Hammer tackers' in-line design means you're going to mash your knuckles from time to time. There isn't enough of an offset angle from the handle to the head to get a perfectly perpendicular drive and remain bruise-free. To protect your fingers, you end up angling the nose down, which works fine most of the time; only when driving 1/4-inch staples did I find that this adjusted angle of attack resulted in unsatisfactory penetration to effectively hold housewrap and roof felt. The solution is simple: Use 3/8-inch staples. The Bostitch PC2K has a slightly offset handle, so it tended to be more finger-friendly.
Most of these tools have good molded grips. The best contoured, slip-resistant grips are on the Bostitch PC2K, Rapid R11, and the Surebonder tools, although the generous handle of the Surebonder Pro might be too big for some hands. The flared end of the Bostitch was especially helpful in keeping it in my hand. The Porta-Nails and Duo-Fast mechanical-driver tools have poor grips that are no more than plastic bottom wraps, which expose your thumb to unnecessary jarring and can prove to be slippery; more than once on hot days papering a roof, the Duo-Fast tools slipped from my hands.
Recoil with pneumatic tools can be annoying, but with hammer tackers, it's a plus. I like tackers that spring off the surface after driving a staple because it makes stapling anything an effortless task; like dribbling a basketball, there's no need to lift the tool back up for the next whack. The Stanley, Prebena, Senco, and Rapid R54 fixed-driver tools had the best rebound and danced across walls and roofs. The dead-blow action of the mechanical-driver tackers required more effort to operate and didn't skim across housewrap. But there was more control with these tools for precise staple placement when needed, such as for hanging fiberglass batts.
Do No Harm
There are a range of nose configurations in the hammer tacker test group. Note the unique magnet on the Duo-Fast HT-755M (far right).
Credit: Photos by Dot for Dot
Since the primary function of housewrap is to keep water out of buildings, the last thing you want to do is make hundreds of tears in it when whacking in staples. You have to be careful using many fixed-driver–style staplers; the noses are usually small and though the sharp edges are ground off, they can still cut the materials you're installing. The Surebonder Max Impact, Bostitch PC2K, and the Rapid R54 have wide plates welded at the nose that protect sheet materials from damage. The Rapid's shovel-shaped nose is very broad with upturned edges that I especially like. These tools worked great installing housewrap on windy days because the broad noses pushed the membrane back to the substrate beneath it before driving the staple rather than punching holes in it like other models.
The wraparound nose actuators of the mechanical-driver tools tended to do less damage to roof underlayment, housewrap, and carpet pad. The Surebonder Max Impact Pro and three Duo-Fast models have wide-rimmed nosepieces that eliminated tearing.
It is important to note, however, that the models with larger nose contact areas required more attention to flattening the tool angle at impact. The steeper the angle, the less likely the staple crown will fully set.