The Best Cordless Nail Gun For Your Woodworking Projects

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Home » Tools » The Best Cordless Nail Gun For Your Woodworking Projects

PORTER CABLE 20V MAX 18GA

Best Value cordless Nail Gun (Budget)

Budget: Porter Cable 20V

While the best cordless nail gun depends on your projects, there are features and top brands to consider prior to moving to cordless. From depth control to tool-free jam mechanisms and advantages of no air compressor we’ll cover why this tool is a good investment.

In this article learn about:

  • The right cordless nail guns by project
  • Nail gauge sizes and how to pick the right gauge nail gun
  • Top cordless manufacturers
  • Weight considerations
  • Tool features like depth control
  • Safety equipment you need to use
  • Budget and brand named nail guns

Lastly, you’ll want to consider the battery line in your purchases as you’ll want to have a 15-gauge, 18-gauge, stapler and possibly even a framing nail gun in your toolbox. And that might mean sticking to your current battery ecosystem to avoid re-buying batteries.

Nail GunProduct Desc.Shop
Best cordless nail guns - DewaltBest General Purpose: Dewalt DCN660BCHECK PRICE
No products found.Best 18-Gauge: Milwaukee M18 FUELNo products found.
Best cordless nail guns - Porter CableBest Budget: Porter Cable 18GACHECK PRICE
Best cordless nail guns - Milwaukee AngleMost Holding Power: Milwaukee 15-gaugeCHECK PRICE
Best cordless nail guns - Metabo framingBest Framing Nailer: Metabo HPTCHECK PRICE
Best cordless nail guns - Dewalt fencingBest Fencing Stapler: Dewalt DCFS950B 9 GaugeCHECK PRICE
Best cordless nail guns - Grex power toolsLightest weight 18-gauage: Grex GC1850CHECK PRICE

Looking for deals and in-stock items? Check out International Tool for selection, sales and discounts on tools.

What is a Cordless Nail Gun

Over the years you’ve likely seen CO2 powered nail guns. 

But, with the advances in batteries, there are now a number of manufacturers that build and produce a high quality nail gun that runs off your cordless battery ecosystem. 

Who Makes Them: Manufacturers

First, and it might be obvious, its often that your cordless drill will decide what brand of cordless nail gun you’ll end up buying.

Why is that?

Well, most woodworkers and tradesmen like to stick with a battery that fits all their tools from brands like:

Lastly, while many brands make cordless nail guns, few brands support an entire lineup of nail guns from small 23-gauage pin nailers to full-size cordless framing guns.

Alternatives to a Cordless Nail Gun

The old standby for many woodworkers is always a pneumatic nail gun. And, personally, I’ve had a Bostich air nail gun make dozens of kitchens in m home garage and countless more in the cabinet shop.

But the predecessor to the modern cordless gun was the not-always-popular gas cartridge nailer that relied on a CO2 propellant to drive nails.

Cordless for sure. But not without the need to buy cartridges.

Related Article: Trim Installation Tools

First: Decide on Nail Gauge For Your Project

One of the most important decisions when using a nail gun is picking the size of the nail. 

While that seems obvious, there is no one right answer for every type of application. And, there are even variations in the construction of the nail to consider such as galvanized, standard and even stainless steel.

Smaller Gauge Equals Larger Nail

Gauge of nails is something I’ve always found odd. From using penny to describe nail sizes to gauge size for nail gun nails its just another lingo to master.

So, to keep it simple: smaller gauge size equals a larger nail. And for regular “penny” nails a larger penny number equals a larger nail.

Best Nail Gauge for Finish Carpentry

Using a Finish Nailer to Install Cabinets

When it comes to finish carpentry I like to use a nail gun in the 16 to 18-gauge range. While some very intricate work might call for a 23 gauge pin nail, generally an 18-gauge is popular for most trim in thinner materials as it is available up to 2-1/2″ and is easier to conceal.

However, for thicker trim material, building cabinet boxes or anywhere heavier wood requires an extra hold then either a 16 gauge nail is best. 

But lastly when it comes to heavy duty nailing like overhead tongue and groove I opted for a 15-gauge nail gun for extra head size and holding power.

Angled Nails vs. Straight Nails

Angled nails

While the choice between nails comes down to what cordless nail gun you decide on, after using both I have a few opinions on when to use one versus the other.

