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Get to Know Your Brad Nailer

Power tool convenience, but for hand tool projects. The brad nailer is a type of nail gun that’s a hard-working choice for projects when a tack hammer could stand in, but you’re looking for the precision and ease of a power tool.

Brad Nailer

Brad nailers are best for light duty projects like trim, shoe molding (thin piece of trim that finishes the look where the floor meets baseboards), quarter-round molding (same purpose as shoe molding, but in a round shape), picture frames—carpentry that requires thin cuts of wood. If you need a nailer for heavy fastening like roofing or insulation, wood joinery, or anything that’s load or weight bearing, brad is not your boy. 

Before we talk nailers, let’s talk brads. Brads are 18 gauge nails; the gauge references the thickness of the nail’s diameter. 18 gauge is equal to 0.0475 of an inch. In the world of nail guns, the higher the gauge number, the thinner the nail. For reference, pin nails are some of the smallest, at 23 gauge, while finishing nails are the biggest, between 15 and 16 gauge. Brad nails are also categorized by length; you can find them between a half inch and two inches. Brads are also sometimes called wire nails because they’re almost as thin (and flexible!) as wire. Brads are so small that they don’t leave visible holes in the wood, so you often won’t need to spackle or hide them as you work.

A note on finish nailers: A finish nailer is similar to a brad, but because of its most petite size, is best for finer detailing work.

2 Types of Brad Nailers

Battery Operated

Most models arrive in either an 18 or 20 volt option that are cordless and require a rechargeable battery. 


Requires a compressor or hose, which is the gun’s energy source to shoot nails. Usually more affordable than its battery counterparts, but requires easy access to an electrical outlet and has the added bulk of the compressor hose. 

Note: Both the battery and pneumatic compressor are most often sold separately from the tool.

Parts & Benefits

Belt hook: Keep it on hand for on-the-move projects

Magazine: This is a removable component of the tool where the nails are stored. Choose one with a low nail indicator so you can stay topped up.

No-mar tip: Many brad nailers have special cushioned tips to add a barrier between the wood and metal.This cuts down on bruising or nicking the wood.

Depth adjuster: Allows you to customize how deep the nailer will drive the brads into the wood.  

Trigger: Some models will have a switch near the trigger that gives you the option to pull the trigger to release individual nails or to simply tap the tip onto the wood to release nails without ever having to touch the trigger. 

Handle: As with any tool, manual or power, choose a brad nailer with a handle that feels comfortable in your hand. 

Dry-fire lock out: Prevents firing after the last nail so you don’t continue thinking you’re still nailing and also helps preserve the battery. 


Don’t overdrive: Check your pressure and dial down the power if you’re working with super thin wood. If you have too much power, you could shoot the nail straight through the wood.

Safety first: Wear protective glasses and ear plugs. Most importantly, keep your fingers away from the drive path of your nails. They may exit the wood and puncture the skin.

Add a cushion: If your nail doesn’t have a no-mar tip, try adding a couple pieces of painter’s tape to the tip of your gun. It’s thin enough for the nail to punch through but adds a protective layer between the tip of the gun and the wood.

Choose the right length nail: Go for a nail about twice as long as your wood is thick.

Add adhesive: Be sure to keep your project securely fastened by using wood glue or another adhesive in addition to the brads.

Brad Nailers for Beginners

Here’s a great how-to video created by Brandi from Eternal Harvest Decor walking you through how to use a Brad Nailer.

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