Nails

Loading Nails.These tools load in one of two ways: load the nails first, then retract the follower to catch them; or, retract the follower first, then load nails. I like the former because it can save a step: If you forget to pull the follower back (OK, so I forget sometimes), you don't have to remove the already loaded nails to engage the follower. The Craftsman, DeWalt, Hitachi, Makita, Porter-Cable, Senco, and Stanley-Bostitch let you load first. The ISM, Max, and Spotnails require pulling the follower back before loading the nails.

Collation Angle.It's important, obviously, to have access to a steady stream of the correct nails. The tools tested use two different nail types: The Makita and Stanley-Bostitch call for a 25-degree collation angle, which I found interchangeable between nailers. All the other tools used the 34-degree collation. Other than the fact that the 25-degree tools hold about 25 more nails than the 34-degree tools, I did not find one angle or nail notably better than the other, nor did I have problems finding nails at my suppliers.

Jam Clearing. None of the tools in the group were prone to jamming, which was nice. But it happens from time to time. Nine of the 10 tools in the group provideaccess to the drive shaft by releasing a lever-lock on the nosepiece, which exposes the drive pin and the jammed nail. Of these tools, I found the Craftsman, DeWalt, Hitachi, Makita, and Senco had the easiest lever to operate. The hand pressure needed to release these latches was minimal, yet they closed securely and I wasn't worried about them coming loose in use. With the Porter-Cable, Max, and Spotnails, I felt like I had to fight to open the tool and then to close it after clearing the jammed nail. All three worked fine, they just required more effort. The ISM was frustrating because it has no real lever, and I had to pry it open with a tool.

The best jam-clearing mechanism belongs to the Stanley-Bostitch nailer. The tool's removable nail slide is remarkably easy to operate and lets you see the entire drive pin. I really like this feature and think it sets a higher standard for the category because the ability to have such a clear and open view makes it easier to grab the jam. With the other tools, you still have to fight with the push lever and blade guide to pull nails free.

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The Max has a trigger-lock switch, which is handy for certain sites.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

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Hitachi's select-fire switch is great: Flip one way to bump-fire, the other to single-fire.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe