The 10 Best Brad Nailers in 2020 – Buying Guide And Reviews

A man fitting some wall trim with a brad nailer

Finding a brad nailer isn’t all that hard. But choosing one can be, you should focus on getting the best brad nailer for your needs. A minor difference in engineering can mean major differences during the job.

Let’s dive right in with ten of my favorites, and some extra information to help you end up with the best brad nailer for your next project.

My Top Picks for Best Brad Nailer

There are a lot of brad nailers out there, but not all of them may be right for you. The following is a collection of some of my favorites, and they’re all the perfect fit for someone out there!

If you’re in a hurry here’s a quick run down of my ten picks for the best brad nailer in 2020:

Top Pick – CRAFTSMAN CMCN618C1

For the at-home craftsman, the CMCN618C1 hits the right buttons. It’s a cordless brad nailer, using Craftsmn’s lithium ion 20V max. battery system and has the features needed to make it easy to work with. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but the core function is great.

This brad nailer is ergonomic, but it’s also a bit heavier than expected. It has tool-less adjustments and jam clearing, and a smooth contact tip. The battery is theoretically capable of firing over 400 nails per charge, which depending on the job at hand could easily last all day.

It’s also only capable of firing in a full sequential mode, so bump fire isn’t an option. This could be a pain for jobs that require a large amount of repetitive firing. However it is the safest firing mode as it requires multiple actions to fire a brad.

The Craftsman CMCN6118C1 is a great tool overall, it just comes up a bit short on features that many professionals need. If you’re working on home improvement projects? It’s one of the best you can buy if you don’t need the accessories it lacks.

Power SourceBattery Powered
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inches
Item Weight 5.3 lbs (without battery)
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • High build quality
  • Ergonomic grip and trigger
  • Tool-less adjustments and jam clearing
  • LED work light

Cons

  • Relatively heavy

If you’re looking for a solid nailer, and not worried about the accessories, hop on over and take a look.

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Top Premium Pick – DEWALT DCN680D1

If you’re looking for a high quality cordless brad nailer, then DeWalt is worth a closer look. The DCN680D1 is expensive, but it’s also a professional-level tool that has everything you need right in the box. It also functions off of DeWalt’s 20V max. lithium ion battery system, which is compatible with over 150 tools.

The nailer is solidly built, has a work light, and even comes with a belt/rafter hook. More importantly, for the efficient worker, it also has a bump fire mode. The housing is made of durable material as well, it’s more than strong enough to take the rigors of being on-site for the day.

That said, this is an expensive brad nailer. You may want to give it a pass if you’re not going to regularly use it for just that reason. It’s also a bit heavy and feels unbalanced with the battery it comes with, but a heavier battery will balance the load(and let you shoot more nails per charge).

When it comes down to it, it may be overkill for the weekend warrior. Of course, serious DIYers and professionals will appreciate the wide range of features and great overall quality of this gun.

Power SourceBattery Powered
Magazine Capacity110
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 ⅛ inch
Item Weight 5.3 lbs (without battery)
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Bump fire mode
  • Comes with accessories including belt hook
  • Strong housing
  • Easy adjustments

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can feel imbalanced with standard batteries

Saying it’s the best brad nailer around is a bit of a stretch, but you should check to see if it’s the best nailer for you.

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Top Value Pick – Ryobi P320 Airstrike Cordless Brad Nailer

Weekend warriors will welcome the cheaper Ryobi P320 Airstrike, which is cheap but remains a good cordless brad nailer. It also makes a solid backup if you’re a diehard pneumatic fan, but don’t want to drag out the compressor just to slam a couple of nails in.

The build is rather robust, and it has a belt-hook for convenience. It also has a low nail indicator, which is handy since the gun is capable of bump firing. Despite the 18V battery, it seems to handle most materials without incident as well.

The downsides aren’t too bad, but they are there. The gun jams more often than I’d like, but it seems regular maintenance should keep it to a minimum.

The standard 4 mAh battery also seems to be a bit short-lived compared to other brands. You’re free to find one with more storage if you’d like, especially since this gun is usually sold as a bare tool.

That said, it’s a bit cheaper and it does the job. If you’re looking to maximize your dollar, then this may be your tool after all.

Power SourceBattery Powered
Magazine Capacity105
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 5.0 lbs (without battery)
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Robust build
  • Low nail indicator
  • High-powered for 18V battery
  • Bump fire mode

Cons

  • Eats batteries
  • Gets “sticky” and jams if not maintained

This is a solid option from Ryobi, particularly if you’re on a bit of a budget.

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PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA

Coming in just behind my top picks is the PCC790LA. It’s a lightweight, ergonomic cordless brad nailer that uses a 20V battery. It has some problems, but it’s particularly easy on the hands.

It has the usual suspects in features including an integrated belt hook for convenience. The LED work light is another good feature although it’s oddly placed. It illuminates behind where you’re nailing, so although powerful, could be better designed.

Standard, it comes with a 1.5 mAh battery, which works for small projects but doesn’t have as much capacity as most tool batteries. The grip is the best part, making it easy to maneuver and comfortable to use.

My biggest problem is the protrusion on the right-hand side of the tool, which means you need to lay it down on the right side if you’re not keeping it upright. It also only fires in full sequence, which can be irritating on longer jobs.

Overall, however, it’s a functional cordless brad nailer that’s easy to move around. The drawbacks are relatively minor, and might not matter at all if you’re not using the tool often.

Power SourceBattery Powered
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 5.9 lbs (without battery)
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Excellent ergonomic grip
  • LED work light and integrated belt hook
  • Tool-free depth adjustment wheel.

Cons

  • Housing is asymmetrical
  • No bump firing

It’s worth a closer look for the home DIYer, so take a peek and see if it’s right for your home.

Check Price on Amazon

Bostitch BTFP12233 Brad Nailer

Have a compressor? Then get ready to take a closer look at this brad nailer put out by Bostitch. It’s a simple brad nailer that packs a reliable punch, and discounting the compressor cost it’s a much cheaper option for your workshop.

It fires in both sequential and bump fire modes, which is a nice touch since pneumatic guns are often used for large projects. It also has an improved contact tip over the old designs, making it easier to shoot brad nails with precision. It also has a great profile and weight, beating out even the best cordless nail guns.

Unfortunately, it lacks a dry-fire lockout and the tool-free jam release doesn’t open a full 90°. There’s nothing that can be done about either, but they’re not a huge disadvantage in most situations.

If you have a taste for pneumatic nailers, get a closer look at the BTFP12233. It’s a great little tool, just be aware it has a few inconvenient pieces of design.

Power SourcePneumatic
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 ⅛ inch
Item Weight 3.1 lbs
Warranty 7 year

Pros

  • Powerful pneumatic gun
  • Bump fire mode
  • Excellent contact tip
  • Handles very well
  • 7 year warranty

Cons

  • No dry-fire lockout
  • Access door for jams doesn’t open all the way

Sound good? Rev up your compressor and check it out online.

Check Price on Amazon

Makita AF506 2″ Brad Nailer, 18 Gauge

You’re not limited in options if pneumatics are your bag, but the AF506 should be a prominent one when you’re deciding what to pick. It’s a streamlined, simple tool that has a couple of extras you won’t find on most brad nailers.

The main draw here is a small port that lets you blow dust out of the way while you’re working. It also has an exceptionally narrow nose which works in tight spaces. Everything else about the tool holds up well, it’s very functional overall.

It seems to jam a bit more often than comparable nailers, but regular oiling should take care of that problem. I also feel that the handle could be better, it’s too straight with a lot of stretch for the trigger. It’s especially bad for those with small hands.

If you can overlook those, however, this is a solid tool that has a couple of extra features to make life easier.

Power SourcePneumatic
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 2.9 lbs
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Lightweight, streamlined design
  • Port to clear dust off work surface
  • Micro tip for precision
  • Rugged design

Cons

  • Jams if you’re not on top of maintenance
  • The handle is awkward for small hands

If this sounds like the brad nailer you’re looking for, why not see it on Amazon?

