Brad nailers are excellent tools that are useful for a wide range of wood and renovation projects
However, like all good power tool products there’s a large number of Brad nailers available. From pneumatic to battery powered cordless, as well as different power grades and brands.
So what is the best brad nailer for your needs?
In typical Sharpen-Up style we have dived right in to give you the answer. In the table below you will find our top picks the two main category of brad nailer you can buy.
For a dedicated buyer’s guide and full in depth reviews of each of our choices, keep on reading.
Electric Brad Nailers – Top 3
|TOP PICK||1. DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt Brad Nailer Kit||Check Price|
|RUNNER UP||2. PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA 20V MAX Lithium Cordless Brad Nailer Kit||Check Price|
|3. Ryobi P854 ONE Plus 18V Cordless Brad Nailer Kit||Check Price|
Pneumatic Brad Nailers – Top 3
|TOP PICK||1. Hitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer Combo Kit (Including Compressor)||Check Price|
|RUNNER UP||2. PORTER-CABLE PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit||Check Price|
|3. DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic Brad Nailer Kit||Check Price|
Brad Nailer Buyer’s Guide
What is a brad nailer & when you should use one?
Before we jump into the review section, let’s just quickly clarify what a brad nailer is.
In essence the brad nailer is a lighter duty nail gun (when compared to the finish nailer) that is designed to punch 18-gauge nails (also known as Brads) between 5/8 inches to 2 inches.
The reduced impact of the brad nailer makes them ideally suited to smaller wood projects, upholstery and other work that requires greater intricacy.
The brads maybe small, however the hole that they leave is also small while still having the capability to hold materials nice and fast.
Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer
The main difference between brad nailers and finishing nailers is size.
Another fundamental difference is the fact the nail magazine on a brad nailer is not angled as with finishing and framing nailers.
Furthermore, there is the use of brads instead of nails. Brads are essentially a thinner gauge nail that offer a much less brutal application, (hence good for delicate work).
One of the advantages of using a brad nailer vs finish nailer comes from the fact the head of a brad is smaller. This means wood putty does not need to be used to cover up the entry hole.
The smaller gauge also means there is less chance of the wood splitting. This is especially beneficial when attaching thin trim to wood.
The Different Types of Brad Nailer
Now we have clarified what a brad nailer is and what they are used for, let’s take a look at the different types of brad nailer you can buy.
The Pneumatic (Air) Brad Nailer
The pneumatic brad nailer is a popular nailing solution that, as the name suggests, uses air pressure to power the nail punching mechanism.
This does mean that a small portable air compressor has to be used alongside the brad nailer.
You should not be put off by this however. Many brad nailers come complete with a small compressor and they by no means break the bank.
(They also come in kit form, with brad, finishing and framing nailers supplied – making for an all round nailing solution at what are often competitive prices).
One of the main reasons people opt for pneumatic brad nailers is there simple efficiency. They are reliable, and provide a professional finish without little fuss.
If you decide to buy an air brad nailer you need to consider the various powers available, and the capacity of mini air compressor that you will be using.
We will explore these details further on. But first let’s take a look at the other brad nailer option available.
The Electric Brad Nailer
The electric brad nailer uses an electric motor to shoot the brad nails through the material.
Like the pneumatic powered nailer these are powerful, easy to use and provide a reliable neat finish.
However, one disadvantage of the electric brad nailer is the fact the motor to power the system is generally housed within the handle of the tool.
The result of this can make the nailer more cumbersome to use than the lighter air nailer.
On the plus side of course is the fact you do not need a small air compressor buzzing away as you work, or the attachment hose that can get in the way.
Electric brad nailers can also come in cordless, battery powered models that have the added benefit of being very portable, (again these are heavier to hold due to all the workings being in the main tool).
Portability and weight are the main considerations when choosing an pneumatic brad nailer over an electric one.
