Electric Nail Gun vs Pneumatic Nail Gun

Man using a pneumatic nail gun to attach roofing materials

A nail gun is a very useful tool to own. When you’re looking to buy a nail gun, you’re faced with two choices of either an electric nail gun or a pneumatic nail gun. Both have their advantages and their disadvantages. You need to weigh these and decide what will work best in your particular situation before you make your purchase.

Electric Nail Gun

An electric nail gun is very portable, but it’s a heavy piece of equipment to carry around, and its size can make it awkward to use in tight situations. An electric nail gun is eminently suitable for most types of construction jobs, even heavy framing work. Be aware, however, that if you use a cordless electric nail gun, it won’t be as powerful as a corded one. You need to wear the right safety equipment, no matter whether you’re using an electric nail gun or a pneumatic nail gun. You should always wear safety glasses and heavy gloves when using this equipment.

One of the problems with a corded electric nail gun is the fact that it needs an extension cord. Depending on the work you’re doing, this could mean a long extension cord, that will have to be at least 12 gauge, because of the current involved. Even then, heavy use can lead to the breaker being tripped. The weight of the nail gun means that you sometimes need to use both hands to control it while you’re working.

You’ll find that you can’t work as quickly with an electric nail gun as you can with a pneumatic nail gun. As you look around, you’ll also see that the electric models are more expensive.

Pneumatic Nail Gun

using a power nailer to attach two corner pieces

Pneumatic nail guns are more popular than the electric models. In part this is because they’re cheaper, but also because they tend to be lighter and you can work faster with them.

They’re the choice for professionals, but they’ve also been gaining ground with homeowners. They’re especially useful for heavy framing jobs, and can take nails up to 3 ½ inches in length or even longer. The nail gun can be set for individual nails or what’s known as bump fire mode, which allows for much more rapid fire of nails. You can even buy pneumatic nail guns that contain a blower to clear sawdust from the wood as you go.

However, for all these good points, there are other things to consider. A pneumatic nail gun requires a compressed air source in order to work. When you factor in a hose and compressed air, the price goes up, and the nail gun becomes less portable. The weight of the compressor negates the lighter weight of the nail gun.

The hose needs to be inspected regularly, especially when the nail gun is subject to rough use. If it’s cracked or worn you’ll need to replace the hose; never try to repair it. There are also cordless gas nail guns, but the cost and the frequent cleaning they require mean they’re not often used.