Nails

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DeWalt's nail-length adjustment lever is smart: Just push it along the bottom rim for the fastest nail-length adjustment.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Reloading. Reloading nail coils becomes second nature once you get used to your nailer. The most common door design is a two-door system like on the Craftsman, Hitachi, Max, Makita, Porter-Cable, Ridgid, and Senco. The coil magazine basket has a rear hinge cap that swings away and a front-hinged door that engages the nail-advancing palls; both doors join at the center with one door being the passive (first to close) and the other active (or locking). All functioned properly. Max's cap, however, swings upward slightly when opening and jammed my knuckles every time. I couldn't open it with gloves on.

DeWalt uses a two-door system, too, but has a spring-loaded pin to secure the passive door until the active magazine cap is locked down, which is great. With the first door secured, the nails are held fast in the guide until you lock down the canister lid.

The Bostitch, Paslode, and Spotnails each have different systems. Paslode has a single, front-hinged door. The magazine cap and firing chamber door are all-in-one, but you have to lift a secondary firing chamber leaf to insert nails before closing the door. Spotnails has a bottom-loading magazine in which you have to flip the tool upside down to load, unlock the rear of the magazine basket, and hinge it forward before opening the front firing chamber to load the nails. One drawback to the bottom-hinged magazine is that it wobbles around a lot, rendering the exposure gauge that is mounted to it unreliable.

Bostitch has a single door that hinges along the midline of the base. It works great. You have to make sure you have the string of nail heads fed precisely along the aligning groove, otherwise the door won't lock, but it's easy once you do it a couple times.

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Replaceable steel wear guards with rubber bumpers help protect the tool and give it a little extra grip on a steep roof.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Nail-Length Adjustment. Each of the tool magazines has an adjustment to set the coil support disc at the proper level to accommodate nail length. Most nailers have a twist-and-lift system: Rotate the disc to the neutral position by twisting the coil spindle, then lift or lower the disc to match nail length. Usually, embossed or raised numbers on the magazine housing indicate levels. DeWalt uses a handy lever along the bottom rim of the magazine for the fastest and easiest coil disc adjustments.

That Last Nail. I always knew when to reload my old nailers–the last nail in the coil fell out of the nose. Now, many nailers have a magnet in the nail barrel to hold that last fastener; but with this improvement I'm unaware I'm out of nails until I shoot a few divots into the shingle surface. Only Bostitch has a dry-fire lockout. This is a great feature–no more looking back to find the last shiner.

Balance & Ergonomics

Grip. The great thing about this batch of nailers it that every tool now has a rubber handle wrap that improves the grip considerably, even on sweaty summer afternoons. This helps a lot.

Handle Geometry. The geometry between the handle and trigger–and how that geometry aligns with the driver axis–is different on each tool. The only way to tell what works and feels best for you is to try a few nailers. My three favorites are the DeWalt, Hitachi, and Bostitch.

The rear of the Spotnails' handle swells just before the air connector, leaving only a single hand position–right against the head with my finger hovering over the trigger. I prefer longer handles so I can slide my hand back to a neutral position for carrying. All of the other nailers have a long enough handle so I could slide my hand back a little from the head and get a full four-finger wrap without risking an inadvertent trigger pull.