The craft of carpentry has always been loved by those who are passionate about creating and building with their own hands. Whether woodworking is your hobby or your profession, it is important for you to choose the right tools in order to craft your creations. Picking the proper tools can affect the entire construction process, ranging from the budget and allocated time to the look of the finished product.
To help you craft the perfect projects, we have compiled a list of the best finish nailers of 2021, equipped with handy product reviews and a comprehensive set of pros-and-cons for each product. Read on below to learn more about how you can pick out the best finishing nail gun for you!
What’s a Finish Nailer?
In order to choose the best finish nailer for yourself, it is necessary for you to have an accurate understanding on what a finish nailer is, and how it works.
A finish nailer is a powerful tool that drives a thick-gauge nail onto the surface of your chosen material. It often loads nails with 15-gauge or 16-gauge thickness – otherwise referred to as finishing nails.
As their name implies, finish nailers are used to add the finishing touch to any woodworking project. In addition to installing trim and crown molding, these nail guns can also be used to build furniture, cabinets, and staircases, install doors, window casings, and hardwood floors, and also for other woodworking joinery.
• Integrated air duster
• 100% battery powered
• Tool-less selectable trigger
• Tool-free jam release
• Integrated tool-free stall
• Powerful motor
• Anti-lube design
• 100% battery powered
• Motor design
• Multi-functional dual LED lights
• Multiple Tool-Free settings
• Precise Nail Placement
• No Downtime
• Convenient Maneuvering
• No Mar Tip
• Efficient motor design
• Single Sequential Actuation Mode
• Integrated air duster
• Tool-free depth of drive adjustment
Top 10 Recommended Finish Nailer Reviews 2021
At the top of our list is the Metabo HPT NT65MA4 Finish Nailer, which can be easily considered as the best pneumatic finish nailer. With its durable construction, lightweight design, and user-centered operation, it’s easy to see why it’s such a crowd favorite.
At only 4.2 pounds, this pneumatic finishing nail gun offers impressive maneuverability for accurate firing. Thanks to its built-in air duster, you can opt to clear away debris from the material before driving the nail in, and that undoubtedly makes you work better.
Speaking of accuracy, it has a tool-less depth adjustment system that helps you work with nails of different lengths. You can also use it on a variety of surface materials, so you know it’s quite versatile.
Without a doubt, the Metabo NT65MA4 Finish Nailer is a handyman’s dream nail gun – owing to its consistent performance and superior convenience.
It does not come with a rafter hook, which may prove to be inconvenient for some users. Some users report frequent nail jams.
When it comes to battery-operated nailers, there’s no doubt that the DEWALT 20V MAX Finish Nailer is one of the in the market. With its impressive battery life and consistent performance, there’s no doubt that it deserves to be on this list.
The DEWALT 20V MAX Finish Nailer has a 20-degree angle that allows you to work on corners and tricky areas with ease. The fact that it is cordless also makes it quite maneuverable, which complements its angled design.
We also love that it has a bump operating mode, which allows you to set the trigger with a simpler finger motion. You don’t have to worry about painful trigger fingers with this nailer!
What’s also impressive is its battery. Even at low levels, it still drives the nail with the same amount of force, and that lets you know how consistent it is. For a battery-powered nailer, such a feat is truly impressive.
Even though this product is easy to use, users often complain about its lack of durability, especially if it is used frequently. Not recommended for larger nails
For the professional who prefers working with thick 15-gauge nails, we believe the Makita AF635 15 Gauge, 2-1/2" Angled Finish Nailer is the perfect choice for you.
Makita is known for its affordable yet reliable range of power tools, and we’re so glad that the AF635 did not disappoint.
With a body made of magnesium and a magazine made of aluminum, the Makita AF635 15 Gauge, 2-1/2" Angled Finish Nailer only weighs around 4 pounds. That makes it both lightweight and durable, so you know that it’s built to last for a long time.
Also, it offers a tool-less system for easier depth adjustment. This feature allows you to drive the nail at precise depths to make sure that you get the job done the right way. It offers both flush and countersink, making it quite a versatile nail gun.
Although there are very few complaints about this tool, some users have said that the built-in air blower is not as well-designed as in other guns.
Another top contender for the best finish nail gun is the Senco 4G0001N FinishPro 42XP Finish Nailer. Despite its affordable price, it has features that can put more expensive models to shame.
With its solid and durable build, this nailer works with thick 15-gauge nails that are up to 2 ½ inches long. This makes it perfect if you have to work on hardwood and similarly thick material.
