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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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 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 2x4 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
1. Nail Type
Framing nailers are capable of using nails designed for different tasks. You can buy nail loads for nailing 2x4’s together, nailing plywood to 2x4 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
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 2x2 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.
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 2x4’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.