Years ago I'd routinely build houses that didn't have any metal connectors in them at all. Everything was blocked or ledgered and a few 16d nails were considered adequate for almost any connection. Once in a while I'd use the odd joist hanger, so I kept a coffee can full of 1-1/2-inch hanger nails in my truck box. It would last me a year.

I also used to keep a framing hardware catalog in the glove box of my truck. It was more of a flier really, eight or 10 pages max. Over the years the flier grew into a book and is now bordering on becoming an epic novel with a half-dozen specialty catalogs available to supplement it. And every time there's another earthquake or hurricane, it gets a little bigger.


On/off switch controls like this Max feature can help improve safety.

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Modern wood structures are packed with joist hangers, framing clips, and strap-ties of every description. It's not uncommon for us to have strap-ties that require 40 or 50 fasteners. My old coffee can of hanger nails was eventually replaced with full 50-pound boxes and today I'm buying cases of collated fasteners and special tools to shoot them.

The framing hardware industry is expanding fast and the fastener and tool folks are racing to catch up. Today there's a selection of tools ready to shoot nails in two lengths and three diameters to make the tedious, thumb-smashing job of nailing framing hardware a whole lot easier. In this test we got our hands on some of the industry's latest offerings and put them through their paces.

The Tools

This latest batch of pneumatic hardware nailers falls into two categories: traditional-style single-fire nailers and multi-blow nailers. Both categories are further divided into tools that drive 1-1/2-inch nails only and those that drive both 1-1/2- and 2-1/2-inch nails. The dual-length tools can be used to install most hardware you're likely to encounter.

The single-fire group includes the Bostitch F33PT, Hitachi NR65AKS, Max HN65J, Paslode F250S-PP, and PneuTools RNS-250 for 1-1/2- and 2-1/2-inch nails, and the

Bostitch MCN150 and PneuTools RNS-150 that only shoot 1-1/2-inch nails. All of these models are single-purpose stick-nailers with special features that allow them to accurately place nails into metal connector holes, except for the Bostitch F33PT, which is a convertible-nose framing nailer. The Max is a unique high-pressure coil nailer, which requires its own special hose and 400-psi compressor.

The multi-blow tools we tested include the Grip-Rite GR150 and GR250 and the Senco HN150 and HN250. Both 150 models shoot only 1-1/2-inch nails and both 250 models shoot 1-1/2- and 2-1/2-inch nails. These are basically the same tools with only very minor cosmetic differences between the brands. Although the specifications I received from Grip-Rite and Senco vary slightly, as far as I can tell, the GR150/HN150 and GR250/HN250 are the same tools, inside and out (I even took them apart to check).

A multi-blow tool is the result of Frankenstein-ing a palm nailer with a stick-nail magazine, and as the name implies, it must strike the nail multiple times in order to drive it home. There is no trigger; pushing the nose against a surface activates the driver and the attached magazine moves up with the nose. Therefore, extra caution is needed because bumping the bottom half of the nailer can cause inadvertent firing. Multi-blow driving helps prevent double-firing and ricocheting but is much slower. The operator typically has to listen for change in sound to know when the nail has been completely driven.