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Choosing the best brad nailers for your woodworking project doesn’t have to be a complicated process. With a little effort and some foresight, you can select a nail gun that offers you plenty of function with all the features you are looking for, so you can complete that cabinet construction or molding installation in no time.
To help you narrow down your selection, we’ve reviewed four of the top 18 gauge brad nailers on the market today. Don’t make your nail gun purchase before you read up on this buying guide about what makes a great brad nailer and which model we recommend.
- Our Brad Nailer Reviews
- Best Brad Nailer Overall: Bostitch BTFP12233 Smart Point 18-Gauge Nailer
- Best Brad Nailer for the Money: Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge Nailer
- Best Cheap Brad Nailer: Makita AF505N 18-Gauge Nailer
- Best Cordless Brad Nailer: DEWALT DCN680B 18-Gauge Nailer
- Dewalt DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge Nailer
- What are Brad Nailers?
- Brad Nailer Features to Consider
Our Brad Nailer Reviews
Keeping all these factors in mind, we have selected the best brad nailers for our review, all of which utilized 18 gauge nails. Each offers its own benefits and provides plenty of distinct features that will make easy work out of your wood projects.
Read on to see how we rated these 18 gauge brad guns and to find out which one we think is the best product on the market.
It’s also worth noting that there can be a lot of confusion between the different types of nail guns out there. If you’re still doing your research, you might want to FIRST nail down which type of nailer you need (pun intended):
Best Brad Nailer Overall: Bostitch BTFP12233 Smart Point 18-Gauge Nailer
Weighing in over 2 pounds, the BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point 18GA is a savvy tool that can be used on a variety of wood surfaces. It has triggered operation and a Dial-A-Depth Adjustment Control that allows you to countersink nails with precision. It can be used with an 18 gauge brad that ranges from 5 8 to 2-1/8 inches.
A smaller nose tip has been integrated into the model that has been combined with its Smart Point Technology for more accurate 18 gauge brad nail placement. Jams are a breeze to take care of with the jam clearing release mechanism that does not require tools.
Operation of the Bostitch BTFP12233 uses an oil-free motor for maintenance-free operation. You can also select from sequential or contact operation of the device, allowing you to select the performance preference that works best for you and the job you are working on.
You’ll also enjoy the carrying case that this model comes with as well as the additional accessories such as the belt hook, sample fasteners, air fitting, and no-mar tips. It has a 100 brad nail magazine capacity and is sideloaded.
This Bostitch has an operating pressure of 70-120 PSI, an 1/4 in Air Inlet, and does include several no-mar tips to use. You receive a 7-year manufacturer’s warranty with this 18 gauge brad nailer, which is far and above any other nailer warranty we’ve found.
When you’re looking for a great nail gun, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than the Bostitch. This pneumatic brad nailer ranks at the top of our list.
- Tool-free Depth Adjustment Control
- 5/8 to 2 1/8 inches
- 1/4 in Air Inlet
- 100 Nail Magazine Capacity
- 70-120 PSI
- 5.5 lbs
- 7-year warranty
- SMART POINT TECHNOLOGY: Easy nail placement due to a smaller nose and no need to compress the...
- DRIVES: 18 GA Brad Nails from 5/8" to 2-1/8" length.
- TOOL-FREE JAM RELEASE MECHANISM: For easy nail removal.
Best Brad Nailer for the Money: Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge Nailer
The Hitachi NT50AE2 is a capable brad nailer that you’ll get plenty of use out of. This nail gun weighs in at 2.2 lbs, making it a very efficient and convenient device to use. It can be used with 18-gauge brad nails from 5 8 to 2 inches in length. It also has an elastomer rubber grip to prevent slipping during operation.
You can easily remove jammed brads from the nose without the use of any tools, with the jam clearing mechanism. The Selective Actuation feature allows you to decide if you want contact fire operation. This is activated by flipping a switch.
Countersinking nails can be achieved by using the dial-in depth adjustment option, so you get the exact finish you are looking for with your brad nails.
A high magazine capacity has been integrated into the Hitachi NT50AE2 brad nailer. It has a magazine capacity of 100 brad nails, depending on the size of the nail, which is loaded from the bottom of the tool. A nice feature of this brad nailer is its visual nail indicator that lets you know when you need to reload.
This brad nailer also includes a 360-degree rear exhaust vent and removable nose cap – both designed to increase the life of the tool. This brad nailer features an aluminum body and comes with a no-mar nose cap to provide additional protection. The operating pressure of the brad nailer is 70-120 psi, and a protective case is included. The Hitachi comes with a 5-year warranty as well.
- 5/8 to 2 inches length
- 100 Nail Magazine Capacity
- Tool-free Depth adjustment option
- 70-120 PSI
- Rubber Grip
- 2.2 lbs
- 5 year warranty
- Hitachi Power Tools has renamed to Metabo HPT. Same great tools, with only a new name.
- Selective Actuation allows the user to select bump fire or contact fire modes with the simple flip...
- At only 2.2 pounds, this finish nailer is lightweight & well balanced making it easy to use all day...
Best Cheap Brad Nailer: Makita AF505N 18-Gauge Nailer
The Makita AF505N offers plenty of capability that can be used with 18-gauge brad nails with lengths from 5 8 to 2 inches.
This brad nailer features a narrow nose to get into tight areas with ease and clears jams with a tool-free jam clearing mechanism. This brad nailer is simple to operate with a dial-in depth adjustment so you can countersink brads as needed.
It has a non-marring rubber nose as well as bumpers that prevent damage to your wood surface. The nose piece has been cast and machined for added durability and precision when driving brad nails into wood.
A multi-directional rear exhaust port allows you to point the rear exhaust away from you and your wood project, so it’s less likely you need to use a dust mask with this adjustable exhaust.
You’ll appreciate the tool hook this brad nailer comes with as it has 180 degrees of rotation. It also features a nail reload indicator window notification, so you know when it’s time to reload a magazine of brad nails. The capacity on the specific model is 100 nails, while the operating pressure is 60 to 115 psi, and the weight of the unit is over 2 pounds. Makita provides a 5-year warranty.
- 5/8 to 2 inches length
- 100 Nail Capacity
- 60-115 PSI
- Rubber Grip
- 3 lbs
- 5 year warranty
- Narrow nose design allows easy nailing access in confined areas
- "Tool less” quick release cam lock opens nail guide assembly to easily clear jammed nails;...
- Easy to use "tool less" depth adjustment dial for a wide variety of finish applications
Best Cordless Brad Nailer: DEWALT DCN680B 18-Gauge Nailer
Weighing a little over 7 pounds, the DEWALT DCN680B has to be our pick for the best cordless brad nailer.
This machine features an 18-gauge nails depth of drive with up to 5 8 to 2 inches long with speeds as fast as 5 nails per second. It features both sequential operations and bumps operating mode with a 110 nail magazine capacity, for one-at-a-time nail work and high-speed operations respectively.
This brad nailer is perfectly suited to trim and cabinet workers who install baseboards, moldings, door and window panels, casings and jambs. This brad nailer can drive nails with 70-120 PSI through hard and softwood, plywood, among other wood varieties.
The brad nailer’s notable features include its narrow tapered nose for getting into tight spaces, and its contact lock-off system, a trigger disabling feature for added safety. Jams won’t be an issue either as this nailer has a swing-open nose piece for easy to use and removal of brads.
Included in this kit is an 18 volt XRP NiCad battery, a fast charger, a reversible belt hook, safety goggles for operation, and a plastic storage case. A three-year limited warranty is also provided by Dewalt upon purchase of this brad nailer, along with a two-year limited service contract for the battery.
- 5 8 to 2 inches length
- 110 Nail Capacity
- 70-120 PSI
- 7.4 lbs
- 3 year limited warranty
- Diagnostics with LED indicator Communicates battery charge status: charged
- Automatic shut-off protects excessive discharge of vehicle's battery
- Maximum initial battery voltage (measured without a workload) is 20 volts. Nominal voltage is 18
Dewalt DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge Nailer
Rounding out our corded nailers is the DEWALT DWFP12231. This Dewalt DWFP12231drives 18-gauge brad nails with a depth of drive of 5 8 to 2-inch length. This brad nailer has an oil-free motor for easier maintenance of the tool and comes with a tool-free depth adjustment that allows you to countersink nails without having to adjust the device manually.
Jams are easily removed with the release mechanism of this brad nailer without the need for a tool. The rear exhaust of the Dewalt DWFP12231 brad nailer is out of your way and away from your wood surface.
Along with the adjustable exhaust, The Dewalt DWFP12231’s constructed of magnesium, keeping its weight to a minimum. The sequential operation of the brad nailer is standard along with a 100 nail capacity.
A non-marring nose tip is included with the Dewalt DWFP12231 brad nailer as well as an adjustable belt hook to keep the tool near you as you work. A carrying case is also provided. Dewalt brings a 3-year limited warranty upon sale.
- 5/8 inch to 2 inches length
- 100 Nail Capacity
- 70-120 PSI
- 5.1 5 lbs
- 3 year warranty
- Long life maintenance-free motor to keep from staining the work surface
- Tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment with detents for proper setting of nail heads
- Tool-free jam release mechanism for easy nail removal
What are Brad Nailers?
These products gets their name or brad nailers, specifically from the type of nails it uses, which in turn makes it super easy to use and remember what you will be loading into it.
Nail Gauge Level
Brad nails are a thinner gauge nail that has a smaller heel. This is a benefit for builders because the small nail heel means that you don’t need to cove the entry hole with wood putty.
When it comes to knowing more about nails, you should be familiar with the gauge levels. The gauge refers to the diameter of the nail, it’s thickness.
Similar to how you would gauge electrical wires, the larger the gauge number, the thinner the nail is. Thicker nails have a lower number such as 16 to 15 gauge.
Brad nails commonly come in sizes ranging from 15, 16, 18, and 23 gauge. However, for most, 18-gauge is a perfect size, which is why we focus on the top-rated brad gun in our reviews.
Brad Nailer Features to Consider
Depending on the model of brad nailers you select, you’ll have a range of options to choose from that can make your wood projects a little easier to bear.
We’ve listed the most important features you need to consider when investing in the best nailers for your workshop that will go best with your saws. This will prevent you from purchasing a gun that does not offer all the capabilities you are looking for. These key factors are great to know before you purchase a brad nailer so that you know what is compatible with what you need to use the tool for as well as what each feature really means.
You need to have some idea of the preferred nail size that you intend to use most often. Most nailers offer a range of brad lengths so you can use the tool for more than one application.
The big decision comes down to whether you want your nailer to cap out at 2″ long brads or 2 1/8″ long brads. While the difference in length seems very minimal, it can affect what you are able to do with the tool.
Some models cap out at 2″, while others cap at the longer 2 1/8″.
In the end, if possible, opt for a model that can handle the longer length. Some brad nailers that say they are 2″ actually end up being a little longer, so this ensures that your model can handle these.
Narrow nose options allow you to get into tight corners without struggling. A narrow nose design also allows for more precise nailing, giving you a more pristine look as you work.
To give you the best perspective, when you are using brad nailers, you are firing pretty tiny nails. If the nose of the gun that you are using is large in diameter, then you could end up being more off than precise.
Choosing a smaller nose with your brad nailer will allow you to better pinpoint where your nail is driven into. It can be a lot more accurate for projects that you need to place the nail in an already marked spot.
Weight is also an important feature in your nailer. Because you will be holding this tool for an extended period of time, you want a device that feels comfortable in your hand and is lightweight.
Many brad nailers have an aluminum body which reduces the overall weight and helps with exhaustion and fatigue as you work.
The type of brad nailers that you purchase will also factor in with the overall weight as you will see next as we discuss pneumonic and cordless options.
Pneumatic vs Cordless Brad Nailers
When you are shopping for brad nailers, there are two main power options that you can choose from: the corded pneumatic version and a cordless battery operated one.
Pneumatic Brad Nailers
A mouthful of a word, pneumatic basically means that the nailer derives its power from an air compressor. The compressed air is what provides the power that drives the brad into the material.
- More powerful
- Cheaper by itself
- Rubber Grip
This type of nail gun is also lightweight compared to the battery-powered versions. If you will be holding this tool for long periods of time then you will want to find something that has a good rubber grip and won’t wear down your wrists and arms with long periods of use.
Pneumatic brad nailers are a lot more powerful than cordless nailers, which seems pretty obvious. Believe it or not, pneumatic brad nailers are also significantly cheaper, especially if you already have an air compressor.
If you don’t have an air compressor, then that levels the playing field a bit. Purchasing an air compressor can cost a bit more out of pocket, so that is something to keep in mind as you are searching for brad nailers.
- Requires an air compressor
- Attached Hose makes it hard to climb ladders/stairs
Cordless Brad Nailer
On the other hand, cordless nail guns are relatively self-explanatory. These pneumatic nailers are a great option for contractors and DIY specialists who need to be able to move around freely while they are working.
- Easy to use and travel with
- No hoses to tangle as you move
- No additional purchase for using this nailer
Cordless nail guns will come with a rechargeable battery so that you don’t need to go out and make any additional purchases in order to begin using it. However, if you know that you will be using your nailer for longer periods of time, then having an extra battery or two gives you non-stop working abilities. Simply keep one charging while you use the other, then switch once the one you are using dies.
Also, not having a cord gives you more freedom to move around with your nail gun. You don’t have to stay in a confined location or have to bring an air compressor with you if you move to a different area or level.
While the pneumatic brad nailer boasts a more powerful drive, you will still be able to successfully drive nails into your projects without trouble. The biggest drawback cordless brad nailers face is that they are heavier due to the additional batteries’ weight.
- Heavier to hold
- The battery will need recharging
When it comes to choosing between these two great options, you need to figure out what you will be using your nail gun for and how much you need to be able to move around the workspace with it. Also if you already own an air compressor then that can make the decision much easier.
Manufacturers also make electric nail guns specifically designed for brad nails. However, we don’t really recommend electric nail guns… they are more expensive than pneumatic but lack the convenience of a cord-free option.
When you are selecting one of these nail guns to add to your toolkit, looking for a model that has some safety features that can help prevent an accident from occurring.
Tool-free Jam Release System
Jams will happen, this key feature allows you to remove a jammed nail without needing extra tools to get it open and back to use.
This jam release system also works by keeping you safe while you are releasing a jammed nail.
Always take precautions while you are working on a nail gun by using OSHA safety precautions. Never face a nail gun towards you or anyone else in the event of a misfire. Also, turn nail guns off or unplug them from any power sources if you have to work out a jam or other problem.
Built-in LED lights are super handy to have, even if you don’t think you will use them all the time. This bright features can help give you a better view when you are working in tight spaces, hard to see corners and in dim settings where there is little to no lighting.
Even if you can see pretty well, the shining LED lights can give you a clearer view of where you are driving the brad nail, which can be helpful for a beginner or still advancing power tool users.
We consider the dry-fire lockout a must-have when you are searching for the best nailer. While you are working, you may not take notice of how many nails you have left inside of the nail gun.
When you fire the gun without a nail in the chamber, this can cause damage to occur to the insides of your nail gun, especially if you are using a higher-powered option. The dry-fire lockout feature won’t allow you to fire the nail gun when there is no nail in the chamber, reducing the chances of breaking or internally damaging your nail gun.
Having this feature also lets you know when you are out of nails so that you aren’t continuing down a line of driving nails, without realizing that you have been out for some time.
Dial-in Depth Adjustment
Because you also may need to countersink brads as you work, having a nail gun that allows for dial-in depth adjustment makes the process easier and safer for your kids to work on your projects with you.
The dial-in depth adjustment is also really easy to locate and turn so that you can adjust as needed without having to struggle to find the knob. The only drawback of the tool-free depth adjustment is that sometimes this knob when located on the nose, it can get a dust buildup that makes it difficult to turn.
To counteract this issue, just wipe your nail guns nose after each use to prevent dust from settling in and around the knob of the tool-free depth adjustment.
Always choose a brad nailer that comes with a warranty. Many manufacturers offer multiple year warranties that provide you coverage. This will give you plenty of protection should you have an issue with it over time.
Oil Free Motor
Having an oil free motor means that you won’t have to deal with the added mess of adding oil to your nail gun.
If you already work with putting oil in your other power tools and workshop items, then this may not be a big deal. However, for the occasional DIYer having an oil free motor may be more preferable since this isn’t something you are going to use on a daily basis.
Remembering to check/add oil can be something that slips your mind if you only pick up the nail gun once a month or so.
The above features are the various things you should consider as you read through brad nailer reviews. However, we think these not as monumental add ons are just the icing on the cake when it comes to finding your next nail gun.
Even if you aren’t traveling with your nail gun, a case is a great thing to have. It allows you to have a specific storage place for your nail gun as well as offering it protection from the elements and everyday dust gathering.
For contractors, a case protects your nail gun while it is not in use. Making sure that it it not damaged as you are travelling or while you are on the job.
While you don’t need a case for your nail gun, it is a great perk to consider.
Either a fuller rubber or just a rubber tip on the nose is a great precaution. This gives your wood extra protection from any minor scratches or scrapping that can happen when you are using a nail gun.
While the minor scratches are a normal part of any building project they can easily be covered by paint, sealing and other finishes. Having a rubber nose tip may not be the deciding factor on your choice of a brad nailer however, we think it’s a great added benefit on any one that you choose.
Most pneumatic nailers on the market should come with a belt hook so that you can place it on your side while you still need it, but need your hands free for a few minutes.
This can be very handy when it comes to climbing ladders, having to pause to work on another project or if you need to relocate with other items.
At the end of the day, make sure that you’ve considered the applications you’re going to need the nail gun for, and that this nail gun is best for you (not its close sibling the pin nailer).
When it comes to selecting the best model for you, we recommend the BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point 18GA Brad Nailer. This versatile tool allows for plenty of performance while also offering all the features that we think are important in a nail gun.
After reading this buying guide, you’ll do well adding this model to your toolbox and get plenty of use out of having it on hand. We give it high marks and recommend it for your woodworking projects.