Last updated on October 4, 2021
The best brad nailer is cordless and battery-powered.
Cordless brad nailers require less maintenance and don’t clog up, they shoot more consistently than gas and don’t emit any dangerous fumes.
The Dewalt 20v brad nailer has many advantages when going cordless but first, look over the list before deciding so you know all your options, including the best airpower bradder.
#3 Best Dewalt air brad nailer
Dewalt DWFP12231 straight air brad nailer kit, 18 gauge
#4 The Metabo air brad nailer
Metabo HPT NT50A5 straight compressed air brad nailer, 18 gauge
#5 The Senco straight brad nailer
Senco finishpro straight air brad nail gun 18 gauge
#6 A cheaper DIY air bradder
Wen 61721 DIY air-powered straight brad nailer 18-gauge
Best cordless brad nailer
#3 The cordless Hitachi bradder
Hitachi NT1850DE cordless straight brad nailer kit, 18 gauge
#4 Bostitch cordless brad nailer
Bostitch BCN680B cordless straight brad nailer, 18 gauge
Best gas-powered brad nailer
What is a brad nailer?
A brad nailer is a specialized tool that drives small nails known as ‘brads’ into wood or other material.
Also known as brad nail guns or bradders, they can be used in a variety of home and professional woodworking tasks, including trimming, molding, cabinet making, and more.
Brads are essentially thin nails that are used for molding or to bind lightweight wood trim.
Most brads are 18-gauge in size, measuring only 0.0475 of an inch across. They usually measure ⅝” to 2” in length.
Brads are often used in the same way that woodworkers use 22- to 24-gauge fastenings.
They are strong enough to be used for fixing trim to hardwoods where filling in the holes with putty is acceptable, after a quick hit with your best orbital sander.
Apart from firing only brads, brad nailers work pretty much like most standard nail guns.
They trace their lineage back to the first nail guns that used air pressure, which was unveiled to the public in 1950.
Common parts on a bradder
Before buying a brad nailer…
1. Search for durability.
Durability isn’t as important a factor in bradders as it is with other types of power tools.
Brad nailers use relatively little force to drive brads into wood because they are more commonly used for light and thin trim.
Even so, your nailer should be durable enough to handle a high volume of finishing jobs.
2. Research the brand.
The best brad nailers are made by companies such as DeWalt, Makita, and Paslode. The tools made by these companies offer excellent price-to-performance ratios and are great value for DIYers as well as pros.
The nailers reviewed here from these companies are also affordable enough to get started with but will continue to be useful as your needs expand.
3. Consider the price.
Brad nailers aren’t as expensive as other types of power tools, so you could get a pretty decent model for not a lot of money.
As always, I suggest you get the best model available in your price range so that you are assured of a quality tool that you can rely on for a long time to come.
4. Know what brad gauge you need.
Most standard brad nailers accommodate 18-gauge brads. This is pretty much the standard for light trim work, providing a decent amount of holding power while preventing you from splintering or splitting the trim.
5. Pick a power source.
Brad nailers may be powered by rechargeable batteries, mains power, gas, or air.
Each of these has its benefits and drawbacks, so your choice will come down to how you like to work and which option is more convenient for you
Brad nailer vs. Finishing nailer
Brad nailers and finishing nailers are so similar that they are often confused for one another.
The main differences between a brad nailer and a finish nailer are the different gauges that they accommodate and the jobs that they are commonly used for because of the different pin sizes.
In general, brad nailers shoot 18 gauge pins that are noticeably smaller than finish nailers. But they also don’t have nearly the same amount of holding power as a finish nailer.
Finishing nailers are better suited for attaching fairly wide pieces of trim. With thinner pieces, there is a greater risk of splitting due to the larger gauge nails used.
Finishing nailers are more common than bradders for the above reasons have a look at my other review to consider the Dewalt cordless finish nailer.
Here’s a more detailed guide on when to use a finishing or a brad nailer.
Gas-powered vs. Battery-powered
Professional woodworkers have traditionally opted for gas-powered bradders due to their superior performance and longer runtimes.
