Tool Test: 18-Gauge Brad Nailers
Now able to shoot 2-in. nails, these small tools are more versatile than ever.
Synopsis: This Tool Test, “18-Gauge Brad Nailers,” by Kit Camp, looks at how these small tools, now able to shoot 2-in. nails, are more versatile than ever. For this review, Camp focused on 14 tools that accept 2-in.-long nails. Using 2-in. nails is standard for a lot of common tasks, such as nailing the outer edges of casing, and fastening baseboard and crown molding. He tested these nailers by using them daily in his work as a finish carpenter. The Cadex CB18.50 was his choice for best overall nailer, and the Bostitch BT1855 and the Makita AF505 were tied for the best value.
New carpenters used to be told to purchase a 15-ga. or 16-ga. model as their first finish nailer, but now that most 18-ga. models can shoot a 2-in. nail, the smaller and less-expensive brad nailer has become a great all-around choice for trim. Short of hanging doors or installing heavy trim, many carpenters use brad nailers for nearly every finish-carpentry task. Besides being versatile, 18-ga. nailers leave a much smaller hole than 15-ga. and 16-ga. nailers, which is better for stain-grade work and will have the painters that follow you singing your praises.
Both of the 18-ga. brad nailers I use regularly are older models that have been unavailable for years. One of them shoots nails only up to 1 1⁄4 in. long. It’s great for delicate work but not a good all-arounder.
For this review, I focused on 14 tools that accept 2-in.-long nails. Using 2-in. nails is standard for a lot of common tasks, such as nailing the outer edges of casing, and fastening baseboard and crown molding. I tested these nailers by using them daily in my work as a finish carpenter. I loaded all the tools into a milk crate and pulled two or…