But despite its rugged construction, the Senco 4G0001N FinishPro 42XP Finish Nailer is one of the most comfortable nailers we’ve tried. It has an ergonomic design that effectively reduces hand fatigue, allowing you to work longer and more comfortably.
We also love that it has a NeverLube design, so you don’t have to worry about it being high maintenance. It also has a magnesium-coated exterior, making it look great for a long time.
This nailer is a bit heavier than most other nail guns on the market, with a weight of 6.5 pounds. Some users have complained that this heavy weight makes it inconvenient to carry around, especially for long periods of time.
Porter-Cable is another brand that’s known for its superior power tools, which is why it came as no surprise that the PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Finish Nailer is highly raved by its users.
Because of its cordless design, this nailer offers impressive portability. That makes it perfect for handymen who are always on the go.
The PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Finish Nailer has a powerful motor that delivers a consistent firing performance even on low battery levels. We also love that it continues to work efficiently regardless of weather conditions, and that makes it quite reliable.
We also love that it has built-in LED lights that help light up the workplace for more accurate shots. These lights also alert you in case of an error, so you can act on it promptly to keep it from malfunctioning.
Although this nail gun has mostly favorable reviews in almost all areas, some users feel that the firing valve kit should be improved.
For those who want to invest in a premium cordless nailer, then look no further than the Paslode 902400 Cordless Angled Finish Nailer.
This angled nailer comes with a powerful Li-ion battery that can shoot up to an impressive 12,000 nails per full charge. That means that you can use it for a whole day without needing a recharge, making it convenient if you have to work on areas that are often hard to reach with a compressor attached.
Since it is cordless, the Paslode 902400 Cordless Angled Finish Nailer also promises portability. You can easily take it with you to different places, so you can get the job done in different work areas.
Thanks to its angled design, nail placement won’t be a problem, either. You can easily reach tight and narrow areas, and that guarantees the perfect finish every time.
Although this nail gun has many interesting features, several users have complained that the nailer tends to jam frequently, and often fails to fire properly.
At only 3.8 pounds, there's no doubt that Makita AF601 is one of the most lightweight nail guns on the market. This is possible thanks to its magnesium body – a material that's known for being lightweight and surprisingly sturdy.
To allow us to focus on our work, the Makita AF601 16 Gauge 2-1/2" Straight Finish Nailer has a multi-directional exhaust that keeps the debris out of our face. You don’t have to worry about the bothersome air being blown your way while you work.
We also love its nail lock-out mechanism that helps keep the material and nailer free from damage, even in case of dry-fires. Without a doubt, this is a top contender for the best pneumatic finish nailer.
As one of our top picks for the best pneumatic finish nailer, this nail gun has extremely high customer satisfaction, the only slight complain being against the flimsy anti-mar tip.
The Ryobi P325 One+ 18V Lithium-Ion Battery Powered Cordless 16 Gauge Finish Nailer is another great value-for-money nailer that you might want to consider.
It has a simple interface that makes it easy to use, even if you’re a beginner. It has an air pressure adjustment mechanism that allows you to adjust how deep you want to embed the nail onto the material. As a result, you can only expect reliable results from this finishing nail gun.
Also, it has a convenient built-in LED lighting system that helps light up the work area. If you have to work in low-light conditions, then this is your perfect work companion.
Without a doubt, the Ryobi P325 One+ 18V Lithium-Ion Battery Powered Cordless 16 Gauge Finish Nailer is designed specifically with our convenience in mind. It even has an indicator that lets us know when the magazine is low on nails. This allows you to prepare beforehand, so you don’t have to stop in the middle of the project.
The only area needing possible improvement is that of occasional nail jams.
The Hitachi NT65MA4 1-1/4 Inch to 2-1/2 Inch 15-Gauge Angled Finish Nailer is another powerful nailer that you might want to consider.
Out of all its features, we especially love that it comes with two fastening modes: sequential and upon contact. In sequential fastening, you manually push the trigger for the unit to expel the nail. On the other hand, contact fastening releases a nail every time the tip makes contact with the surface of the material. This makes your work a lot easier, especially if your hands are already tired.
We also love that the Hitachi NT65MA4 1-1/4 Inch to 2-1/2 Inch 15-Gauge Angled Finish Nailer has an integrated air duster that clears the debris away from the surface. That ensures a clear target and a clean output every time.
Some users have reported problems with misfires and nail jams, so that is an area worth improving.
And finally, we have the Metabo NT65M2S Finish Nailer. This nail gun is another lightweight unit that boasts superior maneuverability and accuracy.
It has a tool-free depth adjustment system that allows you to derive accurate results regardless of the nail length and surface material. That ensures professional-level output at all times.
