6 Best Framing Nailers for 2020

Hindsight may universally get cited as a ‘wonderful thing’ yet I find it unquestionably one of the most annoying things ever. Sure, you reflect and are expected to ‘learn’ from your experiences.
Then, following the period of acceptance and reflection you move forward to the next time, safe in the knowledge any excuses for messing up will be negligible.
So. Armed with this wisdom, when the time comes to obtaining the best possible outcome there should be very little room for error. Correct? 
Granted, we all work and learn differently, at varying paces yet the abundance of resource, knowledge-bases, testimonials, worldly experiences, videos upon videos and real-life, step-by-step examples of stuff people have successfully achieved should prevent you from completely falling flat on your face.
Yes, it can happen; anything can happen but really, the chances of catastrophic failure should be well and truly eliminated.

Now foresight on the other hand is a truly wonderful thing.
And great measures MUST be taken by using all means necessary to bolster decision-making, planning and preparation. Minimize those sorry reflections tainted with wistful regret.
Destroy those ’20/20′ spectacles that bemoan all that might have been. 
I’ve been there too many times. The only thing it’s good for is channeling my ‘method’.

Albeit reluctantly, I recall one particular project that WOULD without doubt have finished a month – yes, a whole, entire month quicker had I access or more importantly the sense, to acquire both framing and finishing nail guns.

Hammer Horror

You are now entering a deep sleep…a deep sleep….

Without meandering through specifics (head shakes slowly with derision and disbelief) the protracted construction of 4 x music studio rehearsal rooms, all with varying ratios and acoustic requirements sapped more energy, commitment, time and ultimately money by sticking, fixing and fastening with ‘good ole fashioned’ joining methods; predominantly hammer & bloody nails.
The more I ponder the less grateful I am for the experience. In fact I’m getting vexed as I type.
It was, quite simply, foolish.
Deciding to continue manually (lets save a few pennies shall we) is something I will never repeat.
No doubt, there is always a place for a hammer and nails but the scale of that project was never going to be relative to the tools deployed.

Fast-forward 5 years.
Project scope: design & build 2 x music rehearsal studios and 1 control room.
First thought: Purchase a bloody FRAMING NAIL GUN!!!
And finishing nailer! And plenty of nails!

Back to the Future

Foresight should always be inversely proportional to hindsight. 
And using a nail gun on projects that need one should always be inversely proportional to being pigheadedly moronic. Lessons learned; hindsight, you are PiTA.

The major tasks needing the nailer were fastening single and double-skinned stud work, ceiling and floor joists. Then constructing various enclosures for speakers plus boxes for mounting audio equipment.
Timber sizes ranged from 3×2, 4×2, 6×4 plus other ad-hoc lengths and thicknesses.
Chuck in some few decking projects, 2 x shed builds, a pergola and other backyard-duty jobs, the nail gun has not only paid for itself, improved my mental health but served, and continues to serve as a harsh reminder that using the right tools for the job will save your life in more ways thank one.

So, what can I say thats not already scathingly obvious about the need for a framing nailer?
Speed, power and safety are the key attributes.
Efficiency, reliability and preferably light and portable * 

The frequency of projects demanding a heavy duty nail gun didn’t justify an excessive purchase but I wanted something with the aforementioned reliability and easy of use.
After witnessing a slow reshaping on neighbors house across the street, I nosied on down to find, would you believe it, some assembling of stud-work using, none other than a framing nailer!
My fist clenched and my lip drew blood as this wall took literally minutes to assemble.
The weapon of choice was the Ryobi Airwave Framing Nailer.

Holding the gun with a wry smile on my face, I was wooed by a solid, well constructed, slightly heavier than anticipated but easy to handle tool that had plenty of battle scars and still battled on. It probably still does.
As a test for me, we hooked it up to the air comp and fired a few nails into some 4×2 offcuts. Power was not an issue.
Not wanting to spend more than $200 this one came in at around the $150 so picked one up for myself.

The framing nailer has been key to getting work started professionally and completed efficiently. I haven’t looked back.

No hindsight. No regrets.

on site I often resemble Anton Chigurh, dragging my air compressor and sporting a dodgy hairstyle before flipping a coin on the fate of the next plank to get it.