Back when cordless bradders–and cordless tools in general–were woefully underpowered compared to their corded counterparts, gas-powered models were the only real choices for pros and dedicated DIYers.
But advances in technology have made cordless bradders measure up impressively against gas-driven models.
Nowadays, you can easily find cordless brad nailers that offer similar power and performance as the best gas-powered versions, and they have a number of other advantages besides.
There are no gas fumes to breathe in for starters, and you never have to worry about the gas running out.
With a cordless bradder, you simply have to change out the battery for a freshly-charged spare, and you’re back in business.
Cordless bradders are quieter as well, which is a definite plus when working at home or for long periods.
Air Bradder VS. Cordless Brad Gun
Air gun nailers or air bradders are feasible options depending on the type of work you need to do.
They are better suited for big jobs where you expect to have to pound a lot of brads. If you need to work on a cedar panel ceiling, for example, an air bradder is a much more efficient tool than a cordless brad gun.
Of course, an air bradder has to be attached to an air compressor, which can literally be a drag.
If you are doing general finishing jobs that require you to move around a lot, a cordless bradder can be a much more convenient option.
Choosing the top brad nailer
#1 Air-powered brad nailer
The Makita AF505N boasts of a narrow nose design that lets you drive in brads even in corners and tight spots.
The bradder has a quick release cam lock system that opens up to provide access to the nail guide assembly. This allows you to clear out jammed nails quickly, so you never have to turn off your tool for long periods while working.
Other features include a depth adjustment dial that lets you set the AF505N for a variety of applications. The nose and bumpers are made of rubber, which helps protect your workpiece from scratching or damage.
#1 Best cordless bradder
The DeWalt DCN680D1 is an 18 g brad nailer that offers the convenience of battery-powered operation with the power and performance of a gas/fuel brad nailer.
Compatible with all 20V MAX batteries from DeWalt, the DCN680D1 also has a handy set of LED lights that perform multiple functions.
Whether you use them to illuminate your workspace or help you diagnose a problem with the tool, these lights are among the DeWalt DCN680D1’s best features.
You also get two operational modes–sequential and contact actuation–which add to the unit’s versatility. And with a low nail lockout feature that prevents dry firing, you never have to worry about marring your workpiece.
#1 Best Makita cordless brad nailer
The Makita XNB01Z accommodates a wide variety of 18-gauge brad nails ranging from 5/8″ to 2″. This makes it a lot more versatile than other nail guns with batteries.
It also lets you hold as many as 110 nails, so you can keep on working long after other bradders need a refill.
Also adding to the unit’s versatility is the depth adjustment dial, which lets you set the depth at which the brads are driven.
The LED battery level indicator lets you know how much juice you have left, although the XNB01Z’s 65% longer run time means you probably won’t have to worry about running out too quickly.
#1 Fuel-powered brad nailer
The Paslode 918000 wins top marks for its outstanding performance and proven reliability.
One of the most accurate brad nailers on the market, it has an open line of sight that lets you hone in on the precise spot where you want the nail to enter.
The 918000 is amazingly light as well, so you can work for long periods without stress or strain.
The onboard 7-volt Li-ion battery is good for up to 12,000 shots per charge. You can go from zero to full charge in 1.5 hours, and you can even plug it in for a quick 2-minute charge that will let you get 200 more shots in.
The difference between a “finishing nailer” or a “brad nailer”?
Finishing guns and brad nail guns are so similar that it can be easy to confuse the two. But it is important to remember that there are differences between these tools, and they aren’t interchangeable even though they are both used for woodworking.
The main difference between the two is the gauge of the nails they accommodate. While brad guns typically take 18-gauge nails or brads, finishing nailers take 16- or 15-gauge nails.
When comparing brad nailers vs finish nailers, even such a small difference in nail size is a crucial factor.
Brad nailers are better suited for delicate woodworking as the smaller nail size won’t leave unsightly holes in the wood.
If you would rather not use wood putty in your projects, brad nailers will allow you to attach trim without any apparent holes.
