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Tools

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.

Freeman PFR2190 21-Degree Full-Head Framing Nailer

This nailer is made with magnesium housing to save weight which brings the total tool weight down to 8.5 pounds. While that's not as light as some, it's definitely better than it would be otherwise. The motor is oil-free, with Teflon O-rings while depth adjustment is the standard tool-free design on the nosepiece. This nailer comes with interchangeable triggers to change trigger mode, with an air filter and anti-dust cap also included. Additionally, I really like Freeman’s nailers for their warranty. They provide a seven year limited warranty on all of their products which tells me that the company is very sure about the quality of materials and workmanship they’ve put into their tools.

Porter-Cable FR350A, Round Head Framing Nailer

This is an upgrade from the FR350A model, which has been in the Porter-Cable lineup for several years. Porter-Cable gives you a selectable trigger on this model rather than having you take the time to change out the trigger; I personally like that feature, as the spare trigger tends to get lost way too easily. There is also a trigger lockout, providing restrictive firing for only when there is contact. The body design on this tool is compact, but still contains an internal piston catch to ensure a full shot every time. At 7.3 pounds, it's more than a pound lighter than the Freeman while the depth-of-drive adjustment has detents to help you get your nail settings right each and every time. It also has a low nail lock-out, which prevents dry firing to protect the tool, a feature I honestly think every nailer should have.

Makita AN923, 3-1/2" Round Head Framing Nailer

Makita makes this nailer with the only three mode trigger selector switch on the market which allows you to switch between bump fire, sequential fire and lock modes. The lock mode prevents the gun from being accidentally shot, when not in use and it also has a built-in air filter to protect the tool from any debris entering it which could potentially reduce the tool life. This nailer also has the dry-fire lockout feature that I like so much and with this model, it stops firing when the tool is down to three nails in the magazine. The depth adjustment is tool-free with nine settings for ease of adjustment. Sharp spurs on the nosepiece hold it in place securely for toe nailing. At 8.7 pounds, it's also the heaviest nailer on this list.

Stanley-Bostitch Bostitch F21PL Industrial Round Head Framing Nailer

Bostitch’s round head framing nailer is manufactured with magnesium housing for low weight; coming in at only 8.1 pounds, it’s lower in weight than the Freeman. This nailer has rubber pads on the sides of the housing to protect any work that you lay it down on and there’s also a push-button adjustable depth guide, rather than the normal threaded wheel. This feature makes it faster and easier to adjust depth-of-fire. Two nosepieces are also included so that you can use it as a framing nailer or a metal connector nailer, saving you from having to buy another tool. It comes with both triggers as well so you can switch between fire modes.

Hitachi NR83AA3, Clipped Head Framing Nailer

Hitachi has run through several models of this same nailer, making minor improvements each time, with this model being the latest version. It weighs in at 8.6 pounds which just about ties with Makita for the heaviest unit on our list. The driving port is designed to allow a wide range of nail sizes and types; this gun is typically used with nails ranging from 2" to 3-1/4". The claw tip is hardened to reduce wear, especially when using it at odd angles while a selective actuation trigger allows transition from sequential to bump-fire modes quickly and easily. Unlike some in the series, this nailer does allow depth of fire adjustment.

Bosch SN350-34C, Clipped Head Framing Strip Nailer

Bosch has been making their pneumatic nailers with what they call “Full-Force Technology”. This directs 100 percent of the air pressure at driving the nail, without any of it being wasted for the return stroke. Like the other nailers on our list, this one has a selectable trigger while the magazine is designed with a quick release so that you can clear jammed nails quickly without having to disassemble the tool. They’ve also given it an in-line self-cleaning air filter, something that nobody else does. There’s even a dry-fire lockout to prevent firing when the tool runs out of nails.

