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Top 5 best brad nailers review and buying guide from Jack

My name is Jack I have been in the woodwork industry for roughly 30 years. Today I am going to talk about top brad nailers which are very important tools in the workshop. I am going to help you pick the absolute best brad nailers for your workshop.

What is a brad nailer?

Before I start to give you the best brad nailer countdown. Old Jack would like to give you a brief introduction to this tool in case you have never come across it before.

You may ask what is a brad nailer? A brad nailer is a tool used to put brads. These are a special type of nail. Brads are made from 18-gauge wire, which is thinner than the common 15 and 16-gauge nails for finish nails. Brads also have a very thin head, which leaves a smaller nail hole after the nail sinks. This means you’ll need to do less hole filling with wood filler. Sometimes you may not need to fill the hole. This gives a very good finishing.

Brads range in length from 5/8-inch up to 1-1/2 inches long. Due to their small size. Brads don’t have the holding power of larger finish nails or wood screws. This limits their use to very small pieces of trim. (You wouldn’t likely have a need for doing any structural work with brad nails).

Now that I have furnished you with the basic introduction into brads. Let us now look at the tool we use to install brands. As you already know it is a brad nailer.

To get a good appreciation of this tool, let’s do some history. The first automatic nail gun (a brad nailer is a variation of the nail gun family) was a pneumatic one introduced into our industry in the 1950s. Before that people had to use the claw hammer.

Electric(cordless) vs pneumatic brad nailer

Now we have the option to choose between the pneumatic version or cordless battery powered. Even though the latter is a recent addition to our craft. There are serious contestations about which is the best brad nailer among the two. To give you perspective let me give you a brief comparison

Let us look at the table below for a comparison of the two.

FeatureCordlessPneumatic
PortabilityVery portableIt needs to be attached to a
tank and compressor so
portability is low.
Nail penetrationNail penetration is

inconsistent.
Some manufactures have
added a nitrogen cartridge
to minimize this lag
between runs.
Very good especially
when in need of a constant
uninterrupted run. The
transition between one
nailing to the other is very
smooth and “intuitive”.
PowerLess power especially when dealing with
hardwood
Lots of power even on hardwood.
Ideal useVery good for tricky or
hard to get places. Ideally
its just for short uses.
All day use because you
don’t have to recharge
batteries.
CostOverally cheaper because
you don’t have to use a
compressor
Expensive due to the need
to have compressor
alongside the brad-nailer

The biggest advantage pneumatic version has over battery one is power and durability. From experience, I have had 18 hour long sessions with the pneumatic brad nailers. Yet, the battery-powered brad nailer one may not last as much. The encouraging thing is that manufacturers have now included lithium cells. These give a longer battery life.

Portability is also an important feature. The pneumatic one is cumbersome. The reason being it’s attached to a compressor. But the cordless brad nailer doesn’t need one. This has been the biggest selling point for the co. Old Jack enjoys the freedom that comes with cordless brad nailers.

The third feature is power. Pneumatic versions in the workshop have proven to be the more powerful of the two. Yet, with recent technological shifts, some cordless versions are becoming powerful too.

The fourth feature is nail penetration. Most critics of cordless brad nailers say that their nail penetration is inconsistent. But pneumatic ones have a rhythmic and almost intuitive nail penetration. This comes in handy when running very long trim.

On the issue of costs if you already have a compressor the price is roughly the same. If you do not own a compressor buying a pneumatic brad nailer will be more expensive. With some versions of the cordless brad nailer, you need to replace nitrogen cartridges.

Buying guide for the best-rated brad nailer

For most DIY homeowners, I would recommend getting a 18-gauge battery powered brad nailer. A top-rated 18-gauge brad nailer is also perfect for woodworking because of its versatility in medium duty nailing tasks: trim works, attach face frames …

All of the brads that I have on this article can save you a ton of troubles, spend at least $50 for a higher quality nail gun and you can have the features:

  • Oil-free. I feel this is a very underrated feature, especially for DIY homeowners. You don’t have to worry about maintaining your nail gun and have more time for other works.
  • Less jams. A cheap nail gun will often jam up and could leave marks on the surface of your projects, causing defects. You don’t want these kinds of unreliable tools.
  • Easy to clear jams.
  • Lighter
  • Rapid fire mode
  • Directed exhaust
  • Simpler/faster reloading
  • Able to shoot a wide range of nail lengths. Typically this goes from 5/8inch-2inch.

Now that Old Jack has given you an introduction let us go into the market and see some of the brands available.

For the money making craftsmen like me, the best brad nailers for many years have been the pneumatic ones. Yet we are now leaving in a cordless world with wireless taking over. Most craftsmen are warming up to cordless brad nailers. Thus it is not surprising that the top two brad nailers according to Old Jack are both cordless.

Those who follow my reviews know that I base them on my personal experience with these tools. I have been fortunate enough to own several workshops and training schools and I get to experience many tools.


The best brad nailers from old Jack hands on experience & review


1. DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit | The best cordless brad nailer

DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit (Cordless) - The best brad nailers
KEY SPECS

  • Brad Nails 18 gauge nails
  • Nail length 5/8inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Lubrication: no oil
  • Firing: Sequential 

Key functional issues

I first encountered the Dewalt one year ago when I was retooling one of my workshops. This power tool exceeded my expectations. As an old school guy. I was still holding on to the love of pneumatic brad nailers. Yet one afternoon while sampling several brad nailers the Dewalt caught my eye.

