Best nail gun 2021: corded and cordless nail guns, because using a hammer is so last century

For major exterior DIY jobs, loft conversions and mucking about with extensions, the best nail guns are an essential not a luxury

Best nail gun

Blam! Blam! Blam! It's time to show wood who's boss with these powerful nail guns. If you're in the market for a nail gun you either have a mightily impressive DIY project on the go or you are feeling a little insignificant and require the manliest of manly tools to redress some kind of testosterone-fuelled equilibrium.

A nail gun is the sort of tool that should be sold with a free beard and some knuckle tattoos. It uses gas or compressed air to forcefully fire nails and other fixings in order to make quick work of applying skirting boards or rapidly erecting wooden structures.

Nail gun buying guide

There are a number of different types of nailers, most of which require a pretty high level of knowledge to operate safely and correctly.

These include the most common Brad Nailers, which tend to be smaller and easier to operate, heavy-duty Coil Nailers, full-size Finishing Nailers and numerous variations of big staplers and pinning tools.

In short, it will really depend on the size of the nail you want to use (most commonly work with 32-90mm nails) and the job in hand, as nailers come in straight and angled designs depending on the application.

Also, keep an eye out for cordless (battery powered) or corded, which will require plugging in to a socket and can get a little unwieldy with when wires get in the way of the job in hand, as well as those that require an air compressor and hose to operate.

There is also the subject of 'Bump' and 'Sequential' trigger modes. The former fires a nail whenever the tip of the gun hits a surface, while the latter requires the trigger to be squeezed. More professional users will likely want to adjust the depth at which the nail is rammed into wood, so keep eyes peeled for depth adjustment wheels. 

The best nail guns, in order of preference

1. VonHaus Cordless Electric 2 in 1 Nail & Staple Gun

Best nail gun for occasional use

Fire rate: 60 nails per minute
Max nail length: 50mm
Power source: Lithium battery
Weight: 5kg
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding value+Impressive quality+Free carry case
Reasons to avoid
-Lightweight nails, heavy body

It's easy to splash in excess of £500 on a hardy nail gun but for many, it will only ever get light use when the larger DIY projects rear their ugly heads.

This is why we can highly recommend the very reasonable 2 in 1 Nail and Staple Gun from VonHaus, which benefits from cordless battery power and the ability to fire the much cheaper 50mm brad nails, which are typically hardy enough for most jobs.

It boasts a smooth action trigger switch with two firing modes - single firing mode for precision placement and contact firing mode for quicker and more convenient firing - as well as depth control adjustment and a convenient bottom loading magazine.

We found the battery charged quickly (in around 45-50 minutes) and lasted for an impressively long time, while the two-stage safety trigger meant that wayward nail mishaps were thankfully avoided.

2. Milwaukee M18CN16GA-502X Angled 16G Nail Gun

Best high-end nail gun

Fire rate: Not quoted
Max nail length: 63mm
Power source: Lithium battery
Weight: 8.1kg
Reasons to buy
+A proper hard nut+Extreme performance
Reasons to avoid
-Do you really need it?

Those bitten by the nailing bug will likely find themselves requiring more power and greater performance to drive ever-larger nails into increasingly tougher materials and surfaces.

Say hello to this Milwaukee beefcake, which features the marque's compact Powerstate brushless motor that is capable of fully sinking 63mm nails into solid oak with zero ramp-up time (read: waiting time).

The powerful 5.0ah battery pack not only charges lickety-split, it also delivers some seriously unrivalled power and run-time, eliminating the mess and maintenance of gas cartridges.

The price will likely put off your more casual DIYers but it's built with the trade in mind, where it will happily save time, money and effort all day long.

3. Ryobi ONE+ 18G AirStrike Nailer

Best mid-price nail gun

Fire rate: 60 nails per minute
Max nail length: 51mm
Power source: Lithium battery
Weight: 2.8kg (without battery)
Reasons to buy
+Excellent build quality+Good value+Cool tech
Reasons to avoid
-Battery sold separately

For a simple, fuss and maintenance-free DIY experience, it's difficult to fault the power tools currently offered by Ryobi.

They benefit from using the same battery across the entire range (although tools are often priced as body only), while the build quality and reliability is largely excellent.

This 18-gauge nailer is lightweight and typically suited to precision work and for smaller wood projects and upholstery jobs. The brads are small and not really up to heavy hanging duties but they leave less of a mess, making them easy to finish with a professional touch.

Clever tech, including the neat low nail indicator and tool-less jam release mechanism makes it really simple to set-up and use, while its lightweight body makes it simple to wield and slightly more approachable than some of the beefier tools on the list.

4. Tacwise 50mm Brad Nailer

Best compressed air nail gun

Fire rate: Not quoted
Max nail length: 50mm
Power source: Compressed air
Weight: 2.2kg
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Lightweight+Good performance
Reasons to avoid
-Requires an air compressor

This Tacwise model takes things back to the old school, to a time where Lithium Ion batteries weren't the default power source and handy folk had to carry a 60-100 PSI air compressor around with them.

The upside is that the model is extremely lightweight and reliable, yet manages to drive some pretty hefty 20-50mm 18-gauge nails that are suitable for lightweight to medium-weight jobs and outdoor use.

However, the air hose can get a little annoying and the separate compressor will be something to factor into the budget. Otherwise, it's an affordable and dependable solution.

5. Stanley Electric Nail And Staple Gun

Best nail and staple gun for hobbyists and repairs

Fire rate: Not quoted
Max nail length: 15mm
Power source: Corded mains supply
Weight: 1.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Very cheap+Good for small jobs
Reasons to avoid
-Limited uses-Relatively flimsy 

If lightweight nailing and stapling jobs are all that require completing, it's not worth splashing out on one of the professional-grade weapons we've listed here. Instead, minor upholstery fixing or smaller stapling jobs can be dispatched in rapid time with less muscle use, thanks to Stanley's simple driver unit.

At just 1.1kg, it is a great deal lighter than anything else we've mentioned on this list but the downside is that it can only really handle up to 15mm brad nails and 10mm staples, which is really only enough to fix lightweight materials to soft surfaces.