Types of Nail Guns: Ultimate Discussion

A precise, powerful, and quick nail gun will be a great addition to the toolbox. It is an obligatory tool for professional woodworkers and builders for driving nails into different materials.

But it could be a great device for you too while hanging a picture on the wall or doing your crafting as a hobby. A nailer will save your time and efforts, leaving you with the best quality finishing.

Because of the popularity of nail guns, there is a wide variety of nails available in the market. They are categorized based on different factors. Besides, you can not use a specific nailer for different types of nailing and nail lengths.

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 will discuss the wide variations of nail guns to help you in choosing a suitable nailer for you.

Types of Nail Guns

The broad variation of nail gun is categorized based on the following factors,

  • By application
  • By power source or working mechanism
  • By physical structure
different types of nail guns

Classification Based on Application

You need the right nail gun for your specific purpose to increase your productivity and ensure the best quality work. The nailers are classified into the following types based on the working purpose.

1.  Framing Nailer

The name reflects that this type is used for framing purposes in a building or heavy construction work. This nailer can shoot nails with a diameter of 2.8 mm and up to a length of 3.5 inches. It has fame for maximum holding power thus used for heavy-duty works.

Depending on the type of firing nails, the framing nailers are classified into two varieties, clipped head, and round head nailers.

You may choose a clipped head nailer over the other type because it can hold more nails than the other one. Thus, reduces loading frequency and is used for projects of a larger scale and duration. The round head type has a greater power of holding materials than the clipped head.


  • Wood sheathing
  • Wood siding
  • Heavy construction
  • Fencing
  • Building decks
  • Framing house

2.     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.


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

3.     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.


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

4.     Roofing Nailer

This nail gun has one specific job that is to pin roofing sheets or shingles to the wooden frame. For maximum holding power, these nailers are designed for the round head type. Besides, they need less energy and saves your time.

Roof shingles are soft and can be damaged if too much force is applied. For this reason, roofing nailers have a depth adjustment feature to shoot the nails to the safe depth of shingles.


  • Roof shingle installation
  • Mainly used by professional contractors
  • Outdoor work
  • Home projects

5.     Flooring Nailer

Flooring nail guns are very different in appearance than the other types and you might not identify them among all types in a tool store. They are specifically designed for fastening tongue-and-groove floorboards.

This type of nailer shoots cleat nails for efficient adjoining of floorboards. These nails are unique in shape and come up in a T-shape or L-shape for effective adjustments.

You do not need to kneel to fire nails into the floor. You just need to hold the nailer against the edge of the material and trigger. The nails will be driven into the material at the right angle and depth.


  • Installation of floorboards

6.     Siding Nailer

You need this nailer for installing sidings in projects. This nailer is a new addition to the collection. Before its development, professionals used framing nailers for siding though they shoot longer nails than required.

Siding nails are designed with a wider head and shorter nails for fulfilling their purpose. The length of these nails is 1.25 to 2.5 inches. Some nails are made of aluminum to attach aluminum sidings.


  • Combines thin siding material with wooden exteriors.

7.     Pin Nailer

The nails used in this nailer are headless though sometimes can be slightly headed and are very delicate. These nails offer almost no holding power and are usually used in combination with glue or any other adhesive. Sometimes they are used to hold materials temporarily until the glue dries.

This tool uses 23-gauge nails and is good enough for making wooden toys and small houses for pets.


  • To hold materials temporarily
  • Finishing work in carpentry
  • Trimming small furniture

8.     Palm Nailer

You can hold this nailer in your palm and there is a strap to bind around your wrist for better holding. These nailers shoot one nail at a time, of length 1.5-3.5 inches.

They are very tiny in size for the convenience of holding in the palm and for shooting nails at the utmost tighter place where other nail guns can hardly reach. You can shoot nails with comparatively less energy and the shoots are very accurate.

Because of the smaller size, these nailers are very light in weight that eases your work for longer periods without fatigue. These nail guns are also inexpensive and often are offered for free with other larger nailers.


  • Tight spots
  • Smaller projects
  • Fencing
  • Crafting

9.     Staple Gun or Trigger Gun

These nailers are different from the other nail guns described above. They shoot staples instead of actual nails into materials. They are classified as a nail gun because staples are also fasteners. The staples are U-shaped with a flat top.

