Choose the Right Framing Nail Gun

Nail guns can make fast work of a large job. If you're framing an addition on your house or building a deck, a framing nail gun may be the right choice.

Driving Force
Nail guns operate by generating enough force to drive a nail and delivering that force at the pull of a trigger. There are several ways to create the driving force of a framing nail gun.

Spring-loaded nail guns create force by cocking a spring with an electromagnet. The recoil in a spring-loaded nail gun drives the nail into the surface. Spring-loaded nail guns are very reliable since they have few moving parts. On the downside, spring-loaded nail guns can't deliver the same force as other types of guns.

A solenoid nail gun is powered by reversing the magnetic polarity of a piston. Solenoid nail guns are as reliable as the spring-loaded variety, but they also share the same lack of power as their spring-loaded cousins. Some solenoid nail guns are battery operated, making them portable.

Combustion nail guns use a small motor to drive the hammering piston. Combustion nail guns can deliver much more driving force than electric guns, but have higher maintenance requirements. Combustion nail guns are portable, but generate exhaust gases.

Pneumatic nail guns use compressed air to drive nails. Pneumatic nail guns typically have the most driving force, but you have to have (or purchase) an air compressor to make them work. Although this is an added expense, pneumatic nail guns are the most popular form of nail gun.

Some Important Features
When comparing framing nails guns, here are some features to compare:

  • Comfort: Even though a framing nail gun will do most of the work, you still have to hold it all day. Get the lightest nail gun you can find with enough power to complete your job.
  • Swiveling connectors: Whether air or electrical powered, a corded framing nail gun should have a swiveling connector. A flexible connector will let the framing nail gun accommodate you, not the other way around.
  • Nail loading: Framing nail guns store nails in one of two ways: strip (like staples in a stapler) or coil. Coiled nails are bulkier, but can easily handle nails with large heads. Strips loaders can sometimes have a larger capacity.
  • Nail flexibility: Look for a roofing nail gun that gives you the most flexibility when it comes to nail size. Greater flexibility means your framing nail gun will be usable in more situations.
  • Adjustable depth: A good framing nail gun will allow you to adjust the depth that a nail is driven. The depth adjustment should be easy to see and change.
  • Nailing angle: An angled nail gun will allow you to "toe nail" perpendicular boards, an important part of framing.
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