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Metabo NT50AE2 Brad Nailer

Metabo makes what I think is one of the best pneumatic brad nailers currently on the market. It’s capable of both bump-firing and sequential firing modes. That isn’t the best part, however, instead, the thing that caught my attention is a superior no-mar tip.

Most no-mar tips work well enough, but this one does it a bit better. The gun is also easy-to-use, having tool-less adjustments for all the usual suspects. Depth adjustment, freeing up jams, and everything else is easy with this brad nailer.

The one thing I don’t particularly care for is the handle, which is a bit straight. It’s not terrible ergonomics, and the gun is light enough to compensate for the most part. It also lacks a dry-fire lockout.

Overall this is a decent, lightweight nailer that will serve you well. Those prone to tearing things up when doing projects should consider it for the no-mar tip as well.

Power SourcePneumatic
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 2.2 lbs
Warranty 5 year

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy controls for all adjustments
  • Great non-marking tip
  • Capable of bump fire
  • 5 year warranty

Cons

  • The handle could be more comfortable
  • No dry-fire lockout

It’s an easy-handling, 18 gauge pneumatic brad nailer , quite suitable for beginners, take a look online!

Check Price on Amazon

DEWALT Brad Nailer Kit, DWFP12231

As a more affordable, but still premium quality tool, the DWFP12231 stands out. It’s a powerful pneumatic tool, with few frills but excellent function. The gun is well-built, but it does lack some features I’d like to see with it.

The gun itself also has a maintenance-free motor, so there’s no oil needed and there’s no risk of staining the worksurface. All functions are tool-less, and it comes with a nice tool case for transportation. The grip is also nicely formed, much better than the stick grips seen on some nailers.

It’s not that there’s anything bad about it, it just lacks a couple of functions. The exhaust goes out the rear, but can’t be adjusted. There’s also no bump fire mode or dry-fire lockout, although the gun does have an indicator when you’re out of brad nails.

It’s a solid tool, but it lacks some of the modern conveniences one would expect from a modern gun. That still doesn’t take away much, when you’re actually slamming the brad nails home.

Power SourcePneumatic
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size¾ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 3 lbs
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Very good build quality
  • Excellent price
  • Maintenance-free motor
  • Ergonomic handle

Cons

  • No bump fire mode
  • No dry-fire lockout

For a solid, around-the-house tool you should check it out.

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WEN 61720

WEN has put out a great tool here, at least compared to others at the same price point. It even has a surprising amount of features, as long as you can get past the “plastic” feel of the gun.

The WEN has tool-less adjustments, directional exhaust, and a great release for jamming, this is great at this price point. While it’s not a DeWALT it does far better than most budget tools in this price range. It’s also quite easy to load and has a window so you can see how many nails are in it.

The tool doesn’t have the “feel” that high-end tools have, and the grip isn’t the best. It’s also lacking a dry-fire lockout, so keep an eye on the window.

This is the perfect nailer for the weekend warrior on a budget. For professionals and serious hobbyists, it may be worth giving a pass.

Power SourcePneumatic
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size¾ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 3 lbs
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Great value
  • Directable exhaust
  • Window on magazine
  • Tool-free adjustments

Cons

  • Feels a bit cheap
  • No dry-fire lockout

If you’re looking for a budget nailer, you won’t do better. Take a look!

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PORTER-CABLE BN200C

The bare-bones BNC200C still makes our list: it’s the brad nailer I’d recommend for someone with one or two large projects ahead of them. It’s well-suited to occasional heavier use, but professionals may want some of the missing features.

The core functions? They’re excellent. The gun drives nails well, the depth-drive adjustment is easy, and it features a no-oil motor for zero maintenance. It also has dry-fire lockout, to keep you from wasting time on the job.

In my opinion, the grip is a bit subpar. It would also be nice to rotate the exhaust, but it is pointing backward which usually causes few problems.

Power SourcePneumatic
Magazine Capacity100
Min. Fastener Size⅝ inch
Max. Fastener Size2 inch
Item Weight 2.6 lbs
Warranty 3 year

Pros

  • Solid quality
  • Great value for the price
  • Dry-fire lockout
  • No-oil motor

Cons

  • The grip could be much better
  • No control on the exhaust port

In the end: it’s a solid nailer with good build-quality and few extras. I’d recommend it for DIYers who are looking at some large jobs in the near future.

