Years ago, house framing was an arduous task that took many days or weeks to accomplish. This is because of all the different pieces of wood that needed to be nailed together in the process. Not to mention, many nails had to be placed in unusual spots, tight areas, and even had to be toenailed into the wood at odd angles to add strength. Anyone that has ever done any one of these nailing tasks knows how difficult they can be. All this has changed with modern-day framing guns. Having the best framing nailer to work with makes even the most difficult framing nailing tasks much easier to do. These handy power tools have revolutionized the construction industry.
In this article, we will tell you what to look for if you are shopping for a new framing nailer. There are many characteristics of framing nailers you need to know that will help you make a wise purchase. We will also do several framing nailer reviews. That way if you don’t want to do a lot of research before buying, you will already know what the best model framing nailers are.
Best Framing Nailers
Just like with our brad nailer reviews, we always like to point out some of the top products made. These are what we feel are some of the top framing nailer buys in the power tool marketplace:
1. Metabo HPT NR1890DR 18V Cordless Framing Nailer
Here is a really nice cordless framing nailer for those that do not like to be bothered with power cords, hoses or compressors when they are doing wood framing work. It’s made by Metabo which is a line of power tools from the reputable Hitachi company. This framing nailer has a compact design and doing regular or trim nailing becomes easy when using it.
It uses compressed air to drive nails. This air power is generated by the unique proprietary Air Spring Drive System that is built into it. It’s a surprisingly powerful framing nailer for one that is cordless. This nail gun can drive up to 3 ½” strip nails into even the hardest woods. It’s so powerful it even has a recoil like the strongest pneumatic nailers.
There is also a control panel with several selective actuation buttons and a handy drive depth mechanism. The built-in rafter hook helps keep this tool debris-free when it’s not in use. It comes with a lifetime tool warranty and a 2-year warranty on its powerful and long-lasting lithium-ion battery.
2. Hitachi NR83A5 3-1/4″ Plastic Collated Framing Nailer
Here is another well-designed framing nailer from Hitachi. This one works off compressed air and has a collated nail distribution system on it. It’s a throwback style framing hammer with a design that is patterned after some highly successful older model framing nailers. This particular design was brought back by popular demand.
This framing nailer features a powerful cylinder valve drive system. That allows it to quickly drive up to its capacity of 60 to 75 nails. It makes short work of driving nails into even the toughest of woods. There is also a built-in depth setting which comes in handy when working with softer materials. It also has a convenient selective action switch built right into the trigger.
Another nice feature of this nail gun is its open nose design. That makes it very easy to back off the tool and extract jammed up nails from any surface. Hitachi once again shows a lot of confidence in their power tools by backing this nailer up with a lifetime warranty.
3. Max SN883RH3 Super Framer 21 Degree Framing Nailer
Here is a very well-built but lightweight air-powered framing nailer. It weighs just a little over 7 pounds. This framing nailer easily can drive home both plastic and paper collated nails that are 2” to 3 ¼” in length. It’s easy to maneuver and extremely portable for an air compressor supported power tool.
Among its best features are its maintenance free end cap and its well-designed reduced recoil engineering system. It’s mostly aluminum and steel construction make it a very durable framing nailer too. The just over 11 inches in height that it has also makes it convenient to drive nails in-between studs. A built-in nose magnet ensures that it shoots nails straight and true every time.
This framing nailer comes with a comfortable rubber grip and now includes a convenient rafter hook also. The manufacturer is so confident at how well this power tool is built, that they back it up with a very good 5-year warranty.
4. BOSTITCH Framing Nailer (F21PL)
Here is a nice collated framing nailer from the reputable power tool manufacturer Bostitch. With its powerful compressed air driving mechanism, it can embed up to 60 nails before reloading. It can handle driving bundled nails that are 1 ½” to 3” in length depending on how they are attached. This framing nailer is tremendous for its affordable price point.
