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We picked the top 6 best 18 gauge brad nailer – with reviews and brand buying guide for cordless and electric

My name is Jack I have been in the woodwork industry for roughly 30 years. Today I am going to talk about the best 18 gauge brad nailer which are very an important tool in the workshop.

The conclusion of my research is that the DEWALT DC608K is our top pick for the best brad nailer while the WEN 61720 has the best value for its money. Now, let’s dig deeper to see the reasons.

What is a brad nailer?

Before I start to give you the top brad nailers 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 brads. 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.

What is a Brad Nailer Used For?

It is important to know the actual mechanism of a tool, before buying it. There are various definitions of a brad nailer that you read online. However, today, I will give you a precise and exact definition.

A brad nailer is a specialized gun that is designed detailed wood applications including moldings, cabinetry, trim, and various home-based projects. The gun is used to fire brads which are basically a form of nails but thinner in profile. These are used to bind the wood.

Where and When to Use a Nail  Gun?

It was too soon in my profession that I started using the nailer. It can be used for various types of construction & woodworking purposes.

These tools also vary with the kind of applications that are done. Some are for the heavy-duty applications and others are for the smaller jobs.

  • Framing nailers are used for handling larger projects that include building decks, framing the houses, and constructing room additions.
  • Finishing nailers are a lighter version of framing nailers that are mostly used for assembling furniture, trimming, molding, and installing cabinets.
  • Brad nailers are used mostly for precision work. These are light in weight.
  • Roofing nailers are exclusively designed for roof shingles applications.
  • Flooring nailers are used in the installation of floors.

So, instead of giving an overview of the brad nailer, we have all the different nail guns used with their respective purposes.

For most DIY homeowners, I would recommend getting an 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 the reviews of some of the brands available to find what is the best 18 gauge brad nailer?


Here are the Top 6 best 18-gauge brad nailer Reviews from old Jack 


The best brad nailer is the DEWALT DC608K:

1. DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit | Top Pick for 18-gauge cordless-electric brad nailer

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

See Price On Amazon

 

 

 

 

KEY SPECS

  • Brad Nails 18 gauge nails
  • Nail size: length 5/8inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Lubrication: no oil
  • Firing: Sequential 
  • Cordless-electric
  • 7.4 pounds
  • Limited Warranty: 90-day money-back guarantee, 1-year free service, 3-year manufacturer defect

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 as one of the best-rated 18 gauge brad nailers. If you are in a hurry, look no more, the best 18 gauge brad nailer is the DEWALT DC608K. Otherwise, please keep reading as we have some even more interesting 18 gauge nailer coming up.

Things I liked

This power tool nail gun 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 cordless and electric 18 gauge 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. Some 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 center.

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

See Price On Amazon

 

 

 

KEY SPECS

  • Brad Nails: 18 gauge nails
  • Nail length/size: 5/8inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity: 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Lubrication: no oil
  • Firing: Sequential 
  • Battery-Powered
  • 5.9 pounds
  • 3 YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY

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

This nail gun 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. This is the runner up for top rated brad nailers as I like its rubber grip for easy handle.

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

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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. The quality of their products remains to be unchanged, as spectacular as the best-value 18 gauge nail gun. 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. This nail gun 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 Size length 5/8inch -2inch
  • Magazine capacity 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Firing: Sequential
  • Lubrication oil
  • Air-powered
  • 2.2 pounds
  • Rubber Grip
  • 30 day money back guarantee and 1 year warranty

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 hardwood.

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 favorite 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

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  • Brad Nails: 18 gauge nails
  • Nail Size length: 0.75inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity: 100 nails
  • Magazine loading: side
  • Firing: Sequential
  • Lubrication: oil
  • Corded-electric
  • 2.2 pounds
  • Rubber Grip
  • ONE YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY

Key functional issues

Non-marring rubber nose and bumpers protect the wood’s surface from damage. This nail gun 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” –tool-free” 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 and it is also lightweight.

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, This nail gun is the most affordable good quality brad nailer. I recommend it to professionals, hobbyists and beginners alike.

WEN 61720 18-Gauge Pneumatic Brad Nailer

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Key Specifications

  • Brad Nails 18 gauge nails
  • Nail size length 0.75inch-2inch
  • Magazine capacity 100 nails
  • air-powered
  • 5.2 pounds
  • 1 Year Parts and Labor for warranty

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.

6. BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point 18GA Brad Nailer Kit – Editor’s choice

BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point 18GA Best Brad Nailer Kit

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Key Specs

  • Brad Nails 18-gauge
  • Nail size Length 5/8inch – 2-1/8inch
  • Magazine Capacity 100 nails
  • Lubrication: No Oil
  • Corded-electric
  • 5.16 pounds
  • Amazing 7 year limited manufacturer’s warranty

Key Functional Issues

There is no wonder in it that this particular model is made to last. I came across the Bostitch brand in one of my friend’s workshops. I have heard so much about this model that I had to test it. Damn! There it was, performing like magic. I recommend this product to everyone, from budget buyers to the professionals.

Things I Liked

While there are many things that I can say I like about this model but let’s start with the nail penetration. It is splendid and rapid. It has got Smart Point technology which entails in giving it a smaller nose for convenient nail placement. You also don’t have to compress the tip to stimulate the tool.

