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Nailers Information

Brad Nailer via RIDGIDNailers or nail guns provide a fast joining alternative to adhesives, screws, bolts, dowels, or dovetailing. Nail guns are also useful in quickly attaching or holding an assembly together while adhesive or glue joint cures. While nailers seem like a ubiquitous tool for construction and DIYers, nail guns and nailing machines are relied upon in industrial and commercial fastening, assembly, and packaging applications.

Nail guns are best used when a large quantity of nails must be driven efficiently and quickly. A quality nail gun can accurately and consistently drive thousands of nails in single day. Assembly using a nailer is often the fastest method, but nailers and nailing has advantages and limitations compared to other bonding methods. The following chart provides a high level overview and comparison of nailers or the nailing process to other joining, bonding or assembly methods.

Bonding Method




Joints can be dissembled with some nail types using prying tools, especially in finish size range.

Nailers are excellent tools for joining wood, composites, shingles, rubber sheet, insulation, foam, concrete and metal sheet to wood or composite structures.

Nails can be driven through or into thicker steel sections (beams, sole plates) and concrete using high pressure and powder actuated nailers.

Joints cannot be taken apart as easily as screwed or bolted assemblies.

Nailers are typically nail specific requiring different guns for each fastener type (gauge, collation, geometry, etc.).

Wood can split or brittle materials such as glass, ceramics, and stone can fracture due to the striking action.


Joints can be disassembled with some staple types.

Staplers are useful in joining wood, composites, cables, hose, rubber sheet, vapor barriers, roofing or tar paper, insulation, foam, netting, fencing and thin metal sheet to wood or composite structures.

Multi-head nailing machines provide rapid assembly of pallets, panels, sheds, and manufactured housing.

Joints cannot be taken apart as easily as screwed or bolted assemblies.

Brittle materials such as glass, ceramics, and stone can fracture due to the striking action.

Staplers are staple specific requiring different guns for each fastener type.

Screw/Bolts Drivers/  Threaded Fastening

Components can be disassembled and reassembled.

Virtually any material and dissimilar materials can be joined using threaded fasteners, screws or bolts.

A single drill, nut driver or head driver can tighten or loosen a wide variety of threaded fasteners by changing the driver bit. In some applications, screws can be driven into a material without predrilling or tapping using thread cutting or thread forming fasteners.

Slower joining process compared to construction or industrial assembly with pneumatic nailers or staplers.

Blind holes and some assemblies will require tapping of the holes, which is time consuming.

Threaded fasteners can be over torqued resulting in stripping of threads, shearing of fastener or destruction of the base material if hoop stresses exceed material strength. Dissimilar metal joints require dielectric insulation to avoid galvanic corrosion. Vibrations can cause screws and bolted joints to loosen, fret and fatigue.


Useful method for permanent joints in metal sheet, ducting, plastic sheeting and structural metal. Riveters can quickly join ducting and sheet metal assemblies.

Rivets must be drilled out if disassembly is required. Requires prepunched or predrilled holes in material. Not useful for joining wood, framing composites, ceramics or glass.

Glue Guns/Adhesive Joining

Virtually any material and dissimilar materials can be joined using adhesives including transparent optical materials (glass and plastics).

Useful in bonding joints with large surface areas such as sheet materials, sealing tapes, flashing, fabric, rubber roofing, tar paper, and waterproofing membranes.

Glue guns can rapidly apply hot melt adhesives, which can provide a sufficiently strong joint in some applications. Modern adhesive and dispensers have led to extensive use in a wide variety of industries.

Chemical process, which can be messy, requires careful handling and understand of MSDS for adhesives and proper disposal of unused adhesive chemicals. Adhesive joints are typically permanent and difficult to disassembly without special solvents or destruction of the base materials.  Adhesives have a shelf life.

Adhesive Tape

Adhesive tapes can eliminate some of the messiness of adhesive bonding with liquid or hot melt compounds. Tapes can be dispensed and cut to size for bonding and sealing membranes, film, thin sheet materials, foam, and other low strength material with high bond surface areas. Pressure sensitive tapes can be removal or permanent.