One of the best features of this product is the fact that it’s made from magnesium. That helps keep it light in weight without sacrificing durability. It also features a simple and fast patented push-button adjustable depth guide and an adjustable rafter hook.
This framing nailer is also a lot like a 2 in 1 product. That’s because it has 2 quick-change nose pieces that enable it to do framing work or metal connections. If you don’t misuse this product you will not have to worry about replacing it in a while. It comes with a very good seven-year limited warranty.
5. Metabo HPT NR90AES1 21 Degree Pneumatic Framing Nailer
Here is yet another highly rated framing nailer from Hitachi Power Tools Metabo line of products. It works great for such a budget-friendly framing tool. With its 21-degree magazine and aluminum construction, it’s both lightweight and easy to maneuver around studs. This framing nailer is also very powerful due to its compressed air activation.
It’s a product that’s loaded with other nice features too. These include an easy depth adjustment feature and selective actuation switch. There is also a nice two-piece anodized aluminum magazine that will hold 2’ to 3 ½” collated nails.
It weighs just 7 ½ pounds for easy handling. Not only is it lightweight but it’s also comfortable to hold due to its padded rubber grip. The company also has done a good job of making it feel extremely balanced when using it. Metabo even backs this framing nailer up with a better than average 5-year limited warranty.
6. Estwing EFR2190 Pneumatic 21 Degree Framing Nailer
When it comes to making tools for framing houses or doing structural work, few companies do it better than Estwing. That’s why it’s not surprising that they would manufacture a very good 21-degree framing nailer like this one. It checks all the boxes as far as framing nailers go and does it at an affordable price.
This air operated framing nailer has power to spare. It will easily drive round head nails up to 3 ½” into even the hardest materials. It has such convenience features built into it such as a tool-free depth adjuster and a selectable fire trigger. Lightweight magnesium construction makes it easy to handle and durable.
It also has a very ergonomic design and rubber comfort grip. It’s no dry-fire design and no-scratch tip also makes for nice finished products that are done safely. Estwing even backs this framing nailer model up with a 5-Year Professional Warranty and a 60 Day wearable parts warranty.
7. Freeman PFR2190 Pneumatic 21 Degree Framing Nailer
Have you been looking for a beefy framing nailer but don’t want to spend much money on one? Then you will want to look closely at this model nailer from Freeman. It is loaded with features you generally only see on much more expensive framing nailers. When combined with the right air compressor it will make short work of any framing job.
This well-designed 21o framing nailer has very nice features such as customized firing depths and a non-marking tip. It will easily drive in round head nails up to 3 ½” in length. There is also a 360-degree adjustable exhaust feature and an anti-dry-fire switch.
In keeping with the tradition of other easy to use framing nailers, it features a very lightweight magnesium body. That helps make it a durable and easy to manage power tool. The limited 7-year/90-day wearable parts warranty that it comes with is incredible for its price point. An included pair of safety goggles and molded carrying case make this a great framing nailer deal.
8. NuMax SFR2190 Pneumatic 21 Degree Framing Nailer
This is a really well-built 21° framing nailer from NuMax. It will handle a wide variety of framing and other repetitive wood nailing needs. It’s pneumatic power easily drives up to 3 ½” collated nails into even the hardest woods and other materials. This power tool is also great for both professionals and DIY users because of its affordable price point.
It has a surprising number of features too. These include such things as a quick adjusting depth switch and a non-marking tip. There is also a capped air filter cover and its triggers are fully interchangeable. Even the air exhaust port is adjustable so it does not blow dust and other debris in your face as you use this framing nailer.
The durable magnesium body on it weighs just 8.9 lbs. That combined with its 21° nail magazine allow this framing nailer to go easily in-between studs. The warranty on it is far below the industry standard at only 1-year and 30-days on wearable parts.
9. Paslode – 905600 Cordless XP Framing Nailer
Here is another great framing nailer option for those that do not like dragging hoses and compressors around their worksites. It is surprisingly powerful too, given the fact it’s battery-driven. This power tool works off a 7V lithium-ion Battery that can drive up to 900 nails per charge. Even the hardest woods are no match for this framing nailer.
