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Few tools are more efficient than a brad nailer when it comes to tackling intricate woodworking projects.
If you’re going to be working with small workpieces like narrow or decorative window trim and casings, or assembling small objects like bird feeders, you’ll want to get yourself a brad nailer. The 18 gauge nails, or “brads” they use are the perfect size for these pieces, unlike heavier-duty finish nailers that are more likely to split or damage the delicate wood. Brads are also small enough to be used to hold two pieces of wood together during glue-ups. This is especially handy with items that would be a challenge to hold together with clamps.
When you’re considering which brad nailer to choose, think about what type of power source would be best for you and your current garage or workshop setup. Pneumatic models are lighter and cheaper than the more mobile, battery-powered models, although they require a separate air compressor. These air compressors are also extremely loud, so might not be ideal for those with sensitive neighbors or infant children. Durability is another factor to think about, and if you’re planning on working in a more rugged environment, you should probably stay away from nailers with a lot of plastic components. The overall weight of the unit will also affect how comfortable it is to carry around during extended projects, so keep that in mind as well.
You should also consider whether or not you actually need a brad nailer. If you’re looking for a tool to use on even more delicate materials, you might do better with a pin nailer instead.
We frequently used brad nailers during our time as custom furniture builders—both pneumatic and battery-powered models—and used this experience to help curate this list of options. We’ve had great success with Bostitch models over the years, which is why we made sure to include it as our top pick, but also included other brands that we know to make high-quality, reliable nailers, like WEN, Makita, and Porter Cable. Since we know everyone’s budget isn’t the same, and some may be less comfortable making a big investment than others, we did our best to keep the prices down while maintaining quality picks.
We’re huge fans of Bostitch nailers, and this pneumatic model is a perfect example of why. Its 3.1-pound weight is nice and light, and combined with its textured rubber handle, makes for a good solid grip while you work. It also features a straightforward depth adjustment wheel, allowing you to easily countersink your brads however you like. The extra no-mar tips are a nice perk as well, especially if you plan on using your nailer frequently, and could eventually wear through the initial tip. A tool-free jam release also makes it simple to clear brads that become jammed, and lets you get back to work quickly.
At 2.7 pounds, the WEN nailer is one of the lightest nailers on our list, and for about $30, also one of the most affordable. It’s designed to accept brads from ⅜ to 2 inches in length, and its magazine has the capacity to hold up to 106 at once. A convenient nail gauge on this magazine also makes it easy to quickly see how many brads you have left. An adjustable exhaust port allows you to choose the direction of the air exhaust, which really comes in handy for left-handed users, or those who work in dusty environments.
If you’re looking for a quality nailer that’s light enough to use all day, this Metabo model could be just what you’re looking for. At 2.2 pounds, it's the lightest nailer on our list, making it well-suited for those all-day projects that could lead to hand and shoulder fatigue with a heavier option. The hard-sided carrying case is an awesome perk, and not only makes it convenient to transport, but also ensures the tool is protected when not in use. Plus, even if any issues do come up, Metabo’s 5-year warranty should have you covered.
This Porter-Cable nailer is one of my favorite nail guns for beginners, regardless of style or type. It’s battery-powered, so you don’t need to deal with purchasing a separate compressor, and thanks to its color-coded controls and settings, very intuitive to use.
The directions and illustrations on the side of the tool itself also make it very hard to use this nailer incorrectly, and LED lights even alert you to any issues. It's a bit heavier than pneumatic models so it's probably not ideal for all-day projects, but if you’re looking for maximum mobility, this is a great choice.
Our favorite part of this nailer is the integrated air duster, a unique feature that uses the attached air supply to blast air out of the bottom of the handle. This allows you to conveniently clear dust and debris off your workspace, and increase the accuracy of your nailing. The nose is also nice and narrow, making it easier to access hard to reach areas and tight corners. A reversible belt hook lets you keep the nailer within arms reach, which is always nice when you don’t want to set a power tool on a finished or delicate workpiece.
If you’re interested in the added mobility of a battery-powered unit, but don’t want to break the bank paying for one, this refurbished Ryobi option could be a great fit.
It costs much less than most other cordless options (although it doesn’t include a battery, so you’d have to supply your own), making this ideal for those who already have a Ryobi tool collection. It’s relatively simple to use, too, with a low-nail indicator to alert you when you need to refill, and the bright green color makes it easy to spot in a messy garage or worksite.
Part of Milwaukee’s powerful M18 Fuel family, this cordless nailer combines maximum mobility with the quality construction we’ve found in many other Milwaukee power tools. Its brushless motor is always a nice perk, and the LED light automatically illuminates your workspace as you go, increasing safety as well as reducing the chances of inaccurate brad placement. It doesn’t include a battery, though, so if you don’t already have a collection of M18 tools and batteries, you may want to consider one of our other options. Just like other cordless options, this nailer is a bit heavier than pneumatic nailers, so keep that in mind.
If you’re just starting out and looking to really dive into nailers, this Bostitch kit is a great value, and — thanks to an included air compressor — will have you ready to work as soon as you open the box. Not only does it include an 18-gauge brad nailer, it also features a 16-gauge finish nailer, as well as a heavy-duty crown stapler, ensuring that you’ll be prepared for any light-duty nailing or stapling projects. These are all oil-free tools too, so you don’t need to worry about maintaining levels or leaving oil stains on work pieces.