There are several advantages to using a power nail gun over hammering the nails in by hand. Nailers are more precise, easier to use, and safer to employ as you are less likely to whack your fingers. However, there are two main types to choose from which can be confusing, the angled and straight nail guns.
Angled Finish Nailer
What is an Angled Finish Nailer? Basically, angled nailers are nail guns that come with an angled magazine, hence the name. The magazine itself will be attached to the base and then angled back towards your arm as it travels up the nailer. This is what makes it quite distinctive in appearance compared to the straight nailer.
When it comes to the finish nailers, usually the 15 gauge nailers are angled and the 16 gauge finish nailers have straight magazines. The nails used in these tools are not interchangeable. You need collated nails with an angle corresponding to the magazine of your nail gun.
DA vs FN Nails
The angled finish nailers come with DA and FN styles. So, what is the difference between FN and DA nails?
The main difference between the DA and FN style nails is the angle of collation. The DA style nail, which was developed by Senco, has a 34-degree magazine angle. The FN style nail which is a creation of Bostitch has an angle of 25-degrees.
|DA Nails||FN Nails|
|33 or 34° Angle||25° Angle|
|Usually, Round Head||Rectangular Nail Head|
|Senco Standard||Bostitch standard|
Now let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of angled nailer over straight nailer.
Reach Corners: There are several advantages to the angled finish nailer starting with its shape. Because the magazine is angled back, you can drive nails into tighter locations without having the handle of the nail gun contact the opposing surface. For work in tight spaces, the angled finish nailer is superior.
The slightly larger gauge size of the nails used in the angled nailer will hold thicker pieces of material together better. Add to this the near-full head (D-shaped) used in such nails and you have a stronger, more secure connection between the materials.
Longer Magazine: The angled design makes the magazine longer and allows it to accomodate more number of nails per strip than a straight mazaine with the same diameter nails.
Lighter: Angled nailers tend to be slightly smaller (shorter handles) and use less material in their construction compared to straight nailers. This makes them lighter and easier to use depending on the size and capacity of the magazine.
The size of the nails may be just as much a con as a pro depending on the work that is required. If you are connecting thinner, more fragile material, then the 16 gauge finish nailer or brad nailer may be better. Plus, the 15GA nails that are used tend to have bigger, more noticeable heads. This makes them more noticeable in the material once the nail has been driven.
Another issue with the angled finish nailers is the price. They tend to be more expensive than their straight nailer counterparts. Although the difference is often not that great, it is a consideration.
Straight Finish Nailer
What is a Straight Finish Nailer? This type of nailer uses a 16-gauge nail and uses a straight magazine. The magazine itself is often attached to the front of the nailer which is quite efficient, although it does take up extra space.
The first advantage is that this type of nail gun uses smaller, thinner nails which are perfect for lighter construction work. This means that for attaching trim and other smaller materials, a straight finish nailer works quite well. They are also less expensive and thus, easier on the pocketbook.
A big issue is their size which makes them more difficult to use in tight spaces. Because the magazine is often attached to the front, that means you have less room to maneuver compared to the side attachment often found with angled finish nailers. Plus, the smaller, thinner nails are not as well suited for heavier work.
Straight vs. Angled Finish Nailer
As you can see, the difference between an angled finish nailer vs straight lies in the angle of the magazine and its ability to reach tight spaces. In the case of an angled nail gun, the magazine is attached to the body at an angle of 34° (DA style) or 25° (FN style).
Since most of the angled nail guns are 15 gauge (with few exceptions like this 16 GA angled nailer), the differences between these two are essentially the difference between 15 GA and 16 GA finish nailers.
|Angled Nailer||Straight Nailer|
|Angled Magazine 34° (DA) or 25° (FN)||Straight Magazine|
|Usually, 15 Gauge (Ø0.072″) Nailer||* 16G Finish Nailer (Ø0.063″ Nails)|
|Reach corners and tight locations.||Easy to keep the nail gun straight.|
|Collated angled nails costs more.||Straight nails are less expensive.|
Which Nailer is Better?
It may seem that both types of nailers are virtually identical save for the angle or lack thereof when it comes to the magazine. But this seemingly subtle difference is quite substantial, especially when it comes to the ergonomics and efficiency of each version.
However, deciding which one is better started with your own situation. This means if you can get the right size and type of nail needed for your nailer.
You may need longer or shorter nails. Or, you may need galvanized or stainless nails if you are working on exteriors or in humid environments. For example, nail gun for fencing or external trim works. The greater your access to the type of nails needed, the easier it will be to make the right decision.
15 GA Angled Nailer for Tight Spaces
If access to the type and size of nails is not an issue and you could only choose one type of nailer, then the angled version is arguably the best. This is because angled nailers allow you to get into tighter spaces and normally have thicker nails for better security. In other words, it’s far easier to use an angled nailer when forcing in nails straight compared to trying to use a straight nailer when having to drive nails at an angle.
And the ability to get into tighter spaces is often the deciding factor in choosing between the angled and straight versions. This is especially true for professionals who may visit many job sites and can only carry one nail gun with them at a time. When in doubt, the angled finish nailer is more likely to fit into tighter corners compared to the straight finish nailer.
Most angled nailers use nails with larger, fuller heads which secure into the material a little stronger compared to the types of nails used in straight nailer versions. All these advantages point to the angled nailer as being superior save for one aspect.
16 GA Straight Finish Nailer for Trims
If you do not want to see the head of the nail when driven into the surface, then the straight nailer does offer some advantages. Straight nailers are often used on exposed surfaces when you do not want to see the mark of the nail head in the baseboard, trim, or other location. If you plan to do lots of interior work of this nature, you should consider a straight nailer.
As explained before, the straight nailers tend to use smaller diameter nails which may or may not be an advantage depending on the type of work being performed. Thinner nails are better for certain types of trim or thin pieces being put together while larger nails are more suited for thicker material. If the primary purpose of your nail gun is for thin trims, consider getting an 18 GA brad nailer or a 23 GA pin nailer since they will not cause splitting the thin sections.
However, many carpenters will have both types of nailers handy for their work. This means that if you plan on having plenty of different projects around the home, you may want to invest in both types of nailers. But again, if you can only choose one, then the angled nailer is the one to get. After all, you can always apply putty to the top of the nail head to cover it up.