Woodworking Tools

9 Best Framing Nailers (2021): Compact, Corded & Cordless Models With Indestructible Build Quality & Flawless Functionality– Tested & Reviewed With Buyer’s Guide

Let’s say you are framing a new wall in your home. How many nails can you accurately drive into that framework with a hammer in one minute? In truth, you would be racing to do more than two. But with the use of a framing nailer, commonly referred to simply as a nail gun, you could drive as many as 10 nails, in the same amount of time!

A framing nailer is really that good. In the construction of a new home, framing nailers literally save weeks of time over hand-driven nailing. In other words, thousands of dollars’ worth of expensive labor is eliminated. But you don’t have to be a full-time carpenter to realize the value of adding a framing nailer or two to your arsenal of power tools. Anyone who builds things, even hobbyists, will find a good nail gun to be invaluable.

But how do you find the best framing nailer from so many choices? Well, we’re here to help you relieve from that worry. The Drillly team checked out the most popular models and finalized a Top 9 List. This is your chance to find your perfect match to do a range of things, from stud work to joists to construct fences, fasten sheathing, nail down sub-flooring, nail decking, and to even build trusses.

Top Framing Nailers: Comparison Chart

Pick NameThumbnailProduct NamePrice
Our PickBOSTITCH F21PLCheck Price
Top Compact Cordless NailerPASLODE 905600 CORDLESS XPCheck Price
Good Bang for Your BuckHitachi NR90AES1Check Price
Beginner’s ChoiceNuMax SFR2190Check Price
Top Pneumatic ChoiceFreeman PFR2190Check Price
Top Air Framing NailerPaslode 501000 F-350SCheck Price
7thBOSTITCH LPF21PL 21 Degree 3-1/4-InchCheck Price
8thDEWALT DCN692B 20V Max XRCheck Price
9thMetabo HPT NR1890DRCheck Price

In a Hurry?

I get it. You’re a busy tradesman and you don’t have time right now to get into the details. You just want to know, in an instant, what is the best framing nailer for your needs. So, here’s my “In a hurry” selection from my more detailed list below.

But, when you have more time, please do check out the extended reviews that follow this quick list. I have gone to great lengths to provide all the necessary information you need to make informed selections. No one likes to waste money on a wrong tool, so I aim to give you as much information as possible.

Our Pick: Bostitch F21PL

Features, abilities, power and price top our reasons for making this our first choice. It fires round-head nails or metal fasteners just by switching out the tips, and adjusts to the proper length with a patented push button system. At $220, this is a powerful, durable and versatile nail gun. It’s pneumatically powered and a bit heavy, but a professional-grade power tool that won’t let you down.

Our Runner-Up Pick: Paslode 905600 Cordless XP

This powerful, yet lightweight gas-powered, battery operated machine tops my tether less nailers hands-down. It is rugged, powerful, and durable. The gas-powered drive mechanism works in temperatures colder than I do, and the battery that ignites the gas explosions will last all day. Reloads of the 30° paper tape nails and gas canisters are not cheap. At almost $400, it is a serious investment, though it will be worth every penny.

Best Bang for Your Buck: Hitachi NR90AES1

This is a discontinued model, simply because Hitachi has released a new model. It isn’t better. It isn’t prettier. It is more expensive. But they both drive nails just the same. This machine has a nifty switch that lets you go from single shot sequential firing of nails to a bump firing mode with one finger. Some machines require you to actually change out the switches to do that. Yes, it’s discontinued, but that only means it is inexpensive.

Pneumatic Choice: Freeman PFR2190

This is a nail gun that a professional framing carpenter would be happy to use. Every aspect of this quality tool meets the highest standards. More than 90% of owners surveyed online agree. They would buy it again. From the quality design to the flawless operation, this nail gun never fails. Besides that, it looks cool, too!

Our Testing & Selection Process

We’ve devised a thorough product testing procedure to make our cordless framing nailer reviews unbiased and reliable that we’re going to mention here in brief. At first, we spent around 22 hours in search of the models that people were mostly talking about. With our findings (24 models), we decided to put to test every one of them.

Over the next few months, with direct help from a volunteer team, we tested all the models considering a wide range of factors. That included examining the construction, design, specifications, weight and balance, warranty, user comfort and added features that each nailer had to offer.

