When you’re working with thin cuts of wood you need a tool that that won’t split your material. That’s where a brad nailer comes in, and cordless brad nailers offer the freedom of movement to get the job done.
That’s why in this article I compared some of the best cordless brad nailers around.
The cordless brad nailers we’ll be reviewing in this article:
- Overall Winner: DeWalt DCN680D1 Cordless Nailer
- Runner-Up: CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless 18GA Brad Nailer (CMCN618C1)
- Best budget brad nailer: Ryobi P320 Airstrike
- KIMO 20V 2 in 1 Cordless 18 Gauge Brad Nailer/Stapler Kit
- PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA (PCC790LA)
Cordless Brad Nailer Reviews
I think the best choice of words to characterize this nailer from DeWalt is large and in charge. This nailer is powerful, easy to use, and consistent. It’s also built sturdy enough to take a beating keep on working.
When it comes to performance, this nailer is fantastic. It fires incredibly smoothly without noticeable recoil. The tip is small and precise, and you can accurately position it without fear of a misfire. This makes a world of difference when you need to line up a nail on a narrow surface.
One really great thing DeWalt built into this nailer is its tool-free features. They make it easier and quicker to get a job done by reducing unnecessary downtime. This includes a tool-free depth adjustment done with a dial on the side of the gun. It also includes a jam clearing latch that makes it simple and hassle-free to clear the rare nail jam and a stall release lever.
The DCN680 also supports tool-free switching between sequential and bump firing with a switch to easily change between the two. This is a major plus over other nailers that either doesn’t support bump firing at all or require an allen key to swap between the two.
- Sturdy enough to take abuse without breaking.
- Easy to use tool-free jam clearing and resetting in case of stalls.
- 2 LED lights behind the trigger do a good job of lighting the area.
- Depth adjustment is easy, thanks to a dial on the side of the nailer.
- An anti-dry fire feature prevents damaging your work surface.
- Great battery life.
- Uses the same DeWalt 20V max battery as many other DeWalt tools
- Features a good belt clip
- Storage space for spare no-mar tips
- Comfortable trigger and rubberized grip
- Heavier than other models.
- The large size and unbalanced weight make it awkward in tight quarters.
If you’re looking for a nailer that’s comfortable to use for an extended period, then this offering by Craftsman might be the best brad nailer for you. This nailer craftsman is the lightest nailer on the list, and the weight does have is well balanced. This results in a nailer that’s more comfortable to use for extended periods.
The tool-free depth setting on this nailer is quick and simple to use, making adjusting nail depth a cinch. Other tool-free settings make it easy to clear any nail jams or stalls, avoiding unnecessary frustration or downtime.
It’s worth mentioning that this nailer does not have a bump-fire mode, which means you’ll need to pull the trigger for each brad that you fire. Of course, this won’t be a problem if you only have precision nailing to do.
Unfortunately, while being the most comfortable brad nailer for prolonged use on the list, it also has the shortest battery life of the nailers we are reviewing. Still, with the ability to drive up to 420 2-inch brads on a single charge, it should more than enough to meet all but the most demanding needs.
- Lightest weight option
- Well-balanced design
- Tool-free depth adjustment
- Quick and easy to set up
- Drives nails a consistent depth
- Double LEDs on both sides of the nailer
- Tool-free jam, and stall clearing
- Uses the same 20-Volt batteries as other Craftsman tools
- Shorter battery life than other options
- Does not support bump-firing
- Did not come with a belt hook
This nailer by Ryobi offers a decent level of quality at a lower price range than other nailers. It may be a little heavy but has a strong set of features.
The P320 has a few tool-free features, which means less downtime on the job. This includes a dial for tool-free adjustment to the depth of drive for a shot. This makes it simple to avoid under or over-driving nails. It also has a tool-less jam release to clear nail jams without a hassle.
Another useful feature of the P320 AirStrike is that it lets you adjust the air pressure separately from the depth of drive. This is done with a large dial on the back of the tool and allows you to find that exact sweet spot to get your nails driven in just as deep as you want them.
There are some problems with this nailer as well, though where after heavy use, it starts to become less reliable and misfires more often. Googling suggests that this is a known issue with these nailers and that some wd40 in the nail assembly may solve it for a time.
- Best on a budget
- You adjust the air pressure and the nail feeder actuator to help with under and over-driving.
- Two LEDs on the sides of the tool illuminate the work surface.
- Tool-free depth of drive adjustment dial.
- It has a good belt clip.
- Good battery life
- Dry-fire lockout prevents accidentally marring your work-surface.
- Tool-free jam release.
- Works with batteries for other Ryobi 18-volt tools
- May develop an issue that causes misfiring
- The battery snap isn’t the most secure, make sure it snaps all the way in place, or it may fall out on you.
This 2-in-1 tool from Kimo is no gimmick; it’s both a capable brad nailer and a staple gun. It manages to avoid most of the shortcomings of other combo guns in the same price range. Switching between firing brad nails or staples is quick as well, making it the perfect choice when you have a project that will need both used.
Beyond the flexibility it provides, another great thing about the Kimo combo nailer is its incredible battery life. On a full charge, it easily provides more than a full day of nailing without needing to recharge or change batteries.
Some noticeable tradeoffs come with this nailer though. Noticeably, it’s the second largest on our list (after the DeWalt), and after a long day of work, you can feel that extra weight. It also makes it more awkward at some difficult angles.