PSA Tapes will not develop the bond strength compared to welding, nailing, curable adhesives, or structural fastening methods. PSA tapes also have a shelf life. If a large surface area is not available or if the stress or loads are excessive, then PSA tape may not be a viable option.

Welding, Brazing, and Soldering

Welding and brazing can provide strong permanent metal to metal joints in construction (I-beams, stucco lath), aerospace, automotive, chemical oil and gas, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, electronics, and marine applications. Brazing and soldering can join dissimilar materials forming good metal to ceramic and metal to glass joints.

Thermal joining processes are not useful for bonding materials such as wood, composite, fabric, foam, plastic, rubber, or paper. Painted or coated steel, galvanized steel, rusted steel and very thin gauge metals or foils cannot be welded or present problems.


How Nailers Work

Nailers or nail guns have a striking plate which hits the head or top of the nail brad or pin expelling and driving the nail into the wood, composite, or material in front of the nailer tip. Various mechanisms can be used to actuate the striker in the nail such as a gas or air driven piston, solenoid, motor and spring, or explosive powder charge. Most nailers have a magazine holding a supply of collated nails in strip or coil form. After a nail is ejected and driven, another nail is advanced into the firing chamber. The operator triggers the gun, which ejects and drives another nail.  The process repeats until the magazine is empty, almost empty (on nailers with empty sensing mechanism) or jammed. Nailers require a power source for actuation.  Pneumatic nailers are the most common type of nail gun due to their lightweight and powerful driving capability.  Cordless electric nailers are becoming more popular for finishing nailing, but the electric guns do not seem to be powerful enough for framing or driving large nails.

Types of Nailers

Nailers can be classified into two main groups. 

Nail Guns/Nailing Tools – A nailer can consist of a single nail gun, nailing head or nail tool.  A nail gun consists of a body, driving cylinder or actuator, striking plate, nail magazine, handle, finger trigger, tip trigger, air inlet, air exhaust, and a nose or tip. Nailers are not always hand held nail guns. Nailing heads are designed to be mounted on nailing machines or robot arm. Nailing heads may not have a handle or finger actuated trigger because they are designed for remote, machine mounted operation. Palm nailers, air nail punches, nailing sticks, and some powder actuated nailers are really nailing tools because they do not have a true gun configuration. Most flooring nailers do not have a “gun” configuration and are triggered by striking the nailing tool with a rubber mallet while the operator stands upright. A few manufacturers make nailers with wheels and a long handle, which allows the worker to nail roofing membranes or underlayment while walking upright on the deck or roof.

Nailing System from Design Tools Inc.Nailing Machines/Automatic Nailing Systems – Nailing machines are almost synonymous with pallet nailers or pallet nailing machines.  However, automated nailing jigs and machines are also used in the production of bed frames, furniture, prefabricated panel walls, sheds, prefabricated trusses or framing, wood fencing, and recreational vehicles.  Nailing machines are typically pneumatic, but some machine builders provide hydraulic nailing machines. Some machine manufacturers provide complete turnkey nailing systems, while a few manufacturers provide nailing machines or nailing automation jigs where the end user supplies and installs nail guns or tools.  A nailing machine can have one nail gun or nailing head which moves back and forth on a gantry or robot arm or multiple guns. A fully automated nailing machine can have up to forty nail guns or heads.

Nail Gun Type

Brad nailer – Brad nailer or brad nail guns shoot fine gauge nails, typically 18 gauge or smaller gauge diameters.  Brad nailers are used for light component fastening during furniture repair, cabinet construction, baseboard installation, door and window casing assembly, attaching trim or molding, and paneling walls. Brads are thinner gauge compared to 15 or 16 gauge finish nails, a finish nailer might a better choice for securing fastening crown molding, or heavier sections or components.  Brad typically have a head much smaller compared to framing or finish nails.  The brad can be driven so the head is flush or countersink slightly below the surface by adjustment to the depth setting and air pressure. In some applications, the hole is small enough so that most people will not see it.

