Brad Nailer Vs Finish Nailer – We Nailed This One!

Brad Vs Finish Nailer – Which Is the Best for You?

brad nailer vs finish nailer

Both, seasoned professionals, as well as DIY enthusiasts know that having the right tool for the job can make any project seem easier. While there are several tools that can be used for multiple purposes, choosing the right nail gun can mean the difference between succeeding or failing a build.


The many nail gun models that are available on the market can be divided into two categories: “Brad nailers” and “Finish Nailers”. These can look virtually identical; however, their internals are designed for different purposes. When it comes to brad nailer vs finish nailer, it is not a matter of which is better, but of which one best suits your needs as each of them uses different gauge nails. So, let’s look at the main differences between them:

1.      Brad nail gun

The Brad nailers are designed to use smaller, thinner nails than the finish ones, namely 18 gauge. These are useful when it comes to smaller applications where splitting the wood is a concern. The nails that these use also have smaller heads, so it’s easier to mask them. Many professionals also use them for temporary projects because the nails have a smaller footprint than the larger gauge ones.


Generally speaking, when looking to choose between a brad nailer vs finishing nailer keep in mind that the former ones can be invaluable when it comes to installing paneling and baseboard, for trim work, casing, and even fastening small objects to fragile surfaces, such as paintings.


Unfortunately, brad nail guns are not designed to penetrate harder surfaces such as thick plywood or larger pieces of hardwood. So which is the better choice for you in the brad nailer vs finish nailer comparison?


2.      Finish nailer

The finish nail gun may look extremely similar to the brad one, however, it can use much thicker nails. These models are compatible with 15- and 16-gauge nails, which have a larger footprint but are also more suited for larger, harder materials. When it comes to brad nails vs finish nails, the latter have a much stronger hold and are typically used for window and door casings, large cabinets, staircases, and flooring.


Most nails come in strips that basically automatically reload the gun without any user input, and can penetrate almost any surface, making it a very flexible tool. Unfortunately, the finish nailer is designed to create a permanent hold, which means that if you miss your target and accidentally need to realign an object, it will be very difficult to remove the nail.


Pneumatic and electrical/cordless nail guns

Now that we have established the advantages and disadvantages when it comes to a brad nailer vs finish nailer, it is important to mention that each of these can come in two flavors: pneumatic or cordless/electric. The choice between these two comes down to whether you require de flexibility of a cordless model or the power and reliability of a pneumatic one.


This having been said, let’s look at which are the best ones that are commercially available at the moment.


1.      WEN 61720 3/4-Inch to 2-Inch 18-Gauge Brad Nailer – An entry-level brad nail gun designed for durability

The 61720 model from Wen is a pneumatic nail gun designed to fire anything from ¾-inch nails to 2-inch ones. It can operate using 60 to 100 PSI and has a ¼-inch inlet fitting. This gives it a lot of flexibility in terms of what kind of compressor it can be used with. Also, in terms of ease of use, the device’s magazine can hold up to 100 nails, and the entire gun weighs only 3 pounds, making it ideal for more tedious tasks. The nail gun can be used for delicate, extremely precise projects, such as interior decoration, mounting art pieces on walls and other surfaces, or molding.


  • Precise depth adjustment – The depth that the nails are shot at can be easily adjusted using the onboard wheel;
  • One-year warranty – The device comes with a one-year warranty, however, it can last for far longer if properly maintained;
  • Lightweight – The nail gun only weighs 3 pounds, making it light enough to handle for prolonged periods of time without tiring;
  • Included oil, wrenches and case – The model also includes adjustment wrenches, oil, and a durable carrying case;


  • Adjustments may be required – The front slides can lock up and the holding screws may need to be loosened before using the nail gun;



2.      PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA (PCC790LA)– A durable electric brad nail gun that comes with extended warranty


The PCC790LA model from Porter-Cable may be one of the best cordless brad nail guns around. It has been designed to withstand heavy use over extended periods of time. The device is completely electric and does not require a compressor in order to power it. Furthermore, the included Li-Ion battery makes it perfect for longer projects.


The nail gun comes with a quick-release cartridge that can hold 100 18-gauge nails, and all adjustment switches and jam releases cam be operated without any additional tools.


Being entirely electric, it is important to keep in mind that the nail gun only comes with a basic 20V battery. The manufacturer does sell ones that have a larger capacity; however, they have to be purchased separately.



  • Li-Ion battery – The nail gun uses a Li-Ion 1.5A 20V battery which offers better runtime when compared to traditional NiCad ones;
  • Great mobility – The model is fully electrical which makes it much easier to carry around larger building sites;
  • 3-year warranty – The device comes with a LIMITED 3-year warranty through which the manufacturer will repair any damage caused by either faulty assembly or low-quality materials;
  • Multifunctional battery – The included battery can also be used for 20V impact drivers and drills, which means that you can carry only one battery for several tools;


  • No storage pouch – While the nailer does have a belt hook, it lacks any kind of storage solution. You will have to purchase a separate case or pouch;



3.      DEWALT DCN650B Nailer Angled Finish 20V 15Ga – A brushless motor electric nail gun that offers a lot of flexibility

With a small, compact design, the Dewalt DCN650B finish nail gun is designed to fire 15-gauge angled finish nails that have a length of anything from 1-1/4” to 2-1/2”, making it ideal for a variety of uses, such as casing, installing hardwood floors, and mounting decorative objects. The model features a brushless motor that not only uses less power than that of other nail guns but also increases durability.