Staple guns or trigger guns are used for fastening fabrics to the frame of a chair or sofa, pinning carpets to floor or wall, or any vertical fastening.


  • Installing carpets
  • Upholstery
  • Fastening ceiling tiles and wires
  • Weatherstripping

Classification Based on The Power Source

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. The nail guns can be classified into the following three types with respect to the working mechanism.

1.     Pneumatic or Air-Operated Nailers

The pneumatic nail gun is the widely used nailer among the 3 types. 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.


  • Higher durability. Can be used for a longer period and large-scale works.
  • 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.
  • Provides consistent pressure. Enables delivering equal pressure to each nail.

2.     Combustion or Gas-powered Nail Gun

This is almost the same as the previous one except that it requires internal combustion of fuel to produce hammering pressure. Butane or liquid petroleum are mainly used as fuel.

It has a combustion chamber, a fuel container, a piston, and a battery. When you trigger the gun, fuel is released to the combustion chamber from fuel cartridges. A spark is formed, by a battery or through connecting the gun to an electric outlet, to burn the fuel.

The pressure is created through the combustion of fuel and drive the nails into the material.


  • Saves user from the hassle of air compressor and air hose.
  • The odor of the residue gas is sometimes irritating.
  • The combustion reaction may not occur properly in cold weather which results in less firing pressure.
  • Provide a reasonable amount of pressure. Can be used for large-scale works and driving nails to a hard surface.

3.     Electric Nailers

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.


  • Easily portable to any place.
  • Perfect for the small-scale users, hobbyists, and DIYers
  • Needs an electric outlet for charging for corded electric nails.
  • Needs neither an air compressor nor a combustion fuel chamber
  • Do not produce massive driving pressure like the pneumatic or gas-operated nailer.

Classification Based on The Physical Structure

The last classification criterion is the physical structure of the nail gun. The nail guns are categorized into the following four types depending on this criterion.

1.     Coil Nailer

The nails are arranged in a coil in this nail gun. These guns are small in size and easily portable. The coil nailer is mainly used as roofing nailers.

The holding capacity of these nailers is higher than other ones. 150 coil nails can easily fit into the magazine of these nail guns. The longer handle makes it easy to handle and pressurize. The pneumatic type of nailer is specially designed for professional work.

2.     Stick Nail Gun

In this nailer, the nails are organized in a long magazine that can hold 25-40 nails at a time. You can use this gun for nails of variable lengths. The nails are stored at a specific angle.

You must check the angle and collation style before firing nails through this stick gun. Nails of three styles: paper collated, plastic collated and wire weld collated, can be fired through this nailer.

3.     Angled Nailer

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.

4.     Straight Nail Guns

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.

Size of Nails

For selecting a nail gun, you can consider two factors, your application or purpose, and the required nail size. Selecting the perfect nail size for your work is a major challenge. Different types of nail guns operate in different nail sizes. I am listing some nail sizes for your ease of selection.

  • 15-16-gauge nails: They are the largest and provides the greatest holding power. They are typically used for applications like door or window frames, baseboards, crown molding, and for fastening non-structural wood pieces.

15-16gauge size means you can fit 15 to 16 nails at one-inch space of the magazine.

  • 18-gauge nails: They are smaller than the 15-16-gauge nails. Because of their smaller size, they create tiny holes. Despite less holding power, they are used to fasten smaller trims without the risk of splitting the delicate pieces.

18-gauge size means you can arrange a total of 18 nails per inch space of the magazine.

  • 21 and 23-gauge nails: These two sizes of nails are mainly used in pin nailer. They are so small that it seems like they have no head. They provide minimally or no holding power at all. They are always used in combination with glue for better holding.

The size simply implies that you can fit 21 or 23 nails per inch space of the magazine.

You are maybe confused about which nail size to choose. There are two thumb rules for your ease of selection,

  1. Select a nail that is at least 3 times longer than the depth of the material you are nailing into.
  2. Add ¾ inch with the depth of the material and choose a nail of the sum size.


You are maybe exhausted after reading this long article. But never mind, you must go through all the types and their specifications for a thorough understanding of which nail gun will be the right one for you. Just remember one thing, the best quality work is a result of choosing the appropriate tool. I hope this article will be a great help to you.

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