Choosing The Best Brad Nailer
Now its time to look at the various features you can expect to find and the specifications you should look out for when buying a top rated brad nailer.
The Nail Size
Nearly all brad nails are 18 gauge.
Most nailer guns of this type are designed to use brads from ¾ inches up to 2 inches in length.
This range is a specification you should look out for. If your chosen brad nailer fall short in this regard, you may want to look elsewhere.
If you specifically wish to be using longer brads, you will want to ensure the gun has the capacity for it.
Nailer Nose Size
Another important spec is nose length.
With the brads being so thin, the length and diameter of the nose on the nailer will help with your overall accuracy.
A too large a nose will make it difficult to line up the entry point exactly where you want it.
A nail gun with a nose small enough to hit the spot where you wish to fire is what you need to look out for.
Easy Depth Adjustment
A system to easily change the depth that the brad is shot into the material is a vital feature.
To this end, the brad nailer you choose should have a tool-free adjustment so that you can work fast and efficiently.
Consistency and reliability is a key factor here. Brad nailer reviews from actual customers as well as industry comment can help you ascertain just how well a tool works in this regard.
Brad Loading Mechanism
The way the brads are loaded into the gun is another important consideration.
Top quality brad nailers use magnetic strips to hold brads in position. These are easy to load and hold everything in place without frustration on the part of the user, (there’s nothing worse than spilling brads all over the floor when trying to place them into the nailer cartridge).
A swivel attachment is a feature you should look out for, especially on a pneumatic nailer. It basically keeps the hose and cords clear of the penetration area as you work.
Adjustable Belt Hook
An adjustable belt hook is a simple addition to the brad nailer that allows you to clip your nailer onto your belt or over the side of a suitable support when you are not using it.
The Brand of the Nail Gun
There are many leading brands that have released brad nailer products.
Some are more expensive than others, however brand reputation is an important factor in the buying decision with many people buying models from brands they are already accustomed with.
Leading names such as Hitachi, DeWalt, Porter Cable and Bostitch have all released well received brad nailers.
You can also find products from the likes of Ryobi, Senco, Craftsman and Bosch. Other well known power tool manufacturers such as Grex, Freeman and Milwaukee have also built nailer guns for the consumer and professional markets alike.
Warranty & After Sale Service
Finally, when on the lookout to buy a brad nailer gun you should consider the level of warranty and after sales service you can expect to receive.
This will depend on the brand of course, but ensure you read the small print on the terms to fully understand what the manufacturer is offering.
Electric Brad Nailer Reviews
1. TOP PICK: DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit
The DEWALT DC608K cordless brad nailer gets our top pick electric option for a number of reasons.
Not only does do you get the reliability of the DeWalt brand, the tool also provides precision functionality of the speed and ease you would expect to get from pneumatic nailing.
A big plus is the level of portability you get with the DC608K. For an electric model, the system is relatively light (weighing in at a mere 7.4 pounds) while still packing the power you need.
The brad depth capacity ranges from 5/8 inch to 2 inches. Nice. What’s more, you can shoot out up to 5 brads a second using this tool.
And of course, with this being an electric powered nail gun, there’s not a cumbersome compressor or attachment hose getting in the way.
The box-style magazine holds 110 brads. This unit also has the benefit of being designed to seal out dust and debris, (increasing the tool’s reliability as a result).
Nose size is good too.
Dewalt have added a narrow, tapered nose that is capable of fitting into tight spaces for those ultra intricate jobs.
The tool features two operating modes. There’s the sequential mode that allows for one-at-a-time nailing.
For faster results there is the high-speed bump firing mode.
Other great features include the precise depth-control mechanism and safety contact lock-off that allows the trigger to be disabled.
There’s also a well thought out swing-open nosepiece for clearing jams and the all important reversible belt hook – basically everything we cited as being important within the buyer’s guide is here on the DC608K.
