Your framing nailer is one of those tools that you will use all day long. You need it to hold up well. You also want it to be as light as possible.
There are no two ways about it: framing nail guns endure long, hard days. If it breaks down mid-day, you can lose hours of productivity.
Additionally, you need one that can handle a range of the most popular fasteners.
In this buying guide, I cover both the best pneumatic powered framing nailers and the best cordless framing nailers.
Cordless Pneumatic Framing Nailers
This Hitachi 30 degree framing nailer is one of the most reliable nail guns in the construction industry. Its all-metal construction is well-known amongst the hardworking homebuilders of America.
Despite all of the metal, this is one of the lightest tools on our list at about 7 pounds.
This tool is also all about speed. The lightweight design means that you can move quickly as you put up stud after stud. Its mechanisms fire quickly, allowing you to get the job done and get home sooner.
It also has a two-step reload process, which gets you back to work faster.
This nailer also delivers more power than most. It can drive anything from .113 diameter up to .148 diameter nails and up to 3 1/2 inches in length. A lot of the other drivers struggle with anything over 3 inches in length, and most of them can handle the over-sized .148 nails.
It shoots paper collated round head nails. The point about full round nails is important as some building codes do not allow clipped head nails.
The nosepieces come with an open design that makes jam clearing extremely easy. That said, jams don’t seem to be a major problem with this model.
The tool-free depth adjustment is another excellent feature. So many of these require you to get tools out to adjust them every time you switch nail length. With this one, you can get dialed easily and go back to work.
Metabo isn’t very well known in the US, but they are a pretty big European brand that was recently acquired by the same company that owns Hitachi. They stand behind their products with a robust five-year warranty.
Sure, there are options on the market that cost half as much. But, for the brand name, reliability of performance, and the chance to own a piece of modern American history, the Metabo is an excellent way to go.
Maybe it is the blue color, but the Makita brand is one of those that I keep falling more in love with.
Traditionally, I haven’t found them to be quite as affordable as Dewalt, but that makes sense considering that they gear their devices for the true craftsman. You’ll find that their tools are built for long days in the sun and maybe the only brand that works harder than you do.
This 21-degree framing nailer takes full head nails. You can put everything from .113 to .148 diameter full round head nails in it (those 16D sizes).
The weight is more in line with the other models. At a little over 8 pounds, it is not nearly the same beauty as the Hitachi.
But you get a chance to add one more beautiful tool to your collection. And with a three-year warranty, it is bound to hold up to years of money-making.
Porter Cable FR350B
Those of you who read my article on impact wrenches will know that Porter Cable is one of those brands that I enjoy working with. I’ve owned a few of their products, and I am always impressed with the longevity of their items.
The first big benefit of this nailer is how lightweight it is. At 7.3 pounds, it is a full pound and a half lighter than most of the tools on this list. The lightweight makes it a top choice for the busy contractor who needs to be able to nail joists overhead easily.
It also speeds up your work when you are doing a big job, such as framing a house.
The other thing that isn’t really advertised — but is going to be noticed by professionals — is how much faster the Porter Cable fires. When you are working quickly, you’ll appreciate the faster rhythm of this Porter Cable model over some of the lesser-known brands we review later.
Technically, this isn’t a professional model, but it is a lot closer in the feel. It easily switches between restrictive or contact actuation firing mode.
As with many of these models, you have the dry fire lockout. This feature keeps the gun from using the last 3 or 4 nails in the string. This both prevents jams, but, more importantly, helps to keep you from building a house with too few nails in it.
This nailer is gaining a lot of market share. For the homeowner who needs a pneumatic nailer that can frame a shed in a day, the Freeman is a top contender.
As with several of these models, this one uses a magnesium body. This body type helps cut down on weight and gives you a tool that is about 8.9 pounds. You’d find it a tad heavy if you were framing a house, but it is pretty well balanced for the smaller jobs.
