- Best Cordless Framing Nailer
- Best Pneumatic Framing Nailer
- Best Round Head Framing Nailer
Best Framing Nailer
If there’s any type of carpentry work where a nailer can help increase productivity, it’s in framing. While a skilled carpenter can drive a 16 penny nail in a few quick whacks, that’s nothing compared to pulling a trigger and having the nail sink in all the way. Even using a 32 ounce framing hammer or rigging axe, the best you can hope for is two whacks; one to set it and one to sink it. Put that gun on bump mode and you can really go to town.
While framing doesn’t require the finesses that finish carpentry does, it does require a lot of nailing. Whereas a finish nailer helps make a nice, clean finish job with small nail holes, a framing nailer isn’t at all about beauty…it’s about productivity.
There are several other considerations you should look at before picking a framing nailer. For more detail on what to look for check out our framing nailer buyer's guide we’ve provided below.
Best Cordless Framing Nailer:
If you only think of cordless nailers for small repairs, you’d never think that a cordless framing nailer would be needed. However, they are also excellent for use on jobsites where there is no electrical power to run an air compressor. In cases like that, one’s options are limited. But with a cordless framing nailer, it’s possible to keep going, without missing a lick.
These nailers are actually a bit smaller than their air driven cousins, which makes them a great tool to use in tight spaces, such as between studs. Of course, there is a trade-off for that small size, which is that they don’t hold as many nails in the magazine. So, if you’re going to use a cordless framing nailer, you’ll want to fill your nail pouch with extra strips of nails.
Most cordless nailers use an onboard gas capsule to create the pressure needed to drive the nail. A measured portion of the gas is injected into the cylinder, above the piston, where it is mixed with air and ignited with an electric spark. The expanding gas pushes the piston down, driving the nail.
These gas-driven cordless framing nailers now all use a mid-mounted gas cartridge, placing it right behind the engine for better balance. That makes them easier to use than the earlier models, which had it hidden in the handle. In most cases, these gas cartridges are interchangeable, but check before you buy, either looking online to see what others have said or by physically comparing the two cartridge styles.
As with other nailers, there are certain factors that make one cordless framing nailer easier to use than another, including:
- Weight – Of all nailers, framing nailers are the heaviest. With these, you have the added weight of the battery and gas cartridge; so expect them to be heavier than their pneumatic cousins.
- Trigger options – Most offer two firing modes; bump fire and sequential fire. The difference is that some require replacing the trigger to change modes, while others have an onboard switch to change it.
- Depth of fire adjustment – Pretty much everyone offers tool-free depth of fire adjustment now. The difference is how easy it is to adjust the depth.
- Dry-fire lockout – This is a newer feature, which I’m glad to see. It prevents the gun from firing if there are no nails, preventing damage to the tool.
- Batteries – Most are now using Li-Ion batteries, but not everyone does. How many batteries the nailer comes with and how fast they recharge could make a difference in your productivity.
- Safety lock – Not everyone does this, but I like the idea of having a safety lock, in order to prevent accidental shots.
- Nail visibility in the magazine – Another feature to help prevent dry firing. Some magazines are totally closed, while others have a window to allow you to see how many nails are left.
- Nosepiece – Most framing nailers now come with a pointed nosepiece, making it easier to use them for toe nailing without having the nailer slip.
There aren’t a lot of these on the market, mostly because it’s hard to make a cordless nailer which will drive such a big nail.
Paslode uses Li-Ion battery technology in their cordless framing nailer for the most shots per charge possible. You can get 6,000 shots per charge out of this one, and a two minute quick charge allows you to get another 200 shots. Read Full Review
Although Hitachi didn't use Li-Ion batteries on this nailer, they did provide a low-battery LED to warn when it's going to be time to recharge. Since it uses Ni-Cad batteries, it's a good idea to have a spare around, so that you don't have to wait while it's recharging. Read Full Review
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Best Pneumatic Framing Nailer:
Of all the types of nailers, framing nailers are the largest. They are designed to fire 8 penny and 16 penny nails for connecting together a building’s wood structural elements. As such, they need a lot of power, in order to drive those long nails.
Because they are so large and heavy, framing nailers can be a little bit awkward to work with. However, they show their true value by the amount of time they save, especially when having to toe nail studs in place. Effectively toe nailing a stud with a hammer is almost impossible, simply because the act of driving the nail causes the stud to move. The more it moves and is moved back, the more the nail hole is enlarged.
With a pneumatic framing nailer, toe nailing is quick and easy. The nail is driven home, without moving the stud at all. Therefore the end result is actually a stronger structure, with the studs exactly where they are supposed to be.
