This was a difficult test to pick the absolute winner, because the top four tools are so well designed. But if there's one tool that emerges above the rest it is the Ridgid. This tool pulls together all the best features of the high-quality tools in this group in a well-balanced, superbly designed, and usefully appointed tool. Magnesium is a great material for a pneumatic tool body, and it makes the Ridgid super light with great feel and comfort. The swivel hose attachment is terrific for keeping hose tangles to a minimum while winding your way through a trim site, and the belt hook and exhaust system are both useful. Max is second with a very nicely engineered tool and great overall package. Its two-stage pin-loading system keeps pins secure during re-loads, which is very handy. The tool is lightweight, and its great swivel hose attachment makes managing the hose easy. Bostitch is next with an excellent tool. With a magnesium body, it's incredibly light, its magnetic pin holder is great, and the exhaust system made using it a breeze. Fourth is Craftsman. This is a well-designed and well-built tool that gets the job done, and the smartly designed exhaust system made it very user friendly.

Next is the DeWalt. It's light and well-balanced, and it delivered solid performance. It's followed by Senco, with Makita, Porter-Cable, Paslode, and Rainco all fairly equal in position. The Fasco follows these models. It is more of the old industrial-style tool–nothing wrong and nothing outstanding. The Spotnails model finishes after that.

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



Credit: Photo: David Sharpe


Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Swivel fittings like on the Max (left) and the Ridgid (right) make tugging a hose through the house easier.

When it comes to the punch list, setting up a compressor is a drag and a hoseless tool like Paslode's cordless 18-gauge brad nailer makes the idea of the final run through the house more palatable. This tool worked well for those tasks. While the tool is front-heavy compared to the pneumatics in the test, it accepts all the brads I need to get through a job and helps save time. It has an adjustable depth-of-drive that worked nicely when the species or material type changed–and there's no hose to drag around. One complaint, though: I wish Paslode's suite of hoseless nailers all worked on the same fuel cell. You have to use different fuel cells for each tool.

–Steve Veroneau

Detail work

Brad nailers are great for standard trim pieces, but they truly shine when the work gets small and detailed. Team brad nailers up with glue for an unbeatable combination. Chair and Picture Rail. For chair and picture rail, I dab adhesive behind the molding before setting it in on layout, then use brad nails to pin it in place. The heads are small and easier to hide with filler, and the glue creates a solid connection. Returns. Holding a small molding return while the glue dries–or splitting it with a finish nail–is frustrating. Using glue and a 5/8-inch pin takes care of both of these problems. I can glue, pin, and install returns quickly and dependably. Interior Stairs. Brad nailers are ideal for fastening balusters on interior stairs. A couple pins keep pickets locked in place with no risk of splitting and no large holes to fill. Base Cap Molding Details. For installing molding "panels" (squares or rectangles of base cap to simulate a raised-panel look), brad nailers are great. I glue behind the molding and catch studs on the horizontal runs. But on the vertical runs where there's likely no stud, I use brads and glue. Nail at an angle to pinch the molding into the drywall and compress the glue. The holes left are easy for the painter to fill.

–Steve Veroneau

Sources Of Supply

BT200K-2: $99

18172: $110

DeWalt Industrial Tool
D51238K: $99

F21T GN-40A: $149

ITW Paslode
T200: $119

Makita USA
AF503: $115

Max USA Corp.
NF255-ST/18: $370

BN200A: $119

R26C GN-50: $249

R213BNA: $119

FinishPro 25XP: $169

WB1850: $130


ITW Paslode
Cordless 18-gauge brad nailer: $299