Nail Gun Types & Features

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Share the Word

The two nailers usually confuse buyers as they physically look similar and use the same size fasteners. Not to mention many buyers put them to use which they aren’t intended to be used for. We’ll be diving into what so many people are confused about and really clearing the air with these similar yet different nailers. Brad Nailers vs Finish Nailers.

Best Brad Nailers

First, we will take a look at some of the best nail guns in each class. Then we can go over a some things that will help you decide which is best suited for your needs, Brad Nailers vs Finish Nailers.

What Is A Brad Nailer?

In most cases a brad nailer is somewhat smaller than a finish gun. The brad nailer does not have much holding power compared to the finish nailer. The main reason being it does not use standard nails. Instead, they use brads, which are a smaller gauge of metal that doesn’t have a head on the end. Finish guns are usually used to attach lightweight trim or finish work.

(To learn more about what to look for when buying a brad nailer check out the video below.)

A benefit of using a brad nail gun is the hole it leaves after firing, which is much smaller than all other nail guns. Brads are convenient for attaching trim wood without the problems associated with larger guns. Issues such as splitting wood and leaving large holes which need to be filled with wood filler are common with finish guns. They can be used for a variety of minor household projects, repairs and crafts.

What Is A Finish Nailer?

In essence, finish nail guns are set up to nail small trim boards and molding onto wood projects without much hassle. These tiny finish nails can be hammered through the trim board into plywood, softwood or hardwoods. Other specialty wood products like MDF  can be nailed with little or no footprint. The finish nails usually leave a small hole behind, but these can be filled using a wood filler right after or before applying the paint or finish.

The finish nailer has more versatility than a brad nailer. Due to the type of nail it uses it does not perform as well on thin or delicate wood. Look at the materials you are using in the project and a make logical choice as to which gun will be a better fit. The last thing you want is damaged wood, by firing too big of a fastener and having to replace or repair the damaged piece.

A finish nail also has a stronger holding power,  which makes it ideal for attaching heavy trim and large pieces of wood together. In the case of baseboards, cabinetry, and wide crown molding this is a perfect tool. The brad is likely not to hold these type of heavier pieces in position for long.

brad nailer vs finishing nailer

Brad Nails VS Finish Nails

Brad Nails

Brad nails are made using finer, 18-gauge wire. They are smaller in diameter compared to finish nails and have less of a hold strength. Brad nails are better for jobs like smaller decorative molding and trim, hanging panels. This type of nail gun is also great for other detailed work like crafting. The small size prevents splitting which can occur with finish nails.

One of the more popular benefits of brad nails is the size. A smaller head and diameter means that they are easier to hide in wood trim. When using brads it’s possible that you may not need to conceal the  holes with wood putty. 18-gauge brad nails give a more clean, finished look that a finish nail doesn’t.

Finish Nails

Finish nails are made from stronger 15-or 16-gauge wire, this means they can will take more force before bending. Crown molding and baseboard are more appropriate for finish nails. These are more heavy duty nails compared to brad nails, which will give you increased support and  resistance, making them ideal for installing large trim and other woodwork.

Why are finish nails so attractive? They have gained traction with woodworkers over the years because they are far unlikely to split the subtle trim, like wood screws and other larger framing nails. It’s also for this reason that finish guns are far much more useful for this kind of wood projects.

Another allure of finish nailing guns is the ability to use a single hand above your head to hold the gun, leaving the other to keep molding or trim in position without fatigue. Also, there’s no need for pre-drilling when attaching molding or other soft boards.

A finish nail gives a much stronger hold between larger pieces of wood and the structure you’re nailing to. To check out a more detailed article on using a finish gun specifically than take a look at this.


As a result of using a larger nail,  finish nails almost always require a little extra work, – which consists of a little putty to cover the hole from the head of the nail.

(To learn more about what to look for when buying a finish nailer take a look at the video below.)