When done, we had a clear idea about the overall performance of all those models. We championed these 9 framing nail guns based on our findings. But that was not all. We even contacted other power tool experts that we personally know to get their feedback and as we’d expected, they were quite positive about our findings.

So, Should We Be Trusted?

Our reviews are based on real-world usage of a wide variety of nailers from all manufacturers. We don’t care about the brand name stamped on a machine. If it performs at a higher level than others, it gets higher ratings. No brand pays us for reviews, and no brand gets preference. In fact, you will notice that some very well-known tool companies aren’t present in this list, and some of the machines that are represented are not that famous. So what?

Our reviewing process includes team-and community-based usage, more than 20 hours of web-based research, and expert consultation. The end result is a list that suggests the most exclusive choices for a variety of applications. It is a list designed to help you make the proper choice, not to sell a certain brand.

Our Top 9 Best Framing Nailer List

01 Our Pick: BOSTITCH F21PL

Why We Recommend This Product

If you are only going to own one nail gun, the Bostitch F21PL is simply the top choice you can make. It boasts of high-quality construction, very powerful nail driving mechanism, and a variety of fastener and operating options that really make it a versatile nailer for almost any framing application.

Detailed Review

First of all, this is a pneumatic-powered nail gun, which means it is driven by compressed air through a hose connected to your air compressor. The nailer is capable of generating 1,050 inch-pounds of driving force on that nail head, which is the most powerful of any tool in our list. This nail gun uses round head nails, which are required by the building codes of many municipalities.

The magazine will hold as many as 60 plastic-collated framing nails or 60 metal connector nails in the 21 degree magazine. Nail lengths can be from 2 to 3.5 inches, and metal fasteners can be 1.5 to 2.5 inches. Setting the length for the nails you have loaded is a simple push button system that is actually patented. There is also a 16-inch ruler marked out on the side of the magazine to help you set the correct distance between studs.

This Bostitch nail gun comes with two nosepieces, one for wood nails, and the other for metal fasteners. It also has two trigger systems. One is for sequential nailing, in which the machine only drives a nail when you pull the trigger. The other is for “bump” triggering, where the gun fires a nail when sufficient force is applied to the tip.

The gun itself is constructed of magnesium for a strong framework at minimal weight, although at 8.1 pounds, this nailer is a bit on the hefty side. Wielding a heavy machine at odd angles all day long can be fatiguing. However, Bostitch tries to find the balance between weight and durability in this machine. The company is pretty sure they have found it, as demonstrated by their remarkable 7-year limited warranty. When you do need to take a break, the nailer has a handy rafter hook attached to it.

Although I haven’t found it to be the case, some owners have reported jamming problems with nail brands other than those promoted by Bostitch. Although this is likely due to inferior manufacturing of those nail loads, it is an issue to be aware of.

Pros

  • Wood or metal fastener versatility
  • Push button depth control
  • High quality, durable construction
  • 1,050 in/lb driving force (highest in our list)

Cons

  • Jamming potential with generic loads
  • Heavy weight (8.1 pounds)

Our Verdict

The Bostitch F21PL is the best framing gun for a number of reasons. In fact, variety is the main reason. I can use it with wood or metal fasteners in a variety of lengths, and also as a sequential or bump triggered nailer. The round head nails meet building codes, and the pneumatic drive means I’m not wasting time and money on pressurized canisters. Yes, it means I’m attached to that air hose, but I find that to be the lesser of two evils.

At about $220, this is a quality machine that will stand up to the toughest framing challenges you’ll ever face. Other popula models from Bostitch, like the BTF83WW, N80CB, and F33PT, could also be in your consideration.

02 Top Compact Cordless Nailer: PASLODE 905600 CORDLESS XP

Why We Recommend This Product

This is a powerful cordless choice with long run times in a compact design that lets you fit it between 16-inch studs with ease. It is also capable of operating in temperatures much colder than I want to be working on, so it never lets me down.

Detailed Review

The Paslode 905600 gets top billing because it seems like they thought of everything when the built this gun. At 7.2 pounds, including the lithium-ion battery pack, I can work all day with this nailer. Paslode claims the battery will fire up to 9,000 nails on a single battery charge, and up to 1,200 nails per fuel cell. I can’t dispute that.