The main DC608K 18-volt 18-gauge brad nailer kit comes complete with 1 x 18-volt XRP NiCad battery, a one-hour charger the reversible belt hook, a pair of safety glasses and plastic storage case.
- Cordless: Yes
- Volts: 18
- Nail Diameter (gauge): 18
- Nail Length (in.): 5/8in. to 2in.
- Magazine Capacity (qty.): 110
- Jam Clearing: Yes
- Tool Length (in.): 11 ½
- Tool Weight (lbs.): 7.4 lbs.
To top it all off, Dewalt throw in their highly competitive three-year limited warranty alongside a 90-day money-back guarantee.
There is also a two-year service contract on the XRP battery. Happy days.
Pros of the DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit
- Relatively Lightweight (7.4 pounds), cordless option for maximum portability
- Sequential operating mode for precision placement or bump operating mode for faster results
- Magazine has 110 brad load capacity – (18 gauge nails from 5/8-inch to 2-inch)
- Easy access to the nosepiece for the removal of jammed nails.
- Contact Trip Lock-Off allows trigger to be disabled when not in use.
- Powerful XRP battery with one hour charger
- The DC608K is the most expensive brad nailer out of our electric top picks.
Overall the Dewalt DC608K is the electric brad nailer you should buy. It packs in some great features and has the versatility you need for excellent results.
Add that to the portable, cordless functionality and the extensive warranty and you have a tool that ticks all the right boxes. Top marks once again to Dewalt.
2. PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA, 20V MAX Lithium, Cordless Brad Nailer Kit (Includes Battery and Charger)
Another nail gun worthy of our top rated review round up is the PCC790LA from Porter-Cable.
This brad nailer kit utilises a 20V MAX Lithium battery for 100% cordless operation, (portability is the name of the game here with no compressor, hoses or gas cartridges in sight).
Because the main tool has to hold all the power providing mechanisms, (as well as the battery), Porter-Cable have prioritised a lightweight design with a good centre of gravity.
The PCC790LA balances well in the hand making extended periods of use more than possible without fatigue.
Like our top pick Dewalt, the Porter-Cable has a fastening length capacity using 18 gauge brads of 5/8″ to 2″.
The magazine capacity is slightly less when compared to the DC608K, with 100 brads harnessed at any one time.
However, the nailer does feature a sequential firing mode and also has a safety trigger lock.
Tool-free operations such as the release lever, jam release and depth adjustment wheel are all big plus points.
Porter-Cable also provide an extensive 3 year limited warranty, with the company promising to repair any defects (due to faulty materials or manufacturing) without charge.
A 1.5 Ah 20V MAX Lithium-ion battery and charger are also included within the brad nailer kit.
Pros of the PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA 20V MAX Lithium 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit
- Cordless electric brad nailer kit that is fully battery-powered, (no compressor, hoses or cords required).
- Easy depth adjustment wheel – countersink nails can be achieved with consistently.
- Tool-free release lever and jam release for fast efficient work
- Sequential firing mode for greater precision.
- Powerful battery included – 20V MAX Lithium-ion battery lasts longer than NiCad
- 3 year limited warranty
- Despite Porter-Cable focusing on ergonomics and the overall balance of the nailer, some users have found it to be on the heavy side to use.
- On the low end of the user review spectrum, customers have experienced faults with the tool and a lacklustre service support – these experiences are very much in the minority however.
Overall the Porter-Cable PCC790LA is a robust brad nailer with some excellent features. Depending on the amount of work you need to do, you may need to consider the weight of the tool before you buy. A highly recommended electric brad nailer solution.
3. Ryobi P854 ONE Plus 18V Cordless Lithium-Ion 2 in. Brad Nailer Kit (Battery & Charger included)
The Ryobi AirStrike Brad Nailer kit is the final top rated choice in our electric nailer review roundup.
This is another 18-gauge capacity nailer, capable of driving nails from 5/8 in. to 2 in. length into your work material.
