Best Cordless Brad Nailers in 2020 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

As a finish carpenter, cordless brad nailers are a game changer. I no longer have to drag around a heavy, noisy air compressor. I’m also not restricted on how far or fast I can work by being tethered to an air hose.

While all cordless brad nailers seem similar on the surface, the features and performance can vary wildly. Also, what I need in a tool for professional use is vastly different than what a typical DIYer or homeowner would need.

Taking all of those factors into consideration, we’ve identified five of the best 18-gauge cordless brad nailers currently available and put them to the test.

Here are the results.

At a Glance: Cordless Brad Nailer Top Picks


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What to Look for in Cordless Brad Nailers

Weight

The biggest benefit of cordless brad nailers is that you aren’t restricted in movement by being connected to an air compressor hose. However, that freedom of movement comes at a cost due to the additional weight of the motor and batteries.

Pneumatic brad nailers typically weigh around 2 pounds. Battery operated nail guns, on the other hand, start at 5 pounds, on the lighter end of the scale, and only get heavier from there.

If you’re installing any trim overhead, a few extra pounds could make the difference between aching shoulders and a pain-free job.

Contact Tip

Typically, brad nailers are used for attaching fine and delicate moldings, so the last thing you want is your material being marred by the contact tip of the nail gun. Make sure that the brad nailer you buy has a non-marring contact tip.

The size of the contact tip also plays an important role in how accurate you are able to shoot the brad nails. The accuracy of brad nailers compared to finish nailers is one of the reasons they are used for fine moldings, so make sure you get one that has a smaller/thinner contact tip.

Cordless Dewalt brad nailer building furniture

Firing Modes

All brad nailers come with sequential firing mode, which requires you to release the trigger and re-engage the tool to fire a nail. This is the most accurate way to use a brad nailer.

Some brad nailers will also come with a contact/bump firing mode. This is where you can keep the trigger pulled and a nail shoots every time the contact tip is depressed.

Additional Features

Some of the additional features to look for in a good cordless brad nailer are as follows:

  • Dry Fire Protection – Look for a cordless nailer that has some way of preventing damage to your materials when you run out of nails and still shoot the nailer.
  • Adjustable Depth of Drive – It should be very easy to adjust how far the brad nails are driven into the material.
  • Fastener Capacity – The more brad nails it can hold, the less you need to reload.
  • Maximum Fastener Length – What’s the maximum length of brad nails that you can use? Most brad nailers can shoot brad nails up to 2″ long, while some can shoot even longer nails.
  • LED Lighting – LED lights are a benefit that battery operated brad nailers have over their pneumatic counterparts.
  • Belt Clips – If you use your cordless brad nailer regularly, like I do on a daily basis, you’ll learn how handy a belt clip will be.

Warranty

A good warranty can not only save you money in the long run, but it’s also a good indicator that the manufacturer stands by the quality of their products.

Look for nailers that offer a warranty of 3 years or longer.

M18 Fuel brad nailer installing shoe molding

5 Best 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailers:

DEWALT DCN680 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

Dewalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer

The Dewalt DCN680 comes packed with features in a lightweight package.

This is the lightest cordless brad nailer that we tested, weighing in at only 5.2 pounds without a battery.

It’s balanced pretty well, but can be a little top heavy when you use the smaller 2.0 Ah batteries. That can be easily changed by switching to 5.0 Ah batteries. The larger battery makes it slightly more heavy, but extremely well balanced.

Even with the extra weight from a larger battery, it’s still lighter than most of the other cordless brad nailers reviewed.

It uses the same 20V MAX Lithium-Ion batteries that other Dewalt cordless tools use. If you have other cordless tools in the 20V MAX line, you can save on the cost of batteries.

It has a large magazine that holds up to 110 18g brad nails. It also can shoot brad nails as long as 2-1/8 inches. All other cordless brad nailers, with the exception of the Milwaukee model, can only shoot 2″ long brad nails.

The Dewalt DCN680 has become my go-to brad nailer for trim carpentry jobs.

The dry-fire protection mechanism will prevent you from shooting the nail gun when you have less than 11 brad nails left.

