When it is about brad vs finish nailers, many people are not sure which one to go for.

Our Pick
DEWALT 20V MAX* Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA (DCN680D1)
DEWALT 20V MAX* Finish Nailer, Angled, 16GA, Tool Only (DCN660B)
Our Pick
DEWALT 20V MAX* Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA (DCN680D1)
Best Pricing
DEWALT 20V MAX* Finish Nailer, Angled, 16GA, Tool Only (DCN660B)
Best Pricing

The two nailers look similar, and you may mistake them for one another.

A brad nailer resembles a smaller framing nailer in appearance. The reality is that they have different purposes. As a result, it’s important to pick the best option for the work.

Let’s take a closer look at these two tools to see if we can clear the doubts, so you can choose the right one for the task.

Getting To Know the Gauge

It’s important to understand the nail gauge before getting into the distinction between these two guns.

The most common nailer gauge sizes are 15, 16, and 18.

In short, the thinner the nail, the higher the gauge size.

The reason for this is quite obvious.

The size represents the number of nails per inch. An 18 size, for instance, has 18 pieces/inch, making it thinner than a 16 size, which has 16 nails/ inch.

Brad Nailers

What Are Brad Nailers?

After the finish nailer, the brad nailer was created to have a gun that could fire thinner nails.

Brad nailers are made for 18-size nails.

On smaller areas where you’re concerned about breaking the wood or the size of the nail tip, it is recommended to use a brad nail gun.

Since any nail head would leave a hole in the wood, you’ll want to choose a nail that would create a small hole.

The hole size of an 18-size brad nailer is smaller, leaving less of a hole in your wooden structure. You may not even need to patch it prior to painting, based on the material being used.

What Are Brad Nailers Used For?

18 gauge brad nailers are used on wood that’s prone to cracking or where a thinner nail is needed to leave a smaller hole. They can be used for a variety of things, but the following are the most common ones:

  • Paneled application
  • Trimming jobs
  • The baseboard
  • Casings
  • Tightening decorative framings

Advantages Of Using A Brad Nailer

  • Suitable for thinner or more fine wood that you are concerned about breaking
  • Small nail holes are left behind.
  • While using glue, brads may be used to keep objects in place temporarily. When the glue dries, you can easily take them out and the holes can barely be seen.
  • Ideal for small applications, such as making photo frames, ornament boxes, or adding decorative edges and trims to cabinetry

Disadvantages Of Brad Nailers

  • Big, dense structures of wood cannot be used. These nailers can not go through MDF or thick plywood.
  • And if you go for a pneumatic nailer, you would need to buy an air pump along with it.

The Best Brad Nailer

The DEWALT DCN680D1 Cordless is our top choice.

  • Driven entirely by batteries. It eliminates the need for gas, a hose, or a compressor.
  • Works with all DEWALT 20V MAX batteries
  • Multifunctional LED lights aid in the lighting of the workplace as well as diagnostics of tools.
  • Selectable trigger for contact or sequential actuation modes
  • Dry shooting and unnecessary marks on the work surface are prevented by the lockout of the low nail.

Finish Nailers

What Are Finish Nailers?

Finish or finishing nailers have nail sizes varying from 15 gauge to 18 gauge.

The nail gauge is the biggest difference between a brad nailer and a finish nailer. Finish nailers use a bigger 15 or 16-gauge nail, while brads only use 18 sizes. It all boils down to the gauge thickness of the fasteners that each nailer is made to handle.

Finish nailers have a much more durable grip. They’re great for baseboard applications, doors, and crown molding. There are tasks that a Brad nail gun can’t handle.

Finish nailers are also available in both angled and straight styles, which is a great feature. The main distinction is that angled ones are easier to fit into small spaces. Therefore, depending on the type of work that is being done, an angled one may be a better option.

Finish nailers are also available in cordless and pneumatic models. Pneumatic versions are lighter and more powerful than the other ones. A pneumatic finish nailer is a decent choice if you own an air compressor. If that is not the case, a cordless one would suffice.

A cordless nailer could be a better choice if you plan to operate on the top of a ladder as you can move up and down and use the nailer without being concerned about carrying an air hose with you.

