This cordless brad nailer packs a lot of punch - enough to drive brads effortlessly into maple quarter round, shown here.
This cordless brad nailer packs a lot of punch - enough to drive brads effortlessly into maple quarter round, shown here.

On the heels of our review of DeWalt’s 16 Gauge Finish Nailer, my co-worker Bruce and I did were asked to test out Porter Cable’s cordless brad nailer (PCC790LA). Because the majority of our work involves finish carpentry, it was not difficult to put this gun to work. The testing process took place in the winter months in upstate NY, installing various runs of poplar, pine, and maple trim.


The first part of our testing involved running pre-primed poplar baseboard and casing. The 20-volt battery had no issues driving the 2” brads into the framing as well as holding its charge for several hours with consistent use. Porter Cable claims up to 1300 nails per charge, which we didn’t count. But because the nailer only comes with one battery we did charge it regularly during break, lunch, and when it was otherwise not in use for long periods of time. We were disappointed that the battery does not offer an on board gauge to help determine remaining battery life – something that seems to have become pretty standard on most cordless tools these days. That said, having two batteries would have been the best set-up – though if you already own other 20V Porter Cable tools, this likely wouldn’t be an issue.

We liked that the nailer is completely tool free, making adjustments simple and fast. A nail depth gauge and adjustment wheel near the front of the gun is easy to see and access. While the gun did not jam during use, a tool free stall release lever is located on top of the gun for quick access after a jam – a well-thought-out feature. The nailer uses straight nails and also has a rather bulky head, making it a fairly large tool for this category. We found this design a hindrance in making corner shots; placing the gun tip within 2 ½” inches of a wall is almost impossible.


The PCC790LA is ready to work out of the box. Unfortunately the box is also the “case”; there is no storage container for the nailer, charger or nails. It will hold up to 100 per clip, though it will also continue to fire even when empty, so keep a look out for nails in the magazine. A small window is provided to see the remaining nails. With a wide range of nail sizes, 5/8” to 2”, this gun is capable of hundreds of uses and applications. The gun body contains two very bight LED lights to help illuminate the workspace for accurate shots. We found that the tip leaves very minor markings and dents in the wood, including pine. It also has a back up tip onboard. Weighing it at 5.9lbs, it is a little on the heavier side for a finish nailer. But the agronomical handle helps spread that weight out making it comfortable to use. The provided belt clip also helps keep it with you and your hands free.

The nailer is does feature “sequential” firing, which means that you can theoretically fire nails as quickly as you can move the tool, depress the nose, and press the trigger. But we found a slight delay with each shot. Because it’s functions via flywheel, the gun needs to spool with every shot, about one second, once the trigger is engaged. A bump setting would be a nice feature.

 Our Verdict

This nailer did everything advertised by the manufacturer. Its short comings would include the lack of case, second battery and bump feature. The delay after every shot starts to add up after a day of running trim. This gun would be perfect for some remodeling contractors who do smaller trim jobs, and woodworkers. Because we are primarily finish carpenters we would probably look to something that has the features like a case, battery, and bump firing. Still, if you’re in the market for a cordless brad nailer for no more than $200, this nailer’s performance along with freedom from compressors and hoses makes it worth every penny. The ability to trim out an entire room with out dragging a hose or listening to a compressor hum is a real treat.


Nail Diameter: 18 gauge
Fastener Type: Brad nails
Voltage: 20 V
Fastener Length: 5/8” – 2”
Magazine Capacity: 100 brads
Jam Clearing: Tool Free
Tool Height: 11”
Tool Width: 3.9”
Tool Length: 12.5”
Tool Weight: 5.9 lbs
Firing Mode: Sequential

Mike Triller and his partner Bruce Cranston are finish carpenters living in Saratoga Springs, NY.