The LED lights aren’t as bright as the Makita and Hitabo models, but these lights are actually useful. There are two of them, flanking both sides of the tool, lighting up where the brad nail comes out.

The belt hook can be moved to either side of the tool. It’s big enough that it isn’t difficult to slide on and off your belt, but not too loose to not feel secure.

Battery operated brad nailer from Dewalt installing trim above cabinets

The 20V brushless motor had no problems shooting brads into hardwoods at a consistent depth and with zero ramp-up time. Although not as powerful as the Makita, it shouldn’t give you any issues when working with some of the more challenging wood species used in high end trim work.

The depth adjustment knob is recessed with a visual indicator arrow and has 7 clicks in the full adjustment range. It’s easy to adjust and set the countersink depth that you want.

When firing nails, they are shot to a consistent depth and the hole left behind is clean with minimal tear-out.

The Dewalt DCN680 is a very capable of being used by professionals on a daily basis and is relatively “cheap”, as in price, when compared to other pro quality cordless brad nailers. That’s why I consider it the best overall cordless nail gun.

Features:

  • Tool-Free Jam Release
  • Tool-Free Depth Adjustment
  • Two LED Lights
  • Low Nail Lockout Prevents Dry-Firing
  • 110 Nail Capacity
  • 5/8″ to 2-1/8″ Fastener Length
  • Belt Hook
  • Brushless Motor

Weight: 5.2 lbs.

Length: 10-3/8 in.

Height: 11-7/8 in.

Width: 3-3/4 in.

PROS

  • Lightest Cordless Brad Nailer Tested
  • Larger Magazine Capacity
  • Can Shoot 2-1/8″ Brad Nails
  • Brushless Motor
  • 3 Year Warranty

CONS

  • Battery Didn’t Last as Long as Other Cordless Brad Nailers

Makita XNB01Z 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

18-gauge cordless brad nailer made by Makita

The Makita XNB01Z has one of the best noses and contact tips that I’ve seen on any brad nailer, cordless or pneumatic.

The nose is narrow and has two visual indicators on its face and side that indicate where the nail is coming out. That makes it extremely accurate and able to shoot nails exactly where you want them to go.

As great as that is for accurately shooting brad nails, the problem comes when the gun jams. This doesn’t have a tool-free jam release, so you need to use an Allen wrench to remove the nose piece when a jam occurs.

The Makita has the best dry-fire protection out of all the cordless brad nailers we reviewed. It will actually shoot every brad nail in the magazine and then lock the tool from firing when empty. That means you don’t have small strips of nails leftover and you don’t have to worry about damaging your material from dry-fire mishaps.

The LED light is extremely bright, but it shines on the left side of the tool and completely misses the contact point.

The Makita XNB01Z is an extremely accurate and powerful cordless brad nailer.

The belt hook is similar to what you would find on your tape measure. It keeps it securely attached to your belt, but it takes longer to actually get it attached to your belt compared to the other models tested.

This is a very powerful cordless nailer and it had no problems sinking nails in hardwoods.

Makita cordless brad nailer leaning against wall

The depth adjustment knob isn’t the easiest to use, but once you get it dialed in, the holes it created were very consistent and had little tear-out.

Unlike pneumatic nail guns that fire immediately, it does have a slight ramp up time before it actually does fire. That’s something that you need to adjust to, especially if you are familiar with using a pneumatic nailer.

It won’t win any beauty contests, and I don’t normally take into consideration how my tools look, but in this case it has an affect on how it functions. It’s bulky, unbalanced and quite heavy. I had a hard time firing nails in corners and I was able to skip going to the gym due to the workout my arms and shoulders got from using it on overhead work.

I want to love the Makita XNB01Z, as it has some really great features, but the downsides are too overwhelming for me to use this brad nailer regularly in my finish carpentry business.

Features:

  • Tool-Free Depth Adjustment
  • LED Light
  • Anti-Dry-Fire Mechanism
  • 100 Nail Capacity
  • 5/8″ to 2″ Fastener Length
  • Belt Hook

Weight: 6.7 lbs.

Length: 11-5/8 in.

Height: 12-1/2 in.

Width: 3-3/16 in.

PROS

  • Very Accurate
  • Excellent Dry-Fire Protection
  • 3 Year Warranty

CONS

  • Requires Wrench to Clear Jams
  • Needs Ramp-up Time to Fire
  • Uncomfortable
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

Metabo HPT NT 1850DE 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

Hitachi Cordless 18-Gauge Brad Nailer

Hitachi Power Tools was recently renamed to Metabo HPT. The quality of the tools is the same, just with a different name now.

I’m a big fan of Metabo penumatic nailers and use them frequently, but I think that they missed the mark with their 18-gauge cordless brad nailer.

On paper, it looks like a good brad nailer. It has a tool-free jam release and depth adjustment. It can fire in both sequential and bump firing modes. The magazine holds 100 brad nails up to 2″ in length, and it has an LED light and belt hook.

It uses a brushless motor, which gives it a longer run time. Like many of the newer cordless nail guns, it has zero ramp up time. That means the gun fires as soon as you pull the trigger.

The depth of drive adjustment knob is easy to use and very responsive, allowing you to quickly set the countersink depth.

Metabo HPT offers a Lifetime Warranty on all cordless tools.

Power seems to be lacking a bit as it did seem to struggle with countersinking nails in hardwoods when compared to the other models tested.

Hitachi Cordless Brad Nailer attaching shoe molding

The nailer includes some indicating arrows that show where the brad nail is coming from. However, the “back-end”, to put it mildly, is big and the right side of the tool is a little clunky. Both of those factors hinder its line of sight.

It’s more balanced and more comfortable to use when compared to the Makita, but it’s the heaviest model we tested.

Like the Makita, the LED is bright, but also only on one side of the tool and completely misses illuminating the contact point.

The belt hook on the Metabo swivels out of the way, but it’s massive. Measuring in at 1-1/2″ wide it seems better hung from lumber than your belt.

It also doesn’t include any kind of dry-fire protection. It does have a low nail indicator window, but it can be hard to see at a glance.

The one thing I really like about Metabo cordless tools is they all come with a lifetime warranty.

Features:

  • Tool-Free Jam Release
  • Tool-Free Depth Adjustment
  • LED Light
  • 100 Nail Capacity
  • 5/8″ to 2″ Fastener Length
  • Belt Hook
  • Brushless Motor

Weight: 6.10 lbs.

Length: 11-3/4 in.

Height: 12-3/4 in.

Width: 4-1/4 in.

PROS

  • Brushless Motor
  • Lifetime Warranty

CONS

  • No Dry-Fire Lockout
  • Not as Powerful Compared to Other Models
  • Heavy
  • Bulky

Milwaukee 2746-20 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Gen II 18-Gauge Brad Nailer

The Milwaukee 2746-20 is the second generation of their M18 Fuel 18-gauge cordless brad nailer, and it’s much improved over their first foray into the cordless brad nailer market.

This is an extremely well balanced and light cordless nail gun. Only the Dewalt model weighs less without batteries attached.

Like the Dewalt DCN680, it can hold up to 110 brad nails up to 2-1/8 inches long.

Even though it can shoot longer brad nails, I did experience jams more frequently when using nails 2″ and longer.

The low nail lockout protection kicks in when there are only 4 brad nails left in the magazine. While not as good as the dry-fire prevention mechanism found in the Makita XNB01Z, it does allow you to fire more nails before needing to refill the magazine compared to the other models reviewed.

With the Gen II cordless brad nailer, Milwaukee has listened to its customer concerns and built a winner.

The LED light is bright and uses a cone shaped pattern. The problem is, it lights up the tool tip from behind, causing a shadow that covers up the spot where you’re trying to shoot the nail.

It has the best belt clip out of all the models we tested. The hook has a slight outward curve which makes it really easy to slide onto your belt.

Cordless brad nailer by Milwaukee attaching door trim

Another stand out feature is the trigger switch. It’s designed to mimic a pneumatic nailer. It’s spring loaded, has more resistance and a smooth action. All of the other models reviewed use a slide switch, similar to what you’d find on drills.

