Comparison Between Different Types of Nail Guns

Thanks to the vast popularity of nail guns, there is a wide variety of nails available in the market. They are categorized based on different factors. You cannot use a specific nailer for different types of nailing and nail lengths.

Besides, you will need almost all types of nail guns from the start to finish of your project. You need to do framing, finishing, roofing, flooring, siding, and a lot more works to make your project tip top.

It will be a tough task to choose a nailer from the broad variations available. You need to be very clear not only about your purpose but also the specifications and configurations of each type, to select the right nailer for you.

This article has come up with a comparison framework between some specific types of nail guns for your ease to select the required one for you.

Comparison Framework

This article will compare the following pairs of nail guns. Pick your required pair and go to the comparison table straight below.

  • Brad nailer VS Finish nailer
  • Electric VS Pneumatic Nail Gun
  • 16-Gauge VS 18-Gauge nailer
  • Angled VS Straight Nailer.

Brad Nailer VS Finish Nailer

You may get confused between choosing a brad nailer and a finish nailer. Both the nailers are very identical in appearance. But they are also different in many aspects. See the table below for a short overview of the differences in tabular form.

FactsBrad NailerFinish Nailer
Size Of NailsBrads are ultra-thin nails of 18-gauge in size. That means you can fit 18 nails at one-inch space in the magazine.The nails are 15 or 16-gauge in size. That means you can arrange 15 to 16 nails at one-inch space in the feeder.
Diameter of holeSmaller holes of diameter 0.0475 inches.A bit larger than the brad holes and up to 0.072 inches in diameter.
Holding capacityLess capacity to hold material.Can hold materials tightly and efficiently.
UsesYou can adjoin thin trims and molds without splitting them. Very convenient for lightweight materials.Mainly used for finishing works for furniture, door casing, or other carpentry work. Can fasten thicker materials than brads.

Let’s go deep into knowing about the two types of nailers.

Brad Nailer

Brads are ultra-thin pins. Therefore, the name infers that you will be able to drive thinner nails with seldom noticeable holes.

These nailers shoot 18-to-23-gauge nails corresponds to 0.5 to 2 inches length and adjoin trims and molds without any split. Brad nailers are the perfect addition for small project workers like the DIYers and hobbyists.

If you do not want to damage whatever you are working on and want the best quality finishing with accuracy, a brad nailer will be the right tool for you. Though the nails are thin, they can hold the lightweight materials very efficiently.


  • Interior molding
  • Furniture repairing
  • Cabinet construction
  • Baseboard installation
  • Projects like a jewelry box or bird cages
  • Trim work like door and window cases.

Benefits of Brad Nailers

  • You can adjoin delicate materials with this nailer
  • No split will occur during attachment
  • The resulting holes are very small and can hardly be noticed.
  • Filling of nail hole is not required
  • Materials up to ½ inch depth can be fastened.

Drawbacks of Brad Nailers

  • Unable to hold thicker materials.
  • The brads cannot even penetrate the depth of plywood or MDF
  • Inappropriate for nailing in tighter spaces.

Finish Nailer

This type uses nails sized between the nails of brad and framing nailers. Thus, these nailers have more holding power than brad and less than framing nailer.

The nail size for this type is 15-to-16-gauge nails that are 1-2.5 inches in length. These nailers are mainly used for finishing carpentry.

This tool offers very precise work and holds materials tightly. They are mainly angled in design so that they can reach narrow spaces easily. The finish nailers can be powered both by an air compressor or a rechargeable battery.


  • Cabinetry
  • Baseboards
  • Installing furniture
  • Molding and installing trims

Benefits of Finish Nailer

  • Can be used for a variety of purposes
  • Can hold thicker and heavier materials
  • Larger nail size provides greater holding capacity.
  • Angled alignment helps to reach tighter spaces.

Drawbacks of Finish Nailer

  • Produces larger nail holes
  • These holes need filling
  • Additional work for the worker to fill holes with putty.
  • Cannot be used for trims or other thinner materials.
16 gauge vs 18 gauge nail gun

Pneumatic VS Electric Nail guns

The scale of the hammering force depends on the working mechanism or power source of the nailer. Neither all nail guns are pneumatic nor electric.