Paslode fuel canisters are available in a package with the nails, so you have a handy one-to-one ratio to make your reloading tasks as quick as possible. Reload the fuel at the same time as you open a new pack of nails, and you’re good to go. Speaking of the fuel, Paslode says it will keep the gun firing in temperatures down to 14°. Again, I won’t argue.

It uses 30 degree paper tape nails with offset full heads, so they pass all building codes, although it is hard to find generic nails that fit this specification. The raceway inside the magazine is made of stainless steel, so it will never rust or warp, which is what causes nails to jam in some nailers.  Nail lengths can range from 2 inches up to 3 ¼ inches. The depth of the nail drive is an easy adjustment, and the gun is equipped with a nail lockout to prevent firing when the magazine is empty.

One unusual aspect of this battery-operated tool is that it also uses gas canisters. Basically, the battery generates a charge that sets off an explosion of the gas that drives the piston which, in turn, pushes the nail. The company notes that this system has a “suggested altitude limit” of 5,000 feet above sea level. Above that altitude the detonation won’t generate enough force to drive the nail completely down to the wood surface. One owner in Denver, Colorado reports that this is no joke. The nail gun is ineffective at that altitude.

The 5-year limited warranty and 2-year “Service Promise” is what makes this excellent choice in the long run.

Pros

  • Long run times per battery and fuel cell
  • Compact size fits between rafters
  • Stainless steel nail raceway

Cons

  • Expensive reloads
  • Stinky exhaust

Our Verdict

Denver users notwithstanding, this machine takes the second place because it delivers on everything it promises. It is relatively lightweight, fits everywhere, and does exactly what I need a nail gun to do. Reloads of nails and gas are a bit pricey, but the portability, small size, and lower weight all make this the best cordless framing nailer for sale today. At close to $400, this is certainly not your cheapest choice, but I believe you get what you pay for, and this is a worthy power tool for the money.

If you’re a Paslode fan, you can also check out other models from the same brand – CF325XP, IM350, IM360CI, F350S, and 900420.

03 Good Bang for Your Buck: Hitachi NR90AES1

Why We Recommend This Product

This nail gun takes the third place for one really big reason. It has been discontinued because Hitachi has been rebranded as Metabo. That means that if you can find one (I found 6 of them online with a single search), you are in for the deal of a lifetime. The online sales I found had this $400 framing nailer going for about a third of its list price. That’s a lot of bang for the buck!

It also happens to be a very fine pneumatic nail gun, and the only reason it has been discontinued is because it has been replaced by a newer, essentially unchanged, model with a higher price tag.

Detailed Review

One of the things I like most about this Hitachi nail gun is the balance when I hold it in my hand. It just feels right, which means that working with it all day long isn’t burdensome. It also has a simple switch that lets me change the action from sequential to bump firing at the flick of a finger. Although I must report that some owners have complained that this switch will occasionally settle itself between the firing modes, forcing you to have to move a finger to the switch to get it back in place. That could get annoying if it happens a lot.

Depth adjustment for the 21° plastic collated full round head nails, which can range from 2 to 3 ½ inches, is a tool free operation. The two-piece aluminum magazine and rubberized grip make reloading and handling this nail gun a breeze. It is a pneumatically-powered nail gun, so you will need the compressor and hose attached to it.

Despite the fact that this particular model has been discontinued, 81% of owners surveyed say they would buy it again. That’s a ringing endorsement in my book.

Pros

  • Low Price
  • Lightweight to help avoid hand fatigue
  • Sequential or bump selector switch

Cons

  • No built-in hook

Our Verdict

I have never cared if my jeans are last year’s style, or my car is not the latest model. Same goes for my framing nailer. Just because there is a newer (read: more expensive) model of this nailer that sports a new nameplate, it doesn’t mean this one won’t fire a nail anymore. It will. And for the discounted price at which you can find this machine online, it is clearly a great purchase.

04 Beginner’s Choice: NuMax SFR2190

Why We Recommend This Product

The primary reason I recommend this framing nailer to beginners is price. For less than $90, you can discover the joy of driving framing nails home in a split second, as opposed to banging away by hand forever. DIYers and professional contractors alike depend on their NuMax nailers. This feature-rich nailer gets a top rating from more than two-thirds of owners who have been surveyed online.