The 18V brushless motor is more powerful than I was expecting. Only the Makita was able to countersink nails in hardwoods further. It also had zero ramp-up time and it fired almost instantly after pulling the trigger.

You can easily set the countersink depth with the large adjustable knob. It has a range of adjustments spread over 26 clicks. Dialing in how far you want to drive in nails is extremely easy with the Milwaukee.

The newly redesigned M18 Fuel 18-gauge cordless brad nailer from Milwaukee is a winner. The only thing holding it back from being named best overall is cost. It’s more expensive than the Dewalt for all of the same features and performance.

However, if you already have other Milwaukee cordless tools, then this is definitely worth picking up.

Features:

  • Tool-Free Jam Release
  • Tool-Free Depth Adjustment
  • LED Light
  • Low Nail Lockout Prevents Dry-Firing
  • 110 Nail Capacity
  • 5/8″ to 2-1/8″ Fastener Length
  • Belt Hook
  • Brushless Motor

Weight: 5.7 lbs.

Length: 11-7/8 in.

Height: 10-3/16 in.

Width: 3-5/16 in.

PROS

  • Larger Magazine Capacity
  • Can Shoot 2-1/8″ Brad Nails
  • Brushless Motor
  • 5 Year Warranty

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Tends to Jam Frequently with Longer Nails

PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA 18 Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

PORTER-CABLE 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

The PCC790LA from Porter-Cable is a good entry level cordless brad nailer and works well for DIY projects and occasional jobs around the house.

It’s priced much lower than it’s competitors and includes a 20 volt battery. For those reasons alone, it’s the best cordless brad nailer for the money.

However, the lower price comes at a cost to the performance and features.

While it does come with a tool-free jam release, you’ll be using it a lot as I frequently had the gun jam on me.

The depth adjustment wheel is easy to use and makes dialing in the depth that the 18g brad nails are countersunk effortless. One problem I noticed is that when the battery starts getting low, the nails don’t get set as low as I would like, no matter how much I adjusted the depth wheel.

The Porter-Cable cordless brad nailer is a good option for budget minded DIYer’s.

The weight and balance is surprisingly good, as it weighs just slightly more than the Dewalt and Milwaukee models.

It does lack a bump-fire mode, which isn’t that important on brad nail guns, but all of its competitors do include it.

The absence of a dry-fire lockout to prevent firing when there are no nails left is also disappointing. However, the magazine does have a low nail indicator window. That allows you to see when you are starting to get low on brad nails.

Features:

  • Tool-Free Jam Release
  • Tool-Free Depth Adjustment
  • Two LED Lights
  • 100 Nail Capacity
  • 5/8″ to 2″ Fastener Length
  • Belt Hook

Weight: 5.9 lbs.

Length: 12 in.

Height: 13.9 in.

Width: 5 in.

PROS

  • Low Price
  • Includes 20v Battery
  • 3 Year Warranty

CONS

  • No Dry-Fire Lockout
  • No Bump-Fire Mode
  • Jams Frequently

Gas Cartridge Powered Cordless Brad Nailers

You might have noticed that we didn’t include any gas cartridge powered brad nailers, like those made by Paslode, in this review.

Battery powered nail guns have come a long way from when they initially came out. The first generation of battery powered nailers had long ramp-up times and weren’t as powerful as they are now. The current generation, like the ones we reviewed here, don’t have those issues.

Due to the ongoing costs of cartridge replacement, we can’t recommend them over battery powered nailers anymore.

Conclusion

Battery operated brad nailers are a great option when you decide to “cut the cord” and move away from pneumatic nail guns. Although they are much more expensive than their air powered counterparts, cordless brad nailers have their advantages and can prove their worth in a short amount of time.

Hopefully our reviews of the best cordless brad nailers help you figure out which nailer is right for you.

What 18-gauge cordless brad nailer do you use? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author Justin M.

I'm passionate about woodworking and I've owned a finish carpentry business since 2016. Prior to that I worked as a home inspector, so I have a wide variety of experience when it comes to tools and renovation projects.

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