The 10 Best Brad Nailers
10. Stanley TRE550Z
9. Senco FinishPro 18MG
8. NuMax S2-118G2
7. Makita AF595N
6. DeWalt DWFP12231
5. Bostich BTFP12233 Smart Point
4. Hitachi NT50AE2
3. DeWalt DC608K
2. Wen 61720
1. Porter-Cable PCC790LA
More Nail, Less Gun
As it turns out, a nail gun makes a miserable weapon. Throughout the history of weapons development, one of the primary goals has been to increase the distance between you and your intended target, an accomplishment that both minimizes risk to your person and helps to decrease empathy for your enemy in times of war.
Modern nail guns, however, have little safety catches on their tips, which prevent you from firing off a single nail until you position the gun before the material you intend to fasten and depress the safety catch against it. As a safety feature, it's one of the things that makes these brad nailers incredibly safe and easy to use, even if it decreases their effectiveness as a means of self defense.
Of course, nail guns aren't intended for violence, nor would we ever condone their use as such. The function of a nail gun, however, is remarkably akin to the function of an automatic firearm in just about every way but the incendiary.
What made the German Luger an exceptionally useful pistol in the early 20th century was its self-feeding magazine, a long cartridge of bullets that fed upward into the chamber with each shot. These brad nailers utilize a similar mechanism, a spring-loaded cartridge that pushes the nails into a primed position for use.
Unlike a gun, however, which uses the small, contained explosion of gun powder to project its bullets outward, these brad nailers power their nails forward by one of two means: electric or pneumatic.
We can further divide electric nail guns into two categories depending on how they wind the heavy spring inside them. That spring is ultimately what drives the nail forward, as it's coiled around a piston with a pointed blade that makes contact with the head of the nail. Electric brad nailers wind this spring with either a motor or by the force of two positively polarized electromagnets.
Pneumatic brad nailers are the strongest of the bunch, as they draw the power that moves their pistons from compressed air. If you look at the images of these nailers, you'll notice a small nozzle that lives at the bottom of each gun's handle. That nozzle hooks into a compressor that runs at the other end of an air hose and provides the necessary pressure.
Filling Out The Shed
If we put our focus on budget at the outset, it's important to note that selecting a pneumatic brad nailer also means that you have to invest in an air compressor. If you've already got yourself a nice air compressor for other pneumatic tools in your collection, then this choice is a no-brainer.
On the other hand, if you're just beginning to build out your collection of tools, or if you have a vast collection of electrically-powered tools, your choice is a little more complicated. For example, if you already own electric tools by DeWalt, the company that puts out the only battery-operated brad nailer on our list, that might be your best bet simply because you already have batteries you might be able to exchange between tools.
You might also be at the outset of a tool collection, in which case you have to ask yourself what you want your outfit to look like, how you want it to function, etc. Air compression will provide more power and durability in the long haul, but adding a compressor to your work space might not be a viable use of your square feet. It's also worth noting that compressors can be terribly noisy while building pressure, a problem that does not exist with electric brad nailers.
A final consideration is a little more practical, and that's your immediate intended use. Most people don't go about researching brad nailers if there isn't a job on the horizon. Make sure the nailer you choose is strong enough to get the job done, but also that it's maneuverable enough.
If your upcoming construction project requires you to squeeze into some tough spaces in remote areas of a build, you can't get much use out of a giant pneumatic nailer attached to a hose. Something like the battery operated gun at number one will give you the most articulation on our list.
A Narrative Tough To Nail Down
When we look into the history of the nail gun, its comparison to automatic pistol designs isn't entirely unfounded. While gravity-fed nailing machines found use in construction applications dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, these were often one-off designs, cobbled together by crewmen on a particular site. They had no commercial viability.
One such cobbling is often credited to Morris S. Pynoos, an engineer who worked on Howard Hughes' infamous Spruce Goose aircraft. The story goes that Pynoos developed a gun that fired nails into the fuselage of the plane which were later removed once the glue between the plane's panels had set.
Another story, one that more closely connects to a nailer as a weapon, states that a group of World War II vets sitting around a Legion Hall one night dreamed up a nailer that could operate with the same ferocity as a machine gun. They put their collective minds to it, and introduced the first pneumatic nailers to the market in the mid-50s.