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What to Look for When Choosing the Best Brad Nailer for Your Job.

There’s a lot to swallow when you pick out a brad nailer, but the following information should make it easier for you to make an educated purchase.

​What is a Brad Nailer?

Nailers come in a large variety of sizes and functions, with brad nailers being the second smallest among them. They fire an 18 gauge brad nail.

They’re quite a bit larger than a pin nailer, which is used mostly for veneer and arts-and-crafts projects.

These brad nails aren’t suitable for framing and heavy-duty construction. Instead, they’re most often for smaller projects and they’re useful for many parts of finish carpentry. Thin trim and baseboards are a common use as well.

Unfortunately, they don’t have quite the holding power for heavier projects. That includes crown molding, although professionals often finish the corners with brad nails.

A brad nailer is a great choice if you need to do any of the following:

  • Putting on baseboards
  • Attaching thin trim material to walls
  • Placing durable veneer materials
  • Putting together small-to-medium craft jobs like birdhouses
  • Joining any thin cut wood pieces together

Is a Brad Nailer the Same as a Finish Nailer?

Brad nailers are similar to finish nailers but not quite the same thing. The difference is in the size of the fasteners that each uses.

Brads are 18 gauge nails, which equates to about 1mm. The 16 gauge nails used by a finishing nailer, on the other hand, are just shy of 1.3mm. While it seems like a small difference, the truth is that’s a 30% increase in diameter for the nails, and finishing nailers are used for heavier tasks.

A finishing nailer is a better choice for thick molding, heavy baseboards, cabinets, and other thick joinery that isn’t framing work.

Types of Brad Nailer: Pneumatic vs Electric

There are two kinds of power systems for your nailer.

Pneumatic brad nailers require an air compressor to use. They’re often much less expensive than electrical options, and as long as the compressor is feeding they’ll work. They’re the original in this case, and they’re often used by professionals.

Electric brad nailers on the other hand are more convenient. They allow you to ignore the requirements for an air compressor and battery-operated models can go anywhere. Brad nailers which use batteries are the most expensive, but also the easiest to use. No hoses, no ords, just a person and their nailer.

Professionals prefer pneumatic nailers in most cases. However modern electric models often have comparable performance. Some brands have even begun to prepare for the shift.

If you already have an air compressor, pneumatic tools are the obvious choice. If not, you should consider going electric. The combined cost of a good air compressor and a nailer usually beats out a cordless brad nailer, so plan accordingly.

Weight And Size

Brad nailers aren’t prohibitively heavy, even the biggest of them are still easy to handle.

However, on longer tasks an extra pound or two makes a huge difference. For the most part, pneumatic guns will be the lightest, followed by plug-in nailers. Battery-operated models are heavier than both since you’ll be carrying the entire power source with you.

Brad nailers usually have negligible recoil, but lighter guns will be affected more by it.

Size also matters. Smaller guns will fit in tighter areas and are more precise. Larger guns may not fit everywhere.

You’ll have to cut a balance to get the ideal gun for your needs.

Magazine Capacity

Brad nailers have a magazine that holds fasteners and loads them as you work. For most brad nailers, the magazine is located in front of the trigger and is entirely vertical.

So the only difference that matters is how many brads said magazine can hold.

Brad nailer magazines usually hold 100+ brads, with the leading brands carrying 110 or so.

What’s more important is a magazine that’s constructed in a way to allow all of the nails to be fired before you need to reload. Often nailers will have trouble with the last few, so keep an eye out for reports the tool doesn’t like to empty it’s entire mag before needing to be reloaded.

Noise/Decibels

Sounds levels are important when choosing most tools.

The average pneumatic 18 gauge nailer, with no modifications, hits right about 100dBa. That’s loud, but it’s not “immediate pain” loud. Hearing protection should still be worn on jobs that require multiple nails, especially if you’re working indoors.

Your compressor is more likely to be a source of hearing damage. Check the manufacturer ratings, but you really should use hearing protection if you’re running a compressor. OSHA requires them for prolonged exposure to anything over 70dB. Most compressors run at least 80dB and some simple earplugs will help protect your hearing without hampering you.