Most cordless framing nailers are fairly heavy but not this one. It only weighs an easy to handle 7.6 lbs. This power tool can drive nails that are between 2” to 3 ¼” long at a rate of 2-3 nails per second. Its polymer and metal combination body is durable and its also designed to load nails easily.
This power tool can be used with an optional fuel cell also. It comes complete with charger, lubrication oil, and 1 battery. There is a nice 5-year warranty on the tool and the battery comes with a 2-year warranty.
What is a Framing Nailer?
One of the most tedious jobs that anyone can take on is framing a home or other structure. It takes repeatedly driving nails deep into multiple pieces of wood to get the job done. When done in the old days with a hammer, even the strongest of arms severely fatigued by the end of the day. Fortunately, a power tool was designed to ease some of this burden on workers. That tool became the modern-day framing nailer.
These are powerful tools that use gas or compressed air to drive nails into even the toughest of woods very easily. They are sometimes called nail guns because they use a trigger to initiate their violent nail driving action. Most framing nailers even have magazines as a gun does. Some also use explosive charges to drive fasteners into extremely hard materials such as concrete.
Nowadays they are standard equipment on any building project. Most framing crew members only use hammers these days to pull nails out or add a nail or two here and there. These handy nail driving power tools can be used for much more than just framing too. Other uses for them include:
- Truss Build-Up
- Window Build-Up
- Wall Sheathing
- Wood Flooring Installation
Framing Nailer Buying Guide
There is a lot that goes into buying a framing nailer. There are many characteristics of these power tools you must consider in order to get your purchase right. You must also not confuse framing nailers with a best finish nailer product when shopping. Framing nailers must be much more powerful than these smaller cousins of theirs.
What to Consider Before Buying a Framing Nailer?
Start out by answering these questions to narrow down your framing nailer buying choices:
How many nails will I be using in a framing session?
This will help you decide what type of nail magazine you will need with your new framing nailer. Longer sessions are best done with coil style magazines because they hold more nails.
Will I be using my framing nailer for casual or professional use?
Answering this question will give you a good indication of the quality of framing nailer that you need to buy. Casual and DIY use do not require expensive, top of the line framing hammer purchases. It’s quite the opposite for those that will be using their framing nailers every day for many hours.
What Types of convenience features do I want built into my new framing nailer?
Not every framing nailer manufacturer puts the same convenience features on their framing nailers. Some have such built-in conveniences as easier to use depth adjustments and swiveling air hose connectors. You must decide what convenience features are important to you.
Do I want to bother with a compressor and air hoses?
The vast majority of framing nailers are pneumatic but that’s changing rapidly. Those who don’t like having the inconvenience of dragging around air hoses and compressors can now choose cordless framing nailers. These are being built more powerfully all the time and are rapidly climbing in popularity.
The Main Characteristics of Framing Nailers to Consider When Shopping for a New One
Here is a list of the most important framing nailer features and specifications to consider when looking to purchase a new one:
The first big choice you will need to make as far as a framing nailer is concerned is its power source.
- These include:
- Cordless Electric
- Electric Corded
More details on each of these individual framing nailer types can be found a little later in this article.
There are two basic ways that nails are loaded into a framing nailer.
Works great on large projects.
These style magazines are found on much more versatile style framing nailers.
For more in-depth information on this aspect of framing nailers, look ahead to the section.
It’s very important to know the magazine angle of any framing nailer that you are thinking about buying. That’s because it impacts everything from the spaces you can use it in, to the types of nails that can be driven in with it. Basically, the greater a magazine angle a framing nailer has, the easier it can be used in tighter spaces. Framing nailers with higher magazine angles also limit the nail options you can use with them. We will go into much more detail about this later in the article so you can get this part of your framing nail purchase right.
