If you’re in the market for a nail gun then you’ve either been watching too many B horror flicks or you’ve decided that an upcoming project is going to have too many nails for you to hammer in by hand. Choosing the right nail gun for you needs is your next task now that you’ve decided to buy one, and going to the hardware store or shopping online will be a much better experience for you if you go prepared with a little bit of knowledge.

Today we’ll look at the basic types of nail guns, the different applications available, the different power types, the different triggers available and finally some of the basic features that will make your projects easier. Education is the fastest way to get the true handyman’s satisfaction of having the right tool for the job.

Why Are You Buying a Nail Gun?
Your first task as you set out to make your first nail gun purchase is to know the type of project you’re buying it for. There are nail guns for almost every nailing project imaginable. It’s up to you to imagine the breadth of your use. Birdhouse production for your wife’s craft-fair booth? Putting up a garage? Putting up 100 garages a year? To make sure you’re spending your money wisely know your application before you read the rest of this article.

Nail Magazine Types: Coil vs. Stick
The first key distinction between nail guns is coil and stick. The coil style magazine holds nails in long, flexible strips wound up in a coil of between 150-350 nails. Stick-style magazines hold longs strips of nails in 20-40 nail increments. There are many schools of thought regarding which to get, and some reasons for the coil nailer is that they hold more nails and are a bit more maneuverable because they don’t have a “stick” magazine poking out of them. Further the coils tend to have nails that are more standardized. Coil guns typically cost far more than stick nailers so again, it’s important to know your uses before making your purchase decision.

Nail Gun Applications: Roofing, Framing, Flooring, Finish, Staples/Brads
There are four major applications for nail guns in production today, including roofing nailers, designed for nailing down roof shingles, framing nailers, a powerful nailer made for driving lots of large nails into thick material, flooring nailers, specially designed for nailing down modern wood flooring, finish nailers, which are lighter and made for nailing more delicate furniture, cabinets and molding, and staple/brad nailers typically used when extreme precision and delicacy are required.

Most importantly, read the manual of the nailer you’re considering for purchase as there are wide variations even within specific types – in other words some finish nailers could work as light framing nailers in a pinch… and some couldn’t.

Nail Gun Power: Pneumatic and Cordless (Gas)
There are two principle types of nail gun power – pneumatic, or air driven, and cordless, which are powered by little gas explosions (sort of like your car). The pneumatic nail gun requires an air compressor (the purchase of which requires its own dedicated research) and all the hoses and other responsibilities that come with using air. Second to the pneumatic nailer is the cordless or gas-powered nail gun in which a spark ignites a small amount of gas from a disposable cartridge. This little explosion drives the nail forward and through your materials. They’re ideal for situations where mobility is essential.

Nail GunTrigger Mechanisms: Bump-Fire, One-for-One Trigger, Squeeze and Release
There are three standard types of nail trigger mechanisms – bump-fire, in which you press the trigger and bump the nail gun where you’d like to drive the nail, a one-for-one trigger in which one pull of the trigger equals one nail – common on brad/staple nailers, and squeeze and release mechanisms common on professional models that are very sensitive and have a tendency to drive multiple nails when used by the inexperienced. Your triggers are likely to have multiple settings. Be sure to find a nail gun with a trigger that’s large and easy to press while wearing gloves.

Key Nail Gun Features to Look For:
1) The Swivel Tube: if you’re running a pneumatic nailer you want a swivel tube connector so that your tube doesn’t get tangled up – they also make reloading a bit easier.

2) Easy jam clearing: your nail gun will jam. Make sure that it’s got easy access to the nail feed so that when a jam happens it doesn’t slow you down.

3) Nail Depth Adjustment: the ability to control how deeply you’re driving your nails. This matters more on the finish nailers. And depth adjustment is easier on some nail guns than others.

4) Adjustment for Nail Size: there are many different types of nail sizes, and if you think you’ll be using multiple nail sizes in your project then be sure to shop for a nailer that accepts a range of sizes.

There you have it folks, the ultimate nail gun guide for newbies. Be sure to always read the manual for the tools you buy and follow the safety instructions to the letter. Be safe, have fun – in that order!

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