Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: which is better (for you)

Although the brad nailer and finish nailer have minor visual differences, they serve distinct functions and should not be used interchangeably. As a result, you should read this article, which will explain the differences between a brad nailer vs finish nailer in detail.
So, what’s the difference?

A brad nailer, in a nutshell, has thinner and smaller nails that prevent the wood from splitting and are thus ideal for finer woodworking. If you want a higher bearing capacity but still relatively thin nails, the finish nailer is a better option.

It is critical to understand which type is best suited to your projects. A poor purchasing decision is simple to make, but it can have serious consequences for both your projects and your budget. Fortunately, there is this brad nailer vs finish nailer comparison article that will prevent all of this from happening.

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What’s the difference between a brad nailer vs finish nailer

The size of the nail fired by these two nail guns is the primary distinction between them. A gauge number indicates this difference. The thicker the nail, the lower the gauge number. The finish nailer employs 16 gauge nails, while the brad nailer employs 18 gauge nails.

For light work, brad nailers are used. This could be used, for example, to hold parts together while the glue dries. This is a technique that I frequently use and that you have most likely seen me using in my YouTube videos.
Brad nails are also useful for securing thin edges where the small nail holes need to be hidden.

Finish tackers use slightly larger nails with a wider head to increase holding power. This type of nailer is typically used to secure baseboards and door trim. These holes are more visible and should be filled with wood filler or putty before painting.

Differences between brad nailers and finish nailers

So far, you’ve had a chance to learn about the differences between a brad nailer vs finish nailer. Both are intended to serve very specific functions.

While both are less powerful and use smaller nails than other types of nail guns, don’t mix them up or assume they can be used interchangeably.

In order to make the distinctions clear, I’ll go over them in greater detail in this section.

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Hole Size

It is impossible to prevent a nail gun from leaving holes in the wood. However, the size of the holes is determined by the type of nail gun you are using.

When working with a nail gun on wood, putty is often used to fill in the gaps left by the nail gun.
This is usually not the case when a finish nailer is properly adjusted. On the contrary, the gaps left by finishing nails should be filled more often with putty.

In general, a properly adjusted Brad nailer with 18 gauge nails will not leave noticeable holes in the material. But of course there are always exceptions. For example, if the material is particularly weak or thin, you will see some holes here and there. The advantage is that the holes are so small that they can be filled quickly and are hardly noticeable.
Related article: Why does my nail gun leave marks? (solved)


One of the biggest differences between the brad nailer vs finish nailer is the size of the nails that can be used.

The brad nailer is designed to shoot 18 gauge nails, while the finishing nail guns are for 16 gauge nails or 15 gauge nails.

As you can see when it comes to nails, the higher the gauge number, the smaller the diameter or cross-section of the nail, which also means they are thinner.


When you compare these two tools based on power, finish nailers are the more powerful of the two types of nailers.

Actually, this is not illogical because the finish nailer must be able to fire larger and thicker nails.

If you need power, the finish nailer is without a doubt the better option of the two. On the other hand, if you want to drive nails into thinner trim, the power of the finish nailer becomes a drag and can cause the wood to split.


Because of their thinner nails and lower impact strength, brad tackers will not split or crack thin pieces of wood, which is one of the primary differences between these two tools.

When using nailers with nails on corners, such as when installing moldings, this can be useful. As a result, brad nailers are less likely to cause damage than finish nailers.

You must first evaluate your project before deciding whether to use a brad or finish nail gun. The weight and thickness of the wood you use will have a significant impact on your decision.

When working with harder woods, you should use a finish nailer because most brad nailers lack the strength to handle that type of wood.

When working with thinner pieces of wood, however, a brad nailer is the tool to use because it allows you to attach wooden parts together perfectly without splitting the wood.

To make the best decision, you must carefully consider what your project entails and which tool is most appropriate. You can make the best decision if you understand what each tool has to offer. Later you will learn more about what is a brad nailer used for and where to use a finish nailer. That is why I recommend that you read the entire article.

Brad nailer
Hole SizeSmaller holes of 1.2 mm (0.0475 inches)Larger holes Up to 1.8 mm (0.072 inches)
Nails18 gauge nails.16 gauge nails and 15 gauge nails.
PowerLess power and less holding powerMore power and higher payload
UsesFor attaching thin trims without splitting.
Excellent for lightweight boards and moldings.
For finishing furniture, door casing, and other carpentry work
Brad nailer vs finish nailerComparison chart

Although there are differences between the brad nailer vs finish nailer, the basic principle of these two devices is about the same. In most cases, you will find the same parts in both.
In order to get to know both tackers well, I will explain a few parts that you need to know below:

  • Magazine: This is where you load the nails. Often there is a tell-tale in the sheet that indicates when your nails are almost finished. Related article: How to load a nail gun.
  • Depth Control: Many modern brad nailers have a dial that, in addition to the pressure regulator on the compressor, allows you to adjust the firing depth of the nail. That way you can prevent brad nails from shooting right through the project, or vice versa, sticking out above the surface.
  • Trigger: The trigger on a brad tacker often works with safety. Some studs allow you to use bump mode. Hold the trigger while pushing the tip on the wood to drive multiple nails in a row.
  • Jam Ports: Just above the nose of the brad tacker is usually a spring-loaded locking area. This is where you clear jams from your nail gun when it shoot blanks.
  • Tip or Nose: The tip or nose of the nail gun is where the nail comes out. Modern nail guns often have a safety device on the end. The nail gun only fires when the nose of the brad tacker is depressed.