Detailed Review

NuMax is a company that specializes in making staplers and many other devices designed to rapidly fasten materials together in the blink of any eye. It’s no wonder they have figured out how to make a great nail gun. This is a pneumatically powered version that uses readily available 21° plastic collated nails. The body of the nail gun is a magnesium cast for ultimate durability and light weight. However, at 8.5 pounds, it is one of the heaviest machines in our list. For smaller users, this could create a fatigue issue during prolonged usage.

Nail guns adhere to the laws of physics, which means that what goes in must also come out. The air that drives the piston (and hence, the nail) is exhausted through a vent that can be swiveled 360°, meaning you can turn it do the blast doesn’t hit you in the face. This nailer has interchangeable triggers for sequential or bump firing. I’m not a big fan of that, because if I change my mind in the middle of a nailing session, I don’t like having to stop and swap out parts on my tool. A simple switch to make this adjustment would be much handier. Other positive features include a no-mar tip that won’t leave marks on your wood surfaces and an anti-dry fire mechanism that won’t allow the gun to shoot blanks.

This nailer handles loads from 2 to 3 ½ inches and adjustment for the variances is a simple fingertip affair.

Online owners of this woodworking tool are happy. Most report that they rarely, if ever, have nail jams and that despite the weighty design, they would absolutely purchase this nail gun again.

Pros

  • Low price
  • Low misfire and jamming rate
  • Sturdy design
  • 360° exhaust swivel

Cons

  • Heavier than most
  • Trigger swap-out for Sequential or Bump usage

Our Verdict

At a little over $80, this may be the first pneumatic nail gun you every buy. And it might be that last you ever have to buy. It does everything you can ask of a nail gun, and it does it with gusto. This excellent nail gun from NuMax will make you a believer in the philosophy that less can be more. After all, it should be a valuable addition to your beginner woodworking tool list.

05 Top Pneumatic Choice: Freeman PFR2190

Why We Recommend This Product

When more than 90% of owners report online that they would buy this nailer again, you simply have to take notice. This is a professional grade nail gun used by many homeowners and contractors alike. It simply works well, and lasts a long time. It has almost every feature you could ask for, and a few you didn’t even know you wanted until you found out about them. Then, they became must-have features. At less than $120, this tool belongs in any professional wood worker’s kit.

Detailed Review

The Freeman PFR2190 just looks pro-grade right out of the box, and it is. From the 360° swivel exhaust on top of the magnesium cast body, to the no-mar removable tip that covers no-slip teeth at the bottom, this nailer has it all. It uses 2 to 3 ½ inch plastic-coated nails set at 21°, and users report that any generic brand works just fine.

This nailer has an anti-dry fire mechanism so you’ll never damage the internal parts by firing without a loaded nail. Inside, the driver blade is hardened steel in an anodized aluminum cylinder. That’s great, but not terribly unusual. However, the Teflon-coated O-rings that seal the whole system up means that it is an oil-less system, making for a virtually maintenance-free mechanism.

Sequential or bump firing is accomplished by changing out the trigger. Again, not my favorite solution for this option, but it does work. What really works for me is the 7-year warranty. If a company puts a warranty like that on their machines, I know I can depend on it as well.

Like all of the best-rated nailers in our survey, this one comes with a no-mar tip that allows you to nail in places where you don’t want to mar the wood surface. The tip is removable, exposing an array of no-slip teeth that allow the nailer to get a good grip on the wood in places where this doesn’t matter.

One complaint. At 8.5 pounds, this nailer is a bit of a beast. Add the complications of a pneumatic hose tether, and you know you are working with a no-nonsense tool. You better be up to the challenge.

Pros

  • Pro-Grade design
  • Oil free operation
  • 7-year warranty

Cons

  • Heavy

Our Verdict

The Freeman PFR2190 is an affordable framing nailer from the top shelf. You can spend more on a nailer, but you won’t be getting much for that extra cash. This pro-grade machine will stand right alongside any nailer on the market. It is a definite choice for even the most demanding professionals.

06 Top Air Framing Nailer: Paslode 501000 F-350S

Why We Recommend This Product

This is a framing nailer that even full-time contractors say they can’t destroy. If you’ve ever been to a job site, you know that’s a pretty tall claim. Any tool that can stand up to the rigors of daily abuse for years on end is a tool that deserves your respect. Even though that at over 8-pounds, this is one of the heavier framing nailers in our review, the design puts that weight right where you want it. That means it doesn’t feel heavy in your hand, even as it has enough heft to give it a good professional “feel”. It won’t jam, it won’t misfire, it won’t fail. Simple as that.