There are many nailers that require oiling. However, this one comes with oil-free operation, thus eliminating the concerns of spoiling the significant workpieces.

What really caught my interest was the price and at such rate, you get amazing features such as jam-free release of the nails. Not many brands offer such amazing technology at this price. I give you one more reason to purchase which is the Dial-a-depth control. This allows easy sinking of the nail, only as deep as you want it to be.

Moreover, this product also gives you a selectable trigger that let you select between sequential and contact nailing. It is now my recommended brad nailer as it gives you 7-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.

Things I Did Not Like

There was not much to dislike in this model. Though, there was a little hitch of unavailability of dry-fire lock mechanism. This might increase the need for careful operation of the nailer. But if you know what to do then this nail gun is good to go.


Buying guide for the best 18 gauge brad nailer kit

Electric vs pneumatic brad nailer comparison

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 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

1. Power Source

Before buying any tool for woodworking, isn’t a power source the first thing to come to your mind? While exploring the options in top brad nailers, you will often come across two power sources such as Pneumatic and electric. I will tell you how these both tools work and some of their respective pros and cons.

Pneumatic Nailers

Pneumatic nailers use compressed air pressure as a power source. These are quite popular with professionals as well as hobbyists as these are highly reliable.

You can expect efficient working and if you are on a budget then this is the best brand nailer to purchase. The durability is also ensured with these tools.

With all the pluses, there are also some drawbacks. One of the main pitfalls is that to run it, you will need compressed air pressure which will attract more expense. Also, the hose of the tool might just get in the way of your working.

Pros

  • Reliable and dependable
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • The cord is too annoying to deal with
  • An additional cost of an air compressor

Electric Nailer

Clearly, the power source here is electricity. The nailer uses an electric motor to fire the brads in the surface.

The electric nailers are available in two main types- corded and cordless. The working mechanism is quite simple and straightforward.

These models completely obliviate the need for an air compressor for air pressure and work on the electricity. With the corded models, you can expect constant power whereas the cordless ones have to be charged after every few hours.

You can only use the corded model if there is a power outlet close to your workplace. Since these are portable machines and their requirement can arise in any area, unavailability of a power outlet can be a drawback with the corded models.

If I talk about the downside of the cordless model then it will be the limited run time of the tool.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Easy to use
  • Portable

Cons

  • Expensive

2. Nose Size

This feature is for precision. It is a significant factor to keep in account if you want to ensure that the brad nails will end up exactly where you have targeted them. In order to check the accuracy, you have to see the length and diameter of the nose. I personally recommend buying a nailer with a smaller nose. It will help in hitting the exact spot conveniently. A larger nose should be avoided because it will make hitting the right spot harder.

3. Trigger Type

Nailing speed and precision, both these factors depend on the trigger of the nailer. Therefore, I suggest you watch for it.

In the market, you will find two types of brad nailer triggers- bump and sequential. Both types share some pros and cons.

While using a sequential trigger, the nose has to be compressed before pressing the trigger. This might result in slow operations of the tool. This trigger type is more accurate and ideal for the projects that require accurateness.

The working mechanism is a bump trailer is little different. As soon as the bump gets in contact with the wood, the nailer will drive the nail in the surface. This makes the work faster. However, it is not for acute projects.

4. Additional Features

Now, in this section, I will be sharing some of the beneficial features that you won’t find in all the brad nailers available in the market. These features will make your machine more efficient.

Some of these features are the depth adjustment, swivel cord, adjustable belt hook, brad loading mechanism, tool-less jam clearing, etc.

All these features are quite resourceful. So, we recommend looking for the brad nailers that possess these qualities.

From my own experience,

The biggest advantage the pneumatic version has over battery one is power and durability. 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.

For the money making craftsmen like me, good 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.

How Much Should You Spend On A Brad Nailer kit?

Price is among the determinants that will always influence the purchase. Brad nailer is no exception to that. Just like any other tool in your workshop, the brad nailer will also give you a hard time in deciding how much to spend on it.

You will find the product available from various brands and in different price ranges. You can spend as little on a tool or increase the bar to high-end level as well. The budget solely depends on your spending capability.

A professional needs no guidance when it comes to price because he knows how resourceful a brad nailer is to him. However, if you are new to woodworking then try not to spend a hefty amount on it. Some of the high-quality manufacturers are selling amazing brad nailers at a quite decent price.


Parting words from Old Jack  

We picked the DEWALT DC608K as our top choice for the best brad nailer due to its power, smooth operating and amazing customer support from the company.

These are the top-rated 18 gauge brad nailers I have encountered. I hope this review helps you to get what you like. If you get any of the top quality brad 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. Get to know the difference between a finish nailer and a brad nailer here and here.

Updated July 2019:

We just updated our buying guide for woodworking tools: router tables, router lifts, router bits, staplers, bandsaws with even more useful information for DIY homeowners, our next article will be about top DIY plans for brad nailers owners, stay tuned.

Source:

https://www.lowes.com/n/buying-guide/nail-gun-buying-guide

https://www.menards.com/main/buying-guides/tools-hardware-buying-guides/air-nailer-buying-guide/c-19803.htm