Brad nailer

What is a brad nailer?

Brad nailer vs finish nailer - what is a finish nailer_ Makita AF505 Brad nailer
Brad nailer vs finish nailer – what is a finish nailer: Makita AF505 Brad nailer

A brad tacker is a nail gun that uses a short firing mechanism to drive a thin nail deep into the wood. It can be pneumatic, gas, or battery powered.

Brad nails resemble thick wires rather than real nails, and they bend easily with your fingers. You couldn’t drive these tiny nails in with a hammer, but a brad nailer will do the job without cracking the wood or leaving a huge dent!

The brad tacker is a useful, versatile tool that can be used for a variety of tasks. This is one of the reasons I recommend a brad nailer to any woodworker, do-it-yourselfer, or maker.
Related: What is a brad nailer good for.

When To Use A Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer?

Brad nailers are a great option for projects that require a light hold. It is ideal for joining thinner pieces of wood together, such as in decorative finishes on furniture. A few small nails hold the pieces together.

To create a stronger bond, a brad nail is frequently combined with wood glue. That is the method I most frequently use. While the glue dries, the nail acts as a clamp to hold the two pieces together.

This combination of wood glue and brad nails ensures a stronger connection.
If you only use brad nails, the wood’s pull will easily bend and loosen these nails.

Brad Nailer Pros

I’ve listed the benefits of the brad nailer to help you decide whether it’s right for your workshop. I also list a few disadvantages that I believe you should be aware of.

  • Ideal for affixing delicate moldings and moldings.
  • Typically, 18 gauge nails will not split the trim.
  • The resulting hole is extremely small and does not require filling.
  • It is also suitable for use on smaller baseboards and plywood.

Brad Nailer Cons

  • The smaller bard nail cannot fasten thick boards together.
  • When using the brad nail on wood with a high Janka hardness, the nail will not float or bend properly in the wood.
  • This type of nail is not suitable for holding up heavy parts.

Finish nailer

What is a finish nailer?

Brad nailer vs finish nailer - what is a finish nailer_ Makita AF635 Finish nailer
Brad nailer vs finish nailer – what is a finish nailer: Makita AF635 Finish nailer

A finish nailer serves a similar purpose as a brad nailer. A finish nailer, like a brad nailer, is not used for the majority of a job or project. Instead, you only use it in very specific circumstances.

Use a finish nailer instead of a brad nailer to trim or apply heavier shapes. In terms of strength, a finish nailer sits between brad nailers and heavier nail guns like frame nailers. Finish tackers are more powerful than brad tackers, but not as powerful as frame nail guns.

As far as nail size goes, your average finish nailer may contain nails that are longer than brad nails. These nails are often headless to blend with the surface of the wood. But this also means that you can’t just remove the headless nails.

When To Use A Finish Nailer vs Brad Nailer?

So, what is a finish nailer used for? Well, finish tackers offer a number of advantages when it comes to larger projects. The thicker nails can drive through hardwood and thicker materials more easily and provide more holding power due to the larger diameter.

This type of nails is more commonly used for home improvement projects than for finer woodworking. Because of the thicker nails and the larger holes, this is not the type of nailer you want if you want to place profiles or temporarily hold parts in place when gluing.

While the finish nailer has some holding power, that doesn’t mean you should trust this tool for structural support. If you have a heavy project, such as framing a house, use a nailer.
If you get an overview of all possible types of nailers, you should check out my article, How To Choose The Right Nail Gun For Your Projects. A Complete Nail Gun Guide.

Finish Nailer Pros

I’ll go over the benefits of the finish nailer in the same way I did with the brad nailer. Then I’ll show you what the disadvantages can be.

  • Larger nails, such as 15 gauge and 16 gauge nails, have greater holding power.
  • Excellent for home improvement projects such as replacing large baseboards and heavier parts.
  • Finish tackers are more versatile and useful for a variety of tasks.
  • Corners can be reached with 15-gauge nail guns arranged at an angle.

Finish Nailer cons

  • The larger the nails, the larger the holes that must be filled. This entails the additional work of filling the nail hole with wood filler, as well as the risk of a color difference between the wood filler and the wood.
  • When attaching thin edges and narrow planks, the finish nailer’s thicker nails and higher impact power can cause the wood to split.