First, a straight nail gun lets you setup the nail at a perfect 90-degrees MUCH easier than an angled nail gun. However, the tradeoff is a straight nail gun won’t fit into tight corners as easily as an angled nail gun.

But second, an angled nail gun offers up a few advantages in reach. For example, I recently installed a cedar tongue and groove ceiling in an outdoor porch area and the first row was at about a 15-degree angle. The 30-degree 15 gauge Milwaukee nail gun easily fit into the bottom row. 

Yes, I could have flipped a straight cordless nail gun around. But I wanted a heavier duty 15 gauge (stainless) nail.

The best answer for nail guns? Buy into a line-up that offers a framer, 15-gauage, 16-gauage, 18-gauage and 23-gauage nail gun. Then you can buy up or down in size based on your projects.

Best Cordless Nail Guns For Trim

Woodworking trim project

So we started with a long list of manufacturers of cordless guns. But for most woodworkers you likely own a cordless tool collection built around Dewalt, Milwaukee, Makita or Ryobi.

Which makes choosing a nail gun for most woodworkers a decision on the nail guns gauage.

Don’t own a specific lineup of tools? Well, take a look at the following cordless nail guns and see what best fits your use and budget.

My pick? Well, after putting thousands of 18-gauge nails through the Milwaukee I give it the nod for everything from speed, weight and its improvements as a second generation tool.

No products found.

No products found. (Editor’s Pick)

Overview

From nailing face frames to cabinets or installing trim around a window there is always one problem: nails leaves holes.

So what’s the best way to use a cordless nail gun AND reduce the damage done by the nail head? You guessed it, go with the smallest diameter nail that will still have holding power for your project.

And, for my jobs, I like to use an 18-gauage nailer when I need to hide the nail head and a 15-gauage for holding power (where looks aren’t important).

Key Features

With the variety of woods you’ll use this type of nail gun in there are a few features you’ll want to make sure you have:

  • Clear line of sight to the nailer “nose”
  • A soft tip guide to prevent wood damage
  • Lightweight to reduce fatigue
  • Compatible with major nail brands you’ll find in big box stores (like Paslode).
  • And the number one feature: adjustable nail depth control

As with all tools, features equate to price. 

Buying tip: look for second generation of cordless nail guns. Many tools, including Milwaukee, had issues with their first generation that ranged from jams to slow response times after pulling the trigger.

No products found.

Dewalt DCN680 cordless nail gun

Overview

Dewalt tools are one of the most popular brands. And that makes this one of the most purchased cordless nail guns on the market.

So, if you are invested in Dewalt than stick with Dewalt to avoid the expense of adding more batteries.

Here’s what to like about the Dewalt:

  • Works with their most popular battery lineup (20V MAX)
  • Brushless motor
  • Tool free design (eg. to fix jams)
  • LED light to illuminate work
  • Non-mar tip
  • Contact or sequential nail selector

Note: The Dewalt is also available as just the tool and without the battery at a price comparable to the Makita and Milwaukee.

Makita XNB01Z  cordless nail gun

Overview

Among woodworkers the Makita brand is always in the top 3.

New to woodworking? Well, it’s worth getting to know Makita as a brand, but in cordless brad nailers you’ll find this tool offers:

  • Sequential or contact nailing
  • Tool-less design
  • Anti-dry drive mechanism
  • Drives up to 2″ nails
  • Weight: 7.7 pounds with battery

Ryobi  cordless nail gun

Overview

As one of the most popular entry-level tool brands, you’d expect Ryobi to offer a cordless nail gun. And, if this is your line of power tools the P320 is a 18-gauage nail gun that will let you cut the cord.

This cordless nail gun offers up all the key features of other brands:

  • 18-gauge nails up to 2″ in length
  • Works with over 225 Ryobi tools
  • 3 year warranty
  • Contact actuated mode

Best General Duty Cordless Nail Guns

If your projects are more than trimming, then a 15 or 16-gauge nail gun is best for most woodworkers.

Not sure if you need an 18-gauge or 16-gauge? Well, consider:

  • 16-gauge nail guns will install trim but will leave a larger nail head to fill/conceal
  • A 16-gauge is better for cabinet and plywood construction
  • While every project is different, and your construction needs are up to your design, I prefer a 15-gauge nail gun for tongue and groove overhead installation.

