Guide To Nail Guns And Nailers

Whether you are a professional craftsman or a creative DIYer, you need a set of reliable tools to assist you in various projects. Where hand tools like screwdriver, wrench, and hammer may give you more control, power tools offer precision and efficiency. Once such a useful power tool is a nail gun or a nailer.

Nailing is an essential step in many construction and carpentry projects. And we all know that swinging the hammer to drive individual nails can be time consuming. A nail gun can help you drive nails quickly and precisely. Sure knowing how to hammer a nail is important, with a nailer, you can finish the project more quickly and get on to the next one — or maybe enjoy a little time off.

If you are considering purchasing one, this post covers the basics you need to know, including the types of nailers to the features that are important.

What is a Nail Gun? 

Worker using a nailer to install roofing

A nail gun is a power tool that shoots nails into a material. Instead of swinging a hammer for every nail, you simply press the trigger of the nailer and it will drive the nail for you. That too, in one go. It enhances your ability to work because it operates 10X faster than that traditional nail and hammer thing. Plus, a good nailer also provides precision and reduces the amount of effort involved.

This tool is very valuable for many working professionals, especially roofers. It helps them nail roofing shingles quickly, accurately, and with minimal fatigue. Carpenters also rely on it for putting down a subfloor or framing doors and windows. You can also use one for furniture construction, stapling, and tacking.

Classification of Nailers

carpenter nailing a window frame using a nail gun

Just as there are different types of nails, there are various types of nailers. All these types are classified into two main categories based on their source of power and intended use.

Types of Nailers Based on Power Supply 

Depending on their source of power, nail guns can be classified into following four sub-types:

Battery-Powered Nail Guns 

a cordless nail gun placed O on wooden planks

This type of nail gun relies on batteries as a source of power. Battery-powered nail guns are the most portable option because there is no cord or air compressor limiting its range. They are straightforward to use and are suitable for light nailing tasks. To learn more about air compressors and how they are used for power tools, take a look at our Guide to Using the Right Air Compressor.

If you are looking for heavy-duty work, battery-powered nailers aren’t the best choice as they quickly run out of juice. That’s why having extra batteries on hand is a good idea when working with these, especially if you are working for extended periods of time.

Corded Electric Nailers 

carpenter nailing a workpiece with a corded nail gun

These nailers come equipped with an electric cord designed to supply power to the motor from an electrical outlet. Corded electric nailers are the predecessors of all other types. They usually come with a long cable which improves their range. However, the bulk of the cable also reduces their portability. These electric nail guns are better than their battery operated counterparts because they operate without a time restriction and have more power at their disposal.

Gas-Powered Nail Guns 

Gas-powered nail guns utilize the combustion process as their source of power. They are equipped with a battery and a butane filled internal consumable cell. When you press the trigger, the fuel comes out and the battery fires it up. The resultant spark is powerful enough to send the nail flying into the material’s surface. These are more suitable for bigger tasks, such as roofing and home building.

Pneumatic Nailers 

A pneumatic gun gets its power from an air compressor, which may or may not be included in the package. The compressed air in this gun makes nails come out with the force of a hammer.

This type of nailer is a bit difficult to carry around, yet it provides an amazing blend of power and usefulness.

Types of Nail Guns Based on Operation

Depending on the type of fasteners they fire, nail guns can be classified into following categories based on operation.

Finishing Nail Guns 

Finishing nail guns are comparatively small in size and usually operate with 15 or 16 gauge nails. You can use it to install finishing pieces with precision such as baseboard, window trim, and door trim without splitting the material. These guns can be corded, cordless, or pneumatic.

Brad Nailers 

Brad nailers usually work with fine brad nails. They are slightly smaller than finishing nailers and are used for securing interior trim and molding and are more precise. These nailers are very useful for any DIYer because they make it easier to drive nails into trim and baseboards and other tasks that require delicate work.

Roofing Nail Guns

Roofing nail guns are comparatively heavy-duty and made to work with tasks such as roofing projects. They work with coil or canister magazines so they can accommodate more nails while securing roofing shingles to the roof. These are typically used with 11/12 gauge nails.

Framing Nailers 

Framing nailers are generally used by carpenters and other woodworking professionals. This heavy-duty power tool helps them connect large pieces of lumber to build walls or frames.

These nail guns can fire nails measuring up to 3.5 inches in length. They are great for installing decks, hanging fence boards, or building frames for drywall. You can choose to purchase these as pneumatic, corded, or cordless models.

Sliding Nail Gun

Yes, you guessed it right. A sliding gun is used for installing pieces of sliding. This nailer works with 1.5 to 2.5 inch nails. The smaller size makes this tool a better option for installing thin materials (some models are built heavy-duty for driving larger nails). They are generally quite lightweight so you won’t quickly wear out while using one.

Pin Nailer 

A pin nailer works with nails so small that they look a lot like pins. These small pins are useful in making furniture and cabinets as they exert a minimum amount of pressure on the delicate pieces of wood, and leave almost no trace behind. You can also use this gun to install trims where larger gauge nails may split the material. Just remember that being small in size, these nails don’t have much holding strength or withdrawal resistance .

Palm Nail Gun

women using a palm nailer to drive nails

Palm nail guns are specially designed for driving nails in narrow spaces where a hammer or even other types of nail guns cannot fit. Unlike other nailers, palm nailers are rounded devices that easily fit inside the palm of your hand.

Hardwood Nail Gun

Hardwood nail guns work with a special type of nails called cleats. Cleats are either T- shaped or L-shaped and require a significant amount of force to be driven into tough hardwood.

You can buy a hardwood nail gun in manual or pneumatic variation. These nailers require you to hit the driver head while inserting the nail. The amount of force you use depends upon the length of the cleat as well as the density of wood you are working with.


A nail gun can speed up progress in a variety of DIY and professional tasks. Now that you know about the various types and uses of nail guns, you can easily pick up the one for your needs.

When choosing a nailer, think about the type of project you are working on as well as the power source that you can easily acquire. Depending upon the scope of your DIY or woodworking skills, you might actually end up purchasing more than one type of nail gun to meet your needs.