Some woods are softer than others. That means you must be more careful when driving nails into them with your framing nailer. You can do this by means of a built-in depth adjustment. Some of these are tedious to use and others adjust nail driving depth with the simple push of a button. Be sure to know how any framing nailer you want to buy adjusts the depths of the nails they drive in. You want this process to be simple if you drive nails to different depths on a regular basis.
As we have said many times, framing nailers are a very powerful tool. They jettison nails into wood with much force. That means if you are not careful, you can leave an ugly mark in a piece of wood after driving a nail into it. Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with a method that helps prevent wood marks when using a framing nailer. They have designed tips that prevent much of this. It’s important to be aware of if the model framing nailer you want to purchase has such a tip. This is especially true if you work with softer woods.
Anti-Dry Fire Mechanism
Dry-firing a framing nailer can be very bad for it. In some cases, it may even ruin it beyond repair. That’s why many framing nailer manufacturers design anti dry-fire switches into their products. They ensure that the framing nailer will not try and embed a nail unless there are a few nails left in the magazine. Make sure any framing nailer you buy has this feature.
People like to work with framing nailers at different speeds. Professionals like to drive in as many nails as fast as they can. DIY woodworkers tend to take their time, especially if they are framing nailer novices. There are different trigger adjustments and triggers that will enable users to frame or do other woodworking at their desired speed. Here are the most commonly found triggers on framing nailers.
Each time you put a little pressure on the framing nailer tip it will drive home a nail. Professionals like to use this type of trigger because they can work fast.
Single-fire triggers do just that. That only allows one nail to be driven in with each press of the trigger. Great for novice users and those who do detail work.
Can toggle back and forth between single and bump-fire working modes.
Adjustable Air Exhaust
Any time a framing air injects a nail into a piece of wood, it also gives off some air that needs to be expelled. That’s why all framing nailers have an exhaust port. They provide an avenue for excess compressed air to escape. This can be uncomfortable if its discharged in your face or scatter particles of debris across a work area. Adjustable air exhaust ports allow you to direct the excess air that is forced out of the tool while working to where you wan t it to go.
Nail Types Used
Be sure you know what nail types you must use with your individual framing nailer. This is important because building codes in some areas do not allow the use of clipped head framing nails. Builders don’t understand this because clipped nails seem just as hard to pull out as their round-headed cousins. Regardless, the law is the law. So make sure you are aware of what type of nails you can use with any framing nailer you are thinking about purchasing.
Chances are you will be using your framing nailer in a tough working environment. Many times if you are doing framing with it you will be using it in close quarters. So bumping your framing nailer may be common. That’s why you want your framing hammer to be made from durable materials such as polymer plastics or lightweight metals. A flimsily made framing nailer will not last you long.
The more your framing nailer weighs the quicker it’s going to tire you out. This should be something that professional framing nailer users highly consider. Look for a framing nailer that is as light as possible without sacrificing performance.
It was mentioned that you may at times be using your framing nailer in some tight spaces. That means size will be a factor in how easy it is to do a job. Make sure you consider the dimensions of any framing nailer you are looking to buy and how it relates to the jobs you will use it for.
Many framing nailers come with some nice bonus features or bonus items included in the package. That’s definitely something to consider, especially when comparing similar models of framing nailers. Framing nailer bonus features often include:
- Safety Goggles
- Molded or Hard Case
- Adjustment Tools
- Rubber Grips
- Built-in Rafter Hook
You will notice in the reviews found in this article that some of the framing nailers we talked about had very good warranties. That seems to be common for framing nailers. So unless you are paying rock bottom price for a framing nailer, you should get one with a good warranty. Characteristics of good warranties include those that cover everything on the framing hammer for as long as possible. A warranty is also a nice factor to use when determining which of two similar framing nailers you will buy. So be sure to know the warranty conditions for any framing hammer you are considering buying.
