Remember the last time you had to hammer a few nails into a wall? The feedback was vibrating through your palms with every strike, leaving you feeling stiff and sore the following day. Driving a nail home is a risky business. There’s a chance you miss the head of the nail and damage the surrounding materials. Worse yet, you could slip and hammer your thumb, breaking bones and tearing ligaments.
Using a nail gun for the job is a far safer and more practical idea than trying to do it yourself. Plus, if you’re driving home more than a dozen nails, it speeds up the process, and you don’t have to worry about any on-site injuries occurring.
Most nail guns you see at job-sites are pneumatic-power tools that require the use of a compressor to operate them. However, if you’re working on a project at home, like building a new addition to your home, then an electric model will save you the expense of buying a compressor.
There are dozens of nail guns available form a range of manufacturers. How do you know which one is best suited to your project? We examined the offerings from plenty of companies and put them to the test. In the end, we had a list of the five top models that we feel provide the best performance, service life, and value for money.
Our list of buyer tips will help you make an informed purchase decision on your new nail gun. Read through our FAQ if you have any other questions relating to what type of nail gun best suits the unique needs of your project.
Our Top Picks
- 1 Our Top Picks
- 2 Best Pick: Hitachi 18V Cordless
- 3 Runner Up Pick: Bostitch 20V MAX Cordless Straight Finish Nailer
- 4 Budget Pick: Porter-Cable 20V MAX Lithium 18GA
- 5 Top 5 Nail Guns
- 6 Hitachi 18V Cordless
- 7 Porter-Cable 20V MAX Lithium 18GA
- 8 Dewalt 18-Volt Cordless Finish Nailer
- 9 Bostitch 20V MAX Cordless Straight Finish Nailer
- 10 Ryobi 18V One+ Airstrike
- 11 Nail Gun Buyers Guide
- 12 Features to Look for in Your Nail Gun
- 13 Conclusion
For those that don’t have the time to get into the details, we wrapped up our top picks to save you time. Each of these three nail guns is a top choice for its category and deserves a place in your workshop.
Best Pick: Hitachi 18V Cordless
- Hitachi Power Tools has renamed to Metabo HPT. Same great tools, with only a new name.
- Freedom from cumbersome air hose and compressor saves time in setup, during applications and in jobsite clean up
- Selective actuation switch transitions between sequential mode and bump fire mode
- Tool less depth of drive adjustment for flush drives into various materials
- Brushless motor for longer run time, less maintenance and increased durability
Anyone who owns Hitachi power tools knows that this brand is synonymous with quality. The design, engineering, operation, and service life on this nail gun is fantastic. It’s the hands-down winner of this review, and if you have the budget, we recommend you purchase it for your next DIT or semi-industrial project.
Runner Up Pick: Bostitch 20V MAX Cordless Straight Finish Nailer
- NO COMPRESSOR NEEDED: Save time and money by going cordless
- MORE POWER: Brushless motor and engine design drives 16ga straight finish nails from 1 1/4 inch to 2 1/2 inch length
- INCREASED ACCURACY: Features a narrow nose designed for clear line of sight and accuracy of nail placement
- BETTER VISIBILITY: Multi functional LED lights help to provide both workspace illumination and tool diagnostics
- SAFER & MORE EFFICIENT: Tool free jam release to quickly and easily clear nail jams
This finish nail gun is as good an all-round nail gun as any brad model. It has the precision and operation of a finisher, but with excellent all-round use as well. Use it to get into tight spaces, and drive home nails effortlessly with its smooth operation.
Budget Pick: Porter-Cable 20V MAX Lithium 18GA
- NO COMPRESSOR NEEDED: This cordless brad nailer is battery powered, eliminating the need for a compressor, hose, or expensive gas cartridges.
- CONSISTENT DRIVING DEPTH: Our depth adjustment wheel allows you to properly countersink nails consistently. Nail Diameter: 18 gauge
- INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY: A tool free release lever, jam release, and depth adjustment wheel make your life easier.
- BETTER RUNTIME: Included 1.5 Ah 20Volt MAX Lithium ion battery lasts longer than NiCad, charger included. Integrated Belt Hook: Yes
- 3 YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY: PORTER CABLE will repair, without charge, any defects due to faulty materials or workmanship for 3 years from the date of purchase.
If you’re looking for the most affordable nail gun, that still has some good build quality, we recommend going with the Porter-Cable. This brand is well-known in the DIY and construction industry as a leading manufacturer of quality products. It may not have the reliability and precision of the Hitachi, but it’s suitable for most DIY jobs.
Top 5 Nail Guns
We reviewed the five best nail guns online. You can pick these tools up from Amazon, with free shipping for Prime members. When we put together the criteria for reviewing the best nail guns, we looked at the elements of the machine and its operator experience. This review gives you a comprehensive look into the features, functionality, durability, and accuracy of these tools.