Driving straight nails is even easier with a framing nailer. I used to frame with a 32 ounce rigging axe and that made for a heavy enough hammer that I could drive a 16 penny coated nail with two hits; one to seat the nail and the second to drive it home. In other words, the fastest I could drive nails was about four times the amount of time that it takes to do so with a framing nailer.
These nailers, like many nailers operate in two modes; sequential and bump fire modes. Sequential fire requires pulling the trigger for every nail. In bump fire, you hold the trigger down and “bump” the nose of the gun against the wood, allowing the safety lock bar to trigger the shot. In most cases, switching from one mode to the other requires changing out the trigger. In a few of the better nailers, this is accomplished by a switch near the trigger.
A few of the ones I’ve selected have a “dry-fire lockout.” This prevents the nailer from firing if there are no nails. Of all the features you can find on an air nailer, this is one of my favorites, because I’ve damaged a few nailers by accidentally dry firing them, not to mention what happened to the workpiece.
Depth of fire isn’t as much of an issue on a framing nailer as it is on a finish nailer. The nail’s heads pretty much control how deep the nail sinks. You only need to make sure that the nailer is set in such a way as to allow the anvil to drive the nail down fully.
Because of the size of these nailers, weight is a major issue with them. Handling a seven plus pound nailer for hours on end can wear anyone out. Some manufacturers have taken to making their nailers with magnesium housings to help with this. They also provide a rafter hook in most cases, so that you can hang the nailer on the framing you’re doing between shots.
Please note that this list deals with conventional framing nailers, sometimes referred to as “clipped head” framing nailers. These nails have a notch cut out of the head, to allow the nails to be collated closer together. Some municipalities have changed their building code, requiring round head framing nails. Please check on the building code in your area, before making a purchase.
It was hard picking a "best of the best," but I finally settled on this tool from Bosch. Besides having a dry-fire lockout and selectable trigger, Bosch has designed this tool with their "Full-Force Technology" which ensures that 100 percent of the air pressure is used to drive the nail. Read Full Review
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This framing nailer is unique in that it can be used with either clipped head or full head framing nails. As far as I know, it's the only one on the market designed for that. It also has the switchable dual trigger modes that I like. Read Full Review
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This framing nailer was designed for high volume work, driving as many as three nails per second. The nose is an open design, which makes extraction of any nail jams quick and easy. Read Full Review
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A patented pushbutton adjustment makes the depth of drive easier to set on this nailer than any other. Coupled with a magnesium case, this makes Bostitch's gun one of the most user-friendly around. Read Full Review
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Best Round Head Framing Nailer:
Round head framing nailers are relatively new in the pneumatic tool marketplace. They were developed to satisfy a requirement in some municipalities building code, which stated that round headed nails be used for framing of buildings. It seems that some officials were not satisfied that the clipped nail heads used for standard framing nails were providing the same resistance to pull out that a round headed nail could. Of course, the pull out resistance of a nail depends more on the friction of the wood against the shank of the nail. Nevertheless, in those cities, building code requires round headed nails.
The operation of these nailers is similar to other pneumatic framing nailers. The major difference is that the nails are collated on paper or plastic collating strips. Either one works about the same, spacing the nails far enough apart for the nail heads. The major difference, besides more trash, is that the nail gun can’t hold as many nails.
You can’t use clipped head framing nails on these nailers, nor can you use the nails for these on standard framing nailers. The difference in the feed of the nails is enough to make the two incompatible. There is only one nailer I’ve seen on the market which is designed for both, and that one is on our list of best framing nailers.
The biggest problems with using these nailers are weight and size. Of all the types of nailers out there, framing nailers are the largest and heaviest. On top of that, the need for paper or plastic collating of the nails used in these particular nailers causes them to have very long magazines. That makes it harder to get the nailer into tight places.
Pretty much all framing nailers have two trigger modes; bump and sequential. In the bump fire mode, the user holds the trigger down and the nails are fired whenever the safety bar on the nose is compressed. In the sequential fire mode, the nail fires when the trigger is pulled, as long as the safety bar on the nose is compressed. While those may seem about the same, in actual operation they are quite different.
Some framing nailers require that the trigger be removed and replaced to change trigger modes. The better ones have a switch, allowing the user to switch between trigger modes on the fly. Not only does this save time, but it makes it easier for the carpenter to select he mode that is the most appropriate for the moment.
The biggest complaint normally heard about nailers is that they leave nails “proud”, meaning they don’t sink the nails all the way; however, all of these guns featured here have depth of shot adjustments to help prevent that from occurring. Since the nails have a full round head, chances are you can set the depth a little deep and have your shot come out perfect. Recently, manufacturers have started adding a pointed claw on the nosepiece of framing nailers, a feature which makes it easier to use the nailer for toe nailing since the pointed nose won’t slip as opposed to smooth nose which is more likely to.