Ryobi have included a selectable drive switch with the P854 that allows for single sequential firing mode, or contact actuation.
The former makes for precision placement of the nails, while the latter gives you production level speed for faster results.
A rather nice feature that Ryobi have included is the grip-light technology where a small LED switches on once the tool handle is grasped.
Tool-less depth adjustment functionality is there of course, along with a tool-less jam release allowing easy access to malfunctioning nail clearance.
The tool also comes with a low nail indicator. This allows the operator to easily detect when a re-load is required.
A belt hook mount is included for added convenience.
In the Box
The brad nailer kit includes the Ryobi P854 nail gun, 1 x 18-volt compact lithium-ion battery, a Dual Chemistry Charger, 500 1-1/4 in. brad nails and a belt clip.
Pros of the Ryobi P854 ONE Plus 18V Cordless Lithium-Ion 2 in. Brad Nailer Kit
- AirStrike battery powered technology – cordless convenience
- Single sequential actuation mode for precision placement
- Contact actuation for faster results
- Tool-less depth change and nail clearance
- Grip-light technology for illuminating the work area
- Battery and charger included
- The tool is bulky when compared to the other cordless brad nailer options reviewed here.
The airstrike technology is an interesting approach from Ryobi, the P854 is all the better for it.
However, despite having some very competitive features, the bulky design does make for a tool that is not as easy to use as the Dewalt or Porter-cable.
Pneumatic Brad Nailer Reviews
1. TOP PICK: Hitachi KNT50AB Finish Combo Kit (Includes NT50AE2 Brad Nailer + EC710S Compressor)
The Hitachi KNT50AB Combo Kit gets our best pneumatic brad nailer top pick because it represents such good value for money.
The kit contains both a reliable, well constructed 18 gauge brad nailer, as well as the EC710S Pancake Compressor to power everything.
The kit is ideal for intricate finishing work as well as cabinetry projects. Hitachi really have pulled out the stops here.
The 6-gallon 150 max PSI air compressor delivers a sufficient 2.8 CFM at 90 PSI. (The rig can even power multiple nail guns with the correct attachments).
The system works via an oil-free high efficiency pump, meaning less maintenance hassle for you.
The Hitachi NT50AE2 2″ 18-gauge brad nailer, has the power and precision that you would expect for a tool in this price range. It is also lightweight with good balance, (after all, the heavy lifting is being done by the attached compressor).
The supplied 25” x ¼ hybrid hose is durable too. Hitachi have built it to withstand regular use; industrial fittings, spiral reinforcement and heavy duty bend restrictors that remain strong in cold temperatures, all help to ensure the rig will work whatever the conditions.
In the box
- 2″ 18-Gauge Brad Nailer (NT50AE2)
- Portable 6-Gallon Oil-Free Pancake Air Compressor (EC710S)
- 25′ x 1/4″ Hybrid Air Hose (115158)
- Safety Glasses (875769)
- Pneumatic Tool Lubricant (115338).
Pros of the Hitachi KNT50AB Finish Combo Kit (Includes NT50AE2 Brad Nailer + EC710S Compressor)
- A great kit where every component performs well: reliable Brad Nailer, strong durable connecting hose and powerful compressor.
- 150 PSI of max working pressure for longer run times
- 8 CFM delivered at 90 PSI to operate multiple nailers at the same time (depending on application)
- Kit includes safety glasses and pneumatic tool lubricant
- A minority of users have experienced excessive jamming when using the tool
- Considering the price, the quality of the nail gun is not of the level of options such as the Dewalt reviewed below
Overall the Hitachi KNT50AB Finish Combo Kit is everything you can want out of an affordable pneumatic brad nailer. The air gun is lightweight and easy to use, the kit comes with a compressor that has the power you need. Highly recommended.
2. PORTER-CABLE PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit
The Porter-Cable PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit takes things even further than our top pick Hitachi. Here your money will get you a 6-gal 150 psi compressor, standard 16 gauge nailer, 18 gauge brad nailer and heavy duty 3/8inch crown stapler.