Cap Nailer via Acme ToolsCap nailer – Cap nailers typically have two coils. One coil holds caps and the other coil holds round headed nails.  The cap is fastened against the roof or wood surface by the driven nail. The caps have a large diameter, which provide more holding power for thin underlayment, roofing membranes, vapor barrier, or waterproofing sheeting application. The cap also helps to seal around the nail head. Walk behind cap nailers are useful in nailing wood sheet to decking.

Overhead pole tool – Specialized nailer for fastening acoustic tiles, sound insulation, electrical boxes or fixtures, metal track, ceiling hangers, or clips to concrete or steel deck ceilings. Ceiling or overhead nailers typically have extensions poles to allow the user to reach up to the ceiling without additional ladders or scaffolding. Some suppliers may supply a kit, which provides the extended reach when used with an existing nail gun.  Manufacturers usually provide a variety of extension poles of various lengths. The overhead nailing pole tools are typically powder actuated.

Clip nailer - A specialized nailer for fastening a clip or tie to a surface, which can later be used to hold tubing, electrical wire, network, phone cable, coax cable, or other products. Clip nailers drive a clip with one or more nails. Some cable clip nailers use clips with nails on both ends of the clip while others drive clips with only one nail. Wire or cable cannot not be pulled out of the side as easily when fastened with the double nail clips. The nails are driven in on either side of a cable or wire securing the cable or electrical wiring against a wood stud to prevent future movement or loosening. Staple guns are more commonly used for securing cables or wiring.

Clinch nailer – Clinch nailers or clinch nailing machines allow the nail to pass through the assembly and then the tip or end of the nail is bent over or clinched against the surface. Clinch nailer are not very common. Wooden reels for cable, hose, rope or webbing are assembled using clinch nailers. Hand held clinch nailers require anvil or foot, which allow the nail tip to clinch over. 

Nailer-stapler – Several manufacturers make specialized guns which will drive finish nails and staples. Two-in-one nailer-staplers drive both nails and staples. One type of combination nailers has interchangeable tips to convert from a framing nailer and metal connector nailer. Three-in-one are also available, which drive an even wider variety of fasteners.

Concrete Nailer via BostitchConcrete/T-nailer – Concrete nailers or T-nailers drive hardened nails or T-shaped concrete fasteners into concrete to attach wood, plywood, drywall metal track, or steel framing. Usually actuated or high pressure nailers are required to drive nails or t-nails into concrete. While several manufacturers refer to the fasteners as “pins”, these concrete pins are hardened headed nails, which are much different than the headless pins.

Corrugated Nailer - Corrugated nailers drive a long, corrugated fastener usually across a mitre or butt joint in furniture, windows, cabinets, doors, boats, and construction applications.

Drywall nailers - Specialized nailer designed for fastening drywall, interior metal sheathing, plaster board, gypsum board,  or sheetrock to wood studs. Drywall nailers typically have coil configuration and use plastic collated nails with large no-mar tip to hold the drywall without collapsing or crushing it. Specialized sheathing nailers are now available which have larger no-mar tips and a magazine bumper to assure nails are driven perpendicular into the sheathing or drywall.

Finish nailer – Finish nailers drive 15 and 16 gauge nails for fastening of base board, larger moulding and trim, heavier door and window casing, cabinetry, and furniture components. A 15 and 16 gauge finish nailer can securely fasten thicker sections compared to 18 gauge or finer finish nailers.  Nailing studs or structural members would be unacceptable because these thinner nails would not have the holding power of framing nails.

Flooring – Flooring nailers have a specialized configuration to drive thin L-shaped or T-shaped flooring cleats through the edge of flooring planks. The interlocking edge is covered by the next plank and then the process is repeated until the floor is covered. Most flooring nailers do not have “gun” configuration. Operators stand upright when using many flooring nailers. Flooring nailer are triggered or even actuated by striking the tool with a rubber mallet while the operator stands upright.

Framing Nailer via BostitchFraming nailers – Framing nailers are used to assemble and fasten studs, joists, beams and other framing members during stick frame construction of houses and buildings. Plywood sheets, shear wall sheeting, and underlayment are often fastened to studs, joists, or beams with framing nail guns using shorter nails. Framing nailers do not always drive nails straight into the material, which is sometimes the intentional during toenailing. Framing nailers drive nails with much larger diameters and lengths compared to finish nailers. Some framing nailers will drive large full round headed nails, which provide secure fastening of sheathing or panels even with high wind loads or hurricane conditions.  Framing nail guns are available to drive paper, plastic or wire weld collated nails in stick or coil forms, but not interchangeably. The user should check nail compatibility with the when selecting a framing nailer.

High pressure nailers – High pressure nailers use air pressures over 400 psi to drive nails into or through steel studs, concrete, flooring plates, or steel plates. Unlike metal connector nailers, high pressure nailers do not require predrilled holes in the metal.  Guns for driving nails through steel or metal are often specified by the gauge or thickness of steel that can be driven through.  High pressure nail guns can be used for fastening wood framing to steel or concrete as well as conventional wood to wood framing construction. High pressure nailers can be lighter in weight compared their conventional equivalent because a smaller piston can produce more force with high pressure air. However, they require special higher pressure air compressors, hoses, and fittings, which can become a problem if an air compressor or part needs replacement during a construction job. While high pressure nailers provide higher performance and increase compactness, they are more expensive tools compared to conventional nailers.

Insulation nailer - Specialized nailer designed for fastening insulation to surfaces. Insulation nailers use nails or specialized fasteners to a duct, wall or ceiling without collapsing or pinching the insulation layer. Many of these insulation nailers utilize specialized fastener to provide an insulation nailing system.

Metal connector – Metal connector nailers are used to fasten metal connectors to wood or composite framing members. The nailers are designed to drive the nail through the holes in the hurricane ties, strapping, joist hangers, and other framing connector hardware. These nailers require a predrilled or prepunched hole, which a tip aligns with before driving the nail.

Denailers – Nail punchers, nail sinkers, denailers, or nail pullers can drive nails; set, sink, or countersink nails; and remove nails by pushing them through or pulling them out.  Air nail punches or pneumatic hammers have a punch mounted on a reciprocating impact air tool. Nail punchers are similar to palm nailers because both nailing products do not have magazines. Nail punchers typically have a trigger and handle unlike palm nailers.

Nailing head - Nailing heads do not have a handle and are designed for mounting in a nailing system or machine. Nailing heads may not have a finger actuated trigger because they are designed for remote, machine mounted operation. Some nail guns with handles are also designed for mounting within a nailing machine, on a robot arm or pallet assembly system.

Pallet/crate nailer – Pallet nailers are designed for industrial factory or commercial material handling applications where pallets need to be assembled or repaired. Pallet and crate nailers are suited for heavy duty, continuous use.

Palm Nailer via RIDGIDPalm nailer – Palm nailers are very compact hand held nailers, which are useful in driving loose nails in cramped applications where a large nail gun will not fit or reach.  The nail is loaded into the front and then pressed against the workpiece.  Some palm nailer have magnetic tips, which help hold the nail until driven into the surface.

Pinner – Pinners drive the smallest diameter nails. The holes are so small that no filling is typically required and even very thin and narrow trim is not split.   On the downside, the small diameter results in very little holding power. An adhesive on the mating surface might be required or advisable in addition to the pins in some applications. Pinners can range from 18 to 25 gauge diameter, but pinners using 23 gauge headless pins seem to be the most common.

Pushpin tacker – Pushpin tackers are designed to drive small, often decorative tacks into wood, surfaces, for attaching cloth, leather or vinyl upholstery to wood furniture frames and for fastening tacks in shoemaking. Non-decorative metal tacks are used for small component assembly as well as securing metal ID or serial tags, wiring clips, ground connections, balance weights, bar code plates, and name or type plates.  The heads of the tacks may have flat or hemispherical shapes. 

Roofing nailer – Roofing nailers drive full round head roofing nails. Specialized roofing nailers install capped roofing nails. Most roofing nail guns have topped loaded magazine, which accommodates the coil collated roofing nails with large round heads. Roofing nails have large round heads to securely fastened shingles and other roofing materials even with high wind loads. Roofing cap nailers provide an even larger surface to hold sheet material and typically have two coils. One coil or reel holds caps and the other coil holds round headed nails.  The cap is fastened against the roof or wood surface by the driven nail.