Also, unlike the other nailers, we listed clearing jams on the Kimo 2-in-1 is not tool-free and requires an allen wrench. What irks me about this though, is that they didn’t include somewhere on the gun to store the one included.
- 2-in-1 brad nailer and a staple gun
- Unlike other combo guns, this nailer won’t leave staple indents when firing brads.
- Quick to change between shooting brad and staple
- Incredible battery life
- High power dual LEDs near the firing head
- The battery isn’t compatible with any more common tool brands
- Does not include a belt hook
- Slow and loud compared to others on the list
- Noticeable recoil when firing
- Doesn’t feature tool-free jam clearing
- No storage for the allen key needed to clear jams
This brad nailer by Porter-Cable is a solid choice that some users will love, it’s a great size and weight that makes it comfortable to hold for long periods. Unfortunately, this brad nailer does have some serious flaws.
This gun is the quietest firing nailer on this list. It’s also incredibly easy to use with simple tool-free jam clearing, which can be a significant time and frustration saver. That’s especially handy since this nailer was reported to jam more frequently than any others on our list.
While the ergonomics of this nailer are excellent for the most part, they fail spectacularly in one area, the LED light. Someone at Porter-Cable had the not-so-bright idea to place the LED light behind the nozzle, blocking it from doing what it’s intended for.
Also worth mentioning is that this nailer does not have a bump-fire mode. This means that you will need to pull the trigger individually for each brad you nail.
If you can look past the flaws, then with its ergonomic design, this is a great brad nailer, but it would be hard to say it’s best brad nailer when it is in the same price range as the DeWalt and Craftsman nailers.
- Tool-free release is easy and time-saving
- Quieter than most others
- Easy to load
- Integrated Belt Hook
- Poorly positioned flashlight
- Slight recoil
- It does not alert you when you run out of nails.
- No bump-fire mode
- Occasional nail jams
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Cordless Brad Nailer
Pneumatic vs. Cordless Brad Nailers
If you are shopping for your first brad nailer, then you may be wondering if a pneumonic or cordless would be the best brad nailer for you. To help you make that choice, here are the chief benefits that both options offer to their users.
Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Pneumatic nailers are powered by an air compressor, and if you already own an air compressor, they can be a great choice. These air-powered nailers are more powerful than cordless models. Because they do not need a bulky battery pack, pneumatic nailers are also lighter. This can make them more comfortable to use for an extended period.
Cordless Brad Nailers
Because cordless brad nailers don’t require an air compressor, they offer you much more freedom of movement when nailing. This can really come in handy, especially if you are going to be working on a ladder where an air hose could be cumbersome. They are also much quieter than air-powered nailers since they do not need a noisy air compressor.
What features would the best Brad Nailer have?
Tool-free jam clearing
The ability to clear any nail jams without a tool is a huge benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked. It can save you unnecessary downtime. A good tool-free jam clearing system should make dealing with jams fact and frustration-free.
Selective Actuation (Bump firing)
Most brad nailers have a sequential actuation mode; basically, you have to pull the trigger for each nail brad. Not all nailers also have a bump firing (also called contact actuation) mode. In this mode, you can hold down the trigger and bump the contact tip of your nailer against a surface to push a nail. This can be a useful timesaver when you need to use multiple nails in the same relative area.
If you think this would be a useful feature for you, then I’d suggest choosing a nailer that offers a tool-free method of switching your actuation mode.
How comfortable a tool is to use is not something you should ever overlook, especially not when its one that you plan to use for an extended period. When browsing cordless brad nailers, you should consider the weight, balance, and comfort of the grip.
I also consider including a good belt clip as a big plus that you may want to consider.
An Anti-Dry Fire Mechanism
Dry firing is when your nailer fires without any nails. This is more than a small annoyance because the air pressure from the gun trying to fire the brad can still be enough to leave a mark on your work surface. An anti-dry fire mechanism prevents this by stopping the nailer from firing when empty.
What is a brad?
If you’re new to woodworking or carpentry, you may be wondering what exactly is a brad anyway? Well, a brad nailer is a specialized nail gun designed to fire brads which are very thin nails. The width of nails is referred to as their gauge, and the higher a nail’s gauge, the thinner the nail is.
Nails used in framing nail guns for construction work are commonly 8 to 11-gauge, a brad is a nail that is most commonly 18-gauge. These incredibly thin nails don’t have as much holding strength, but being so small, they can be difficult to see. This makes them easy to conceal, and more importantly, they won’t shatter thin materials.
These properties make brad nailers a favorite tool for use in cabinetry, furniture building, and applying a trim.
Brad Nailers and Finish Nailers
There seems to be some common confusion when it comes to the difference between a brad nailer and a finish nailer. The two tools are used for similar jobs but complement each other rather than fill the same role.
A finish nailer shoots 15 to 16-gauge finishing nails that offer a stronger hold than a brad. They are used for attaching baseboards, window casings, and other tasks that a brad nailer isn’t suited for.
Because finishing nails are thicker than brads though, they are more likely to split thin materials and leave larger holes to conceal. This is why a brad nailer is used instead of a finish nailer for delicate work with thin materials.
The winner for overall winner is the DeWalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer. Despite its large size and cumbersome weight it offers a combination of features and high reliability that manages to seal it as the best overall value in my mind.
The Craftsman V20 Cordless 18GA Brad Nailer (CMCN618C1) comes in a close second place. Ultimately while it was the more ergonomic of the two the lack of bump-firing made the difference for me and if that isn’t something you need then this could be the better choice for you.