In essence, if you are the market for getting an all round kit beyond that of the brad nailer, you would be hard pushed to find a better bargain than this offering from Porter Cable.
Let’s take a look at all those components.
First off, the 150 psi compressor has the ability to work at 2.6SCFM at 90 psi. The maintenance free system weighs only 30lbs, meaning portability isn’t the issue it can sometimes be with pneumatic nail gun options.
To cover the all important capacity specs; the finishing nailer uses standard 16 gauge finish nails (1-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch long), the 2 inch Brad nailer uses 18 gauge brad nails (5/8-Inch to 2-Inch long).
Each of the nailers is fitted with long life maintenance-free motors.
Other important features such as tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment, and tool-free jam release mechanism are all in place too.
And let’s not forget the fact the kit contains a Heavy Duty 3/8″ Crown stapler. The capacity here is 1/4-inch to 9/16-inch nails suitable for multiple applications.
Other included components include 25ft of 1/4-Inch air hose, (complete with coupler and plug), and a belt hook accessory with fasteners so that you can easily mount the nail guns safely on to your person as you work.
Porter-Cable throw in a 1-year limited warranty on compressor components only.
Pros of the PORTER-CABLE PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit
- Excellent value for money. The kit contains not one but two nailers: the FN250SB 16ga 2-1/2-Inch Finish Nailer and the BN200SB, 18ga 2-Inch Brad Nailer.
- There’s also the TSO56 heavy duty 3/8-Inch Crown Stapler
- Porter-Cable also throw in a 6 gal, 150 psi compressor (allows for extended use on a single tank charge)
- Durable 25ft of 1/4-Inch air hose with a coupler and plug
- Belt hook & fastening accessories are also thrown in
- The included warranty is rather limited
The PORTER-CABLE PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit is quite the product bundle. If it wasn’t for the fact this article is concentrating on rounding up the highest quality brad nailers, this combo kit would have got our top pick pneumatic option.
As it stands, if you want to own an air powered brad nailer and are able to stretch the budget to get these other useful tools too, the Porter-Cable is the one to go for. Excellent value for money.
3. DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit
Finally we have the DEWALT DWFP12231 18 gauge, 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit. This does not come with a compressor. However, what you are getting for your money is a high quality brad nailer with professional level features.
Let’s take a closer look.
First off, the well built magnesium body allows for a sturdy construction while being extremely lightweight. Ideal for extended use.
There’s the tool-free depth -of-drive adjustment of course. This delivers precision accuracy and allows for clean detents when setting the nail heads.
Further tool-free mechanisms include the jam release.
The tool is fitted with a rear exhaust so that contaminates are jettisoned away from the main work area.
Capacity is what you would expect from a Brad Nailer. The Dewalt DWFP12231 is designed to accommodate 18 gauge nails from 5/8″ to 2″ in length.
The sequential style trigger allows for precision application of the nails into the material, with the 100 nail magazine capacity giving you ample amount to work with between reloads.
Other well thought out features include the removable non-marring nose tip, integrated rubber anti-slip grip and adjustable belt hook.
The brad nailer kit comes with 500 nails a carry case and owner’s manual.
Pros of the DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit
- Well built, magnesium construction for added durability while remaining lightweight
- Tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment
- Tool-free jam release mechanism
- Rear exhaust to keep contaminates away from work
- A minority of users have experienced jamming when using the DWFP12231
The DEWALT DWFP12231 Pneumatic 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit is the tool to buy if you want a top notch pneumatic brad nailer with all the features for professional level use. While it doesn’t represent the value for money that you get with our other picks, with this you are paying for the superior quality. A worthy addition to our top rated pneumatic nailer list.
Image Credits: Youtube.com/Users: A Concord Carpenter / ToolBoxBuzz, and HANDY: HandymanClub.com, Portercable.com