Keep in mind that decibels don’t increase linearly. Instead every 10dB the perceived sound is roughly doubled.

Electric guns are a little bit quieter, but not by much since a lot of the noise is generated by the brad piercing the workpiece and slamming home. There’s no such thing as a “quiet” nail gun, but some are a bit quieter than others.

Ergonomics

Nailers are often used for extended periods of time, which means the handling of the gun makes a big difference. A gun that is rough to use will make your project much harder, and it will be more painful on your wrists as well.

Look for guns with molded grips that fit fingers, as opposed to a straight bar with padding. It’s doubly important if you already have some sort of injury or condition in your upper body. A good grip can make work faster and less painful, so there’s no downside to finding a brad nailer that fits your grip and has the right angle for ease-of-use.

Features to Look For

Now that you’ve got the important stuff covered, there are a few minor things to keep an eye out for.

Nail Loading

Some guns are easier to load than others. For a smaller job, it may not matter much. Most brad nailers will shoot at least 100 brads before they need to be reloaded.

On the other hand, larger jobs will go more smoothly if the gun has an easier way to reload.

Tool-Free Jam Release

Nailers jam. All of them, at one point or another.

Being able to free the jam without needing tools is common these days. The most common jam release mechanism is a release lever which allows your to open a door to access the jam. They’re pretty essential unless you’d like to disassemble the nailer and pull the jam apart manually.

Just make sure that the gun you’re looking at has it, or jams will become a major hassle rather than a minor one.

Contact Tip

The contact tip of the gun can come in a few different shapes but they’re mostly interchangeable.

If you’ll be working in particularly tight areas you should look for a smaller contact tip, but otherwise, it’s a non-issue.

Depth Adjustment

Depth-adjustment is a common feature, saving you from tweaking the air system on a nailer to get the right depth.

Having one is important, but it should also be easy to work. Thumb dials, for instance, can easily be used even while you’re on a ladder. On the other hand, depth is often the same for an entire job so anything that’s remotely convenient is fine.

Sequential / Bump Fire Mode Adjustment

A sequential nail gun needs to be pressed to the surface, the trigger pulled then trigger released. Then the contact tip fully removed from the surface in between nails. You then repeat the sequence to place another fastener.

Bump-firing, on the other hand, just involves holding the trigger and pressing the contact tip to the area. Each time the tip is pressed, you should have another nail in the workpiece.

Most nailers are sequential, bump firing is a lot less safe for the operator of the tool. On the other hand, in the hands of a professional, it can save a lot of time.

If you want to bump fire your brad nailer, you’ll want to look for one with interchangeable triggers. These change the firing mode of the nailer, so you can get both the safer sequential firing and faster bump firing without changing nailers.

Rafter/Belt Hook

Belt hooks are a nice feature to have, even if you’re working around the home.

For jobs taking place on ladders and in other precarious situations, they should be considered a requirement. If the one you’re set on lacks a belt loop, you should see if they offer an aftermarket piece to do the job.

Dry Fire Lockout

In an ideal world, every nailer would have a dry-fire lockout. In practice, it’s common, but not available with every gun.

The basic idea is simple: the gun quits firing once you’re out of nails. Most people don’t count down their magazine, so it can save time spent firing the gun with no fasteners. They’re nice to have and result in a more efficient job overall.

No-Mar Tip

No-mar tips are usually made of rubber, and they’re designed to keep the tip of the gun from marking the workpiece. Keep an eye out for them, especially if you’re mainly doing trim and baseboards.

Most modern nailers have one, so beware a nailer that doesn’t.

Exhaust Air Control

There’s not a lot more irritating than having air blown back in your face with each pull of the trigger.

Nail guns often have a controllable exhaust port. That allows you to vent air away from yourself or anything that’s around you.

Conclusion

When it comes time to choose the best brad nailer for your stash of tools, you need to ensure that you’ve got something that serves you. In the end, it’s the minor differences that make the biggest impact for those actually using the tool.

So, have you decided which one is going to grace your garage?

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