Hitachi 18V Cordless
Hitachi offers some of the best power tools in the industry, especially for home and DIY use. These tools feature robust construction that holds up to harsh abuse, even in semi-industrial projects. We picked the Hitachi as our top choice in this review for a few reasons.
You can select either contact or sequential operating modes, and the nailgun comes with a potent 18-volt punch that drives home nails consistently and accuracy. This nailgun offers the best all-round balance from all the machines in this review.
The Hitachi also features a lightweight battery that recharges quickly, providing an excellent balance to the nail gun when attached. Additional features in the machine include an LED light, side lock, and pivoting hook.
You’ll get 1,650-nails driven home with every charge, with a maximum operating speed of two to three nails per second. The Hitachi nail gun comes complete with a kit that includes the charger, nail gun, battery, and you even get a pair of safety glasses as well.
- Lightweight, compact, and potable.
- The rubber bumper found on the safety tip falls off.
- Semi-industrial design with excellent reliability.
- Depth adjust gauge is somewhat inaccurate.
Porter-Cable 20V MAX Lithium 18GA
The Porter-Cable is another model that’s popular in the DIY market. This unit is the most affordable in this review, but it lacks power or features. If you only use a nail gun from time to time, then this machine is your best bet.
The 20-volt lithium-ion battery powering this nail gun lets it drive home 1,300-nails between charges. Weighing 5.9-lbs, it’s one of the lightest nail guns in this review. You get a 100-nail magazine with this machine, and the kit comes with everything you need, including the nail gun, charger, and battery.
Porter-Cable also offers spare battery packs, which is a pleasant surprise.
- The gun feat5ures an LED headlight of operation in low-light conditions.
- The machine is well-balanced and lightweight.
- Industrial use.
- Long service life.
- Inaccurate depth adjustment.
- 4.0 Ah lithium-ion long-life battery sold separately.
Dewalt 18-Volt Cordless Finish Nailer
DeWalt is another power-tool behemoth that’s well-known for providing top-quality power tolls to the DIY and semi-industrial market. This unit comes with a powerful 18-volt punch, driving home your nail accurately and consistently.
This unit is better for finishing work, but it suits tougher jobs as well. This nailer also features both sequential and bump operating modes, with a 3-year warranty on manufacturing defects. However, this is by far the most expensive nail gun in this review, and we feel at this price, the Hitachi offers better value.
- A well-balance heavy-duty machine for semi-industrial use.
- Powerful nailing action.
- Best for precision work.
- Somewhat heavy.
- The bulky body can struggle to fit into tight spaces.
Bostitch 20V MAX Cordless Straight Finish Nailer
This model is the runner-up in this review. The Bostitch nailgun offers a 20-volt punch that drives home your nails effortless. With a reliable and durable design and construction, you can expect this nail gun to provide a long service life.
We think that the nailer has an excellent balance with the battery-pack installed, and smooth operation with both contact and sequential firing. The Bostitch nail gun kit comes with the nailer, battery-pack, charger, and an adjustable belt hook, all in a kit bag for easy transportation to your job site.
- Feels balanced and lightweight in the hands.
- Excellent battery life.
- It fits into corners and tight spaces.
- Safety switch is tricky.
Ryobi 18V One+ Airstrike
Our final nail gun in this review is the Ryobi Airstrike. This machine is another affordable offering from a reputable brand. Ryobi is a leading DIY power tool manufacturer with a global name. This nail gun offers a lithium battery pack that provides you with an operating range of up to 1,200-nails per charge.
The surprising build construction and power of this machine are appealing. It drove home a 2-inch nail without any issues, and we managed to fire of 10-nails in a row without any problems with consistency. You can fire up to 60-nails per minute with this machine in contact mode, and reach full charge from flat in an hour with the power charger and lithium-ion battery. The Ryobi kit comes with a nail gun, a lithium-ion battery, and a charger.
- Powerful machine with an affordable price tag.
- Lightweight and straightforward to use.
- Good all-round machine.
- Ryobi doesn’t offer brads, and you’ll have to use Porter-Cable options instead.
Nail Gun Buyers Guide
If you don’t understand the nuances of nail guns, then this buyer’s guide is for you. We unpack everything you need to know about these tools to help you find the ideal nailgun for your next project.
The Two Types of Nailguns
There are two types of electric nail guns available – cordless and corded models. Corded models require the use of a cable to power the machine, while a cordless model relies on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack to provide the power.
Corded models are hard to find these days, due to the affordability of cordless models, and the ease of use they bring to any job. Hauling around an electrical cable when you’re trying to nail trusses into a roof frame isn’t only inconvenient; it can present a safety hazard as well.
It goes without saying that cordless models will always cost more than corded nail guns. You can expect to pay more depending on the size of the battery pack, and whether the unit comes included with a charger unit as well.