While more efficient, the motor of the nail gun is just as powerful as that of pneumatic models and can easily penetrate harder surfaces without jamming or losing accuracy.



  • Fully electric – The nail gun is powered entirely by 20V Li-Ion rechargeable batteries that can be used with any of the other DEWALT 20V power tools;
  • Brushless motor – The brushless motor of the nail gun is much more durable than that of other models and uses far less power, extending the battery time;
  • High accuracy – The model features a micro nose that makes it much easier to target the exact spot where the nail will be driven into the material;


  • Heavy – The tool weights 6.6 pounds, which can make it impractical for longer building projects, especially when fully loaded;


4.      Makita AF601 16 Gauge, 2-1/2″ Straight Finish Nailer – A durable, feature-filled pneumatic finish nail gun designed for flexibility

The Makita AF601 is designed for professional use, offering a large number of functions that cater to the needs of both casual fixers, as well as builders and interior decorators. The nailer weighs only 3.8 pounds, it comes with a built-in duster and a multi-directional exhaust port. The model comes with a rugged tool case, safety glasses, 2 No-Mar tips, and a 3-year warranty, making it a good all-in-one product.


Overall, the model is great for heavy construction projects that require durable tools that can be used throughout multiple work shifts without breaking down.



  • 2 settings – The model comes with a 2-mode selector switch that can help the user quickly change the depth settings;
  • Additional equipment and parts – The package includes everything needed to use it right away, provided that you already have a compressor;
  • Great to use close-up – The multi-directional exhaust port efficiently blows the excess compressed air away from the user’s face, making it useful for close-up operation;
  • Rear-loading magazine – The magazine is designed to be reloaded without having to twist the nail gun repeatedly;
  • 3-year warranty – The 3-year warranty applies to all damage with the exception of normal wear parts, such as piston assemblies, driver belts, air filters, and other elements that normally degrade over time;


  • Can occasionally double fire – The nail gun may fire two nails in quick succession if the finger is held on the trigger for long enough;


What are the main types and sizes of nails?

There are several differences to keep in mind when looking at finish nail vs brad nail, ranging from what kind of materials they can go through, to the size of the nail head and if they can be easily removed or not.


It’s also important to keep in mind that brad nails cannot be used with finish nailers or the other way around. Each of the two types of tools is designed for very specific uses and mixing the nails can prove dangerous.


Before looking at what kind of nails are used for specific tasks, let’s look at gauge sizes. All types of commercially available nailers use either 15, 16, or 18-gauge nails. The higher the number of the gauge, the thinner the nail will be, thus the less efficient will it permanently fix objects and materials to different surfaces.


From a technical point of view, the gauge measures how many nails per inch. The thinner the nail, the greater the number that will fit in an inch of material.

  • Brad nail gun gauges – These models typically use 18-gauge nails. These are thin enough to be barely visible when properly shot into a surface, and the nail head does not protrude. Unfortunately, these do not have much of a grip and can easily slide out of the material if pulled with enough force;
  • Finish nail gun gauges – Designed for more permanent projects, these can use anything from 15 gauge to 18 gauge. These nails have a much stronger hold and can penetrate harder materials. They are typically used for actual building projects, rather than decorations and finishing work;


Overall, when it comes to understanding the difference of a brad nail vs finish nails, keep in mind that the smaller the gauge, the bigger the nail and the better hold it will have. Also, smaller nails will have a much harder time penetrating some materials and maybe unsuited for building projects.


Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Conclusion

While there are multiple differences when it comes to a Brad nailer vs finish nailer, it is impossible to decide that one is better than the other. They look similar; however, they are different tools that have been designed for different jobs.

Getting the right one for a particular project is as easy as understanding its technical capabilities. Brad nail guns are always useful to have around as they can be used for any type of temporary or permanent, lightweight repairs. On the other hand, construction professionals will get much more use out of a finish model. This is due to the fact that these are specifically designed for heavy-duty work environments such as building houses and the permanent assembly of furniture.


As a side-note, keep in mind that when it comes to brad nails vs finishing nails, some models may be compatible with a wider variety of gauges, while others are more restrictive. We’ve looked subjectively at 4 top brands. Makita and DeWalt have gone head to head for us before here.


Also, choosing between a pneumatic model and an electrical one is purely a matter of flexibility. Those who already own a compressor or who plan to purchase other pneumatic tools may find the former more appealing. Whereas DIY enthusiasts who simply need a tool that they can use everyone in a while may want to go for the electrical ones.


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Brad Nailer Vs Finish Nailer – We Nailed This One!

time to read: 9 min