Above and Beyond

Several features really stood out. The first is Hitachi's built-in blow gun. Pressing a button near the exhaust releases compressed air, enabling you to clear dust from a workpiece before gluing or nailing–it's good stuff. DeWalt's belt hook is super handy, especially for working up high on picture rail or crown; no more holding the nailer between your knees while you position a workpiece. I wish more tools had this feature. Senco includes a Monster Hook–style belt hook with its tool, which is nice, but I'd rather have it integrated with the tool.

I also really like the select-fire trigger on the Hitachi and Craftsman models. With the flip of a switch, you can bump-fire, single-fire, or turn the tool off–nice for jobsites where the customers' kids may be around. Also, though it's no big deal, you don't have to mess with changing out triggers.

The Max also allows you to switch between bump- and single-fire without changing triggers: To bump-fire, pull the trigger, then depress the safety. To single-fire, depress the safety first, then pull the trigger; in this sequence, the tool cannot fire a second nail until the trigger is released and the steps are repeated. The Max and the DeWalt have a trigger-lock switch, which I like for safety reasons. All the other tools in the group ship with single-fire triggers that you must change out with an included bump-fire trigger if you want to bump-fire.

The Senco and Stanley-Bostitch tools are the only oil-free tools in the group. It's an excellent feature; anything that saves a step–and is durable–gets my attention.

Winners

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Hitachi's built-in blow gun is terrific for clearing a workpiece before gluing or nailing.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Without hesitation, my first choice is the Hitachi. The tool is weighted very well, is comfortable to hold throughout the day, and all the adjustments are well placed and easy to use. I loved the built-in blow gun; it's a feature that I used many times during the test and think others may emulate. Second place is a dead heat between DeWalt and Stanley-Bostitch. The DeWalt is very solid: It's extremely light and well balanced, its tool hook is super handy, and the nail depth-adjustment works well. The Stanley-Bostitch is light and easy to use, and it has the best jam-clearing in the group–one of the better improvements in nailer technology.

Here's how I run the rest: The Senco is well-made and reliable, but basic; the Porter-Cable is light and a solid performer. Then I pick the Craftsman, Max, Makita, Spotnails, and ISM.

Steve Veroneau owns Transformations LLC, in Falls Church, Va., and is a contributing editor for Tools of the Trade.