Things I liked

This power tool has very great nail penetration. The engine design it has allows the tool to work fast. With consistent and intuitive nail penetration into both soft and hard joints. Added to that the Dewalt can allow one to change modes. From my experience being able to fine-tune performances of any tool is commendable. The modes are. The operating mode which allows for precision placement. The bump operating mode which provides the user with production speed. It has an easy to access nosepiece for the removal of jammed nails.

As if it’s not enough the manufacturers are saying it comes with a 90-day money back. They are very confident in their product. 3-year warranty and a two-year service contract on the battery. This is simply one of the best, if not the best electric brad nailer in the market. 

Things I did not like

Though it makes for good runs. It lacks the endurance of an old school pneumatic brad nailer. Other users have complained that it can begin to jam after use. So many have also been complaining about the tool jamming after several uses.

The second best brad nailer is still another cordless one:

2. PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA 20V MAX Lithium 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, Includes Battery and Charger

I own one of these at my woodwork training centre.

PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA 20V MAX Lithium 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, Includes Battery and Charger

KEY SPECS

  • Brad Nails: 18 gauge nails
  • Nail length :5/8inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity: 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Lubrication: no oil
  • Firing: Sequential 

Key functional issues

The nailer shoots 5/8-inch to 2-inch long brads. I usually use 1-1/4-inch brads but I also had some projects for 2-inch brads. The nailer handled both lengths very well. Loading and unloading are very easy, you just press a button.

Things I liked

It has a consistent driving depth. This is due to its depth change wheel allows you to countersink nails. For convenience, it has a tool-free release lever, jam release. So when it jams you won’t have to spend time fiddling with it. For a battery powered tool, it comes with a 1.5 Ah 20V MAX Lithium-ion battery. This gives it adequate runtime. No oil needed, unlike pneumatic ones.

Things I did not like

Though it makes for good runs. The depth becomes weaker as the battery weakens.

 

3. Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Pneumatic Brad Nailer

Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Brad Nailer

Note:  Hitachi Power Tools has been renamed from Hitachi Power Tools to Metabo HPT for its entire line of power tools. You can still buy old Hitachi by click on the links above or check out Metabo HPT products on Amazon here. The quality of their products remains to be unchanged, as spectacular as before. The new version of the NT50AE2 can be pre-ordered here.

Key functional issues

Number 3 we have a pneumatic one is the Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Brad Nailer. It is in my brother’s workshop.

The NT50AE2 nailer from Hitachi comes with a magazine that is loaded from below. This makes loading much easier and also quicker. The average capacity of the magazine is about 100, although this can vary depending on the nail head size. This reduces the frequency of loading the nails. A visual indicator helps you know the number of nails remaining.

KEY SPECS

  • Brad Nails 18 gauge nails
  • Nail length 5/8inch -2inch
  • Magazine capacity 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Firing: Sequential
  • Lubrication oil

Things I liked

It has selective actuation which allows the user to select bump fire or contact fire modes. with the simple flip of a switch. When working on a huge project it is very lightweight and well balanced so you can use it all day long. It has is the Elastomer grip which gives you comfort and good grip even when hands get sweaty. Thirdly is the power it has it has excellent nail penetration even on very hard wood.

Things I did not like 

It has a problem of jamming at times and sometimes, the jamming gets difficult to fix. Also due to it being pneumatic, it requires oil.

At number four is another pneumatic tool, another one in my favourite list.

4. Makita AF505N Pneumatic Brad Nailer, 2-Inch

I use this one in one of my training schools. It is a very efficient professional pneumatic tool.

Makita AF505N Brad Nailer, 2-Inch

  • Brad Nails: 18 gauge nails
  • Nail length: 0.75inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity: 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Firing: Sequential
  • Lubrication: oil

Key functional issues

Non-marring rubber nose and bumpers protect the wood’s surface from damage. It has dual nail reload indicator window alerts the user when to reload nails to avoid blank drives. It has a Multi-directional exhaust port rotates 360° to direct exhaust air away. 

Things I liked 

This brad nailer has a narrow nose design allows easy nailing access in confined areas. It has a “Tool-less” quick release cam-lock opens nail guide assembly to clear jammed nails. This efficient design minimizes downtime when a jam happens. It has an easy to use “tool-less” depth change dial for a wide variety of finish applications. 

Things I did not like.

This is a very wonderful brad nailer. The biggest drawback is that it comes with a very short warranty of 8 months which can be an issue. And of course that it needs oil.

5. WEN 61720 18-Gauge Pneumatic Brad Nailer

At number five we have the WEN. I have seen it a friend’s workshop, it is a very wonderful tool. At this price, it is the most affordable good quality brad nailer. I recommend it to professional, hobbyists and beginners alike.

WEN 61720 18-Gauge Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Key Specifications

  • Brad Nails 18 gauge nails
  • Nail length 0.75inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity 100 nails

Things I liked

The first thing I liked was the price. It is a serious value for money and for someone still building a workshop this is one of the best starting points.

Powder-coated finish prevents scratches and scuffs to the nailer’s body. 

Things I did not like

It has precision issues as sometimes the brads come out of unpredictable angles. I guess it’s a small price to pay for the cost of this tool.


Parting words from Old Jack 

These are the best brad nailers I have encountered. I hope this review helps you to get what you like. If you get any of the four nailers here you would be in a good place. For those without compressors, I would recommend the two cordless ones. If you want to do professional work the cordless ones are good. However, any of the top four pneumatic ones can give you the endurance needed in a workshop.

So long folks till next time. Lastly, if you need to learn how to properly use a brad nailer, consider giving this article a read.

We just updated our buying guide for router tablesrouter bits, bandsaws and table saws with even more useful information for DIY homeowners, our next article will be about top DIY plans for brad nailers owners, stay tuned.