Finish Nailer Features

Finish nailers use a variety of nails, ranging from 15 to 18 gauge. They come with either straight or angled magazines, implying that you can hold them in both the nailing direction or at a 20-degree angle. As you might expect, finish nails come in strips comprising 50 to 100 pieces, typically in boxes of approximately 200 nails in total. The nails used here come in a range from 1-¼” to 2-½” in length. Finish nailers can also accommodate smaller pins called brad nails.

Much like other pneumatic or cordless nail guns, finish nailers are fitted with a safety nose. This feature prevents accidental nail firing. The nose must be depressed before engaging the gun. Other finish nailers also boast helpful features including a rubber, anti-marrying tip. This rubber tip is designed to slip over the nose of the finish nailer and help to prevent damage on trim, moldings or other soft wood.

Using The Right Nail Gun For The Job

Most of the time staplers and brad nailers can be used on furniture, cabinets and crafts due to the smaller holes and less impact. Finish nailers work great for things like baseboard, crown molding and similar trim. For many it’s just a preference, and they might use the guns differently.

It’s better to use a stronger nail and have your project more secure (as long as it doesn’t split the wood). You don’t want smaller, weaker nail to have come apart down the road. It’s just as important to use the right gun as it is to use the right nails for the job.

When first using a nail gun, it’s better to learn on a smaller sized gun. When you get the hang of it, then move up the line to the bigger and more powerful nail guns like framing guns. To learn more about these heavy duty nailers check out this article on framing nail guns.

Tips When Using Brad & Finish Nailers

A brad nail gun is a great first gun, a good gun to learn on, and get the feel although just as dangerous. Safety is crucial when using these tools as one wrong move can be fatal. Hopefully this helps clear up any questions you may have had on these two types of nail guns. Rest assure, next time you have to decide, brad nailer vs finishing nailer you’ll make a confident choice.

Let’s face it, finish nailing guns are like a toy for adults. Once you learn to use it and you will never want to hit a nail with a hammer again! And for good reason. They deliver impeccable nailing with little or no hassle. To learn some tips from the pros on using a nail gun, and which brad and finish nailers are the best than keep reading!

Tips On Using A Brad & Finish Nail Gun

Much akin to any power or pneumatic tool, learning how to use a finish nailer however, hasn’t always been a walk in the park. Well, it isn’t exactly rocket science either. So, buckle up as I am going to walk you through a quick guide to how to use a finish nailer. Whether you are a rookie or an expert nailer, we can all use a few tips once in a while. Let’s get started, shall we?

Again mastering the use of a finish nailing gun isn’t exactly climbing Mt. Everest, but if you follow these steps you will take your nailing skills from a drab to fab in no time. To take a look at some different types of brad and finish nailers, you can see here what Bostitch has to offer.

Step #1: Avoiding a Nail Blow Out

The first step to garnering suitable nailing techniques is to avoid a common pitfall among newbies: nail blowout. More often than not, this problem is caused by the lopsided angling of  trim, molding or by the gun itself. Simply put, a nail blow out is a scenario where the nail comes out in the wrong direction. How to avoid nail blow out? Start off by positioning the center of the finish nail tip exactly where you want to drive the nail. Now, carefully align the gun in the direction you want the nail to go into making sure that you don’t displace the position of the tip.

Step #2: Dealing With a Nail Jam

Nearly all nailing guns experience bouts of nail jams (you thought only printer’s jam, right?) Though it’s a rarity when it comes to finish guns, you need to know how  to fix this problem. The good news is that finish nailers – and indeed other nail guns – have a latch that effortlessly easy to open. So you just unlatch the front of the finish nailer and simply remove the jammed nails. If it’s a pneumatic nailer, however, you need to disconnect it from the air compressor for safety reasons. The same goes for cordless finish nailers; remove the battery before addressing the nail jam.

If after reading this article you are unsure if a finish nail gun is the right nailer for you, read this quick guide on nail gun types.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *