Nailing It!

How To Find The Best Nail Gun

Paul Casseri, Product Manager
Reading Time: 4 minutes
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What nail gun features make your job go more smoothly?

Not all nail guns are built for the same kind of work. A finishing nail gun is used for thinner veneers and furniture. It would not be an acceptable tool for installing thick architectural shingles, such as Atlas Roofing's StormMaster® Shake, Pinnacle® Pristine or ProLam™ shingles. Be sure all models you examine can handle the type of work for which they will be used.

Without promoting any particular brand, let’s look at features found on nail guns available today. You can then decide which qualities are essential to your work situation and use that information to make your purchase.

Preferred Nail Gun Features

Power source: Pneumatic (air-powered) nail guns are generally the most powerful on the market. Power is an important feature, considering what roofing jobs demand. Battery-powered models are usually for the occasional user for two primary reasons: having to change a depleted battery slows the pace of work and the added weight can quickly tire the user.

Speed: A nail gun should be able to drive up to 100 nails per minute into a roof. Compare models and search for one with the highest driving power, usually expressed as an in./lbs. per 100 psi (per square inch) pressure rating. With a higher power model, you shouldn’t have any issues driving nails into the shingles.

Firing methods: The better nail gun models will feature both a contact and sequential trigger. Contact trigger mechanisms allow the tool to fire when both the trigger and the nose of the gun are depressed. The trigger can be held down to allow faster “bump” nailing. A sequential trigger requires the nose of the gun to be depressed before the trigger is pulled, a safety feature that helps prevent an accidental discharge of nails.

Depth setting: With each new job, a roofer will install shingles and underlayment of varying thicknesses. The best nail gun should have adjustable power settings to accommodate the particular depth-force needed for such variances. The best type of depth setter is a clickable dial that does not require a particular tool bit.

Magazine size: Stopping often to change a nail magazine will slow the pace of a roof installation. Look for a nail gun that will hold magazines with at least 100 nails per load. A roofer’s nail gun should also be able to install various nail sizes from ¾-inch to 1¾-inch lengths.

Weight: Roofing work is physically demanding and hard enough without the added burden of lugging around a heavy power tool. Most nail guns weigh between 5 and 12 pounds. Hold each nail gun in your hand to see how it feels. It should have a comfortable weight and be easy to grip and maneuver.

Miscellaneous: Nail guns with a “self-cleaning nose” allow you to remove jams quickly and easily. A trigger lockout feature ensures that the gun doesn’t continue to fire even when there are no nails present. A quality nail gun should have an adjustable exhaust, so fumes and debris aren’t blown into your face.

Protect Your Tools

Since your nail gun will likely see use on a daily basis, it should come with a solid protective case that can hold the gun, oil, wrenches and any needed connectors.

But the best feature for nail guns, and all tools, is a strong warranty. Many nail guns offer a five-year guarantee and some models will even have a seven-year protection period. Since you, a professional roofer, will use this tool every working day, it should be sturdy enough to last a long time. Be wary of models that offer only a one-year warranty. They are usually built for the DIY market and do not have the durability needed for extensive roofing work.