When it comes to getting the top rated brad nailer, there is not a lot of variation from one 2-inch model to the next. They all have to handle a range of brad sizes and work quickly, and the top rated models will always include a nose guard that prevents the worker from damaging lumber during finish operations. Two of the top 18 gauge brad nailers listed here are pneumatic, allowing fast operation without dragging an electric cord along, while the third one is a battery operated model that is unrivaled in the world of finish nailers. Often times, manufacturers like to bundle a brad nailer along with a staple gun for your air compressor. Keep in mind that “usually”, these are fairly low quality products intended for the bargain shopper. You’d be better off in most cases purchasing one of the nailers below as well as one of the best staple guns we recommend, separately.
This Makita 18 gauge brad nailer has a range of features that make it suitable for everything from trim work to sheeting. The nail guide will hold up to 100 nails and includes a nail indicator window so you will be able to avoid blank hits during extended use. The nail head, magazine and other parts that require maintenance or access during use are designed for tool-less access, including an easily adjustable depth guide. It can handle brad sizes from 5/8-inch to 2-inch, and has a narrow nose design that will reach into tough spaces. The rubber nose and bumpers won’t scratch wooden surfaces, and the rubberized grip will allow you to keep going from long periods without muscle fatigue in your gripping hand.
The protective rubber nose is also a potential problem for finish applications such as quarter round because it tends to slip easily across a finished surface. This may slow you down a little on non-flat surfaces, but it is still a very useful feature in the woodworking industry where every second counts and do-overs because of a marred surface are money down the drain. You’ll need a compressor that can maintain a minimum of 60 pounds of pressure, but the nailer has a 50 pound window, so most compressors can simply be cranked up a little higher to accommodate heavy use.
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The Dewalt DWFP12231 is a close contender for the best finish nailer. It features the same 18 gauge, 5/8-inch to 2-inch nail variation, and a maintenance free motor that won’t leak or spray the work area with messy exhaust. It is also a tool-free model, which means you can quickly fix jams, adjust the drive depth and more without carrying special tools or wrenches around on the job site. It is very lightweight and includes a rubberized grip for comfort and a rubber tip guard that prevents damage to the work surface. The unit body is made of Dewalt’s standard high impact plastic that can stand being handled roughly without cracking or shattering. This model is not especially heavy duty, and will work best in non-professional settings than as the primary nailer on a job site. The trigger system is sequential, not automatic, so you will have to pull the trigger for every nail released rather than simply bumping down and moving onward.
The Dewalt DC608K is something completely different. It is still an 18 gauge nailer which can handle 5/8-inch to 2-inch brads, and has many of the same features as our other top picks, including rubber nose tip and ergonomic rubberized handle grip, but this unit is powered by Dewalt’s 18-volt rechargeable battery system so there is never a hose or cord to drag around while you work. It can be set to both sequential and bump-style nailing, and can drive brads at a maximum rate of 5 per second. It is a good idea to pick up a spare battery if you plan on using this nailer in heavy construction, but a single battery can drive hundreds of nails before losing charge, and will probably suffice for light and medium woodworking. It does not have the same driving force as a pneumatic nailer, and that will decrease as the battery drains, but you are only going to encounter bending or jamming problems on hardwoods such as oak, but it will work flawlessly for a majority of trim work.