Siding / fencing – Siding nailers are used for fastening cement board, metal siding, or wood siding to a house’s exterior. In addition, siding nailers are used in assembling fencing.  Siding nails are similar in appearance to roofing nails, but they have a smaller head and shaft diameter.

Steel framing– Specialized nailers designed to drive hardened nails or specialized pins through steel framing or structural steel. Some fastening systems use higher pressures while others rely on specialized pins or nails configurations. High pressure nailers, explosive gas nailers, and power actuated nailers provide high enough driving force to drive nails into or through steel studs, concrete, metal framing connectors, or steel plates. Guns for driving nails through steel or metal are often specified by the gauge or thickness of steel that can be driven through.  High pressure nail guns can be used for fastening wood framing to steel or concrete as well as conventional wood to wood framing construction.

Combination Kits via ACME ToolsV-Nailer – V-nailers or picture framers are specialized nailers for assembling picture frames. They use v-nails driven into the miter joints at the four corners. The v-nailers are often bench or stand mounted units, which allow the operator to hold the frame pieces in the proper position for assembling. 

Combination tool kit – Since a single nailer will not drive all of the type and size nails required for construction or assembly work, many manufacturers provide combination kits including nail guns with a range of nail gauges. In addition, combination nailer kits may contain the additional equipment and components required such as an air compressor, nails, pneumatic tool lubricant, carrying case, wrench, hose, quick connects, swivel fittings, Teflon® tape, safety glasses and face shields.

Nail Specifications

Nailer or nail guns are selected, specified, or classified by the type of nails driven and nailing tasks because nailers are nail specific requiring different guns for each fastener type (gauge, collation, geometry, etc.). Some nailers are also designed or tailored for specific tasks such as framing, finishing, insulation, etc. Only the fasteners specified and approved by the nailer manufacturer should be used in the nailer. The end user should also check to make sure the nailers and nails comply with all regulations, standards, and building codes for the construction work or manufacturing to be undertaken.

Nail length range – The length of nails that can be driven or nailed using the nailer.  Some nailer might be able to drive nails from one inch length up to two and a half inch length.  Nails larger or smaller than the specified range will jam, fail to fire, or not even fit in the magazine.

Nail gauge/diameter – The diameter or width of the nail.  Gauge size is typically used to characterize finer size nailers.  Finish nailer are typically 15 and 16 gauge. Brad nailers can range from 16 to 21 gauge diameter, but 18 gauge brad nailers are the most common size.  Pinners or headless brad nailers can range from 18 to 25 gauge diameter, but pinners using 23 gauge headless pins seem to be the most common. Nailers for larger nail sizes typically designate nail diameter in inches, although some manufacturers will use 9 to 14 gauge sizes. Some larger nail guns will accommodate a range of nail diameters. Finish nailers typically accommodate only a single gauge size.  However, a few multifunction or 2-in-1 nailers will drive both finish nails and staples.

Nail Head Types

The geometry, shape and smoothness of the nail gun fastener can be a factor in nail gun selection. Not all nail guns will drive nails with full round heads or screw shanks without   jamming. Some nail types will not even load into the gun’s magazine. Examples of nail head types include

  • Clipped/D-shape head
  • Coated                
  • Full round head
  • Galvanized
  • Headless
  • Offset head
  • Composite  
  • Ring shank nails 
  • Screw shank/reversible
  • Smooth shanks
  • Capped               

Magazine and Collation

Angled nailer via RIDGIDMagazine capacity (#) –Nail gun capacity can vary from 50 to 350 nails.  A framing nailer with a larger magazine capacity might require less reloading, but a compact framing nail gun with less capacity will likely have less weight and reduce fatigue in high duty cycle applications and allow the gun to fit between studs or within assemblies in a shop. 

Magazine collation angle – Another specification for nail gun selection is the presentation angle of the magazine to the driver or angle of the nails in the collation strip or coil. A strip of nails with a 30collation will require a 30o nail gun or a nail gun accepting 30o collated nails. The high angle present a sharper corner to the wood stud, molding trim or workpiece, which allows the nail gun to reach into and fasten in tighter spaces or cramped corners. In roofing, siding and certain finer gauge finishing applications, an angled magazine is not useful or available.        

Nail collation – Some guns can only use nails with a specific type of collation.  Using incorrectly collated nails in a nailer could result in jamming or damage to the nailer.

Loose or bulk – Palm nailers, stick nailers, and certain factory nailing machines can utilize bulk loose nails.

Ring shank from RIDGIDStick– Stick or strip nailers use nails collated in the form of a long, flat strip with a rectangular or trapezoidal/angled shape. The nail strip slides into an elongated magazine on the tool. Stick nail guns have the nails distributed along the length of the gun providing a more balanced feel and a narrower width configuration, which can be useful in some framing or assembly situations. However, the length of a stick nail gun from the tip to air inlet in longer than a coil nailer.

Coiled –  Coil nailers use a long, flexible string or collated  nails would into a coil shape, which is top loaded into a cylindrical shaped magazine.  Coil nail gun magazine typically have higher capacities compared to stick nail guns. The length of a coil nail gun from the tip to air inlet is shorter than a stick nailer, which will allow the coil gun to fit more easily between studs or framing member in some cases.

Paper tape - The nails in the strip or coil are held together by a paper tape. Precautions should be taken to avoid getting the paper tape wet or damp. Paper loses its integrity when wet and dampness can grow mold or deteriorate the paper.

Plastic - The nails in the strip or coil are held together by plastic. Plastic is used when full round head nail or nails with extra-large heads are used because these require more spacing.

Wire Weld – The nails are held together by a thin wire, which is tack welded to each nail.                                

Actuation Power Source

The actuation power source is an important specification because it determines what additional equipment (air compressor, charger, AC power source) will be required to operate the nailer and hence the portability of the nailer.

Pneumatic – Pneumatic nailers are probably the most popular and widely used types of nail guns. Air pressure provides ample power to drive even large framing nails while providing a lightweight tool. The air hose can be cumbersome, snag on framing, and exhaust air is puffed into the user’s face. A gas or diesel powered air compressor is required on new construction sites where no AC power is available yet.


Selecting Pneumatic Nailers | Video source: The Handyguys


Corded– Several nailer-stapler guns are available with AC power cords. The AC power energizes an actuating motor or solenoid.  The power cord limit mobility and restricts use to site with AC power or a portable generator.  AC powered nailers are uncommon.

Battery powered nailer via DewaltBattery powered – Cordless, battery powered nail guns use a solenoid or motor with cam or ratcheting mechanism to drive nails. Battery powered nailers provide a high level of mobility without the cumbersome air hose or power cords. 

Electro-pneumatic – Several manufacturers provide cordless pneumatic nail guns, which use a battery to power a compact air compressor. These newer guns provide the feel and driving power akin to conventional pneumatic nailers without the cumbersome air hose.  However, this newer technology tends to provide a heavier, bulkier and more expensive nail gun.

Gas actuated - Gas actuated nailer use explosive gas propane or propene (propylene) and a rechargeable battery.  The combustible gas is dispensed into the cylinder chamber and then ignited with an electric charge from a battery. The combustion of the gas moves the nail driving piston and attached striker.  Gas actuated may have trouble performing during the winter due to low temperatures.  The burning gas smell may irritate some workers.

Power actuated – Powder actuated nailer use an explosive charge or cartridge filled with gunpowder to generate an explosion for driving nails into wood or concrete.

Hydraulic – Hydraulic power is utilized in production applications such as hydraulic nailing machines or pallet nailers. Railroad spike drivers are typically hydraulic powered as well.

Manual – The manual powered nailers are powered or actuated by the operator. For example, some combination staple-brad guns utilize a lever and spring mechanism to drive brads or staples. Certain floor nails utilize a ratcheting mechanism and rely only on mallet strikes to drive flooring nails or cleats.

Triggering System

The triggering system is another important nail gun attribute to understand during the selection process because it has a major impact on the number of injuries.

  • Sequential operation – Nail guns in the sequential operation mode require squeezing of the finger trigger after the nail gun tip trigger is pressed against the workpiece. Sequential operation is safer and reduces the accidental injury rate by 50%.
  • Contact operation – Nail guns using the contact or bump trigger mode will fire a new nail every time the workpiece surface is contacted or bumped by the nail gun tip and while the finger trigger remains squeezed. Construction or factory workers using nail guns all day long will probably pick bump or contact operation mode. Twice as many accidents happen with nail guns with bump triggering.
  • Light pressure triggering (e.g., SMART POINT®) - Bostitch® SMART POINT® nailers have small, pointed tips that require little or no pressure to trigger.   The low contact pressure reduces marring and dinging of the surface in fine trim, soft woods and delicate materials.
  • Mallet triggered – Palm nailers are triggered by pressing the nailer against the workpiece, but these only drive one nail at a time. Most floor nailers are triggered by striking with a mallet.
  • Selectable – Nail gun has a switch or mechanism to allow easy selection or change between contact and sequential operation. Many modern nail guns have a switch with a single nail symbol designating sequential firing and three nails indicating bump firing.
  • Trigger with safety lock – Trigger has a safety lock, which must be unlocked before the nail gun will fire.
  • Anti-dry firing – The nail gun with dry fire lockout feature has a mechanism that stops triggering or firing when only a few nails are left in the magazine. Auto lockout, or dry fire lock-out or anti-dry firing features prevent jamming and reduces the incidents of producing framing with an insufficient number of nails

Tip Shape

The tip design or shape is a specification which can affect how easily certain tasks can be performed with the nailer. Examples of tip types include:

  • Anti-mar
  • Exposed nail design
  • Interchangeable
  • Metal connector
  • Pointed (e.g., SMART POINT®)
  • Spiked
  • Specialty

Weight and Compactness

The materials of construction and overall dimensions impact the weight and compactness of the nail gun. Lower density and higher strength to weight ration metals and alloys can provide a lighter nail gun, which is easier for workers to hold and use for extended projects. Higher operating pressures and magazines with reduced capacity can reduce the overall dimensions resulting in greater compactness for nailing between framing studs with 16 inch spacing.

Tool weight (lbs) – The weight of the nail is important in applications such as construction or manual production where the nail gun will be held all day long. A lightweight nailer will be easier to hold steady and will reduce worker fatigue as well as repetitive use or fatigue related injuries.

Overall dimensions – The overall dimensions of the nailer provide an indication of the compactness or bulkiness of the tool. Compact tools will have smaller overall dimensions, which may allow the tool to fit into corner, between studs, or tight space where a bulky tool will not.

Height – The maximum overall width is the distance from the tip of the gun to the top of the housing of the piston   and cylinder housing or driving mechanism.

Width – The maximum overall width of the nail gun is the maximum dimension perpendicular to the overall length and height dimensions.

Length – The maximum overall length from the tip to the back end or the magazine or air inlet.

Materials of construction – The materials of construction have an impact on the weight, durability and feel of nailers and other power tools. Common materials include:

Additional Specifications

Air pressure (psi) – Pneumatic nailers require an air supply with sufficient pressure to drive the piston and product enough striking force to eject and drive nails. Air pressures from 70 to 120 psi are typically required depending on the gun type. High pressure nailers require even higher pressures of 140 to 320 psi to operate.

Air consumption (SCFM) – Pneumatic nailers require an air supply with sufficient volume or flow.  Some nail gun manufacturers provide the air consumption per cycle in standard cubic feet minute of air flow, but this is a less common specification.

Driving power (in-lbs.) - Nail gun manufacturers sometimes provide the driving power (inch-pounds) providing at a specific operating pressure(s). This specification indicates how much energy or work is provided by the nailer to deliver to the nail through the striker. Work is the scalar product of force over distance. Driving power required for nailing increases with nail diameter and nail length.