Safety

As much as my high horse misses me, I’m not going to write chapter & verse about the necessary common sense needed when handing and operating devices as powerful as a framing nailer. It should be fairly obvious however accidents can happen.
Limiting the potential to ensure they don’t is all we can do.
The link below from OSHA & NIOSH comprehensively explains nail gun safety, and strongly recommend you give it some attention.
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/NailgunFinal_508_02_optimized.pdf

Other Features

Power Sources

There are three essential power sources for framing nailers:

Pneumatic Nailers

Pneumatic framing nailers use an air compressor that you have to purchase separately. It uses an air hose and coupler, which does reduce the easy movement, but this particular disadvantage is minor; you will get the job done in super quick time when coupled to a robust and reliable framing nailer.
Learn more about air compressors here

Cordless Electric Framing Nailer

If you want to reduce the possibility to trip or damage the cord while working, the best solution is to choose cordless nailers.

However, the main disadvantage is that you will have to recharge the battery, which is why it is better to have the spare one just in case. They are more expensive than other types, but you will get lots of power.

Electric Nailers

Electric nailers, are not powerful enough as more prominent types, and in most cases, household users and hobbyists use it to finish household projects.

They have cords and run through power outlet, which is a drawback because you will have limited motion.

Magazine Type

Straight Magazine

The magazine is the essential component of framing gun because it holds nails that you will use afterward. There are the coil and straight magazines available.

Coil magazines

Keep a higher capacity for pins, which makes them perfect for the more significant project. However, they weigh more than straight nailers do.

On the other hand, both types can efficiently work in various angles. We recommend you always to check whether cartridge will match the edge so that you can find the appropriate nails.

Trigger Types

There are two trigger types, the first one is the tip of the gun that you have to press against the material to nail it. The other is the one pushed my index finger. Contact triggers will allow you to hold down and tap the wood to release nail.

This is dangerous especially if you are a beginner. The safest solution is to choose a sequential trigger that requires from you to depress the tip and pull the trigger.

Adjustable Depth

Some framing nailers can adjust the force at which you shoot the nail. For some nailers, you will be able to improve the depth by using tools, while others have more convenient solutions that you can finish with a single hand motion.

6 Best Framing Nailers 2020

#1 Paslode F325R Compact Framing Nailer

If and when I need to make my next purchase this will probably it. 
The workshop own a cordless IM350+, which by all accounts is a bit overkill for the kind of work we carry out however when called into action the nailer is reliable and efficient.
For anyone needing something solid, this FR325R from Paslode should be one worth considering, solely based on form factor alone. The body is made from magnesium instead of the aluminum, reducing its weight. Plus it comes in under 13″ so can easily fit into your workbag rather than lugging around another box.
And the size does not compromise on the power it delivers
Can be used on all jobs. Comfortably fits in between 16″ o/c studs

Key Features

  • Pneumatic nailing system
  • Dimensions: 12.9” x 4.3” x 12.3”
  • Weight (w/o air fitting): 5.15lbs
  • Fasteners: 30-degree; paper collated
  • Fastener diameter: .113 to.131″
  • Fastener length: 2 to 3 1/4″
  • 44 Nail Magazine
  • Reversible rafter hook
  • Dry fire lockout
  • Adjustable depth-of-drive
  • Operating pressure: 90-120 psi

Who'll use this nailer?

Prosumers and Professionals. Those wanting a small form factor gun thats portable yet powerful for site will have no issues with this machine. And those prosumer DIYers renovating the house or building a garage/shed will find this tool a great asset. It’s perfect for light & medium duty construction.

Whats in the box?

  • Nail Gun
  • Instructions
  • Carrying Case

Summary

The Paslode FR325R is compact, light, well constructed and will tackle various remodeling applications well.
For use on a large construction projects, it will serve admirably as the extra nail gun in your arsenal (great album by the way). As your stand alone gun it may lack some of the punch needed for repetitive blasting and also some features that you’ll need for bigger jobs, predominantly a larger nail capacity. For home/mid-size use however, its a winner.
Paslode don’t supply an air-hose coupler so you may need to pick one up or borrow from another device.
A minor annoyance but not a show stopper.
You’ll certainly get what you pay for from Paslode – reliability and good quality, and like I said, its going to be a huge asset for small to mid-size tasks. May not meet expectations for bigger jobs demanding speed and nail capacity but for me, its a model well suited.

#2 Bostitch F21PL Framing Nailer

The amount of nailers available from Bostitch, let alone framing nailers, is vast.
Plenty of choice for any and everyone needing to pound nails through timber or apply some finishing touches.
This F21PL Round-Head Framing Nailer model is a competent performer for framing, sheathing, sub-flooring, and bracing jobs. Like the Paslode F325R, this one is lightweight magnesium body is a big bonus for longer jobs especially in awkward positions.
This model also features quick-change nosepieces for plastic-collated and metal-connector nails and a 16-inch layout indicator thats very useful for setting accurate distances between studs. Simple things eh!
You can also set nail depth with the simple push of a button.