Electric or Pneumatic?

Okay, so you’re getting a sense of the differences between a brad nailer vs finish nailer. But what about the driving force behind these tools?

As you may have noticed, there are a variety of ways to power these tools. There are both pneumatic and battery-powered nailers.

Each has benefits and drawbacks, which you will learn about in this section. This enables you to make the best decision and choose the tool that is most appropriate for your workshop.

Pneumatic Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Pneumatic nailers are nail guns that operate on compressed air supplied by an air compressor. The compressed air from the compressor’s pressure vessel is delivered to the nail gun via a hose, allowing a nail to be fired.

I personally use this type of drive for a variety of reasons, and when I look around, it appears that the majority of nail gun owners use pneumatic nailers.

The advantage of a pneumatic nailer over a battery or fuel cell nailer is that you never lose the force that drives the nails into the wood as long as your compressor is plugged in.

Another great advantage of pneumatic nailers is that, contrary to popular belief, they are a very mobile tool. While it’s not as portable as a cordless nail gun, once your compressor is fully charged, you can use the compressor and nail gun even when there’s no power.

Finally, pneumatic nailers are much cheaper than, say, a cordless nail gun. But the price difference is actually a misconception because you have to buy a compressor to use it.

However, you don’t just buy a compressor for your nail gun. Compressors are used for many purposes, and while you will need one to operate a pneumatic nailer, you will also be using it for many other functions such as blowing the dust away.

Cordless Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Cordless nailers are far superior to corded nailers in terms of convenience. Because you don’t need to transport a compressor or an air hose to complete the job, you can take a cordless tacker anywhere.

This benefit, however, comes at a cost. For some contractors, the advantages will undoubtedly outweigh the disadvantages. However, I doubt that a DIYer would find the advantages worthwhile, especially if they already have a compressor in their workshop.

When deciding on the type of nailer you require, it is critical to understand exactly what each type of nailer requires to function. To operate, a pneumatic nailer requires an air compressor, a hose, and electricity. A cordless tacker, on the other hand, requires the use of fuel cells and batteries, which can be costly in the long run.

How to use a brad nailer or finish nailer?

Before you get started with a nail gun, it is important that you know what you are doing, a lot can go wrong with a nail gun. In my article, 9 Important Nail Gun Safety Tips You Must See! you can see what can go wrong and learn to avoid accidents with a nail gun.

In this section, I briefly discuss the process of handling a nailgun. It is always important that with every tool you realize that there are risks, that you can list these risks and try to estimate how you can prevent them. By repeatedly using a fixed step-by-step plan, you can often avoid accidents.

  • Step 1: Protect yourself:
    Wear safety glasses and hearing protection. Also, watch out for your hands and stay out of the path of the nail!
  • Step 2: Choose the right nail length:
    A nail that is too long has a greater chance of misfiring. A nail that is too short will not hold well. There’s a rule that says the length of your nail is twice as thick as the material you’re nailing.
  • Step 3: Set the correct depth:
    Even with the correct size nail, if the depth of your nail gun is not correct, you will not effectively secure your material. On the other hand, the nail may be too deep or go all the way through the material.
  • Step 4: Connect the compressed air hose or the battery.
    To avoid firing a nail while doing the settings, it is critical to do this now rather than at the beginning of all steps.
  • Step 5: Hold the nailer at the proper angle:
    Many nails have a V-shaped tip. After being fired, the nails can bend to the left or right. Keep your nailer perpendicular to the wood and avoid placing the nail gun on the edge of the wood to avoid this as much as possible. If the nail does bend, it will bend into the material rather than through the wood’s side.
  • Step 6: Take a Test:
    Take some time to practice before using your nail gun on a serious project! see how the nail went into the wood, how the wood reacts and learn to handle the nail gun.
    Inspect each nail after it is fired, adjusting the depth if necessary. Once you get the hang of it, it goes faster!

Do I Need A Finish Nailer Or Brad Nailer?

This brad nailer vs finish nailer question does not have a one-sided answer. Every workshop is unique, as are the various projects. What is a good option for one person may not be a good option for another.

You now know exactly which one is the best choice for you thanks to all of the information you were able to gather in this brad nailer vs finish nailer comparison article. To help you make your decision, I’ve put together the following summary:

You’ll need a brad nailer with finer 18 gauge nails if you want to do fine woodworking without splitting the wood. A finish nailer with 15 gauge or 16 gauge nails is required to fix or nail heavier parts in hardwood.

For each type of nail gun, there are countless offers from different brands that make choosing a difficult thing to do. I’ll help you make this decision to find the nail gun you need below. Check them out and compare them to see which one suits you best.

What is the best bradnailer?

Below, you can find a selection of the best brad nailers. For a more in-depth comparison with reviews and pros and cons of brad nailers, I suggest you should take a look at my article, The Very Best Brad Nailers for Your Workshop (10 Options)

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