What Degree Nail Gun Is Best for Framing?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Construction projects require precision. Accuracy is of the utmost importance in ensuring that the job gets done in a safe, proper way. To do the job in the best way possible, that means having the best possible tools for the job.

When performing framing, you need a nail gun of the right degree. For most framing jobs, something more compact will often perform better. A 30 or 34-degree framing nailer should be more than enough to get the job done. It allows you to get into those close angles that you will find in framing applications.

Related Guide: Top 5 Nail Gun Brands

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What to Look for in a Framing Nailer

When choosing the right tool for the job, there are specifications that need to be met. There are also things that will meet your personal standards, making it a more efficient and effective tool. Using anything else can lead to awkwardness and discomfort, taking away from the precision of the job.

That said, there are certainly aspects of a framing nailer that are meant to improve the way the job is completed. Knowing the proper specifications can give you a leg up on the next framing job you take on, providing greater precision and ease of use.

Types of Framing Nailers

Framing nailers are constructed with their magazines on an angle and is only suited for a nail that matches that specific angle. Currently, there are four different angles available for straight framing nail clips: 21 degrees, 28 degrees, 30 degrees, 34 degrees. Nail clips may vary in terms of gauge, length, and material. Though, the most important thing to be aware of is that you can only use 21-degree nail clips with 21-degree nailers.

Each framing nail clip angle is fused together with a distinct type of material, offering their own set of advantages and disadvantages. To make things even more complicated, there is also a 15-degree framing nail gun that only works with a coiled magazine. The coils generally hold between 200 and 300 framing nails that are angled at 15 degrees.

21-Degree Framing Nailer

These nailers can drive a full round head nail and their low angle is ideal for work in tight spaces. The 21-degree nails are connected using plastic clips that will break as you drive the nails. Since this nail gun expels pieces of plastic at high speed, it’s important that you wear safety glasses while working.

The main disadvantage to 21-degree nails is the fact that they have a low capacity per clip. Each clip only holds about 60 nails. So, for larger projects, you’ll need reload the nail gun more frequently. Though, the low capacity makes the nailer lightweight and very portable.

28-Degree Framing Nailer

The 28-degree framing nailer has a similarly low angle as the 21-degree nail gun, but with a clip that’s collated with nails, held together with a wire strip, and holds virtually twice as many nails. Since the nails are generally packed pretty tight together, these framing nailers can fire three distinct nail styles: fully round head, clipped head, and offset head nails.

On the downside, the additional capacity and wire clip make the gun heavier. You can expect 28-degree nail guns to weigh more than a 21-degree nailer, fully loaded.

30- and 34-Degree Framing Nailer

With these guns, you’ll have the most advantage for jobs in tight spaces. For this reason, 30- and 34- degree framing nailers are the most common variety found on construction sites. In most cases, these nail guns can hold two full strips of nails with up to 80 nails a piece. The clips are held together using a strong paper tape, which results in less of a mess and is safer for working in tight quarters.

The drawback to these nail guns, however, is the increased weight. The 30- and 34-degree framing nailers are the heaviest of all the straight clip nailers. This means that the user must have sufficient upper body strength to operate the nail gun for a full day’s worth of work.

15-Degree Framing Nailer

As previously mentioned, the 15-degree nailer has a large coil that holds nearly 300 nails. They work great for massive projects like framing a structure from the ground up, but come with some significant drawbacks. These nail guns are very heavy and have a pretty hefty price tag. Not only is the gun itself pricey, but the coiled nails that they require are also expensive. Though, if your goal is to build a cabin all by yourself, this is the nail gun you’ll need.

Cordless vs. Pneumatic Framing Nailer

Generally speaking, your average nailer is pneumatic. This is because they use air pressure for their power, and they need an air compressor. Still, there are also fuel and battery-powered framing nailers out there.

If you don’t have an air compressor already, it might be better to go with a cordless option. Still, for framing purposes, pneumatic is the recommended choice. And for tighter spaces, a fuel-powered nailer can provide even greater flexibility in those tight spaces where batteries can impede and an air hose just can’t get to.

Our Top Picks

Given all of the aforementioned criteria, there are a few framing nailers that stand out above the rest. The goal is not only to find features that prove beneficial for nailing framing but cost as well. Not all of us can spend thousands on the best of everything, so that can be important.

Without further ado, here are some of the best framing nailers:

But don’t take our word on the quick summary, let’s review each unit in detail and see how they stack up.