We also love that the Metabo NT65M2S Finish Nailer has a 360-degree exhaust port. This feature helps keep the debris and dust away from your face, so you can work in peace and without distractions.
Thanks to its convenient actuation switch, you can easily switch between sequential firing mode and bump firing mode. There’s no need for a complicated set of instructions just to switch between these two modes.
For its convenience and superior design, there’s no doubt that the Metabo NT65M2S is a top rated nail gun.
The only complaint that users have made regarding this nail is that it does not seem to have sufficient power to drive 2 inch nails into hardwood blocks.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Finish Nailer
Now that you know what a finish nailer is, the next step is to identify the factors that will help you pick out the best finish nailer in the market. While we’ve already listed the top ten, looking into these factors will help you choose the perfect one for your needs.
One of the first factors you have to consider to narrow down your options is the nailer's power source. Generally, you only have two options: a pneumatic nailer and a battery-powered nailer.
A pneumatic nailer uses air pressure to drive the nail into the material. You can adjust the pressure you want to exert on the compressor, and that allows for more accurate and consistent performance. However, since this type of nailer is connected to a compressor, it has a hose that could limit your movement and maneuverability.
On the other hand, a battery-operated nailer has a built-in motor that’s responsible for shooting nails. These are cordless units, so maneuverability and portability are their key features. However, because it is dependent on a limited power source, you have to consider the battery life whenever you have to use it.
Also, some battery-powered nailers tend to have a reduced performance as the battery levels drop. This may not always be ideal, especially if you’re working on finishing projects for buildings or homes.
Another key factor you have to consider is its durability. Ideally, a great finishing nail gun should have metal parts and components to ensure its longevity. It should be able to take on the pressure necessary to shoot the nail into place without falling apart.
By making sure that the nail gun has a solid build ensures that you’ll be able to use it for a long time. And that guarantees excellent value for the money.
Ease of Use
Generally, nailers are designed to make work easier for us. Instead of manually driving nails into the material with a hammer, these modern tools help you get it done with just one swift motion.
With that said, your nail gun shouldn’t have a complicated set of instructions to function properly. This is especially true if you’re a beginner.
Fortunately, most of today’s nailers come with simplified features that allow for quick nail reloading systems, jam clearance, and similar maintenance tasks with a simple push of a button. That will surely make things easier for you.
The safety features that go into your nailer should also be a top concern. As much as possible, the nail gun should come with useful features such as an automatic turn-off function. Some nail guns even have sophisticated systems that keep them from engaging by accident. Make sure you check out what the model offers before buying it.
A factor that’s often overlooked is the nail gun’s magazine capacity. The larger the capacity, the fewer times you have to keep on reloading. This is quite handy if you’re always working on big projects.
However, a larger magazine capacity will also make it weigh more, so always consider the added weight.
Also, if you’re mainly using your nailer as an emergency power tool in case of home repairs, then you won’t need one with such a large capacity.
It’s also important to look into how comfortable you are while using the nail gun. Comfort largely depends on the handle of the nailer.
As much as possible, the handle should provide you with a nice and firm grip over the nail gun. Even if you have to use it continuously for hours, it shouldn’t leave you with a cramp or a trigger finger.
Also, look into whether the nailer is designed to absorb the vibrations from using it. This will allow your hand to feel more relaxed while operating it, so you can use it for longer periods.
Speaking of comfort, the weight of the nail gun contributes largely to its level of comfort.
Generally, battery-operated nailers are heavier than their pneumatic counterparts. This is because of the built-in battery and motor that accompanies the unit. As such, you would have to gather a lot of effort to use it accurately.
Alternatively, pneumatic nailers do not have these built-in parts, making them more lightweight. This makes it ideal for users who can shoot nails more accurately with a lighter tool.
Design Components of a Brad Nailer:
To help you choose the best finishing nailer, you should have a decent understanding of its design components. Here’s a brief discussion of each component for your added reference.
- The Handle. That part of the nail gun that you hold onto as you maneuver and position it to your target is the handle. The handle should not only give you a firm grip, but it should also be comfortable to hold. That allows you to work on your project for hours without suffering from cramps.
- Also, it helps if the handle has an ergonomic design and offers shock-absorbent properties.
- The Trigger. We can all agree that the trigger is the heart of the nail gun. Pulling the trigger will cause the gun to shoot the nail out. In newer designs, the trigger has a bump-fire system that allows for easier and more comfortable nail release.
- The Magazine. The part of the nail gun that holds all the nails in the magazine. It's important to consider the magazine capacity because that will help you determine how often you have to reload it. It also helps if you can see how many nails you have left in the magazine, so you don’t have to keep on guessing when it’s time to reload.
- The Tip. At the end of the nailer is the tip. This is the part of the nail gun that comes into close contact with the surface of your material. The tip helps you accurately shoot the nail. Newer designs now have non-marring tips, so you don’t have to worry about leaving a mark as you shoot.
- Accessories. Depending on the type of finishing nail gun you own, it will come with different accessories. If you’re using a battery-operated one, make sure that it has a charger. In the case of a pneumatic one, it’s better if it comes with a hose to attach to the compressor.
What is better, a brad nailer or finish nailer?
Often, users tend to be a little confused between a brad and a finish nailer. And we don’t blame them. At first glance, these two nail guns seem to look identical – but the similarities end there.
So at this point, a lot of users ask us this: what is better between a brad nailer and a finishing one? We’ll finally put an end to all this confusion.
Before giving you an answer, it’s best to discuss the difference between a brad and a finish nailer. After all, loading the wrong nail onto the gun will easily result in its poor performance – if not complete malfunctioning.
A brad nailer is a powerful tool that is loaded with 18-gauge nails called brads. These brads are usually thin and come in various sizes of up to two inches. Because of their narrower construction, brads do not offer the best hold. They are, however, excellent for installing decorative trims and panels since the smaller diameters do not affect the overall aesthetics.
With that said, a brad nailer tends to be more lightweight than its finishing counterpart. They’re known to be more affordable, too.
In contrast, a finish nailer uses 15 or 16-gauge nails. These are a lot thicker than brads, which is how they offer a better hold over the surface. This added holding power makes them perfect for hammering in finishing pieces like boards and larger trims.
Because of the thicker nails loaded into the magazine, a finish nailer is heavier and bulkier than brad nail gun. They’re also more expensive, considering the stronger build required for such a nail gun.
Bottom line, a brad nailer would be best for hammering in minor decorative trims. On the other hand, a finish nailer offers more versatile usefulness, and that makes it the best overall choice for finishing projects and similar repair work.
Angled vs. Straight Finish Nailers: What Do I Need?
Throughout this article, we’ve mentioned angled and straight finish nailers. To an experienced handyman, the difference between these two designs is quite easy to tell. But for beginners, you may not realize that, so you end up buying whichever you think works best for you.
Knowing the difference between angled and straight nailers will help improve your work efficiency. And with that in mind, here are the similarities and differences between these two nailers.
At the basic level, both of them are finish nailers. This means that they both carry either 15-gauge or 16-gauge nails. That means that the nails offer a stronger bond than brads, and that’s why they’re perfect for finishing work. They can either be pneumatic or battery-operated, so the general performance also relies on the power source.
Now, onto the differences. The biggest tell-tale sign of an angled nailer is its slanted magazine. This slanted design offers a more balanced weight, making it easier to hold and carry. It also allows for a more versatile design that allows the nail gun to look less bulky than traditional straight ones.
Because of the slimmer design on the angled nailer, this type of tool allows you to work on corners with ease. It also makes it easier to access narrow spaces, making it perfect for professional woodworkers and handymen who work on a variety of projects.
In contrast, a straight nailer has a magazine that runs perpendicular to the tip of the nailer. This makes it look bulkier and a lot heavier. It also makes it hard to work on small and narrow areas since the magazine could get in the way.
Nevertheless, a straight finish nailer offers a powerful and reliable performance. And considering its more affordable price, straight nail guns would make a great entry-level power tool.
Safety Advice for Finish Nail Guns
We must all remember that nail guns are power tools. Because of this, they can cause serious damage or injury if the user isn’t careful. But we’re not here to scare you off. Instead, here is some safety advice for when you're using a nail gun. As long as you observe these pointers, there’s nothing for you to be afraid of.
- First of all, make sure that you read the instruction manual before you start using it. Finish nail guns come in different designs and with different specs. Some are powered with air pressure while others have built-in batteries. That means that each of them works differently, so you have to look for specific instructions to ensure peak performance.
- Aside from knowing how to properly operate it, these manuals will also contain useful care information that will teach us how to safely reload the magazine or how to make easy adjustments without any accidental injury.
- Always wear the appropriate gear. Since a nail gun is considered a powerful tool, you must operate it only when you're wearing the appropriate safety gear. You have to use goggles to protect your eyes and working gloves to protect your fingers against splinters as you work. You can also use a mask to prevent inhaling dust and harmful particles.
- Keep it well-maintained. A well-maintained nail gun will always function properly. That reduces the risk of it malfunctioning while in the middle of using it. As a result, it will also reduce the occurrence of potential accidents.