Key Features

  • Pneumatic nailing system
  • Magazine capacity: 60 nails
  • Quick-change nose pieces
  • 1050 in/lb of penetrating force
  • Collation: Plastic and Metal (wire)
  • Nail Size: 1-1/2 – 3-1/2 inches Plastic Collated and 1.5 – 2.5 inches Wire Collated
  • Housing: Magnesium
  • Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 8.1 lbs
  • Adjustable rafter hook
  • Adjustable exhaust
  • 7-year warranty

Who'll use this nailer?

DIY Enthusiasts and Prosumers – Yes, this can be used on any project but better suited for back yard builds and infrequent small-medium framing projects. Used consistently on site will reveal various drawbacks but will serve you well in the workshop.

Whats in the box?

  • Framing nailer
  • 2 x quick-change nosepieces
  • Instructions
  • Case

Summary

This Bostitch F21PL is an affordable and reliable pneumatic nailer when deployed on tasks its been designed for.
Solid build and backed by a 7-year warranty should give you peace of mind should something malfunction or fall off the nailer.
Like I often point out with nearly all tools used and reviewed, you will get plenty of life, value and excellent service if you use and don’t abuse your tool. Love your tool.
Take it onto a large construction site then deploy day-after-day-after-day and you will start cussing.
Like most tools in a certain price bracket, it has limitations. The 60-nail magazine, which whilst decent is not something befitting construction site expectations; you’ll likely want something in the 100-nail range but remember, its not the nailers fault.
You will also need a 1/4″ air hose coupler as this is not included. This model has no dry fire lockout.
So, despite some of these ‘restrictions’, this is still a very competitive model in the range of prosumer-level nailers. Why?
Its well constructed, great warranty, has a forgiving recoil so fatigue shouldn’t be a factor with sustained use and boasts the best power-to weight ratio in its class; power-to-weight ratio in its class: 1,050 in./lbs. to 8.1 pounds. 

#3 Makita AN611 Siding Coil Nailer

This Makita nail gun looks like something Arnie omitted from his shortlist when amassing his arsenal at the gun store in Terminator.
Instead of politely requesting the phase plasma rifle in the 40W range (it was never gonna be on the shelf) he should have monosyllabically opted for a Makita AN611 in the 400-nail range. Without doubt, this would have been perfect for reconstructing the frames, doors, wall studs and everything else he destroyed that night in Tech Noir.

Like all Makita tools, you’ll be getting something of a particular high standard.
Its noticeably well constructed and importantly clearly labelled for safety.

The big win for this beast is the magazine that holds up to 400 nails at a time. This is the advantage of the coiled design; you can crack on without fussing about refilling the next batch of nails.
A range of sizes from 1-1/4 to 2-1/2-inch-long nails with 0.80 to 0.99-inch-diameter shanks can be used within this magazine. Do note that nails collated at 15-degrees with either wire or plastic can be used in this gun

A selector switch located near the trigger allows you to lock the gun preventing misfires, change to contact mode or choose sequential firing.

Weighs a comfortable 5.0 lbs so unlikely to cause fatigue with long, repetitive jobs.

This nailer features depth control adjustment with 9 depth settings.
Each depth setting is 1/16-inch apart from the next so helpfully eliminates the guesswork when moving between points and importantly keeping consistency.

Makita have given thought to maximizing efficiency coupled with minimizing disruption with this model.
The gun’s format makes diagonal nailing a simple task. Another simple addition are the rubber bumpers in areas to avoid scrapes and scratches to the tool itself.
Protect me…and I’ll protect you.

As a standard professional nail gun, it includes an air filter to keep the gun free from debris.
The handle is rubber coated for better grip. The rotating exhaust keeps your hair in the same place. 
And, And…The included silent sheet ensures no noise when disconnecting the coupler.
Beautiful.

Key Features

  • Pneumatic nailing system
  • Magazine capacity: 300/400 nails
  • Mark-free rubber nose
  • 3-mode selector switch (contact, sequential, lock)
  • Collation: Plastic and Metal (wire)
  • Nail Size: 1-1/4” to 2-1/2” nails (. 080 – . 099 shank diameter) 
  • Housing: Metal
  • Dimensions: 5.79 x 15.12 x 15.75 inches
  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • Silent sheet noise decoupler
  • Adjustable exhaust
  • 5-year warranty

Who'll use this nailer?

