21 vs 30-Degree Nailers. What Degree Nail Gun is Best for Framing?

Difference between the common framing nailer angles and how to choose the best degree nail gun for framing.

What may be surprising to many who have not engaged in framing is the different angles of nail guns available for the job. In addition to the angles, there are different types of nail guns as well ranging from wire coil to plastic strip to clipped head. But what normally gets most people’s attention is that nail guns are available in angles ranging from 15 to 34 degrees.

What’s important to note is that the degree reference is not to the angle at which the nails are driven. But rather the nail collation itself. This is because all nails are driven straight or perpendicular to the surface. But which degree of nail gun you choose will depend on the location of the project that you are working on.

What follows are some of the more popular degrees of nail guns, their attributes, and where they should be used.

21-Degree Framing Nailer

Although called a 21-degree nail gun, you can often find them at either 20 or 22 degrees depending on who is the manufacturer.

Makita AN924 21º Full Round Head 3-1/2" Framing Nailer

The nails have a full-round head which makes them similar in some ways to the 15-degree nail gun. But the main difference is that the fasteners are held together by a plastic strip and not a wire coil. You can the difference between plastic collation and wire collation here.

Grip-Rite GR408HG Round Head 3-Inch by .120-Inch by 21 Degree Plastic-Collated Hot-Dip-Galvanized Framing Nail (4,000 per Box)

Up to 70 nails can be held in one of these nail guns, which is considerably less compared to the 15-degree version. However, you can get this nail gun into tight spaces better because of the smaller magazine. One downside is that you will have to clean up the little plastic pieces that break off the container strips as the nails are being placed. Wearing protective eyewear is strongly recommended when using this nail gun.

30-Degree Nailer

Although called 30-degree nail guns, you can find them in ranges from 30 up to 34-degrees. This is the greatest angle you can find with common nail guns. That means they have the best access to tight angles when using them for framing purposes. The 30-degree nail gun is one of the most popular versions and it can drive nails from 2” up to 3-1/4” using a paper collated strip.

The original version of the 30-degree nail gun was created by Paslode for use with their RounDrive brand of full-round offset head nails. However, today most 30° or 34° nails in the market are clipped-headed. Instead of using wire or plastic, the nails are collated with a paper strip. Such strips can hold together up to 88 nails and perhaps more depending on the nail gun model itself.

Grip-Rite GRSP10D Clipped Head 3-inch by .120-inch by 30 Degree Paper Tape Collated Vinyl Coated Framing Nail, 2,000 per Box

The advantage of this version is that most magazines will hold two strips of nails which means having to reload a lesser number of times. This allows the work to be performed faster under most circumstances. Another benefit is that the paper used to collate the nails does not create the same type of mess compared to plastic versions.

However, a big downside in warm, wet climates or when moisture is present is that the paper tends to fall apart rather easily. This means that the nails may not exit the nail gun properly when used.

Framing Nailer 21 vs 30 Degree

Framing nailer 12 vs 30 degree
The 21-degree and 30-degree are the most common framing nailer angles. The most obvious difference between the two types of nailers is the magazine angles and the corresponding angle of collation.
So, what’s better, 21- or 30-degree framing nailer? The 30° to 34° angle will definitely allow you to use the nailer at very tight spots. But that is not the primary decision-making factor.

The real reason to chose one over the other would be the nail head and your local building code. The full round nail heads have more holding power and are the safest choice. Conversely, the clipped head nail which has slightly less holding ability may not permissible as per the local regulations.

  21° Nail Gun 30° Nail Gun
Nail Collation 20° to 22° 30° to 34°
Nail Head Full Round Head Clipped Head or Offset Head
Nail Shank Ø .113 to .148-inches .113 to 131-inches *
Nail Length 2 to 3 ½ -inches 2 to 3 ½ -inches
Type of Collation Plastic Collation Paper Collation

21° Milwaukee Nailer
MILWAUKEE ELECTRIC TOOL 2744-20 M18 Fuel 21 Degree Framing Nailer
Click to See Price

30° Metabo Nailer
Metabo HPT Framing Nailer, 2-Inch up to 3-1/2-Inch Paper Collated Framing Nails, .113 - .148, 30 Degree Magazine, Pneumatic (NR90ADS1)
Click to See Price

*The acceptable maximum shank diameter of the nails may have slight variation among different models.

Other Types of Framing Nail Guns

28 Degree Framing Nailer

The 28-degree nail gun has nails with either a full-round or clipped head. Plus, this type of nail gun uses a wire strip for collation. The nails themselves are held so close together that the heads will often overlap. This creates a smaller, more compact unit that makes it easier to get into tight corners. 

Can you use 30-degree nails in a 28-degree nailer? No. The 30-degree nailer is designed to work with collation angles from 30 to 34 degrees. If you use a different angle, it will result in nail jam and in the worst case may damage your tool.

15 Degree Framing Nailer

The 15-degree nail guns are wire coil collated. In other words, the nails that are used are held in two thin wire strips that are slanted at 15 degrees. The collation is circular in nature and each nail has a fully rounded head. Because the nails have rounded heads, they are preferred in terms of most building codes. This makes the 15-degree nail gun a popular one, especially for the many framing applications where it can be used such as the following.

  • Wall Studs
  • Floor Joists
  • Tight Spaces or Corners

In other words, if you have little room to maneuver a nail gun, then the 15-degree version may be the best choice. It also helps that because of the angle, this type of nail gun can hold up to 300 fasteners in its magazine depending on the model. So, you can work longer without having to stop and reload.

However, that number of fasteners in the magazine can be quite heavy. This makes a fully loaded 15-degree nail gun tiring to hold for long periods, especially if you are doing overhead nailing. Plus, if you purchase the wire coil nails, they are often packaged in numbers up to 3,000. So, you are going to get a lot of them for your job.

You will often find this type of nail gun used in warm, wet climates because the wire coil collation is not affected by moisture.

What Type of Framing Nailer Should I Buy?

Before making your decision as to which degree of a nail gun to purchase, you’ll need to check with authorities for the rules and regulations of construction in the area. This is because building codes vary from community to community. This means that you may be required to use a specific type of nail head or nail collation before the nail gun can be used.

This is often the case for buildings located in hurricane zones which may require a full-round head nail for maximum holding power. You will need to check with local building codes to ensure that the type of nail and nail gun being used meets the standards.

Of course, only the proper size nail can fit into the nail gun. While many brands will recommend the type of nail that only they sell, it may be possible to use nails from other manufacturers if they fit the size and nail collation. It also helps if you can find the correct collated fastener that is recommended for the nail gun. If you are having difficulty doing so, you may want to choose another type if the supply of nails is more available.