Firing rate (nails/second) – Firing rate is the number of nails the nail gun can fire or drive in one minute. Some manufacturers indicate the firing rate, but this is a less common specification.  Framing nailers typical fire between 2 to 3 nails per second.


Adjustable exhaust – The nailer has an exhaust that can be redirected or rotated, which allows the blast of escaping air to be positioned away from the tool operator’s face. An adjustable exhaust is useful in work areas or shops with a lot of dust and debris, which can be kicked by the exhaust. Adjustable nail gun exhausts can be tool free or require special tools for adjustment. 

Adjustable nail size – Nailer has adjustments to accommodate different size nails.

Air compressor – The nailer or nailer kit comes with an air compressor. A few manufacturers provide a nailer with an integral air compressor built into the nail gun.

Anti-dust cap – The nailer has an integral air filter or anti- dust cap to prevent dirt, sand or debris ingress into the nailer.  Air filters and anti-dust caps are is useful at work site and in factory floors where a lot of dust and debris occurs.

Rafter hook via DewaltRafter hook – The nailer has an integral belt or rafter hook for hanging the nail gun when not in use.

Extension pole - The nailer or combination nailer kit comes with or has optional accessory extension pole(s), which allow nails to be driven in hard to reach place such as ceilings or within the bottom of an enclosure, box, bed frame, or cabinet.

Fixture/mount – Fixtures or mounts are accessories to hold a nail gun or nailing head utilization in machine, process system or off-hand bench use.

Integral length gage - Some manufacturers provide an integral length gage, which allows framers to maintain stud and/or nail spacing to building code requirements without the need for a separate rule or tape measure.

LED work light – The nailer has an integral LED work light to illuminate the tip of the gun and       workpiece in front the nail gun, which enhances visibility.

Multi-strike – Nail guns with a multi-strike feature can strike or hit a nail or fastener several times to drive the nail complete into a surface or until a stop is hit. Multi-strike nailers are used to drive very long 5”nails during framing. Manual flooring nailers use multi-strike capability and a ratchet mechanism to drive the nail completely into the edge or the flooring plank, so the next flooring plank will fit without any interference.

Oil free – Oil free nail guns reduce maintenance and do not require periodic lubrication. 

One piece driver blade – Nail guns with one-piece driver blade construction are less complex, have greater precision and are more durable. Steel driver blades are typically heat treated and hardened.

Air tool lubricant – A new tool is typically provided with a small bottle of lubricant. The tool requires periodic lubrication with an air tool or pneumatic lubricant.

Protective guards– Protective guards or shields around the nail gun can prevent misfired nails from injuring a worker. Protective guards can also protect the nail gun from impact damage. The shield should be periodically checked for damage and replaced as needed.

Nailer via DewaltSwivel fitting - Swivel fittings or swivel male plugs allows easier access when working in corners and tight spaces, reduces fatigue, helps prevent kinks and reduces stress on the air hose, provides a strong and simple connection for pneumatic tools.

Bench mounted – The nailer is mounted on a stand or bench allowing the operator to use two hands to position work and then use a foot switch or remote trigger to fire the gun.

Depth adjustment – The depth to which the nail is driven can be controlled with a button or dial.  Nailers can drive nails flush, sink them below the surface or leave them protruding above the surface depending on how the depth adjustment is set.  Nailer with tool free depth adjustment may require a wrench or air pressure changes to adjust the driving depth.

Jam clearing – On some nail guns, the jams in the gun can clear by releasing a toggle clamp to open the front of the gun and then removing the jammed nails. Other guns may have magazines that swing away from the nailing chamber for clearing jammed nails.

Wheeled– The nailer, nail gun or nailing machine has wheels and is operated in the upright position while the operator walks behind.  Walk behind or wheeled cap nailers are used in fastening roll of underlayment, waterproofing membranes, and plywood sheet and deck coverings on horizontal surfaces. 


  • Construction
    • Residential 
    • Commercial
  • Industrial shop applications  

Image credits:

Ridgid | Design Tools Inc. | Acme Tools |  Bostitch | Ridgid | Acme Tools | Dewalt


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