The 8 Best Powder-Actuated Tools
This wiki has been updated 12 times since it was first published in February of 2019. Powder-actuated tools – often colloquially referred to as the brand name "Ramset" – save contractors valuable time by using .22 to .27-caliber loads to drive fasteners into tough materials, like concrete and steel. Our list includes top-end models as well as some affordable alternatives that will appeal to those who will use the device infrequently, but still want a solid selection. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
September 07, 2020:
It was a fairly straightforward round of updates, with the majority of our previous selections maintaining their positions, although we did decide on removing the PowerFasteners P2201, due to availability issues. We also decided to expand the category, which was previously focused on trigger-actuated, budget-friendly picks, and include a couple of new, top-end options. Our first new addition was the Ramset XT540, the most powerful option offered by the company, and one that can be made fully automatic with the additional purchase of an XTMAG fastener magazine. Our second new addition was the Hilti DX 5, which not only bests the XT540 by coming standard with a 10-fastener magazine assembly, but also blows Ramset’s three-year warranty out of the water with a 20-year limited warranty and two-year wear-and-tear coverage. On top of that, the DX 5 is part of a new generation of tools that feature app connectivity via Bluetooth, helping operators keep track of when to maintain and service the tool.
For users on a budget, aside from the app connectivity, the biggest difference between the Hilti DX 5 and Hilti DX 2, as well as the Ramset XT540 and Ramset Cobra+, is that the latter-mentioned models are semi-automatic tools, which, in the case of this category, means that their loads advance automatically as the tool is cycled, but their fasteners need to be loaded manually and individually. Compared to a fully automatic option, this is a hindrance, but in practice these are still powerful tools that most tradespeople will find serviceable for their needs.
If those tools are still looking a bit pricey for your budget, and you really rely on this gadget infrequently (maybe you only need it for a single renovation project), then the Ramset TriggerShot is an option I’d highly recommend. It certainly isn’t as efficient or ergonomic as many top-end options, but it is quite simple to operate, and often as effective as it needs to be. It can be managed with a single hand, which is an advantage when compared to many other low-end options, especially hammer-actuated models that we deemed of insufficient quality for this list. I’ve personally, single-handedly mounted several panelboards to concrete foundations with this tool and, while it might not be ideal, I certainly think it gets the job done.
As is the case with so many tools (and, perhaps sometimes more so with those that employ explosive loads), these machines can be dangerous if wielded improperly. Do your due diligence and properly familiarize yourself with the tool before getting to work with it, and don't forget to wear proper personal protective equipment.
May 27, 2019:
A good powder-actuated tool can make an excellent addition to your collection. But like lots of tools, these devices can be dangerous if they're used improperly or without proper training. Powder-actuated tools in particular operate in a manner very similar to firearms, employing explosive charges to fire fasteners, and their misuse could most certainly lead to bodily harm.
In the interest of your safety, hammer-actuated selections were eliminated from this Wiki, as they require two-handed operation and the use of basic hand-eye coordination. Using these tools safely is absolutely possible, but a bit more difficult, and with several, reasonably-priced trigger-actuated models available, it seemed sensible to set the feature as a standard.
Multiple manufacturers for these devices offer certificate training for these tools online, and many regional health and safety authorities, such as the OSHA and ANSI, have made it mandatory for operators to achieve this credential prior to using the tool.
Before your bring one of these tools out to your next job site, make sure that you do your due diligence, familiarize yourself with the user manual and, if applicable, follow through and do whatever training is demanded of you by your local authorities.