This one holds nail diameters from .113 to .131. However, 3 1/2″ nails might be a little big for driving all of the ways. Anything under 3 inches it seems to handle quite well.
The other big selling point is that they have a 90-day warranty on wearable parts and a seven-year warranty on the rest. It is refreshing to see a company standing behind their products.
For an entry-level nailer that can handle full round nails, this is an excellent option.
The NuMax is a surprisingly affordable option for the DIYer and contractor who needs to get his new hires outfitted with a quality power tool at an affordable price.
The trigger on this model is interchangeable for single fire or quickfire operation. The different settings allow you to adapt the tool for your intended use.
The magnesium head is both strong and lightweight. While this isn’t the lightest gun on the list, at 8.6 pounds, it is still lighter than most of the cordless models that we reviewed.
The non-mar tip does a lot to help you deliver a professional job. It makes this tool well suited for laying subflooring and roof decking.
This accepts any of the standard brands of 21-degree plastic collated full round head nails. This means that you can buy the cheapest nails for your project and proceed as you would with any of the other nailers.
The tool-free depth of drive adjustment makes it easy to get the proper nail depth every time.
As with anything that is so cheap, the biggest drawback is likely with durability. The company only stands behind their tool with a 30-day moveable parts warranty. You’ll want to invest in the extended protection plan to help protect your investment.
Paslode is one of those top-of-the-line brands of tools that is known mostly to industry insiders. It’s designed for heavy-duty use by the top home builders in America.
With the Paslode, you get a solid and complete nail drive every time. This avoids a lot of issues that the other cordless tools have where they under-drive the nails. You also tend to have no jams on their system.
The Paslode is also one of the closest, in terms of performance, to the speed of a traditional pneumatic nail gun.
The gas-electric hybrid system creates an explosion that closely approximates how a pneumatic gun will operate. The smaller form factor makes it better suited for tight spaces.
Paslode has been one of the early innovators in this field. The Paslode 902600 was their first lithium-ion model, and this 905600 version builds on that success.
The downside is that you have to constantly purchase new butane cartridges as a fuel cell to power this gun. Most contractors are talking about how they get around 500-800 nails per cartridge. These perpetual purchases are definitely an added cost to the gun’s operation.
That said, when you are spending $40 per hour on your crew, it is worth the expense not to have to pay them to drag the air compressor around or wait for their peers to finish working with it.
This model probably has the best battery life with an advertised 9,000 nails per recharge.
Most of us quickly building our arsenal of Dewalt 20v max Flex volt tools. Their lithium-ion batteries are some of the most reliable in the industry, and the higher voltage allows you to get a deeper drive than most other tools.
This Dewalt Max XR differentiates itself from the competition in that it does not need the gas cartridges that most of the other cordless nailers use. Instead, it is purely powered by Dewalt’s massive battery pack. The dual-speed brushless motor adjusts to your needs, making this one of the more versatile models on the market.
The end result is one of the most hassle-free nailers. All you do is slip the battery pack in and start nailing. It can handle a wide variety of nails from 16 gauge on down. The depth selector determines how deeply the nail is driven and allows you to switch between different nail lengths.
You’ll want to use the depth adjustment depending on the length of the nails you are driving. There are a surprising number of complaints online from people saying that it won’t drive their 3-inch nails, which are still using the lowest setting. Once adjusted, this is one of the most reliable drivers of round head nails.
One of the key features is the easy to use jam lever. With these cordless models, jammed nails are much more common, and this level makes it easy to clear jams and keep working.
The fact that you are only swapping out batteries makes this one a strong contender as a replacement for the traditional nailer. You could build a house with this nailing gun.
As a bonus, you can use the 60v max battery with this tool should you want even longer breaks between setting the battery on the charger.
A lot of sites have reviewed the DCN692B model. I’m going with the DCN21PLB for its ability to drive up to .148 diameter nails.