- Always make sure that it is turned off as soon as you’re done using it. A common mistake that beginners make is to set the nail gun aside when they’re taking breaks. Unfortunately, someone could grab it and accidentally pull the trigger. That could instantly cause damage to your project – or worse, it could hit someone and cause serious injuries.
- Keep it out of reach of children. Similarly, it’s best to keep your nail gun away from children. Children are curious individuals, and they would often find a nail gun as a fascinating piece of machinery. Because of how simple it is to operate, kids can turn it on by accident and use it thinking it’s a toy. Not only will they get hurt, but they could also hurt others in the process.
- Avoid pointing the tip at others or any part of your body. With that said, don’t point the tip against others. Even if you’re just joking around, it might shoot out a nail that could get you in serious trouble. Thus, only point the tip and pull the trigger when you’re pointing at the surface you want to drive the nail in.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Finish Nailers
For added reference, here are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of nail gun. This will help you determine whether a finish nailer is right for you or not. Let’s start with the advantages.
- It gets the job done faster than when you have to hammer in the nails manually. As a result, you can also get more done within a day.
- It requires minimal effort from the user. Finish nailers are powered by batteries or an air compressor. You can simply pull the trigger and the nail is instantly embedded onto the surface.
- Generally, they are easy to operate. Nailers are designed for the user’s convenience, so most of them have simple buttons that you can press for shooting the nail, clearing out jams, easy nail reloads, and similar functions.
- Finish nailers can accommodate 15 to 16-gauge nails which are thicker than brads. This makes them perfect for finishing work with superior hold.
- Because of the thicker nails used on these nailers, you can use them on a variety of wood for projects – including plywood and hardwood.
- These nailers are incredibly versatile. The nail size they accommodate is great for a variety of projects and repair work. Thus, professional handymen and homeowners will not regret having one in their toolbox.
From what we’ve previously enumerated, you can see that owning a finish nailer has its advantages. But like all power tools, it isn’t perfect. So balance things out, here are its disadvantages.
- Since it uses thick nails, finish nailers are often heavier than other nailers. You would need a lot of effort to work with it.
- Similarly, these nailers are bulkier than brad nailers. That makes it hard to use in tight spaces.
- Since it’s a power tool, the price of these finishing nailers can be quite steep.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What’s Better, a 15-Gauge or 16-Gauge Nailer?
A 15-gauge nail is built thicker than a 16-gauge nailer. As a result, the former offers a better hold than the latter. But because of the thicker size, 15-gauge nailers are heavier and bulkier, making them best for professionals and woodwork hobbyists. On the other hand, 16-gauge nailers are best for home repair use.
2. How do you use a finish nailer?
Finish nailers are quite easy to use. You simply point the tip where you want the nail to be driven and pull the trigger. But remember that operation varies from model to model. For best results, we advise looking into the instruction manual first before using them.
3. Can a finish nailer use as brad nails?
Brad nails are 18-gauge nails. That means that they are thinner than most finishing nails which are around 16 to 15-gauge nails. Because of this difference, it is not recommended to load the magazine with incompatible nails. That will easily cause the nailer to jam or malfunction.
4. Can a finish nailer be used for framing?
It is not recommended to use a finish nailer for framing jobs. In framing, you require a heavy-duty framing nail gun to ensure a firm and strong hold. This cannot be done by a finishing nailer which is mainly used, as its name implies, for finishing the project.
5. What is a finish nailer good for?
Finish nailers are the perfect tool for heavy duty non-structural woodworking projects. These include:
• Installing baseboard, crown molding, chair rails, and other types of trim
• Building cabinets
• Installing door and window casing
• Building staircases
• Installing hardwood floors
• Making furniture and other woodworking joinery
Finish nailers are some of the most efficient and easy-to-use power tools in the world of woodworking. They are the perfect fit for any kind of heavy-duty non-structural woodworking project you choose to undertake, whether professionally or as a hobby. A good nail gun offers excellent performance, but a great one offers the features that you need to get the job done.
Our in-depth guide to purchasing the best finish nailer to meet your needs should help you find the most ideal tool for your project. But do be sure to keep in mind that these are rather dangerous to operate, and should not be used under any circumstances without the proper safety measures in place. We hope you will find the perfect finish nailer for you and happily create the carpentry project of your dreams!
Brad is the ultimate DIY expert. Mostly self-taught, he has a lot of knowledge about the “do’s and donts” of nearly any home project. Brad routinely reviews new tools in the marketplace and provides a handful of helpful tips for aspiring do-it-yourselfers along the way. He is a lover of all things regarding building and creating.