Detailed Review

I like tools that feel balanced when I use them, and a perfect center of gravity is a stand-out feature of the Paslode 501000. When you put the tip where you want the nail and pull the trigger, you know the job will be done right.

This pneumatic framing nailer can hold up to two strips (84 nails) of paper tape loads in either clipped or full-head styles. They can range from 2 inches up to 3.5 inches in length. At only 13.3 inches tall, this framing nailer easily fits between 16-inch joists. Yes, it has a hook so you can hang it when you need a break.

One curious thing. Paslode only gives this framing nailer a one-year warranty. I know that’s a fairly standard length, but you’ll notice that some of the nailers in our review offer up to seven-year warranties. Still, the odds of needing to use that warranty with this machine are extremely low.

It will set you back around $250, but if you are looking for a framing nailer that will provide flawless service for many years to come, and in all kinds of weather, give this one a serious look.

Pros

  • Heavy-Duty design
  • Well-balanced ergonomics
  • Extremely durable

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Warranty needs beefing up

Our Verdict

This top-rated framing nailer from Paslode is the choice of many professional contractors, and for good reason. It’s a durable tool that they won’t have to replace any time soon. Keeping the nails flying means the contractor isn’t losing money to down time, and this nailer fills the bill.

07 BOSTITCH LPF21PL 21 Degree 3-1/4-Inch

Why We Recommend This Product

This framing nailer makes my top 9 list because 88% of owners surveyed online give this machine a perfect score! I’m not going to pick an argument with that many people. This 21° framing nailer has a low-profile design that lets it get into tight spots, and enough power to do the job when it gets there.

Detailed Review

With a profile of only 12 inches and a light weight of just 7.3 pounds, this framing nailer from Stanley Bostitch knows how to get the job done, no matter where you need to put the nail. It also has one of my favorite features; a single switch that lets you change from sequential to bump firing without having to change out the trigger mechanism.

The 840-pounds of pressure it generates is lower than some others in this list, which may mean a bit of difficulty with some engineered wood products. Still, for nearly all applications, it should be sufficient to drive the 2-inch to 3 ¼-inch plastic collated nails it will handle. A simple depth adjustment helps you change load lengths with ease.

This Bostitch framing nailer will set you back a bit over $200, but it comes with the peace of mind that a seven-year warranty provides.

Pros

  • Switch a flip for sequential or bump firing
  • Low profile design to get into tight spaces
  • 7-year warranty

Cons

  • Lower drive force than other pro-grade framing nailers
  • High-end price tag

Our Verdict

This feature-laden framing nailer deserves a close look. I like the low-profile design, the flip-of-a-switch change of trigger modes, the depth control system, and the 7-year warranty. You will find a lot of contractors carrying this framing nailer in their kit, and for good reason.

08 DEWALT DCN692B 20V Max XR

Why We Recommend This Product

If you don’t want to be tied to a compressed air hose, and aren’t interested in buying fuel canisters, then you want a battery operated power nailer. DeWalt has just the tool for you. If you are familiar with pneumatic nailers, this brushless motor-driven nailer takes a little getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you dragged that air compressor around with you.

Detailed Review

I had to go all the way to #9 on my list to get this cordless tool, but the wait was worth it. This nailer from DeWalt has some switches on it that you may not be used to using, but if I can figure it out, so can you. For starters, the battery-powered motor has two speed settings. In position #1 it properly drives 2-inch nails with a lower recoil and a higher number of nails per battery. In position #2, nails up to 3 ½ inches in length are driven home.

There’s another switch you may not be familiar with. A simple toggle switch sets the trigger to sequential or bump firing modes. See? I told you it wasn’t that hard. And that’s a lot easier than dragging a pneumatic hose up to the rafters with you when you’re framing a house.

The 33° magazine uses paper nail loads up to 55 rounds. Some users have reported difficulty with using loads from generic makers. I’m not sure if this is a failure of the nailing gun, or the fact that it uses a more steeply angled load than most machines.

DeWalt DCN692B will set you back a good penny. It lists for around $340, and the battery design is a DeWalt proprietary system which means additional batteries will cost what they say they will cost. No such thing as a generic option. It also comes with a 3-year warranty.