While the main advantage of a pneumatic nailer is the larger amount of hammering power, it is portability for the electric nailer. The major differences between these two nailers are shown below in a tabular form.

FactsPneumatic or air operated nailerElectric nailer
Source of PowerCompressed air.Battery-powered or directly connected to the electric outlet.
Hammering forceProduce huge driving force.The scale of the produced firing force is less than the pneumatic nailer.
PaceCan shoot at a faster pace.Relatively slow in shooting nails.
PortabilityDifficult to move from one place to another.Highly portable and flexible tool.
Additional attachmentsNeeds air compressor and air hose for operation.No need for this type of attachment.
TypesNo types are available.Can be of corded or cordless (battery operated) in types.
SizeLighter in weight excluding the air hose and air compressor.Bulkier in size and weight because of the battery inside the tool.
MaintenanceEasy to maintain because of simple design.High maintenance is required for the battery.
CostInexpensive. But the cost can increase if you do not own an air compressor.Expensive.

Follow the article to know more about these nailers.

Pneumatic or Air Operated Nailers

The pneumatic nail gun is the widely used nailer among the 3 types of nailers from power source classification. It has four major components: air compressor, air hose, trigger, and piston.

The compressor is the driver of hammering force and is attached to the tool through the air hose. The compressor takes in air at the atmospheric pressure and compresses it to the needed limit.

After you pull the trigger, an explosion of compressed air occurs, and the nails are fired into the material at a high velocity. The attached regulator of the tool will enable you to shoot the nails at your convenient pressure by controlling it.

Benefits of Pneumatic Nail Gun

  • Shoots nails at a faster pace. Saves time.
  • Higher durability. Can be used for a longer period and large-scale works.
  • Provides consistent pressure. Enables delivering equal pressure to each nail.
  • Produces a huge amount of hammering pressure. Can be used for driving nails into thicker materials and for heavy-duty works.

Drawbacks of Pneumatic Nail Gun

  • Resists free moving, less flexible, and not portable.
  • Produces loud noise while operating, cannot be used in a residential area.
  • Oiling is required to prevent the formation of air vapor in the compressor.
  • Bulky in appearance because of the external attachments, air compressor, and air hose.

Electric Nail Gun

This is the simplest model of nailer both in design and functionality. To produce the driving pressure a rechargeable battery or an electrical cord is used in electric nail guns.

The battery used in electric nailers is lithium-ion batteries of 10 to 20 Volt. This type of battery can be charged in a short time and runs for a longer period. The major components of this nailer are an electric motor, a powerful spring, and a trigger.

The electric motor holds the spring in a compressed state. When you pull the trigger, the spring is released, and the kinetic energy stored in it acts as the driving force to fire nails.

Benefits of Electric Nail Gun

  • Easily portable to any place.
  • Do not produce noise or foul residual gas
  • Can work at all temperature and pressure
  • Perfect for the small-scale users, hobbyists, and DIYers
  • Needs neither an air compressor nor a combustion fuel chamber
  • Lightweight and smaller in size. Saves the user from fatigue during long time work.

Drawbacks of Electric Nail Gun

  • Cannot drive nails into a hard surface.
  • Cannot shoot nails as faster as the other two types.
  • Needs an electric outlet for charging for corded electric nails.
  • Do not produce massive driving pressure like the pneumatic or gas-operated nailer.
  • The duration of the performance is much lower than the other two types since the battery needs to be charged from time to time.
  • You can keep extra batteries to be on the safe side for day-long work, but this will add weight to your carry bag.

16-Gauge VS 18-Gauge Nailer

When buying a nail gun, you need to be extra cautious about the gauge or size of the nails it shoots. The gauge is a parameter that represents the number of nails fitted in one inch when lined up alongside. So, the 18-gauge nails are thinner than the 16-gauge nails.

Nail guns with several different nail gauges are available in the market, i.e., 15-gauge, 16-gauge, 18-gauge, 21-gauge, 23-gauge nailers. I am here to compare the most used two nailers, 16-gauge and 18-gauge nail guns. See the table below for a short overview.

