We’ve been talking about cordless nailers recently, and so this question seems appropriately timed: which do you prefer, air nailers or cordless ones?
Cordless power tool brands – Dewalt and Milwaukee to name two – have steadily increased their breadth of cordless 18V/20V Max powered nailers.
Cordless nailers are better than ever, and there are more options than ever before. But is it time to buy one?
A couple of years ago, I bought a new set of air nailers during winter holiday promos, so that I have consistent options for project use and for a baseline when it comes to air vs. cordless comparisons.
Air nailers require an air compressor of course, and these days you even have a couple of cordless air compressors to choose from. In case you missed it, Milwaukee recently announced their new M18 Fuel cordless air compressor.
An air compressor usually means having one more piece of equipment to tote around, regardless as to whether it’s powered by AC or battery power, plus an air hose and quick-release fittings. There’s also compressor noise to deal with, maintenance requirements for some models, and regardless of the style, you also have to drain moisture from the tank. Most air nailers also require regular oil lubrication as well.
Despite all that, pneumatic air nailers are often lighter than cordless nailers, and less expensive too. Depending on the brand, you can get going with an air nailer with a lower investment than you can with a cordless battery-powered model.
I would say that air nailers’ smaller sizes and lighter weights are what drove my decision to upgrade to air nailers again. Plus, there’s the expense over time.
Cordless nailers are surely more convenient. There’s no air hose to drag around. You don’t have to mess around with transporting or maintaining an air compressor, nor do you have to listen to one cycle when the pressure drops in the tank. A cordless nailer is ready to go, as soon as you attach a charged battery and load some nails.
Some users rely on cordless nailers exclusively these days, others use them for smaller tasks. And yes, there are still many users who continue to use air nailers and portable compressors on an everyday basis, even for minor tasks.
Cordless nailers are better than they have ever been, but they’re still larger and heavier, which can make them cumbersome.
Milwaukee’s newest cordless framing nailers are said to weigh 9.4 lbs, presumably without battery. Hitachi/Metabo HPT’s 21° nailer ($279 via Amazon) weighs 8.8 lbs, or 9.1 lbs with rafter hook. That’s not a big difference, or at least not as much of a difference as with smaller gauge nailers.
Cordless nailers are convenient, but that convenience comes at a price – literally and in terms of size and weight.
It’s a hard choice for some, and much easier for others.
While I have my quartet of workshop air nailers (stapler, pin, brad, finish), I very much enjoy the use of cordless nailers on occasion.
Cordless air compressors bridge the gap a little, offering greater convenience and portability compared to traditional AC portable air compressors, at least when you have the option. If you want a medium-sized air compressor with more than 2.5 gallon capacity, cordless operation isn’t an option just yet.
For driving a quick couple of nails, it’s so much quicker and easier to use a cordless nailer, and for such task you might not endure the larger size or greater weight for long enough to be bothered.
There’s no quick and easy answer to any question about whether cordless or pneumatic nailers are best or even better. It all comes down to intended use or circumstances, personal preferences, and cost.
I find myself in the middle. I like air nailers, and will on occasion use and test cordless nailers. I might eventually buy a personal-use cordless nailer, but not so quickly. For what I use these tools for, cordless operation is not a necessity – yet.
What are your preferences? Do you see yourself buying any new equipment this year, and if so, cordless or pneumatic? Why?