Staple Size

All but two of the fixed-driver tackers handle 1/4- to 3/8-inch staples; the Rapid R54 drives 3/8- to 9/16-inch staples and the Bostitch PC2K handles 1/4- to 1/2-inch. Mechanical-driver tackers typically shoot longer staples, except the Duo-Fast HT-550, which maxes out at 5/16 inch. The Arrow HT50P and Stanley PHT250 drive up to 1/2-inch staples handily, and the Porta-Nails, Surebonder Max Impact Pro, and both Duo-Fast HT-755 models handle up to 9/16 inch.

Most models take a standard 7/16-inch crown staple most commonly known as the Arrow T50 or Duo-Fast A-11 style. Bostitch tools use its unique PowerCrown staples, and the Duo-Fast HT-550 takes its own 1/2-inch crown 5000 series staples while the HT-755 models take their 15/32-inch crown 7500 series staples.

Driving Force

Of course, the ability to load a long-legged staple and sink it are two different things. To see which models could handle their longest-length staples, I tried an informal test, driving staples into a fixed OSB panel. All of the short-staple-driving models (5/16 to 3/8 inch) did fine except the Powerfast 10401-B, which needed an extra-long swing to counteract its overly stiff action and sink staples consistently.

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Typical nose details of a mechanical-driver (Arrow HT50P, left) and a fixed-driver (Stanley PHT150, right) hammer tacker.

Credit: Photos by Dot for Dot

The Surebonder Max Impact Pro and Porta-Nails tools were both rated to drive up to 9/16-inch staples but had trouble sinking shorter 1/2-inch staples. Where the Surebonder left the staple heads proud, the Porta-Nails mashed the excess staple leg over. To be fair, long staples are usually only used for attaching thick materials, which effectively reduce the substrate penetration depth. It would be overkill (and overwork) to drive 1/2-inch or longer staples through housewrap of negligible thickness into sheathing all day.

At some point, all of the tackers left proud staples due to variations in material density or technique. Often this was due to a weak or off-angle strike. Partially-driven staples don't have the same holding power in housewrap or roof underlayment and will tear out in windy conditions–plus, their raised crowns can interfere with subsequent siding and roofing installation–so I like to set the standing staples. The first impulse most users have is to flip the tacker over and give the staple a smack, but this can send a staple flying toward your face. Tap gingerly, or better yet, use the side of a fixed-driver tool as your setting device. While such unwanted projectiles occur more easily with the fixed-driver types, mechanical-driver models can still spit out staples if whacked hard enough, so go a little easy or grab a hammer.

Clearing Jams

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Fixed drivers: Rapid R54; Surebonder Max Impact; Duo-Fast Slapshot; Stanley PHT150; Prebena HHPF 09; Rapid R11E; Powerfast 10401-B; Senco PC0700; and Bostitch H30-8 and PC2K.

Credit: Photos by Dot for Dot

None of the mechanical-driver tackers jammed during testing. Of the fixed-driver models, the two Bostitch tools did not jam, but most of the other models did. In the case of a driver jam, when the magazine stays stuck up in the tool body, pry it down at the nose or knock the magazine down by placing a 2-inch or longer nail up into the corner of the head and tapping the nail downward against a hard surface. The Bostitch PC2K has a "trigger" on the back that can be pushed to clear a staple.

I avoid magazine-feed jams by using quality staples and not loading small staple stick fragments into the tools. But if they do bunch up inside, it helps to be able to open the tool up as much as possible. This is another instance where open-magazine loading types are preferred. Common fixed-driver tools have a rear hinge pin that connects the magazine to the body that is removable once the pusher is extracted. Most pins have a knurled head to pull on, but the Stanley and Rapid R11 have pins recessed below the molded grips for comfort. A push on the opposite side of the handle extends the broad head of the pin and a tug extracts it. Squeezing the magazine up into the body takes the pressure off of the pin and makes it easy to slide out. Once the pin is out, the magazine track slides out the front of the tool. Only the Powerfast tool pin requires a wrench and screwdriver to remove. When replacing the pin, remember that it will fit in either side–whichever is easier on your driving hand.

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Mechanical drivers: Arrow HT65; Surebonder Max Impact Pro; Duo-Fast HT-755M, HT-755, and HT-550; Porta-Nails 60818; Stanley PHT250; and Arrow HT50P.

Credit: Photos by Dot for Dot

Though they didn't jam, the mechanical-driver Duo-Fast tools have a unique removable driver cover that allows jammed staples to be pushed right out the front. A bail spring retains the separate metal piece and wraps from the bottom around the back of the head. The spring is easy to disengage with the push of a thumb, but relocking it requires a bit more care to avoid a nasty pinch.