas-Powered Nail Gun

A gas-powered nailer is a good alternative for pneumatic nailers. It operates with a wide range of fuel sources to deliver an accurate driving force to shoot nails into a surface.

To carry the nail gun can be challenging for long time work. And also, a fuel source can be risky for lower temperatures.

Cordless Nail Gun

Cordless nailers can be everywhere in the market and a bit expensive. They are popular for home improvement uses with their easy-to-carry design. The tool is powered by rechargeable batteries to avoid hassle and improve mobility.

The downside is the level of driving pressure could be lower than a pneumatic nailer. Batteries must be replaced depending on your level of usage. It is also painful to carry for extensive woodwork.

5 Steps to Nail Gun Safety

Nail guns are absolutely safe with proper knowledge of how to operate the tool. There are cases of injuries caused by a nailer in history for a reason of negligence.

There are seven major risk factors that can lead to a nail gun injury. Understanding them will help you prevent injuries on your jobsites.

Studies of residential carpenters found that the overall risk of nail gun injury is twice as high when using contact trigger nail guns compared to using sequential trigger nail guns. Note that the studies could not quantify injury risks associated with specific tasks; it is likely that some nailing tasks are more dangerous than others. — OSHA
  • Use the full sequential trigger

The full sequential trigger is always the safest trigger mechanism for the job. It reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fires—including injuries from bumping into co-workers.

  • Provide training

Both new and experienced workers can benefit from safety training to learn about the causes of nail gun injuries and specific steps to reduce them. Be sure that training is provided in a manner that employees can understand.

  • Provide Personal Protective Equipment

It is recommended to wear safety gear while using a nail gun to prevent accidents. Four must-have protective equipment for workers:

  1. Hard hats
  2. Safety shoes
  3. High Impact eye protection – safety glasses or goggles marked ANSI Z87.1
  4. Hearing protection – either earplugs or earmuffs
  • Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls

Studies show that many nail gun injuries go unreported. Employers should ensure that their policies and practices encourage reporting of nail gun injuries. Reporting helps ensure that employees get medical attention.

  • Provide first aid and medical treatment

Employers and workers should seek medical attention immediately after nail gun injuries, even for hand injuries that appear to be minimal.

Nail Gun Safety Videos

Following are 6 nail gun mistakes you should avoid as a beginner woodworker new to air nailers.

YouTube video

A Quick Buying Guide: Choosing Nails For Your Nail Gun

Each type of nail gun will definitely require specific nail sizes. You cannot buy a nail that is not fit for the nail gun or cannot do the job you desire. Finding the perfect nail for your nailer plays a vital role in certain woodwork tasks.

Below is a buying guide to assist you in choosing nails for your nail gun.

Nail Types

There are two classes of nails, common and sinker nails. They vary in length and diameter, and even in purpose. The common nails are for general wood projects, like framing works.

They also come in different lengths of your choice. Sinker nails, on the other hand, are shorter and thinner with less holding capacity. It works well with cement coating to keep the material in place.

Nail Sizes

Perhaps you are puzzled in looking for nail sizes that suit your needs. The marketplace uses the “d” term to indicate nail sizes from smaller to larger ranges. To name a few include 16d nails which fall under finish nail type.

These nails can fit in a finish nail gun and are good for nailing hard surfaces. The higher the gauge number of the nail, the thinner its diameter and commonly used for more delicate wood projects.

Having nails of the wrong size can be stressful and may affect your overall woodwork project.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know all the common types of nailers and their uses, buying your own tool is the next step. Nailers are a great substitute for a hammer in completing your woodworking project.

It reduces the time and energy that you can consume to produce the best possible results. The first thing you should do is to understand how nail guns work. This is to avoid facing difficulties in the middle of your project.

We do hope that this information helped you a lot in deciding which nailer will meet your needs.

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