Dewalt 16 gauge  cordless nail gun

Overview

At just over 6 pounds this 16-gauge is lightweight.

And arguably the most popular cordless nail gun on the market.

Key features of the Dewalt DCN660B include:

  • Drives nails from 1-1/4″ to 2-1/2″
  • Brushless motor
  • Sequential or contact actuation firing
  • Tool free jam release
  • LED light
  • Tool-free stall removal
  • Angled design for fit into tight corners
  • Works with 20V MAX battery system

The only downside of the Dewalt? It carries a premium price tag.

Makita 16 gauge  cordless nail gun

Overview

As with most tool conversations, Makita and Milwaukee are compared to Dewalt. 

But as a professional unit the Makita is just ahead of the Milwaukee and features:

  • Drives nails from 1″ to 2-1/2″
  • Trigger lock
  • 110 nail capacity
  • Sequential or contact actuation firing
  • Tool free jam release
  • Tool-free stall removal
  • Square design for quick 90-degree alignment
  • Works with 18V Makita battery system

The downside to this unit? It is a bit bulkier and weighs more than the Dewalt.

Ryobi 16 gauge  cordless nail gun

Overview

While shopping for features is important, as you know the brand of batteries you have or want to have can decide your tool.

And with Milwaukee, Makita, Dewalt and Ryobi being four of the mainstream tool vendors a Ryobi cordless nail gun is the budget-minded nail gun.

Key features:

  • Drives nails up to 2″
  • LED lighting
  • Low nail indicator (a great feature)
  • Sequential or contact actuation firing
  • Tool free jam release
  • Tool-free stall removal
  • Square design for quick 90-degree alignment
  • Works with 18V Ryobi battery system

Among tool forums you’ll find Ryobi is argued to be a step behind the big three of Milwaukee, Dewalt and Makita. But as a DIY brand Ryobi is very popular.

Best Cordless Framing Nail Gun

Best cordless nail gun for framing

While cordless nail guns have come a long way, most framers will stick to a rapid fire air powered gun. 

However, for smaller jobs or punch-list bracing where moving from room to room without a cord a cordless nail gun is a great secondary tool for framing.

Key features of a framing nailer:

  • Shoots standard angled nails (21, 28 or 30-degree)
  • Nail sizes from 1″ to  3-1/2″
  • Rapid fire mode 
  • Adjustable nail depth control
  • Compatible with other tools (cost / backup batteries)
  • Tool-less jam removal

Dewalt framing cordless nail gun

Overview

As you’d expect from Dewalt, their cordless nail gun features all of the basic and advanced features you’d expect:

  • 21-degree angle
  • Support for 2 to 3-1/2″ nails
  • Depth adjustment
  • 20V battery (200+ other Dewalt tool compatible)
  • Rafter hook
  • Sequential and bump-fire modes
  • 3 year warranty (see manufacturer details)

Metabo framing cordless nail gun

Overview

With over 400 nails per charge on a compact 3.0aH battery the Metabo is a brand-name framing gun that features:

  • 30-degree angle
  • Support for 2 to 3-1/2″ nails
  • 18-volt battery
  • Air drive spring system 
  • Drives 2 nails per second

Common uses of a Battery Powered Nail Gun

Best cordless nail gun for woodworking

After recently building a deck, installing a room filled with trim, installing a cedar ceiling in a 3-season porch and hanging 500-square feet of LP Smart Side I’ve had the chance to put three Milwaukee cordless nail guns to the test.

And, after finishing these jobs, will never go back to an air powered nail gun again.

Ever.

So, based on my experience, here’s where I’d I use each type of nail gun:

  • 15-gauge nail gun for holding power in constructing cabinets, installing tongue and groove panels or anywhere hardwoods will be put under stress. The downside to this size nail is it’s harder to hide than the 18-gauge. By a lot, actually. 
  • 18-gauage nail gun for trim installation or cabinet installation where a nail up to 2-1/2 inches is required but you want a narrower head to hide screws with (my favorite) Color Putty.
  • Cordless framing nail gun for, well, framing, installing siding, and just about any other job where a hammer and nail would come into play. 

Framing Nail Guns

After years of swinging a hammer on smaller woodworking projects I finally had a need for a cordless framing gun: a large, time sensitive siding project with LP SmartSide. 

While it was tempting to hook up a cheap siding nail gun I decided to splurge on a Milwaukee cordless nail gun that would last me well past the project. 