It’s also important to note that most lithium-ion batteries eventually fail. You’ll need to replace the battery eventually, and spares can be expensive. With a corded model, battery failure is not a concern.
Do you need a nail gun for driving home supporting nails in structures, or are you using it for finishing touch on the new kitchen cabinets? What you need from a nail gun determines what you should buy. We always recommend that DI=Y projects look for a nail gun that offers a balance of both finishing, power, and accuracy.
Power outlets for corded models – If you purchase a corded model, you’ll probably have to go with an extension cord to reach the nearest power outlet. If you don’t already own a power cable extension, you’ll need to think about offsetting that into the cost of buying a cordless version.
Regular or DIY Use?
How you will use the machine also plays a pivotal role in what type of nail gun will be the best option for you. A DIY nail gun is not for industrial use on building sites. Using DIY tools in this work environment dramatically reduces its service life.
If you’re using the nail gun every day, then rather look at an industrial machine. However, industrial models can cost several hundred dollars more for the machine. Therefore, choosing a reliable and reputable manufacturer like Hitachi gives you a good DIY machine. However, it’s also suitable for use in rugged operating conditions.
What Is a Contact Nailgun?
We like the contact functionality of nail guns. With the trigger depressed, you “bump” the nail gun against the surface you want to nail, and the gun drives the nail home effortlessly. Contact nail guns are ideal for improving safety around the workshop at home, as they won’t fire unless the gun comes in contact with a surface, and the trigger is depressed at the same time.
Sequential nail guns require the operator to complete a series of steps before the machine fires a nail. This feature further improves safety, but this level of functionality and operator is only suitable for construction sites.
Features to Look for in Your Nail Gun
Every nail gun in this review has a unique set of features that reflects its performance. Look out for the following factors when deciding on your ideal nail gun.
Do you need a corded or cordless model for your job? If you’re crawling into tight spaces or getting up in the roof, then a cordless option is your only option. However, if you want to save a few bucks, you can always go with a corded option if you only intend to use the machine inside your workshop.
Most cordless models provide a lithium-ion battery that offers up to 3-hours of continuous operation – that’s plenty of nails. Slip it onto the charger, and it will be ready to use in 6 to 12-hours, depending on the status of the battery. It’s vital that you never drain the tool’s battery completely flat. This practice damages lithium-ion cells. It’s best to use it to halfway and then recharge to extend the service life of the battery.
Accuracy and Consistency
When selecting your nail gun, you’ll have to choose a tool that offers both accuracy and consistency. The last thing you want to happen on your project is for the nail gun to drive every third nail only halfway home. Having to finish jobs off with your hammer will get annoying. Finishing nail guns offer the best accuracy. Brad nail guns are more well-rounded, providing a balance between accuracy and power, maintaining the consistency of the results of the gun during operation.
Comfort, Weight, and Size
Operator comfort is also another concern when purchasing your nail gun. the best nail guns have ergonomic design in the handle. These tools also offer a user-friendly set up that improves safety and efficiency in use. Bulky machines can cause fatigue to build in your hands and arms, especially when working overhead.
Quality and Pricing
Buying a tool with a high price tag is not always indicative of the quality of the machine. Therefore, don’t take the sticker price as the defining factor for choosing your nail gun. Likewise, if you buy a very cheap tool, most of the time you get a raw deal. Therefore, choosing a balance between price and value is essential when purchasing your nail gun.
Some nail guns come with extra features like LED headlights and tool-less adjustments. You’ll have to weigh up the individual’s benefits of these accessories and decide if they are worth the price.
If your workshop has adequate lighting, do you need to pay more for a headlight on your nail gun? In some cases, additional features can provide some use. However, in most cases, they are only gimmicks designed to give the tool a competitive edge over other models.
By now, you should have enough information to make an informed purchase decision on your new nail gun. If you want the best option, then we recommend you go with one of our top three picks.
The Hitachi is a superb machine with some outstanding build quality. We might be biased toward this brand because we already own a few other tools from this manufacturer. Hitachi has an excellent build quality and an almost semi-industrial design. They may be at the top-tier in terms of pricing, but you’ll get a long service life out of this machine. If you use a nail gun frequently, then this is your best option in this review.
If you want the most affordable option, then we recommend you go with the Porter-Cable. Porter-Cable is a reputable brand, and most of the spares they offer can fit in other nail guns as well. The universal feel of this machine lends well to its reliability, and you’ll get reliable service life out of the nail gun if you only use it for DIY projects. If you only intend to pull it out occasionally, then this is your best option.
Remember to choose the nail gun that suits your needs. If you only use a nail gun once or twice a year, then going to the expense of buying the Hitachi might be overkill. However, if you’re looking for a machine that lasts a lifetime, then you can’t go wrong.