Choosing a great air nailer is more about durability than anything else. The size isn’t really a huge factor, especially considering that the power usually comes down to the actual compressor you’re using rather than the unit itself. And according to this list, brand name recognition is an important part of the process, and Dewalt and company have some very good choices on the list. As long as you have a good air compressor, most of the tools on the list will do a fairly good job on your project. Below is a list of the most impressive air nailers on the market.
Top 10 Air Nailers
1. The Winner
One of the top brands in the industry is Dewalt, so it’s only fitting that the list starts with this low-priced model featuring a long-life motor. Features include a depth-of-drive adjustment with detents, a big help when setting nail heads. The built-in jam release is a nice premium feature, and can remove the most stubborn of nails. The rear exhaust blows away any contaminates that could stain the workplace, so driving 18-gauge nails is a breeze. It can handle nails in the range of 5/8 to 2 inches in length, and is one of the lowest-priced on the list that can do so thanks to the tool-free design features. Weight is not a hindrance as it is under 5 pounds with a magnesium body.
The magazine capacity is capped at 100, and the kit comes with a pack of 500 nails of 1-1/4 inches and a nice carrying case. Something that isn’t clearly stated is that this model requires an air compressor with a PSI of at least 80. It’s very important to note the power that is required from the compressor, as well as the correct fittings. There is also some trouble with progressive nailing, which may or may not be related to the type of compressor that is hooked up to the air nailer. Using a strong air compressor is recommended as it’s always better to exceed specs than to barely meet them. In the worst case scenario where the nailer begins to leak, Dewalt has a great warranty to back up its product for the long term. This is a competent air nailer that will get the job done on a variety of smaller projects.
2. Runner Up
The Freeman PFR2190 21-Degree Full-Head Framing Nailer is still on the lower end of the price spectrum, with a magnesium construction with anodized aluminum parts that are oil-less to cut down on wear and tear. The well-built plastic carrying case is a selling point for this product, and proves to be one of the better built cases on the list. The triggers are interchangeable and a more than welcome addition to the budget friendly range of Freeman products. The 7-year warranty gives you a lot of freedom to add this to your collection worry-free and to use it on as many projects as you like without any concern. Even if the warranty is limited, it’s still very easy to get in contact with customer support should something go wrong.
Common uses for the product include framing, roof and wall sheathing, siding installation, wood-box assembly, and fencing. The 21-degree nails can range in size from 2 to 3-1/2 inches. More premium features include a 360 degree exhaust, air filter, and anti-dust cap. It is one of the heavier items on the list at almost 11 pounds, but that is due to its rugged construction material. The package also comes with wrenches, something that a couple of the other air nailers on this list are missing. There are no nails included with the kit though, so if buyers don’t have any, it’s not ready to use straight out of the box. And despite its great construction, the nail head is made out of plastic, meaning that it is prone to breaking from overuse. Thankfully that part is covered under the warranty, so it won’t be too much of a hassle. This is a good mid-range product with a less than premium price tag that can handle a variety of tasks.
3. DEWALT Finish Nailer
Getting back to Dewalt, this particular model has a sealed lube dual tech, allowing the motor to function without oil or oil lube. Tool-free features are an adjustable belt hook, nail depth adjuster, jam clearer, and a 360-degree air exhaust compared to the other model’s rear only. Straight collated 16-gauge nails of 1 to 2 ½ inches can be used. With the entire set users can expect a great carrying case and some sample finish nails to get started with their project. This is one of the more comfortable units on the list to wield, with its low profile no-mar pad and sequential action trigger already preinstalled. Pricing is at the midway point with an operating pressure of 70–120 PSI being the sweet spot for compatible compressors. The set includes 1,000 nails, a good number to start off your job.
Unfortunately for industrial users, the unit is only covered by a 3-year limited warranty with a 1-year service contract and excludes o-rings, bumpers, and driver blades. It’s all smoothed over by a 90-day money back guarantee, so you do have time to try out the product before deciding to commit. And buyers are not committed to just using Dewalt brand nails, but it is recommended to at least select quality brands to avoid damaging the air nailer and the finished product. With great power, and an easy way to clear jammed out nails, it really is a steal at this price. There are some better options on the list, but this is still a pretty good option for anyone interested in the Dewalt name.
4. PORTER-CABLE Full Round
On the higher end of the price range is the PORTER-CABLE FR350B 3-1/2-Inch Full Round Framing Nailer, a lightweight 7-pound product with some interesting features. It has the power to drive nails up to 3.5 x 0.131 inches into engineered lumber. Setting nail heads is a breeze with the tool-free adjustable depth of drive, one of the easier features to operate. There’s an option to select trigger lockout, allowing the device to function in restrictive or contact actuation mode. With so many of the other models on the list providing a case, this model unfortunately does not come with one. Porter-Cable really maximized the user’s comfort, and used an over-molded grip for the best ratio of control and comfort.
One of the better features on this product is the low nail lockout, which is activated when the air nailer needs to be reloaded. It also has a reversible rafter hook for hanging tools on either side of the unit. With a magazine that is set at 22 degrees to the drive axis, it should be pointed out that users need to have 22-degree plastic collated nails. As a newer version of the FR350A, buyers can expect this product to be well supported by Porter-Cable’s customer support team. One of the downsides is the nail holder doesn’t lock to the rear, so it’s important to be aware of that when using. The aforementioned low nail feature could be a hindrance to buyers who aren’t used to it, so reading the manual and the feature list is key to using the unit. As a good alternative to Dewalt, Porter-Cable did a good job with this competitive product.
5. Hitachi Clipped Head
Managing to be just low-priced enough to keep most users from thinking twice, the Hitachi NR90AD(S) 3-1/2-Inch Clipped Head Framing Strip Nailer is another 7-pound lightweight unit featuring a tool-less firing mode and depth selectors. This option reduces the downtime associated with using an air nailer. It also has a 2-piece anodized aluminum magazine and 1-step nail loading system for faster nailing. The 5-year limited warranty is one of the better ones on the list that should take care of most parts and labor. Hitachi’s branded vibration isolation pads are included on the unit to ensure that users never have to worry about the durability of the unit, even when used a lot. If looking for one of the faster units on the list, then this will most likely give you the biggest satisfaction.
The tool supports 2–3 ½-inch paper tape nail heads and clipped head nails, and has a flip fire switch that switches between sequential or bump fire modes. When nailing at odd angles or when users need more flexibility, the toenail push lever is perfect for providing extra grip. With three versions of this model available, make sure to select the right model for your base needs. The three versions are paper, plastic, or wire collated. They all are the same price, so check the specs carefully. There is no hook or framer, so this is for the more ambitious DIYers out there. As one of the more interesting models from Hitachi, it will get the job done right the first time.
6. NuMax Straight Finish
The NuMax SFN64 2-1/2-Inch Straight Finish Nailer is one of the lowest priced items on the list, and as such includes only a 1-year warranty. Features include depth adjustment, an air filter, and a hardened driver blade. The internal parts are pretty durable, despite the outside having some questionable mechanics. As 16-gauge straight finish nailers go, this is a no-nonsense solution to those that need to get the job done quick, with support for 2-½-inch nails and 360-degree adjustable exhaust. There is also a no-mar tip and 1-piece driver blade, once again pointing to some of the better internal mechanics of this device. Uses for the unit include base molding, window/door installation, crown molding, and many other small projects around the house. The total weight is easily under 5 pounds, but with that light weight comes some power constraints.
The scary part about the warranty is that it’s 1 year on the gun body and only 30 days on wearable parts. The warranty card is full of confusing jargon, and it seems like this is a really throw-away device when you get down to it. If the 30-day warranty on parts doesn’t scare most users away, then it should be pointed out that this is one of the better reviewed products on the list. As long as it isn’t used outside of its element of small jobs, most people should be fine. Jamming will be a problem for some users, and it doesn’t get out jams as easily as some of the better models. And if you’re not shooting straight, that’s probably where most of those jams will come from. Overall it is an okay air nailer that really doesn’t try to be anything other than small time.
7. BOSTITCH Round Head
Bostitch is a great brand name, and introduces the first high-priced item on the list. With 1,025 inch/pound of driving power, it delivers 1-1/2-inch to 3-1/2-inch nails with the option of a sequential and bump trigger. It’s also a 2-in-1 tool with swapable nose pieces turning it into a useful unit for either framing or metal connector applications. With all of the great qualities, it’s still a lightweight 8.1 pounds, even with the magnesium housing. A framing nailer is included, and for comfort the product is reinforced with integrated rubber skin pads and a rubber grip. In total the product can hold 60 plastic collated 21-degree framing nails or 60 metal connector nails. The 16-inch layout indicator on the magazine will give users the correct distance between studs.
When comparing power to weight ratios between the units on the list, the Bostitch sports a best in class 1,050 inch/pound to 8.1 pounds. Even with the limited warranty, it’s still covered for 7 years and worth every penny. No case is included with the set, and no sample nails to get started. Out of all the units on the list this one can take the most abuse while still being the most versatile. The depth adjustment on this model is easier than others, with a single-push button allowing configuration. The rafter hook is plastic, though, and is one of the only parts of the unit that is easily breakable. When choosing what nails to go with the unit, it’s very picky, and the wrong ones can cause misfires. So a trial and error process is necessary in order to find the right ones, which could have been avoided if they provided nails in the original set. As one of the best on the list, it still introduces some features that the other units can only aspire to.
8. PORTER-CABLE Brad Nailer Kit
Going back to Porter-Cable, this is the BN200C 2-Inch 18GA Brad Nailer Kit, a low-priced unit with a life-long maintenance-free motor. The depth of drive adjustments are easy to use for proper setting of the nail heads, and is a tool-free feature. When the unit gets jammed, there is also the tool-free jam release mechanism that makes it easy to get rid of the problem nail. The exhaust is in the rear but doesn’t offer the 360-degree exhaust that a lot of the other better units do. For a workhouse, it does a solid job with 5/8-inch up to 2-inch 18-gauge nails. Weight is not a factor; the unit easily comes in at 5 pounds, making it easy to work with on long jobs.
The accessories list includes a fitting, brad nails, and a carrying case. A minimum of 80 PSI is required to use this unit. As one of the cheaper air nailers, it’s nice that a working safety is included to prevent injury form misuse. There are also a lot of misfires from this unit, which means it is quite picky about the brand of nails it uses. Durability wasn’t a top priority with this unit, and it is noticeably a lot more flimsy than other Porter-Cable products. The entire construction seems cheaply made, especially when compared to their other units. Jamming is also an issue, possibly because the internals mirror the bad quality of the casing. Jamming is easy enough to resolve with the jam release mechanism but is still a pain when you have to do it repeatedly. For users on a budget, this may do the trick in the short term, but it is in no way a long-term solution.
9. NuMax 21 Degree
The second to last air nailer on the list comes with a 1-year warranty and is mid-priced. With features such as depth adjustment, an air filter, and a hardened driver blade, the NuMax SFR2190 21 Degree Framing Nailer is a nice solution to users that don’t want to spend a lot but still want something dependable. The build quality is top notch, and it’s very sturdy even compared to the higher-priced units. Accessories include an air connector, adjustment tools, lubricating oil, and an anti-dust cap. Use it around the house for framing, roofing, wall sheathing, siding installation, wood-box assembly, and fencing. It can handle nails from 2 to 3 ½ inches in size, and has the standard 360-degree exhaust.
Single or contact firing can be controlled with the interchangeable triggers, and with the heat-treated one-piece hardened steel driver blade, buyers will get one of the most efficient units on the list. This is one of the heavier units, though, so be prepared to feel the weight of the full 10 pounds. When using 21-degree full-head nails, despite the weight concerns, this is still one of the better buys on the list. This tool can be picky about the air compressors it’s used with, so a good air compressor is recommended with this unit. Trying to get by with a low-tier air compressor will make the unit malfunction and waste your day. There is also no rafter hook, but small oversights like this make it a suitable backup air nailer rather than a primary. If using as a backup air nailer, it does the job. Anything more, and there may be some regret on the buyer’s end.
10. Hitachi 18-Gauge
Last on the list is the Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Brad Nailer, another low priced solution with the option for a single-button bump fire or sequential fire mode. Handling the unit is easy during long work hours due to the elastomer grip, which also prevents slippage. Jams are handled by the tool-less system, making it easy to clear rogue nails from the unit without a long work stoppage. For users on bigger projects, the depth of drive dial is an important premium feature that is included with the unit and easy to use. It comes with a case and removable nose cap. The bottom loading magazine is unique to this model and handles 100 brad nails of 5/8–2 inches in length.
As a budget unit, it also has another premium feature: a view of how many nails are in the magazine while it’s in use. It amazingly only weighs 2.2 pounds, and when paired with an air compressor of 70–120 PSI, it still maintains one of the strongest performances on the list. The warranty is incredible, spanning 5 years even though it’s limited. And for the beginner, safety glasses are included in the complete set. This is a really good deal, especially with the 30-day money back guarantee. It offers a range of accessories and features with a guarantee that instills confidence. It’s not the best on the list, but at the current price it’s the best in that range.
Make note of the size of your project and the accessories that come with the unit. Considering that some units don’t even come with sample nails, that’s an extra purchase you have to think about. There is also some concern about using a backup air nailer in place of a primary one. The list clearly defines the big-project leaders, and the ones that should only be used in smaller situations. With a good understanding of your project needs, you can come away with a great air nailer that you’ll have for years. If you are looking for other air tools, read more about them here.