Uses Of A Finish Nail Gun

Finish nailers are applicable for tasks that need a little more strength and holding capacity. In this case, nails with a gauge size of 15 or 16 are suggested. The following are examples of typical work:

  • Crown and base moldings are installed.
  • Casings for doors and windows
  • Chair railings
  • Cabinets
  • Trim on the outside
  • Stairways
  • Hardwood and softwood floors

Advantages Of Finish Nailers

  • Can support heavier and thicker wood. These nailers are ideal for baseboard, cabinetry, and molding because the nails are longer and wider.
  • They create a long-term hold. Once this tool is used to get in a nail, it’s not going to move.
  • Multi-use tool. A finish nailer may be used on a variety of surfaces and materials.
  • You wouldn’t have to reload your nails too much because they are available as long strips.

Disadvantages of Finish Nailers

  • Not suitable for small, fragile materials. Since the nails are large and a finish nailer is quite powerful, thin surfaces are likely to get broken.
  • Big nail holes are left behind, which will need to be filled. The process will take a little longer as a result of this.
  • If you want to use pneumatic nailers, you’ll need to buy an air compressor if you don’t already own one.

The Best Finish Nailer

The DEWALT DCN660B is our top pick.

  • Selectable trigger for contact or sequential modes.
  • Jam release to clear the nail jams.
  • During a stall, a tool-free stall release lever is integrated to quickly readjust the driver blade.
  • Crown molding, window casings, doors, and baseboards can all be fastened with this tool.
  • For the best results, use 16-gauge size angled finish nails with a length between 1-1/4′′ and 2-1/2″.

Pneumatic Brad Vs Finish Nailers

Nail guns using compressed air from an air compressor are known as pneumatic nailers. We would say that pneumatic nailers are used by most nail gun users.

The benefit of a pneumatic nailer over a battery-operated nailer is that you would never lose the power with which the nails are forced into the wood when your compressor is left plugged in.

Another advantage of pneumatic nailers is that, contrary to popular belief, they are easily portable. While not as portable as a cordless nailer, if your compressor is fully charged, you can take the compressor and nail gun anywhere (check out the best cordless brad nailer).

Finally, pneumatic nailers are more affordable than their cordless counterparts. It’s not just a little lower in price; it’s a lot cheaper. But some might object that you have to still get a compressor along with it. This is right.

Although you will need a compressor to operate a pneumatic nail gun, it would be useful for a variety of other tasks as well (inflating tires, clearing your work area, and so on…).

Here are our top recommendations for Pneumatic Nailers:

1. Metabo NT65MA4 Finish Nailer With Air Duster

Another nailer brand with a good reputation is Metabo. Metabo’s Finish Nailer exemplifies high functionality, innovation, and flexibility.

The Metabo Angled Finish Nailer is a versatile nailer that can handle a wide range of carpentry finishing jobs.

The built-in Air Duster is a key feature of this Metabo Angled Finish Nailer. The Air Duster is a nozzle that attaches to the top of the nailer and helps the user to remove debris such as sawdust from the work site.

The Air Duster feature is exclusive to the Metabo 15GA Angled Finish Nailer.

2. BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point Brad Nailer

The Smart Point Brad Nailer from Bostitch is an excellent all-purpose brad nailer. Bostitch is an established company with a solid reputation for producing high-quality, durable tools.

The Bostitch Brad nailer is an 18GA nailer that’s ideal for lightweight or decorative purposes. Bostitch nailer has the latest Smart Point technology, which is rare and a very useful feature.

The Smart Point feature allows for easier access to intricate trim parts. It also has a yellow head for better visibility.

Cordless Brad Vs Finish Nailers

If you can justify the price increase over regular pneumatic nailers, cordless nailers are an extremely convenient choice. The reality is that a lot of contractors believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.

A cordless nailer will allow you to finish your project without having to haul around an air hose and compressor.

When determining the type of nailer to purchase, it’s critical to know exactly what items are needed by each type to work properly. A pneumatic nailer, for example, would require an air compressor, a long hose, and electricity for charging the compressor.

Although a cordless nailer eliminates the need for a compressor, it does necessitate the purchase of batteries and fuel cells, which can be just as costly as a compressor over time.

1. DEWALT DC608K Brad Nailer

DeWalt is one of the most well-known tool brands available in the market. Although DeWalt hasn’t been around for that long compared to some of the other tool brands, they were one of the first to come out with a battery-powered nailer.

The DeWalt DC608K Brad Nailer is a versatile nailer with powerful driving ability. It’s a no-brainer to purchase this nail gun if you already have a package of DeWalt 18-V power tools.

As you may know, the battery accounts for a significant portion of the price of most battery-powered equipment.

2. Paslode 901000 Finish Nailer

For a long time, Paslode has been the industry norm for cordless nailers. Paslode nailer used to be the only cordless nail gun found in a worksite.

Paslode nailers are long-lasting and reliable. The Paslode 90100  Finish Nailer has a narrow, long nose, a depth-of-drive adjustment, and a high visibility load magazine.

The soft trigger and sure-grip handle make long hours of work more bearable.

Uses Of Brad Vs Finish Nailer

The type of nailer to use is determined by the task. Finish nails cannot be used with a brad nailer, so make sure you have the right equipment for the job. Here are some cases to show which tool to use for the tasks.

Brad Nailer

  • Home maintenance and upgrades, such as securing loose cabinet trim or installing crown moldings or baseboards. They’re also useful for adding extra stability while interlocking floors.
  • Holding materials in order to glue them together. A brad nail will keep items together as you wait for adhesives or wood glue to dry. They’re also simple to remove if necessary.
  • Small crafting work. Picture frames, models, and birdhouses are ideal from the use of brad nailers.

Finish Nailer

  • Used for thick, large pieces of trim to attach.
  • Casings for doors.
  • Crown molding.
  • Chair rails.
  • Baseboards.
  • Projects in which the nail is used for structural integrity as opposed to aesthetics.

So, brad nailers are for delicate structures and small accents, while finish nailers are designed for tougher work.

But what about that sweet spot in the middle? Which one do you use for moldings or for baseboard applications if you have a choice?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer. It all depends on the situation. A finish nailer is probably a safer option if you’re using hard, thick material for your molding or baseboards.

If you’re working with thinner, lightweight wood, either would work, but finish nails provide a more lasting grip. For most paneling and molding work, we suggest using a finish nailer.

If you don’t already have one of these pieces of equipment and aren’t sure which one you need, consider the projects you’ll be working on.

A brad nailer is ideal for making smaller, delicate items like ornament boxes, picture frames, and dollhouses (find out the best cordless framing nailer). Buying a finish nailer, on the other hand, is usually a smart idea if you’re working on larger-scale projects.

Remember – finish nails are thicker and longer than regular nails. Finish nailers are a better option if you’re concerned about making or putting together something that will last.

One of the reasons is that the nails are so long that you can even hit wall studs with them. This is suitable for chair rails, heavier molding, and other items that need to be permanently attached to the wall.

Finish nails cannot be used with Brad Nailers since they are made of heavier 15/ 16 gauge wire than Brad nails, which are made of 18 gauge wire. That makes finish nails too thick to pass through a brad nailer.

Always make sure that the gauge size of the gun is appropriate before ordering the required nails.


When it comes to picking brad vs finish nailers, it would depend on the kind of work you are planning to do.

Here’s a rundown of the top nail guns on our list:

1. DEWALT DCN680D1 Cordless – Best Overall Brad Nailer.

2. DEWALT DCN660B – Best Overall Finish Nailer.

3. Metabo NT65MA4 With Air Duster – Best Pneumatic Finish Nailer.

4. BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point – Best Pneumatic Brad Nailer.

5. DEWALT DC608K – Best Cordless Brad Nailer.

6. Paslode 901000 – Best Cordless Finish Nailer.

The guide above should help you in getting started with your next job.

By Robin M

Robin remains an active participant in the skilled trades community. His hands-on involvement in projects, coupled with a genuine enthusiasm for helping others succeed in their home improvement pursuits, reflects his commitment to empowering readers with the knowledge they need to tackle projects confidently.

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