Prosumer & Professional
This model is perfectly suited for deployment on large construction projects. It may be overkill for the infrequent use though you will be getting a fantastic nailer. For occasional use I’d consider a nailer at a lower price point that may be more aligned with your needs. 

Whats in the box?

  • Pneumatic Nailer Oil (181434-7)
  • Hex Wrench (783202-0)
  • Tool Case (824490-1)
  • Safety Goggles (191687-A)
  • Air Fitting (311006-A)

Summary

This really is a top quality, high-end, feature packed nailer with plenty of extras included in the box, notably an air hose coupler.
I don’t really need to wax lyrical about another Makita product but this nailer…well, the quality speaks volumes. It’s designed to produce a comfortable, ergonomic and productive experience. Its one I’d use on site and recommend to anyone needing such a tool. Tip Top.

#4 Metabo HPT Framing Nailer (NR90AES1)

You say Metabo, I say Hitachi, You say…

Post-takeover, rebranding, etc you’ve probably not been majorly surprized to notice any significant changes to the hardware from Metabo HPT, nee Hitachi.
They are similar, or virtually the same tools with different badges. Thats good news for both sets of fans.
Only the name, not quality has changed – you’ll still get a solid, well-produced tool thats reliable and performs respectfully well.

So, on to the catchily monikered, Metabo NR90AES1 framing nailer.

First things first – this is a powerful, robust nailer offering great value in its range.
The Metabo HPT NR90AES1 will effortlessly bang nails up to 3-1/2-inch size into frames for a firm, secure fix. 
Its core shell is aluminum, giving is durability and, unlike some of Iron Mike’s opponents from back in the day, this one will take a plenty knocks, come back for more and give a few good punches too. 

This Metabo weighs 7.5lbs and is well balanced for anyone using it.
Will not cause fatigue for prolonged use around the home or for mid-range tasks.
As this nailer measures less than 13″ you can get it comfortably between 16″ o/c studs or joists.

Also featured is a selective actuation switch. This means you can change the actuation mode from sequential to bump the click of a switch.

Key Features

  • Pneumatic Nailing System
  • Fastener Type: Plastic Collation
  • Magazine Angle: 21 Degree
  • Fastener Length: 2 – 3-1/2 inches
  • Fastener Diameter: 0.113 – 0.148 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 64-70 Nails
  • Magazine Loading: Rear
  • Operating Pressure: 70-120 PSI
  • Air Consumption: 0.09 scfm @ 100 PSI
  • Dimension (LxWxH): 20-3/4 x 4-15/16 x 12-11/16 inches
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs
  • 5-year warranty

Who'll use this nailer?

DIY-enthusiasts and Prosumers
Whilst a robust and solid piece of kit, this nailer is designed for tackling heavy jobs in less demanding environments. i.e backyard builds and occasional mid-sized project usage. It’s usually the magazine capacity on most models in this range is the what separates them. 

Whats in the box?

  • Framing nail gun
  • Safety Glasses
  • Instructions
  • Carrying case

Summary

There are positives a plenty for the Metabo NR90AES1 gun.
For starters it’s the lightest in its class, it’s powerful, well constructed, easy to dismantle for cleaning and clearing muck form the inners. Drives exceptionally well, is a balanced gun and has good recoil control.
What it lacks is an adjustable exhaust so make sure you are safely placed not to get a blast of hair altering wind.  There’s no dry fire lockout and lacks a hanging hook.
Despite these somewhat minor features missing, the nailer is made by a reputable brand or brands, with an abundance of know-how in this field. There are plenty of models to choose from however this is the best allrounder for the infrequent user.
The warranty of 5-years gives you peace of mind has more plus points and definitely worth considering.

#5 Paslode Cordless XP Framing Nailer 905600

This is the first nailer on this list thats not pneumatic powered.
Losing the compressor means using a gun thats up for the job as air compressed power can be hard to match in various takes and tools. Air power is consistent, cost effective and reliable.
Can a battery powered nailer come close to those core needs?
Paslode, with their XP 905600 nailer can.
They were innovators in getting battery-powered nailers into the market way before the competition.
This gun utilizes 2 power sources; battery and gas canister (see key features for details).
It comes in at 7.2 lbs – thats fantastic for full-on sessions in between joists and studs.
Fires up to 9000 nails per full charge.