Pros

  • Hose-free portability
  • Power settings for nail length and battery life
  • 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Price
  • Power limitations may be problematic with engineered materials

Our Verdict

Hose free portability certainly makes my ears perk up. The ability to go anywhere without having to drag the umbilical around is a big plus, especially when you are up in the rafters or on a job site without power. The downside is that, like all battery-powered tools, this device may leave you wishing for more power. Still, if you want the top framing nailer that offers consistency in performance and ease of use, this is the one.

No doubt DeWALT is the king of the jungle with a number of other popular models, including DWF83WW, DCN21PL, DCN21PLM1, DCN21PLB, DWF83PT, DWF83C, DCN692M1, DWF83PL, DCN692N, and DCN692P2.

09 Metabo HPT NR1890DR

Why We Recommend This Product

Never heard of Metabo? Until recently, no one had. Hitachi Power Tools has rebranded itself as Metabo, so although the nameplate may be new, these tools carry a long and storied history. If it had a longer track record, this nailer may well have topped this list. But, without knowing what besides the name has been changed, I just can’t give it a higher placement.

Detailed Review

The brushless motor in this battery operated nailer functions like a miniature air compressor. It compresses air in a small chamber above the nail driver. So, the feel and action of this nailer is very similar to pneumatic guns. It also means this nailer doesn’t need a lot of recovery time between nails. Metabo claims it can fire up to two nails per second, and can handle as many as 400 nails on a single charge. The Metabo uses 21° plastic strip round head nails from 2 inches to 3 ½ inches in length and the magazine will hold up to 37 fasteners.

There’s a high-tech looking control panel on the side of that lets you switch from sequential to bump fire, and shows the remaining battery power at a glance.  It also has a tool-less depth adjustment and a rafter hook. Like with all battery powered hand tools, the portability comes at a price. This cordless choice is going to set you back more than $400.

Pros

  • “Air Spring” drive means it works like a pneumatic framing nailer
  • Extreme portability and eases of use
  • High capacity per battery charge

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Short track record under new name

Our Verdict

This is actually a nice choice. But because it is such a new product it just doesn’t have enough history to justify the top spot in this list. In fact, it has yet to generate a single online review from owners! But check back with me in a while, and let’s see if we can update this, because I have a feeling this machine has the potential to jump a few spots in our countdown very quickly.

Aside from NR1890DR, Metabo also has few more excellent framing nail gun models, such as NR1890DR, NR83A5, NR90ADS1, NR83A2, NR83A3, NR90GR2, NR90GC2, NR83A, and NR90AD(S).

Other Notable Brands & Models

The Drillly team feels it necessary to mention that aside from our shortlisted models, there are other popular brands manufacturing high quality power tools like framing nail guns, especially Hilti, Banks, Duo Fast, Surebonder, Estwing, Grip-Rite, Makita, Husky, Hikoki, Campbell Hausfeld, Max Usa Corp., Mastercraft, CRAFTSMAN, HBT, WEN, Carpenter Air Tools, BHTOP, Speedaire, Air Locker, AEROPRO USA, Complete, Everwin, Meite, Central Pneumatic, RIDGID, and Grizzly Industrial.

On the other hand, Ryobi is particularly known for their AirWave model while Milwaukee is popular for M18.

Why Use a Framing Nailer

From the simplest woodworking project to the most complex cabinetry and furniture builds, any time you are joining pieces of wood with nails, you should consider such a power tool. Be aware of that there are many types of nailers but only two types of nail guns are used the most.

Framing nailers are designed for more basic construction methods, like framing or siding a house, or building a framework around your luscious tomato plants to help them hold up under the weight of all those monstrous tomatoes you are growing.

Finish nailers, on the other hand, utilize very thin nails known as brads. They are designed for securing the molding at the joint between a wall and the floor, for example, or in fine furniture construction.

Both types fire nails into wood, but the applications are very different. I will look at some of the best of both types in these reviews.

About Framing Nailers

What Is a Framing Nailer and What Is It Used for?

Every house is held together with thousands upon thousands of nails. Imagine driving those nails with the best framing hammer by hand, one at a time. Now imagine a tool that could drive a nail home in the blink of an eye, over and over without hesitation, hammered fingers, or bent nails. The ease of use and high-speed contribution to construction means a single framing nailer can save hundreds of dollars a day on a construction site.  Framing nailers provide the best return on investment of any tool on the work truck.

Different Types of Framing Nailers

A framing nailer is a single-purpose machine who’s only function is to fasten two pieces of wood (or metal in some cases) together to form the inner frame of a wall or roof. But framing nailers can accomplish this in one of several ways.

Most professional-grade framing nailers are powered by an external air compressor, a common tool on construction sites. The compressor provides air squeezed to generally around 120 pounds per square inch. The mechanism and small piston inside the nailer multiplies that power several times, enough to force the point of a nail through a 2×4 and into the board it is being attached to.

An alternative method is to use an internal fuel canister that injects compressed fuel into a chamber in the nailer. That fuel is then sparked by an electrical charge created by an onboard battery, thus eliminating the need for a compressor hose.

Then there are battery operated models that employ a brushless motor to generate the necessary force without the use of a fuel source other than the battery.

How are Framing Nailers Different from Finish Nailers?

Although they look very similar, and perform the same basic function of driving a fastener into two pieces of wood, framing nailers and finishing nailers have different purposes. A framing nailer is designed for building the framework of a house, or shed, or for some other rough carpentry work where the pieces of wood being nailed together will be covered by a more aesthetically pleasant method.

A Finishing nailer, on the other hand, is designed to nail that aesthetically pleasing surface into place. Where the framing nailer uses large nails with heads designed to keep two pieces firmly together, the finisher uses thin nails, often called brads, that are sunk into the surface of the wood so as to virtually disappear. A framing nailer cannot do the job of a framing nailer, and the framer will not give your projects a “finished” look.

Framing Nailer – Buying Guide

Best Framing Nailers

1. Nail Type

Framing nailers are capable of using nails designed for different tasks. You can buy nail loads for nailing 2×4’s together, nailing plywood to 2×4 framing, roofing materials, sheathing, and many other applications. Be sure you understand which type of fastener you need for the task at hand, and don’t use anything else.

Brad nailers and finishing nailers work well for different kinds of nails.

2. Trigger Type

There are two types of triggers for a nailing gun. Either you want the machine to fire one nail every time you set the tip in the perfect position and pull the trigger, or you want it to “bump” fire. That means that every time you press the tip to a piece of wood, the gun will automatically drive a nail home. An experienced user can drive nails at a very rapid rate with this type of triggering, but it takes practice. If this is your first time using a framing nailer, stick with the sequential trigger until you get the hang of it.

3. Magazine Type & Angle

Best Framing Nailers

The magazine is the internal slide rail where you load the nails. The high-end magazines will be made of stainless steel, so they won’t rust and the nails will always slide easily. Although, aluminum and some other composites will also work well, but be aware that they are more subject to damage.

The angle refers to the manner in which the nails are collated. In order for the heads of the nails not to get caught on each other, one nail has to be offset from the next in the plastic or paper wrapping that holds them in place. Many manufacturers have chosen a 21° angle for this purpose, although there are some other designs as well.

Finish nails don’t have a head, so loads for finish nailers are usually straight, not angled. And brand nailers

4. Depth Of Drive

The idea of a framing nailer is that it will drive, say a 2-inch nail, exactly 2 inches. The head of the nail will be firmly embedded even with the surface of the material it is being applied to. If you are switching to a 3-inch nail, you have to adjust the framing nailer settings to accommodate this change.

5. Weight & Size

These are important considerations even if you’re considering framing nail gun rental for two reasons. First, a heavy or out-of-balance tool will fatigue the operator unnecessarily, resulting in a loss of valuable time. Size is important because a framing nailer has to be able to fit between the pieces of framing it is being used to fasten together. A tool that is too big to fit into tight spaces is going to have limited use.

6. Length of Nail

Use the correct length of nail for the task. If you are nailing ½-inch plywood to a 2×2 frame using a 3-inch nail, about ¾-inch of the pointy end of that nail is going to protrude from the backside of your material. If you are holding the wood in that spot when the nail comes blasting through, your next task will be a trip to the emergency room.

7. Features

Most modern framing nailers come with an anti-dry fire feature, which means that if there isn’t a nail in the chamber, the gun won’t fire. Doing to could seriously damage the internal mechanisms. All of the nailers in my list have this feature, but check the one you buy to make sure it does, too.

Framing nailers occasionally jam. The plastic material that collates the nails may get caught, or you may have loaded the wrong kind of nails. If that happens, it is necessary to be able to open the nose of the nailer to clear the jammed nails. Be sure to buy a framing nailer with an easy mechanism for doing this.

A few other nice (but not drop-dead necessary) features include a rafter hook so that you can hang the nailer someplace while you grab a gulp of water, and adjustable exhaust so you can keep the expelled air pointed away from your face no matter which way you are holding it, and a fingertip switch to change from sequential to bump firing modes.

8. Ease of Use

I am going to say this just one more time. If a tool isn’t easy, comfortable, and just flat fun to work with, you’re not going to use it. You don’t need a trophy tool. You need a framing nailer.

9. Best Value for Money

If you build houses for a living, try to get the finest choice out there with a large budget. It will serve you well for hundreds of thousands (millions, probably) of nails. But if you are a weekend DIY kind of guy or gal, look for a good framing nailer for about a hundred bucks or less. Both choices are well represented in this top 9 list.

Usage, Maintenance & Safety Guide

i) How to Use Framing Nailers

This is one of the simplest tools in the box. Load the correct nails, attach the hose from your compressor or the battery (if you’ve decided to go hoseless), firmly hold the tip of the framing nailer in exactly the spot you want the nail to go, and pull the trigger. It is that simple.

ii) Safety Tips

Nail guns are no joke. Even if you have the best framing nailer in your arsenal, you still have to be careful with it. This thing is firing a sharpened projectile at up to a thousand pounds per square inch of force. People have been killed by nails shot from them. Never, ever point this thing at another human being. Never do target practice with them. Do not play around with this machine! Am I making myself clear enough?

Even responsible use of a nail gun requires stringent safety practices. Every time you fire the trigger, be sure that no human body parts are within range of that nail. Always wear safety goggles, and I recommend wearing gloves as well. They won’t protect you from the nails, but if you are handling 2×4’s and get an unexpected sliver in your hand, it could cause you to recoil in pain and accidentally pull the trigger on your framing nailer. There is no safety switch on these nailers, so just like a gun, never put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to pull it.

iii) Maintenance Tips

Like all tools, dust and corrosion are the main threats to their continued use. Because most of these framing nailers are air powered, the threat of dust getting inside their firing mechanisms is an important concern. Many (including all on our list) have a filtration system in their airway to help catch the dirt before it gets in. Always make sure your pneumatic hoses stay capped when not in use, and that your compressor is pumping clean air into the system.

Many framing nailers require routine oiling to keep the internal slides moving freely. Consult your owner’s manual for recommended oiling practices.

It’s Time to Wrap Up

If you do a lot of building, from houses down to small gardening sheds, a framing nailer is an indispensable, time-saving tool. Not only is it faster and less fatiguing than nailing by hand, but you can also accomplish many fastening tasks by yourself that would normally require a helper.

Framing nailers don’t have to be expensive. As I have shown you in this comparison, it’s possible to pick up a high quality nailer for around a hundred bucks, and even professional grade systems don’t have to cost more than a couple hundred. For a tool that will last for many years, and save you a lot of time in the process, a framing nailer will find a place of honor in any wood workers tool kit.

FAQs

Q: Can you use 21-degree nails in a 22-degree gun?

Ans: Yes you can. A 22-degree nailer can go both 21 and 23 degrees.

Q: Can I use a framing nailer for trim?

Ans: You can use a framing nailer for trimming, paneling and interior molding.

Q: How loud is a framing nail gun?

Ans: A pneumatic framing nailer can reach up to 120 dB at the ear position of the user. This indicates a high level of noise that these machines could produce. Operators should use an ear plug for such nailers.

About the author

Willie Osgood

An Avid Metalworker

Willie doesn’t really consider himself an artist, rather a craftsman involved in practical trades. Yet, most of his projects require him to make interesting and fine objects. Being the eldest son of a carpenter, his background is 100 percent rooted in crafting. He found the art of blacksmithing quite appealing since his teenage years… that fire, the sound of swinging hammers, and those long and shiny blades that came out as a finished product. Soon he literally became obsessed with metal – the way it moved, worked, and changed when heated or cooled.

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