To be honest, this is one of those tools that I am not as familiar with. I’ve owned several Hitachi tools before their rebrand to Metabo HPT. I’ve got to assume that the tool quality is going to stay nearly the same during this rebrand.
One of the biggest selling points of this tool is the uniquely designed compressed air chamber that means you won’t need to wait for it to charge up with air. If you want a fast tool, this Hitachi is a top contender.
The bump fire mode helps speed this tool up even more. Sequential fire is also available for those times when you need to slow down and be more careful.
You also need to be ready for the added heft of this tool. It is past the 10-pound mark, making this tool one of the heavier ones.
The Dry fire lockout is another nice feature that keeps the tool from firing when you are out of nails.
Overall, it has a lot of features that you would only expect from the top brands. As a result, there are lots of handymen who are swearing by the Hitachi for the jobs that require them to drive 2-inch to 3-inch nails with ease. It also takes clipped and full round head nails for ultimate versatility.
Bostitch Cordless Nailer
This nailer is extremely similar to the Dewalt model. The battery-powered design means that you don’t need the gas cartridges of the Paslode. That feature alone is going to save contractors hundreds of dollars a year.
As with the Dewalt, this one can use a wide range of nails. Just order the standard nails in the 30-degree paper strip configuration. Grip rite nails seem to work pretty well with this model.
This model is well balanced and holds well for all-day use. It also is a real power-sipper and goes through the batteries extremely slowly. It shoots consistently and quickly, making it a close contender to the speed of a compressed air power tool.
The rafter hook is a nice touch and lets you easily hang this tool anywhere for easy access when you are working quickly. It is also handy for keeping your nailer from ending up in the dirt.
However, it seems that the Bostitch may not have quite the same mastery as Dewalt in deep nail driving. You may have a misfire on as much as 10% of your nails. For the DIY homeowner who doesn’t have an air compressor, that might be something that you just accept as the price of getting your own project done.
However, for a busy professional, it might mean that the Bostich is going to require more care and attention to detail while using it.
How Big Of An Air Compressor Will I Need?
The nice thing about these nailers is that they don’t require a lot of power. For most home improvement projects, you can get along with a little 3 gallon to 6-gallon air tank. That will give you enough reserves that you aren’t constantly waiting for the tank to refill.
I have a friend who builds houses with nothing but a 6-gallon tank.
Corded vs. Cordless Framing Nailers
As with everything in this industry, we’re seeing a strong movement towards cordless nailers. It is truly freeing not to have to set up an air compressor, run hose, and work around those limitations while you are building a house.
However, cordless nailers cost more. They also weight more (sometimes 2-3 times more). And, there is a slight delay between when you squeeze the trigger and when the nail files.
That said, these nailers have caught up close enough to the traditional, pneumatic-powered guns, that we’re seeing more and more contractors making the switch.
When you are running a crew of guys, it makes sense to go ahead with a complete compressor setup. You may as well run a couple of hoses and make sure that they are working at top speed and not spending time finicking with nail jams and half-driven nails.
However, for the sole contractor, for teams that are doing deck and fencing work and for the handyman doing one-off jobs, a cordless nailer makes a lot of sense. To have the freedom and the faster setup times of the cordless systems means more money in your pocket.
This model is well balanced with a good ergonomic feel to it.
There are two types of triggers commonly used on these tools.
Contact Trigger: Also called bump fire. The contact trigger is the method that most contractors love using. All you have to do is hold the trigger down. Then, as you tap the nailer against the board, it will immediately shoot a nail. This enables contractors to work at top speed. It does have the drawback in that if you touch it against your foot, you might have a nail go off.
Sequential Trigger: With a sequential trigger, you have to place the gun against your board and then squeeze the trigger. This is a much safer method but is also slower.
Most of the options on this page have both options so that you can switch back and forth based on your experience level. Errant nails are the biggest danger when working with these nailers, so always be sure to wear safety glasses.