The leg at the rear of the strip-magazine tools serves two purposes. First, because its height is level with the pinner's nose, it can be used to help guide the pin in at a 90-degree angle instead of at a dangerous glancing angle. And second, it supports the weight of the tool – and, during firing, a lot of the user's weight.
Since these tools are most often used for shooting into the floor, they are typically dragged instead of lifted from shot to shot – usually spaced 16 to 24 inches. To keep the tool from skating away if your reach is not straight down, it helps to have a grippy point of contact against the smooth steel track or concrete. The gas Hilti pinner (center right) has a soft rubber foot that provides superb traction. The Hitachi has a soft plastic nose cap designed to achieve the same thing, but the tool isn't as sure-footed. This nose cap also reduces the depth of drive a bit, which may interfere with fastener penetration in tough applications.
A few of the pinners with plastic feet have metal glides, like the Ramset (far right), or replaceable insert screws, like the Simpson (near right) and TyRex. These add wear resistance. The Hitachi and Powers tools have unshod plastic feet, and the pneumatic Hilti a sturdy steel foot. Only the coil magazine Max tools have no feet.
Any time you shoot into hard concrete and steel, pins will periodically bend and cause a jam. Pinners with noses that open are usually faster to clear than models that require the magazine to be removed. The Powers tools (below left) have pop-open latches, and the Max, Simpson, and TyRex (below center) have hinged "gates" at the nose. The nosepiece of the ET&F pinner drops out when you pull a locking pin.
The Hitachi and Ramset tools (TF1100 below center) have magazines that you detach by unscrewing a single knob; the pneumatic Hilti has to be disassembled with tools.
The gas Hilti (below right) trumps them all with a nosepiece that drops out with the push of a button and a magazine that pulls out with the flip of a lever.
The Max pinners rely on a high-pressure air compressor and hose to deliver surprising power for their compact size. Both tools really pack a punch – in both directions. The lightweight tools will recoil sharply if you use more pressure than you need, especially when shooting 2-1/2-inch pins with the HN120 (below). The left side of the compressor has two connections for standard-pressure tools with a range approaching 200 psi. (AKHL1050E compressor: $1,300. 50-foot hose: $99. 100-foot hose: $125.)
Batteries and Fuel
Gas pinners rely on batteries to provide an ignition spark, and all but the Hilti have motorized exhaust fans that require 6- or 7.2-volt rechargeable batteries. Depending on how often you use them, the rechargeables should last for about 3,000 shots. It's a good idea to disconnect the battery when the tool is sitting idle; leaving it in the tool can run it down over time. The Ramset T3 (right) has a unique feature that holds the battery securely in the tool even when it is disconnected.
Fuel canisters contain at least enough butane fuel to shoot the box of pins they come with (750-1,000 count), as long as they are used by their printed expiration date. The cans have a short shelf life due to the inevitable leaking of their propane propellant. The fuel cans (and fasteners) for the most popular tools (Powers C3, Ramset TF1100, and Simpson) are cross-compatible. The Ramset T3 has an unobtrusive fuel-can location that allows its hand grip to be positioned further forward than on most tools, greatly improving balance.
Belt/hanging hooks are nice for keeping the tool off the floor. None of the pneumatics have them, but all the gas tools – except the Hitachi – do. Only the Hilti, Ramset T3, and Simpson hooks will easily fit over the railing of a mobile lift platform.