When to go Cordless

Of course, the #1 reason to go cordless is portability but consider:

  • Jobs without electricity
  • Dragging an air hose creates a safety issue
  • Smaller or specialty jobs (it’s hard to beat an air compressor for high volume, FAST nailing)

Framing Nails

Most air nail guns support one of three styles of nails:

  • Coil nails
  • 21-degree nails

The trick? Make sure to pick a cordless framing nailer that has a popular sized nail you can buy in bulk or at a nearby home store.

Features of a Cordless Nail Gun

Types of Wood Tools

Cordless nail guns make their air powered cousins look bad when it comes to features. 

While air powered guns can be adjusted, the controls are limited to the compressor they are attached to or, quite simply, the lack of electronics built into the tool.

So if this is your first look at a cordless nail gun there are a few considerations worth taking a look at.

Nail Depth Adjustment

If you’ve used an air powered nail gun you know the length of the nail, gauge of the nail, wood and the PSI (pounds per square inch) all play into how far into the wood a nail will go.

I’ll typically set the compressor to 90 PSI and everything works.

But, with a cordless nail gun you’ll have the advantages of:

  • Dial-the-depth that allows you to raise and lower the tip
  • No fuss with the air compressor output
  • Quick adjustment from softwoods to hardwoods

Belt Hook Mounts

Tool Belt Holder

At first this might seem like an odd feature. But, since you won’t be dragging the air hose around you’ll be freed up to have your nail gun attached, well, to you.

Be sure to look for this when buying. While I don’t always have it on me, I have found the hook works great on ladders to keep the nail gun accessible.

Contact Actuated Firing

Most popular in cordless framing nail guns, contact actuated firing allows for the nail gun to be fired when the tip is pressed against the wood. While most nail guns have this, I prefer to use the single shot mode. Safety, I guess.

Weight (or lack of)

So my cordless framing nail gun is powerful, but it is also extremely HEAVY.

While I’m a big guy with a moderate amount of muscle, it’s still a chore to hold at shoulder level for hundreds of nails (like I experienced when putting on 500 sqf of LP Smartside).

Would I trade some extra weight to avoid an air hose? Yes.

But, as you’re making a decision be sure to consider the cordless nail gun weight as you make your final purchase. Generally, the three nail guns I own increase in weight by the size of the nail. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What size nailer do I need?

When it comes to choosing size of nails it comes down to the project you’ll be tackling. For trim where you’ll be hiding the head of the nail, an 18-gauage nail works in most applications unless the trim is unusually thick or heavy. Which is where a 15 or 16-gauge nail gun works best to supply additional holding power. On the other hand, a 23-gauage pin nail is best for small projects where there is little structural integrity required. Lastly, a framing nail gun is best for any sheeting or dimensional lumber projects.

What's the best cordless nail gun brand?

While Bostich and Paslode are traditional brands in air-powered and CO2 cartridge nail guns, Dewalt and Milwaukee are top brands with the widest selection of cordless nail guns.

Should I use straight or angled nails?

While a straight nail has the advantage of helping align the nail gun, an angled nail allows better visibility and fits into tight corners. Which nail you choose is a bit of personal preference and project type.

Summary

While ditching your air compressor is a huge change for most woodworkers it will only truly be a lasting experience if you choose the best cordless nail gun for all your projects. And, in most cases, that means being prepared to own at least two nail guns for interior trimwork.

Last update on 2021-09-19 at 05:46 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4 thoughts on “The Best Cordless Nail Gun For Your Woodworking Projects”

  1. Hey there. Which gun would you recommend for skirting boards? We have de walt tools generally but are open minded.

  2. Hi Jo –

    If the skirting boards are a common size (1/2″ thick, 3″ tall or less) I use an 18-gauage. However, for larger and thicker boards I would look at a 15-gauge and even then have both if your budget allows is best.

    If you are invested in Dewalt compatible batteries there’s no reason to switch up.

    Eric

  3. I believe if a homeowner diy’r needs one single gun that would be 16 gauge. What would be your recommendation for that ?

  4. Drako –

    Great question and the larger nail size does offer more flexibility. The Dewalt 16-gauge would be my choice for a DIY unit if your budget allows. Otherwise, the Ryobi is a less expensive option.

    Thanks,
    Eric

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