1. Best Overall: BOSTITCH Round Head Framing Nailer

  • Two nailers in one: includes two quick change nosepieces to convert tool to either framing or metal connector applications
  • Patented push button adjustable depth guide of the framing nailer gun sets nails to desired depths
  • Lightweight magnesium design for durability
  • Adjustable rafter hook allows users to hang tool on rafters and joists
  • Drives plastic collated 1-1/2-inch and 2-1/2-inch metal connector nails (.131-inch - .148-inch diameter)

At a cost of just above $200, this nailer delivers precision, powerful performance with each application. This nailer is used with a compressor and comes with depth control precision so that you can get the perfect depth on your nails.

The BOSTITCH nailer also delivers serious power. With 1,050-inch pounds of total driving power, it is meant to handle the most heavy-duty of jobs. You can also use nails from 1 ½” to 3 ½” as well as a bump trigger that will prevent accidental discharge.

Air Discharge and Metal Connector

One of the coolest features of the BOSTITCH round head framing nailer is that you can actually change the direction of air discharge while you use it. That air can kick up dust and dirt; being able to change up the direction can make it so that your nailer doesn’t kick up any additional dust.

This can be particularly helpful in tight quarters where a blast of dust can make it difficult to see and breathe properly. It can also be applied as a metal connector with an easy-to-change connector tip. Take on joist hangers, angle brackets, and post bases with little to no effort.

Zero Jam

A major problem with framing nailers comes in the form of jams. The nail gets stuck and you have to find a way to get it out, proving to be a massive inconvenience for any job. With the BOSTITCH framing nailer, you can safely expect jamming to be almost zero.

Overall, the BOSTITCH framing nailer makes for an excellent choice. It’s pneumatic hookup allows you to get all the power you could need on a framing job and the variable depth feature can make it a great fit for any job.

2. Budget Friendly: Numax SFR2190 Framing Nailer

  • Great Maneuvering - Low-recoil offers a center of gravity close to the trigger for great balance and less arm fatigue.
  • Powerful Performance - Heavy duty power helps frame walls faster - drives nails into the hardest woods, even LVL. Works with fewer jams or misfires.
  • Compact - Its size fits between 16" o.c. studs, joists, and rafters.
  • Convenient Design - Soft grip handle provides comfort and rafter hook moves out of the way when not in need.
  • Versatile Application - The Paslode F350S framing nailer is great for framing, wall sheathing, roof sheathing, floor decking and more.

While the aforementioned nailer can be had for just over $200, this option will run you around $80. It isn’t just that this nailer is a budget-friendly option, it still delivers in quality. Taking on jobs of all sizes is possible with the Numax nailer.

Despite its price point, the Numax is easily one of the best options for nailers on the market. It is not only affordable but corrosion resistant and highly durable, too.

Multiple Firing Modes

One of the biggest features of the Numax framing nailer is that there is a bump firing mode in addition to the normal single firing mode. Even better, there are actually two separate triggers for you to use all depending on which mode you are looking to use.

There is also a built-in safety feature to the triggers so you can only use one at a time. This will keep you from accidentally discharging the other trigger while in use. You can get through jobs in rapid-fire precision with the bump trigger feature.

Versatility and Anti-Dry Fire

The Numax nailer can fire off nails that range from 2”-3 ½” of just about any of the generic brands out there. As long as they are full round nails, you can fire off any brand that you can find. That means using up leftover nails from a previous job instead of having to go to the hardware store for new ones.

One of the cooler features of this nailer is that it has an anti-dry function. This means that it will prevent the nailer from firing nails at all when the magazine is almost spent. This means that you won’t ever fully run out of nails when you are firing. This can be helpful when preventing damage that can be caused when the nailer fires with nothing in the clip.

Lightweight and Durable

Perhaps the best thing about the Numax nailer is that it is lightweight, compact, and durable. You won’t have to lug around an oversized nailer when you have one of these at your disposal. Plus, it will hold up to job after job without any change to the function.

With its anti-jam function and dry-fire features, you’re getting a great nailer for a low price. For craftsmen on a budget, this is the nailer to go with.