Facts16-gauge Nail gun18-gauge Nail Gun
Nail SizeLarger nails than the later one. 16 nails can be arranged at one-inch space in the magazine.Smaller nails. A number of 18 nails can be fitted at one-inch space.
Hole sizeThe resulting holes are larger.The resulting holes are smaller.
Holding capacityCan hold materials tightly and efficiently.Less capacity to hold material.
UsesCan adjoin thicker materials.Used for fastening thin materials and molds.

16-gauge Nailers

16-gauge nail guns are mainly used as finish nailers. Out of the two nailers, it is widely used because of its versatility and strength.

If you are engaged in heavy-duty work like door frame installations or baseboard, you need nails with greater holding power. 16-gauge nails can help you in this case. These nails are wider in diameter and can hold the fastened material tightly.

These nails have a larger head than the other one and are less prone to break off. This increases the holding capacity of the nails.

Benefits of 16-gauge Nailer

  • Can hold thicker materials
  • Better holding strength
  • Smooth penetration because of wider heads
  • Can be used for heavier projects

Drawbacks of 16-gauge Nailer

  • Not suitable for fragile thin materials like trims.
  • The resulting holes are larger than an 18-gauge nailer and need filling by wood putty.

18-gauge Nail Guns

18-gauge nailers eliminate the drawbacks of 16-gauge nailers. 18-gauge nails hardly leave any mark on the material about their penetration. You seldom notice an 18-gauge nail on the material.

Thin materials seem to break down when holding by hand. What will happen if you try to fasten them? 18-gauge nails are there to help you. You can adjoin the thin trims by this nail without splitting.

These nails provide less holding power than the other one because the pins are very tiny in diameter. You can use this nail gun for small project works like adjoining thinner materials.

Benefits of 18-gauge Nailer

  • Appropriate for temporary holding and thinner materials
  • Leave no nail marks on the material

Drawbacks of 18-gauge Nailer

  • Less holding capacity
  • Inappropriate for heavy-duty works

Angled VS Straight Nailer

During work, you might need to nail in a tighter space that you cannot reach with your straight nail gun. You need to keep your gun at an angle to reach there.

This is where the straight and angled nail gun come. From the names, you can guess the difference thinking the straight nail guns have a straight magazine while the later one has an angled one. But there are some other dissimilarities too. They are shown below in a tabular form.

FactsStraight nailerAngled nailer
AppearanceStraight nail magazineAngled nail magazine
Working areaCannot reach tighter spaces. Suitable for straight material piecesCan reach tighter spots because of the angled magazine and extended nose
Size of nailsUses 16-gauge nailsUses 15-gauge nails
CostInexpensive compare to the other oneExpensive because of its functionality to reach tighter spots
WeightBulkier and tough to move aroundLightweight and easily portable
The shape of the nail headNailheads are shaped like letter TNailheads are shaped like letter D
WorkabilityAppropriate for small scale projectsSuitable for heavy-duty work

Angled Nail Gun

Angled nailers are mainly designed for finishing works. The nails of this nailer are very expensive and can hardly be found. They are also a bit longer than the usual nails.

The nails are kept at an angle of 21-34 degrees. So, you need to find the nails that can be easily fitted to this angle into the magazine. These nails are widely used in cabinet making by professionals.

Benefits of Angled Nailer

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to handle
  • User friendly
  • Able to work in corners and tighter spaces

Drawbacks of Angled Nailer

  • Expensive
  • Nails are hard to find

Straight Nail Gun

The nails of this nail gun are set at a 90-degree angle into the magazine. The nails are very thin in size so that their top can be almost invisible. They are less expensive, and you can find the nails easily. For this reason, straight nail guns are preferred by most woodworkers.

These nail guns are mainly used for framing works where quality finishing is the main priority.

Benefits of Straight Nail Gun

  • Less expensive
  • Simple and straight in design
  • Thin nails and easy to cover them up

Drawbacks of Straight Nail Gun

  • Less versatile
  • They are very heavy to handle
  • Can be set only at a 90-degree angle
  • They cannot work in tight spots


A nail gun is a very important tool in your toolbox. You need to choose a nailer depending on your purpose and the type of material.

For this, you must know the specifications of all nail guns and choose one after thoroughly analyzing the differences between the nailers. This article has discussed four pairs of nail guns and a clear difference between them shown in the tables. I hope this is helpful to you a great deal.

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