The Different Types of Framing Nailers
Here are the main types of framing nailers and brief descriptions about them:
By far the most common type of framing nailer. They use the power of compressed air to easily drive home even the largest size nails. They come in many different varieties which allow them to be used on all sorts of projects that require repeated nail driving.
These are fast catching up in popularity to Pneumatic framing nailers. They have no cords to interfere with you while you are working. They usually have smaller magazines and are a bit heavier than pneumatic framing nailers. These are great for small jobs or for professionals who do repetitive nailing tasks at many locations.
Gas driven framing nailers are a little bit more expensive to use than the other types mentioned here. These tend to be very powerful and have no trouble driving home even the largest size nails. They are not nearly as popular as the other types mentioned. This may be the best choice to consistently drive nails into the hardest materials without jamming.
This is probably the least popular power type that is used on framing nailers. Part of the reason for this is their cordless electric cousins perform just as well. These also have movement restrictions due to the fact they have attached power cords. They do offer the benefit of virtually nonstop use.
Cordless Vs Pneumatic Framing Nailers (Pros/ Cons / Uses)
Now that cordless convenience can be found in framing nailers, people are having a tougher time deciding which one is best. Here are the pros and cons of each to help you decide which may be better for you.
Cordless Framing Nailers
- Freedom of movement
- Easy setup
- Extremely portable
- Work well on most applications
- Smaller nail magazine
- Usually heavier than pneumatic framing hammers
- Shorter run time
Pneumatic Framing Nailers
- Wide variety of choices
- Proven technology
- Larger magazine
- Very lightweight
- Extended running time
- Need to own a compressor
- Air hose restricts freedom of movement
- Larger nail magazine sometimes gets in the way
In reality, neither of these is a bad framing nailer choice because they both can do a wide variety of nailing tasks. Mostly it comes down to personal preference.
Coil Vs Stick-Styled Magazine Framing Nailers
These are the two main types of nail loading magazines you will find on framing nailers.
If you will be using many nails in a framing session, this is the way to go because it holds more nails. You can work for hours without having to reload with this style framing nailer magazine. Its drawback is it makes the nailer heavier. You also won’t find many cordless framing nailers with this style magazine.
This style magazine holds less nails than a coil style framing nailer magazine. It usually allows you to use more different types of nails including preferred round head nails. The main drawback is it sticks out further than a coil nail magazine so working in smaller spaces can be more difficult.
Round-Head Vs Clipped-Head Framing Nails
Of course, one of the most important aspect of any framing nailer is the nails you can use with it. Most framing nailers will accept either round-head or clipped head nails for use. The thing is you must be very careful here. That’s because clipped-head nails often do not meet local building code standards. So before you purchase any framing nailer you must know what your local building code says as far as clipped-head nail use goes. As far as performance is concerned, most people do not see much of a difference between the two. The big advantage you get with clipped head nails is you can fit more in a magazine.
What Is A Framing Nailer Angle?
This is by far one of the most confusing topics about framing nailers. The thing is, it’s really very simple. When you see a number and degree associated with any framing nailer, it simply describes the angle that the nail magazine takes as it goes out away from the main body of the nailer. You have several choices when it comes to nailer magazine angles. The most popular of which is 21-degrees.
Why do companies list nailer magazine angles? It has everything to do with available working space. The larger an angle a framing nailer has the easier it is to use in tight spaces. For example; a 21-degree framing nailer is easier to use in tight spaces than a 15-degree framing nailer.
So why don’t all framing nailers use smaller degree magazine angles? There are a lot of factors that go into this. One of them is the smaller a framing nailer magazine is the more limited your nail choices that you can use with it are. Most contractors also find that the nails for smaller angles magazines also cost more. Small angled framing nailer magazines or also harder to load. If you are not working in small spaces on a regular basis, then there is no reason to have to deal with these drawbacks.