3. Hitachi NR90AES1 Nailer

  • Hitachi Power Tools has renamed to Metabo HPT. Same great tools, with only a new name.
  • New head guard design allows for quicker disassembly during tool maintenance
  • Lightweight and well balanced for ease of maneuverability and less user fatigue
  • Selective actuation allows for quick changes between sequential and contact nailing with the flip of a switch
  • Tool less depth adjustment to countersink or flush drive into a variety of materials

Meet possibly the lightest framing nailer on the market. At just 7.5 lbs, you would be hard pressed to get a lighter framing nailer, especially one that will get the job done in a quality manner. Having to lug around a heavy naily can be a major deterrent on a job, after all.

Even better, the handle has been ergonomically designed using rubber to give it a superior, easy grip. The handle of the nailer that you are considering is overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. A proper, comfortable grip can transform the way that you handle the job.

The proper rubber-fitting handle can mean the difference between a comfortable, easy time and things like slipping or hand cramps. On the longer jobs, that can be a drastic impact to the overall quality of the work being performed.

Faster Disassembly and Adjustable Drive Depth

One of the key features of this framing nailer is that the head guard has been changed to make for quicker, easier disassembly. Being able to have quicker access to the other working parts means it is easier to perform necessary maintenance.

There is also the adjustable nail depth by incorporating a depth dial. With this adjustment dial, you won’t have to change up the pressure of the compressor if you want to change the depth of the drive. That can be a hugely convenient addition to any handyman’s repertoire.

Easier Mode Changes

A huge difference between this framing nailer and the Numax is that there is no need to manually remove and install a different switch if you are looking to change up the firing mode. The Hitachi has an actuation switch so that you can change up the mode in a flash.

Being able to switch between a single fire mode and bump mode seamlessly can make even the highest volume jobs go by quicker than ever before. All it takes is a simple switch to get the desired firing rate; just make sure that you have enough nails for the job.

Magazine Design

Unlike many other drywall nailers out there, this one is unique in that the magazine only requires two steps for loading. The first is that, when the nails have all been fire, you only have to take two strips of your nails simply put them in the back of the magazine.

When the nail strips are in, you just have to pull back the spring supported slide. This is what holds the nails into the proper place. This makes it easier to replace your spent magazines and reduce the amount of downtime on a job.

Lastly, the magazine is comprised of anodized aluminum. Why is this important? It makes for easier disassembly, or to replace/repair any damaged pieces. Even better, it can support 64 framing nails at a time at lengths from 2” to 3 ½”.

4. Bostitch LPF21PL Framing Nailer

  • Hitachi Power Tools has renamed to Metabo HPT. Same great tools, with only a new name.
  • New head guard design allows for quicker disassembly during tool maintenance
  • Lightweight and well balanced for ease of maneuverability and less user fatigue
  • Selective actuation allows for quick changes between sequential and contact nailing with the flip of a switch
  • Tool less depth adjustment to countersink or flush drive into a variety of materials

As you may have noticed with some of the other framing nailers on the list, bulk is not something that most builders like to deal with on a job. That puts an importance on portability and a lighter weight. This is precisely what you get out of the Bostitch LPF21PL framing nailer.

Despite the low-profile size of this framing nailer, it packs a serious punch. It has the capability of producing 840 lbs of pressure. That gives it the force required to send nails from 2” to 3 ¼” in length flying into the lumber with the greatest of ease.

Greater Versatility

The greatest feature of this Bostitch nailer is that it can fit into just about any area that the bulkier options do not. If you find yourself needing to nail in those touch-to-reach areas, you can do so without much stress and fatigue on your arms.

Combined with the depth of drive adjustment. You can make the tweaks you want to your nailer so that you can even shoot fasteners at the required depth. All it takes is a quick dial turn and you’re ready to go.

Quick Change Firing Mode

In order to have maximum versatility on a job, you need to be able to change firing modes at a moment’s notice. Some models above require a selective tool that is completely separate and can drag a job to a stop.

With the actuation trigger on this Bostitch framing nailer, you can switch from the sequential firing mode into bump fire mode (and vice versa) with just a click. That will keep your job moving at a brisk pace without the unnecessary slowdowns.

Get into all of the Tight Spaces

This nailer is so compact and versatile that you can get in between studs that have been spaced within 13 inches of one another. No more contorting, no more hoping to get the right angle; simply get the job done and move on to the next step.

Larger, heavier nailers can make it difficult to get into those spots. This is what can drag down a job instead of expediting it.