With a seven year limited warranty backing it up, it's hard to go wrong on this nailer. Teflon O-rings help prolong this nailers already long life and it’s also manufactured with magnesium housing to make it fairly lightweight. Read Full Review
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This nailer features a selectable trigger which saves you time instead of dealing with the hassle of having to change the trigger out. The magnesium housing on this tool gives it a 7.3 pound dry weight which makes it the lightest nailer on our list. Read Full Review
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Makita gives this nailer the only three mode trigger selector switch currently available on the market. It is selectable between bump-fire, sequential fire and there’s also a lock mode to ensure operator safety. Read Full Review
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The push-button adjustable depth guide on this tool is revolutionary, saving time when setting the depth. This also has a low-nail lockout to prevent dry firing which might otherwise damage your tool. Read Full Review
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Framing Nailer Buyer's Guide
Of all the types of nailers available, framing nailers are the largest. They are designed to handle nails ranging from 6D to 16D (that's 6 penny to 16 penny, for those that aren't familiar with the nomenclature). Another way to look at that is 2" to 3-1/2" nails. Since 8D and 16D are the two most common sizes used in framing, that's ideal.
Using a framing nailer helps the carpenter to work much more efficiently. Even using a 32 ounce framing hammer or rigging axe, a carpenter can't drive nails as rapidly hammering them as they can with a nailer. Hammering requires a minimum of two whacks, as opposed to one pull of the trigger with a framing nailer. Framing nailers also make it much easier to toe nail studs when that’s necessary. The fast drive of the shot prevents the stud from moving, like it’s wont to do when being hammered manually.
Before buying a framing nailer, it’s a good idea to check on the building code requirements for the city where you live. If round head nails are required, any work done with a clipped head nailer won’t pass inspection. Of course, if the work doesn’t have to be inspected that’s not an issue.
Most framing nailers today have sharp prongs on the nose rather than a padded foot like you find on a finish nailer. This allows the nailer to grip the wood that it’s going to put the nailer in. This is especially good for toe nailing where you often have to hold the piece of wood with one hand while holding the nailer with the other. If you’ve never tried toe-nailing with a framing nailer, you’re going to love it.
Framing Nailer Types
Framing nailers can be broken down into three different categories:
Pneumatic Clipped Head
This is the traditional type of framing nailer. In order to get the nails to collate close together, part of the head is clipped off rather than having a round head.
Some building authorities will not accept clipped head nails, claiming the smaller head doesn't provide as much strength. So to pass inspection, round head nails need to be used. The industry has responded to this need by creating round head framing nailers. The round head requires that the nails be collated differently so there aren't as many nails on a strip.
Cordless nailers don’t use compressed air to provide the motive power to drive the nails, but rather a gas cartridge in the nailer. Burning a small quantity of the gas causes it to expand, driving the nail in much the same way that a gun fires a bullet.
Cordless framing nailers are much newer in the marketplace than their pneumatic cousins. As such, there aren't as many to choose from. They tend to be smaller than the pneumatic ones with a smaller magazine as well. Of the various types of cordless nailers on the market, cordless framing nailers have taken over the smallest market share due to the high volume of nails used in framing.
Framing Nailer Design
Framing nailers are always built with an angled magazine, ensuring that the magazine doesn't hit the framing to be nailed on inside corners or when toe nailing studs. However, the angle of the magazine can vary from an angle of 21 degrees to 28 degrees. It’s important when selecting nails that the angle of the collated nail strip match the angle of the magazine or else the nails will jam in the throat of the nailer.
In addition to the angle that the nail strip is collated at, the type of collation is important as well. There are three types of collation: paper tape, plastic strip and wire weld. The three are not interchangeable, so you must match the strip type to the gun, as well as the angle of collation.
Options to Consider
There are several things you want to look at when looking at framing nailers, besides price and name brand. Weight is an important factor, to reduce operator fatigue, as well as having a padded handle. An open magazine or a magazine with an open window makes it easier to tell when it is time to reload. Nailers which have a lockout to prevent them from shooting when empty, help prevent damage to the nailer.
Pretty much all nailers today have tool-free nosepieces so the nose can be opened to remove a jam quickly and easily. Framing nailers also have nosepieces with prongs on them, allowing positive location of the nailer in regards to the target.
Depth of Fire Adjustment
You should also look at the depth of fire adjustment on the nailer, something that can make a tool much easier to work with. Most are now tool-free wheels, but this is one area where manufacturers are seeking to make their tools easier to work with.
The other thing to consider is the trigger. There are two basic trigger styles used on nailers, bump fire and sequential. With bump fire, you can pull the trigger and the gun will shoot a nail every time the nosepiece is depressed. In sequential mode, the trigger has to be pulled for each shot. Some manufacturers build both into the tool with a switch to change between them while others require changing out the trigger which may require buying the second trigger as an option.