Common Framing Nailer Magazine Angles
Here Are the Most Common Framing Nailer Magazine Angles and What They Work Well For:
This is the smallest framing nailer magazine angle. It’s great for working in-between rafters, studs, and floor joists. The biggest drawback with 15-degree angles magazines is they only hold round-head nails that are wire collated. Wire collated nails add weight and cost more but they are perfect for use in high moisture areas. The biggest advantage is up to 300 nails can be loaded at once. They are not good for use in tight spaces and they can get heavy.
This is by far the most popular choice of framing nailer magazine size. You can see that in our review list most of the models are 21-degree framing nailers. This size is popular because it fits in small places fairly easily and is simple to load. It uses only rounded-head nails but these can be plastic collated which saves on cost. One disadvantage that comes with 21-degree nailer magazines is they only hold about 60 – 70 nails at a time. They are versatile and can be used on many different nailing tasks. Less nail capacity also tends to keep their weight down when using them.
Here is a framing nailer magazine angle that allows you to get into some tighter spaces. That’s great if you are working in crawls spaces, in between joists or in other small areas. These uses only rounded-head wire collated nails and you can load 100 of them at once. Remember, one drawback with wire collated nails is they tend to be more expensive. They are not designed to hold any more nails, so the tool stays compact in size. You can also use clipped-head nails in them but make sure its not against your area’s building codes.
This is the ultimate framing nailer to use in tight spaces. It has a big enough magazine angle that it stays nicely out of the way most of the time. This framing nailer uses rounded-head or clipped-head nails. The catch here is the nails are paper collated. That means this is not a good framing nailer to buy if you are working around water or in high moisture areas.
Please note: The angle is not always exact and there is a small amount of variation between manufacturers. For instance; a 21-degree magazine angle may actually be a 22-degree magazine angle. This does not impact the nail selection for a particular magazine for that small difference in degrees.
Also check out: 21 Vs. 28 Degree Nailers
How to Use a Framing Nailer Safely and Effectively
Fortunately, framing hammers tend to be a safe tool when used responsibly. When you first go to use a new framing hammer, you should definitely read through the entire owner’s manual thoroughly before doing so. This will tell you exactly how to best use your new framing nailer and be safe while using it. It is even recommended that you practice using it on scrap pieces of wood before taking it into the field with you. As with all power tools, the more you use them the better you will get. It’s also recommended that you start out using your framing nailer in single-shot mode before.
Here are some steps to properly use a framing nail gun.
Framing Nailer FAQ’s
- Question: Can I use a framing nailer for siding?
Answer: You can but they might be a little rough on the siding if you are not careful. A better choice would be a siding nailer which is specially made to do that job. With that being said, if you own a framing nailer and just want to put new siding on your own home, don’t go to the expense of buying a siding nailer.
- Question: What size air compressor do I use for my pneumatic framing nailer?
Answer: You need to consult your owner’s manual to answer this question with 100% accuracy. As a general rule, an air compressor system that generates 2.5 CFM @ 90 PSI, has a tank capacity of at least 3 gallons and provides 70-115 PSI should work fine for you.
- Question: What size air hose do I need for my pneumatic framing nailer?
Answer: There is no universal size air hose that is used with framing nailers. They can work with air hoses that are anywhere between ¼” to 1” in diameter. Many framing professionals think 3/8” hose is the perfect size to use because it’s easy to work with and the compressor does not have to run as often.
- What size nails for a framing nail gun?
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Some Final Thoughts on Framing Nailers
Framing nailers are one of the most useful tools that have ever been invented for woodworking. They significantly speed up the time it takes to finish repetitive wood nailing jobs. There are a wide variety of models to choose from and they come in a wide variety of price ranges too. This means anyone should be able to find a framing nailer that fits their needs and budget.
We have supplied you in this article with the critical information that you need to make a sound framing nailer purchase. Be sure to refer to the best framing nailer buying guide often when you are shopping for a new one. If you want a good framing nailer but don’t want to do a lot of research yourself, then you can’t go wrong purchasing any model we did framing nailer reviews on.