5. Paslode 501000 F-350S PowerMaster Plus

  • Nailed It: This 21 degree pneumatic framing nailer features a lightweight and durable magnesium body, ergonomic secure handle, and interchangeable trigger for quick fire or single shot function. It's ideal for professional construction contractors and home DIY projects.
  • Versatile and Powerful: The framing nailer features depth adjustment and a no mar tip, making it adaptable for different working surfaces. It's perfect for framing, and it can also be used to install subfloors, roof decking, wood fencing, and sheathing.Minimum Recommended Air Delivery SCFM @ 90PSI:2.4
  • The Right Tool for the Job: We're committed to providing outstanding value, top tier customer service and long lasting, high quality products. We make nailers and staplers for every purpose, from roofing to siding to flooring and everything in between.
  • Quality and Durability: We manufacture tools with the most durable materials under strict quality control guidelines, suitable for professional contractors and do-it-yourselfers alike. Our tools are sold, distributed, serviced, and warrantied in the USA.
  • Tough and Dependable: We make an array of durable construction tools and accessories, including staplers and nailers for siding, flooring, framing, finish, and roofing. Compare our products to similar items by Makita, Hitachi, Bostitch, Senco, Paslode, and Dewalt.

While most of the others on this list put flexibility and ease of use above power, there is no substitute for a powerful framing nailer. That is what you can expect out of the Paslode PowerMaster. Something called the “PowerMaster Plus” probably delivers in at least one area, right?

This type of nailer comes in handy when dealing with engineered wood in particular. Don’t worry about hitting the proper nail depth again when you have all the power that this monster brings to the table.

Greater Magazine Capacity

If your nailer is going to come with tons of power, it should probably be able to hold tons of nails, too. The large capacity aluminum magazine on this framing nailer can hold up to 84 framing nails. Most other magazines out there will hold much less than that.

Coil-Style and Stick-Style Framing Nailers

The difference between the two styles is typically preferential. After all, both of these use a magazine in order to store the nails and feed them to the gun. The only difference is that coil-style nailers have a round magazine, making them capable of storing quite a bit more than its counterpart.

If you think you’ll be using a high volume of nails during a particular framing job, the coil-style is probably the way to go. But if you don’t need to go overkill on your nails, a stick-style framing nailer will work equally as well.

Inspect Your Compressor First

This is, of course, if you are considering purchasing a pneumatic framing nailer. If you aren’t, don’t worry about this step. But if you are going pneumatic, be aware that each nailer will have a minimum requirement for both air volume and air pressure. These are your cubic feet per minute and pounds per square inch measurements.

If the compressor doesn’t meet the proper requirements, the nailer won’t work the way that it is meant to. And if you operate other tools off of this compressor, you need to add in your nailer’s requirements to come up with the combined load of all the other tools.

Be Aware of Clipped-Head Nailers

There are some framing nailers that will only work with clipped-head nails. This can be particularly troubling considering that plenty of local building codes will have specifications about using round-head nails as opposed to clipped-head nailers.

The ones that use clipped-head nails are capable of greater storage capacity but that won’t mean a whole lot if you are violating the building codes. Keep that in mind when picking your nails and nailer for the framing project.

Make the Job Easier for Yourself

There are certain features to a framing nailer that can make the job easier. Think about nail size adjustments and being able to clear jams easily. Having a framing nailer that has an adjustable depth means you can control how deep those nails go.

Look into other features like swiveling connectors. These let your hose move more easily without any tangling and offer protective guards that are meant to keep you protected from any potential debris that could get kicked back.

Lighter Weight

At just 7.9 lbs, this nailer is shockingly lightweight for all of the power that it delivers. That means bring it everywhere and anywhere with ease.

Best of all? It is not particular about the type of nail that it will shoot. You can use either clipped head or round head framing nails interchangeably. This makes it easier than ever to get the nail head that you need for a particular job.

With ease of use, premium power, and a large capacity, this is one of the best overall nailers out there on the market today.

Do You Need to Hire a Framing Contractor?

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What Did We Learn?

As mentioned above, compact nail guns are best for framing. Since you’ll be constantly using your arms to use the device, you want something lightweight that’ll help you get the job done easily and successfully.

Framing nailers handle serious home improvement projects, such as building decks, framing, or additions. Before buying a nailer, you want to buy a unit with a solid directional exhaust system, depth adjustment, and a large trigger for easy operation.

Additionally, your nailer should have a jam-clearing system and a protective guard to avoid damage. Finally, with a nail size adjustment feature, you’ll be able to switch nails as you change your task.

As always, remember safety, which includes inspecting your nailer before each use, wearing safety glasses, and keeping your hands away from the firing area.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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