Key Features

  • Cordless Battery/Gas Canister Powered Nailing System
  • Nail size: 0.113
  • Nail Lengths: 2″ – 3-1/4″
  • 2-minute Quick Charge for Up to 200 shots
  • Full charge in under 1 hour – fires up to 9000 nails per full charge
  • Fuel life is 24 months from date of manufacture
  • Magazine Angle: 30°
  • Magazine Capacity: single strip
  • Dry Fire Lockout: Yes, with 5 nails remaining
  • Exhaust: Not Adjustable
  • Weight: 7.2 lbs inc battery and gas cartridge
  • Length: 18.25 x 17.00 x 6.00″
  • Rafter hook
  • Battery type: Li-Ion
  • Warranty: 1 Year – No Questions Asked!

Who'll use this nailer?

Prosumer and Professionals
The justification for purchasing a high-end nailer for occasional use may put some DIY-enthusiasts off, however for consistent, long haul site work this is the one for professionals.

Whats in the box?

  • Carrying Case.
  • Clear Safety Glasses.
  • Battery Charger.
  • Rechargeable Battery.
  • Hex Key.
  • Owner’s Manual.
  • Tool Reference Guide

Summary

This nailer from Paslode will be on the pricier side compared to others in the range however, you will get a reliable tool capable of being deployed in both small and large jobs. The dual fuel source ensures you are not constantly topping up.
The recoil on this gun is very good, its suitably light and is probably the best in its class for toenailing. Firing power is excellent in comparison to its pneumatic cousins,
It does suffer a few drawbacks. The exhaust is unidirectional and there have been various reports of the gas leaving a slightly unpleasant odor. If you wear a mask, you should be less inclined to encounter this however it’s something to note. There is also no bump-fire mode.
With those points taken into consideration, I believe it’s still a contender for the best cordless framing nailer as the pro’s outweigh the cons in terms of functionality, efficiency and safety.
Every tool will have nuances that may deter some folks but if you see beyond the quirks, you’ve got yourself an excellent performer that you’ll get used to and will comfortably fasten joists, studs, trusses and boards.

#6 Metabo HPT Coil Siding Nailer (NV65AH2)

Arnie could have opted for this one from Metabo but perhaps wasn’t sure of the future rebranding with Hitachi.
In 2029 they probably became Metachi or Hitabo or even Hitametachibo. He probably would have opted for the Makita, but let’s see what he would have done had our T800 chosen the NV65AH2 Coil Siding Nailer.

Firstly this one weighs a little less than the Makita AN611 (not a major issue for our Austrian cyborg), but definitely a bonus for everyone else. The Metabo also includes an actuation switch for changing between contact and sequential firing. And, like the Makita, this one also includes a tool-less depth of drive adjustment.

The Metabo will drives wire or plastic-collated nails from 1-1/2 to 2-1/2-inches in length, and between 0.090 and 0.099” in thickness. It can deliver 3 nails per second on optimum settings – you’ll need to keep the compressor primed for this to be effective. This model has a plastic shield that deflects wire collation.

You can remove the no-mar nose cap.
And like the Makita, you can adjust the rotatable exhaust

All sounding rather familiar…

Key Features

  • Pneumatic Nailing System
  • 5-year Warranty
  • Selective actuation switch
  • Side-load, tilt-bottom magazine for fast and easy reloads
  • Weight: 4.8lbs
  • Dimensions: 11.4 x 5.1 x 11.1″
  • Wire and plastic sheet collated nails
  • Rubber grip, for added comfort
  • Compliant with safety standards for pneumatic nailers in the United States
  • Fastner Length Capasity: 1-1/2″-2-1/2″
  • Magazine Capacity: 200-300
  • Air inlet: 3/8

Who'll use this nailer?

Prosumer and Professionals
Like the Makita, this model is perfectly suited for deployment on large construction projects. It may be overkill for the infrequent use though you will be getting a fantastic nailer. For occasional use I’d consider a nailer at a lower price point that may be more aligned with your needs. 

Whats in the box?

  • 1 x nail gun
  • Safety glasses
  • No-mar nose cap
  • Case
  • Instructions

Summary

The Matebo gives the Makita a good run for its money in EVERY department.
The build quality and features are of a high standard as you’d expect from a Hitachi backed brand.
Where the Metabo wins on the reduced overall weight of the nailer it lacks on the capacity to use a larger range of narrower and bigger nails, however. 
It does come with a longer warranty that very attractive, especially when deployed on long-haul jobs in grueling conditions time and again.
But let’s not make this a like for like comparison, (which it actually comes down to).
This Metabo is a fantastic tool worthy of a place on this list as it does everything you need for efficient work on site. It has the features needed for operating effectively, and even though it may lack some nice extras from others in the same range I’d take this with me on site and not complain.