A nailgun is used to drive nails into wood, saving you the physical exertion.
The biggest differences are
1. What kinds of nails they shoot and
2. Is it a coil feed or a stick feed.
Most nail guns are powered by an air compressor, though a few battery powered ones have come on the market. Most have a pressure switch on the tip, meaning the nail gun wants to sense a board before it will let you fire a nail. (good thing!) Maintenance is minimal, needing a little lubrication with pneumatic tool oil every so often.
This bad boy would be used to connect large pieces of wood. They fire serious size nails through softwoods like Douglas Fir and Spruce – used for building houses. They can make a wall building task fast and easy. Not my favorite tool. It’s too big, and too loud for me. And if you try to shoot one of these nails through hardwood, it would definitely crack and split. If you’re not framing a house, you can probably do without. (we do.)
Finish Nailer or Brad Nailer – 18 gauge
The finish nailer is lighterweight and used for smaller projects than 2×4′s. It works well for general nailing in the softer range of hardwoods like alder or birch. But even these nails will split hickory or oak if you try to fire a nail too close to the edge. If I were to have one gun for finish nailing this would be it – they are cheap and easy to use. However (and this is a big however), if I were to have only two guns, it would be the angled nailer and the pin nailer (see below).
Angled Finish Nailer – 15 gauge
This baby is the go to gun for finishing up and trimming a house. From baseboards, to casings, to hanging doors, to temporarily tacking up cabinets, this will easily do the job. It can handle up to 2 1/2 inch nails. A nail that long will go into the baseboard, through the sheetrock and sink deep into the 2 x 4 wall structure. The nails are a little heftier than the run of the mill brad nailer.
My favorite. It’s like shooting a little sewing pin into a joint to hold it secure. It’s barely even visible. Obviously the nails aren’t strong enough for anything structural, but it can definitely handle little moldings and trim. This is used for precision work and the nails are small enough to go through a router or planer without hurting the machine blades. There is no pressure safety switch on the front, so watch out. Every time you pull the trigger, a nail fires.
Crown Staple Gun
We don’t use this gun as much, but when it is needed, it’s the only thing that does the job right. If you try to put up some beautiful redwood lattice out in the yard with your brad nailer, it won’t hold. The thin strips of redwood will pull right over the nail (as there is no head). If you try a bigger nail, the redwood will split. The solution? The crown staple. It’s a small gauge staple that holds on to the top of the wood, the way a staple holds paper.