Paslode PF350S, Full/Clipped Head Framing Nailer

This nailer is rare in that it can be used with both clipped head and full head nails as most nailers can only handle one or the other, making it doubly useful in my book. It also has dual trigger mode to switch rapidly from bump fire to sequential fire mode so there’s no changing out triggers to use both modes. The depth of fire setting is tool-free to make it faster and easier. It also has a nail lockout to prevent dry firing, a feature I personally wish they’d put on all nailers. A cushioned grip and compact design makes this tool very easy to work with.

Hitachi NR83AA3, Clipped Head Framing Nailer

Hitachi has run through several models of this same nailer, making minor improvements each time, with this model being the latest version. It weighs in at 8.6 pounds which just about ties with Makita for the heaviest unit on our list. The driving port is designed to allow a wide range of nail sizes and types; this gun is typically used with nails ranging from 2" to 3-1/4". The claw tip is hardened to reduce wear, especially when using it at odd angles while a selective actuation trigger allows transition from sequential to bump-fire modes quickly and easily. Unlike some in the series, this nailer does allow depth of fire adjustment.

Bostitch F28WW Clipped Head Framing Nailer

Bostitch's wire weld framing nailer provides a larger magazine capacity than paper or plastic collating of the nails does, holding 100 nails in one strip. The lightweight magnesium housing keeps the weight down and minimize operator fatigue. This nailer will also handle a variety of clipped-head fasteners, ranging from 2" to 3-1/2" in length. It provides 1050 pounds per inch of driving power, enough for any job you’ve got. The depth of strike on this nailer is set with a patented push button adjuster, making it faster and easier to adjust your shots. The magazine is notched at 16" to save time on measurements, allowing you to use the nailer as a spacing guide for studs.

Senco FramePro 701XP Paper Tape Framing Nailer

Senco FramePro 701XP Paper Tape Framing Nailer

Senco has long held a spot as one of the leaders in the pneumatic nailer industry. This rugged framing nailer demonstrates their years of experience. More than anything, they design their nailers to be rugged, as well as making them easy to work with. The nailer is designed to use 15 percent less air than other framing nailers due to a highly efficient interior design while a new, patented magazine design reduces jams and mis-feeds. Senco picked a 34 degree angle for the magazine, claiming that it gives a better line of sight and they've also put a ruler right on the magazine for convenience. While I'm not sure how much that would be used, it's a nice touch. Magazine loading is a simple, two-step process and the gun is designed for aggressive toenail safety. The trigger is designed for sequential action.

Paslode 902600 CF325Li Lithium Ion Cordless Framing Nailer

Paslode’s cordless framing nailer uses a Lithium-Ion battery to get an amazing 6,000 shots per battery charge. That allows you to work quite a while, before having to charge the battery. If you’ve got to get just a few more nails driven, a two minute charge allows you to get another 200 shots in. This nailer has a dry-fire lockout included on it. The depth of drive adjustment is tool-free and easy to use. Nails for this unit are paper tape collated. It’s also incredibly light, at only 7.25 pounds (without the battery). You can drive two to three nails per second with this gun.

Hitachi NR90GR2 3.5-Inch Gas Powered Plastic Strip Collated Cordless Framing Nailer Gun

Hitachi’s unit uses the older Ni-Cad battery technology, rather than the newer Li-Ion. This is reflected in that it only gets 4,000 shots per charge and that the charging time is longer. It does have an indicator light on it to tell when the battery is running low. There is also a built-in dry-fire lockout, like the Paslode unit. Depth of drive is adjustable and a retractable rafter hook makes it easy to keep the nailer conveniently at hand on the job. It uses plastic collated nails. While a little heavier than the Paslode, this nailer is only 7.9 pounds

Bostitch GF28WW Cordless Wire Weld Framing Nailer

Bostitch’s unit is slightly heavier than both of the other one’s we’ve looked at, weighing in at 8.3 pounds. Like the other units, it has the dry-fire lockout as well as a rafter hook. The inline battery gives the tool better balance for operator comfort and an adjustable depth control is included. Finally, this unit uses wire-weld collated nails.

Buyer's Guide

 

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.

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
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.

Tool-free Nosepiece
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.

Trigger
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.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

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