On the other hand, finish nail guns allow you to attach trim more securely due to the thicker nails.
If you don’t mind using putty or filler and you absolutely need a stronger hold, a finish nail gun is the-way-to-go.
Jobs that are better suited for a bradder?
Certain jobs lend themselves to the unique characteristics of a bradder, which makes them handy to have in your toolbox.
The use of such small and thin fastenings makes these tools ideally suited for delicate finishing work where you don’t necessarily want to pound big nails into the wood.
They are also feasible solutions for finishing work that won’t be required to support heavy loads.
If you have extremely thin finishing, for example, an electric nailer will help you fasten the trim without risk of splintering it.
You can also use your bradder for small baseboards and plywood that is less than half an inch thick.
Should you go for a finishing nailer instead?
Of course, there are situations that call for more holding power than a bradder can provide. Larger and heavier baseboards or bigger pieces of trim will need to be attached more securely with bigger nails.
For these purposes, you might be better off with a standard finishing gun than a bradder.
A finish nail gun is also better suited for working in corners and tight spots where you might need to drive nails in at a tight angle.
Because bradders shoot out the brads straight, they are better suited for situations where you have a lot of room to maneuver the tool and position it straight and square to your workpiece.
Tips for using a brad nailer
1. What to do if the brads misfire.
There may be instances when you drive a brad into a piece of wood and it doesn’t go all the way in.
When this happens, it would be better to pull out the brad and drive a new one in rather than try to fix it with your Estwing hammer .
Because brads are extremely thin, they will bend much more easily than nails.
This could split or splinter the trim irreparably, which may entail a costly or time-consuming replacement.
2. Ensure correct positioning of the tool to avoid injuries.
Brads that unexpectedly shoot out from the side of the nail gun are even more alarming.
Again, the thinness of the brad makes it prone to deflecting when it comes across something hard or dense, like a knot in the wood.
When this happens, you run the risk of injury especially if your hand is in the way of the brad.
You can avoid these incidents by making sure that your bradder is positioned correctly.
Hold the tool so that the handle is perpendicular to the outside edge and not parallel. The tip of the brad will then be directed into the wood instead of to the sides.
3. Add more pressure when shooting hardwoods.
When working with hardwood, you might also want to increase the air pressure or depth adjustment. This will help ensure that the brad goes into the workpiece.
4. Use quality brad nails.
If you have a problem with nails misfiring and bending, you want to look at the quality of the brad nails themselves and their compatibility with the tool you are using.
History on brad nailers
The first nail gun was invented who developed the tool specifically for his own use on Howard Hughes’ Hughes H-4 Hercules.
Also known as the “Spruce Goose”, the H4 featured a wooden fuselage that was nailed together before being glued, after which the nails were removed.
Back in the 1950s, the nail gun proved to be a feasible solution for the construction industry’s need for a tool that would speed up the construction of floor sheathing and sub-floors for houses.
The introduction of the nail gun was a groundbreaking development, allowing operators to use it while standing, unlike other nailing tools that were commonly used back in the day.
The early versions of the pressurized air nail gun could pump out 40 to 60 nails per minute, which was pretty impressive at the time.
Workers could also load as many as 400 to 600 nails in their tools, which allowed them to get a lot of nailing work done before they had to reload.
Comparing the top brad nailers
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The DeWalt DCN680D1 is a powerful and convenient bradder that can handle almost any type of finishing job.
Professional features such as multi-function LED lights and dual operational modes make this a serious tool for serious woodworkers.
The Makita XNB01Z is another versatile unit that accommodates brad nails from 5/8″ to 2″. It has a larger 110-nail capacity, so you can minimize downtime while working on large projects.
The Paslode 918000 is easily one of the most accurate bradders in this roundup, with a clear line of sight that lets you drive brads in the correct spot every time.
Long run time and lightweight design make this a great addition to any workshop.
Finally, check out the Makita AF505N for a versatile bradder that reaches tight spots with ease. The quick-release cam lock system lets you clear out jams easily, so you never lose too much time while working in the event of a nail-jam.
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