Can Nail guns Shoot different Gauge nails

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Forum topic by hjt posted 06-05-2013 05:27 AM 22613 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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822 posts in 2555 days

06-05-2013 05:27 AM

Topic tags/keywords: nail gun

I have about 1/2 mile worth of shoe molding to put down (ok 1/2 mile maybe stretching it – but I got the wife to believe it…)

Anyway, are the guns specific to the size nail it takes, would a 16 G gun shoot both 16 and 18 gauge? What’s the difference between using a finishing nail gun 16 G and a 18 G brad nail gun?

Reading info at Home Depot on their Ridgid I see that they have 2 products that use 18 G nails, one called a 2 Brad Nailer Cat #21178 R213BNA and the other called a Narrow Crown Stapler Gun Cat #21183 R150FSA.

-- Harold

14 replies so far

View crank49's profile


3979 posts in 2388 days

#1 posted 06-05-2013 12:43 PM

I accidentally loaded 18ga brad nails into my 16ga brad nailer when building a cedar plank fence. I put up about 10 boards before I caught the error. I realized the gun was shooting 2 nails at once when I had to pull a board off to re-align it. my gun was a HF dual purpose that can shoot 16ga nails or 18ga narrow crown staples. Apparently it is almost a triple function gun as well since it will also shoot 18ga nails, sometimes in pairs. Upon removing and reworking the boards that I had done with the wrong nails I found that the gun had shot double nails about 50% of the time.

As for shoe mold attachment, I think 18ga might be a little too light. JMHO.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View Underdog's profile (online now)


878 posts in 1452 days

#2 posted 06-05-2013 02:08 PM

I wouldn’t recommend it unless the gun is made for it. Even then I’m not sure it’s a good idea. I shy away from those 2 in 1 tools.

My opinion is that you’re asking for trouble in the form of jams, broken tools, and messed up projects.

My advice is to buy the size guns you need and use the recommended fasteners in them. I have enough trouble when following recommended procedures on nailguns that I don’t want to borrow any more trouble.

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

View MT_Stringer's profile


2817 posts in 2648 days

#3 posted 06-05-2013 02:18 PM

I have one of those 2 in 1 HF models. If you are shooting the finish nail brads, the gun will leave the impression in the wood of the staple. Why? Because the gun driver is wide enough to shoot staples also. Could be unsightly in your case which would lead to lots of putty work.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2093 days

#4 posted 06-05-2013 02:37 PM

I would think an 18 ga. is exactly the right gun. Use 1 1/2” nails and nail in to the base, not the floor.

I haven’t seen a gun that fires both 16 and 18 ga. The 16 ga. is good because it fires 2 1/2” thicker nails, good for v grv siding, outside edge of casing, base and crown. The 18 ga. only fires 2” or smaller, fine for most lightweight trim like skinny base, shoe, inside edge of door casing, 1x glued edge nailing, prefinished trim, etc.

Crown staplers are not really for finish trim. Like Mike said, they leave a nasty hole and there’s two chances of a nail tip curling back at you. I’ve seen it happen many times. They’re designed to hold thin stuff like 1/4” veneers.

suggestion: I like to buy pre primed shoe, sand it and put on the first coat before installing. If installed on finished oak floors, put down 2” painters tape with un taped side against wall. After caulk to base, final coat and pull tape when dry. Future painter can slide news paper under edge for fresh coat.

try not to use a tape measure for final cut. Cut it long, check the fit and mark in place. Layout where your cut offs will fit and avoid multiple joints on one wall or a joint shorter than 3 ft from wall. Cut your field joints at 30 degrees….or 22 1/2.

hope this helps…. now you can tell the wife you need more tools. Ha!

View MrRon's profile


3888 posts in 2660 days

#5 posted 06-05-2013 02:45 PM

18 Ga brads are too thin. You can get them up to 2” long, but when you drive them, they will bend, especially in hard wood. 16 or 15 Ga is the right size nail to use and they each have their own dedicated gun. For reliability, use the nail the gun is designed to use.

View JayT's profile (online now)


4670 posts in 1628 days

#6 posted 06-05-2013 03:32 PM

Anyway, are the guns specific to the size nail it takes, would a 16 G gun shoot both 16 and 18 gauge? What’s the difference between using a finishing nail gun 16 G and a 18 G brad nail gun?

Yes, the nails are specific to the size of the gun. The 16ga and 18ga refer to the diameter of the wire the nails and brads are formed from and the drive piston in the gun is sized accordingly, as well as the aperture through which the nail shoots. Here is a quick and dirty graphic to show the issue if you try to use the wrong size

Since the 18ga brad is narrower, the 16ga piston will hit the full head of one nail and part of the nail behind it., see cranks’s experience above. Nothing good can happen from this, at best it will prematurely wear the gun, at worst, it could easily break in your hand spectacularly and send metal shrapnel flying.

The 18ga nailer/staplers work by using a wide piston with two prongs on the edges. If you load staples, the piston hits over both legs, when using nails, one side of the piston hits the nail and the other usually leaves a dent in your project, as MTStringer mentioned.

Edit: Since both the 18ga nails and staples are formed from the same diameter wire, the piston works for both in that dimension.

Be safe and only use the nails designed for the nail gun. You wouldn’t load a 20ga shotgun shell in a 12ga shotgun, would you?

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1294 posts in 1365 days

#7 posted 06-05-2013 09:38 PM

each gun has Its purpose. If funds are a problem go for the HF gun that shoots just 18 Ga nails. I had 1 and used it everyday for at least a year. I basically use a 15 ga and an 18 ga. my 16 ga has pretty much been put to pasture because the 15 holds so much better.

View hjt's profile


822 posts in 2555 days

#8 posted 06-06-2013 02:40 AM

Thank you all for helping to answer my question. I greatly appreciate your time. You have helped me to understand much better. Sounds like the 16 gauge is my better option.

The project is upgrading her house that we rent. It’s been empty for 8 months. I’m sure in hind sight we’d have been smarter to have paid someone to turn this around and get it rented. But I thought I’d have this all done in 6 – 9 weeks. Now in the 8th month and I’m still working at it. The plus side is that I have gotten a bunch of new tools. I have added a Bosch Router, Ridgid compound miter, new saw horses, a Bosch hand held planner, a 2nd shop vac, and potentially the nail gun.

So now if I could just finish this and get it rented!!

-- Harold

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2093 days

#9 posted 06-06-2013 11:38 AM

No….. the 18 ga. is the right gun.

The 16 ga. is not necessary for such small trim. The nails won’t bend, even if the shoe is made of oak.

You don’t even need to buy a 16 ga. gun. Buy a 15 ga. and an 18 ga. that shoots 2” nails.

Trust me on this.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4403 posts in 3377 days

#10 posted 06-06-2013 02:02 PM

Have done a BUNCH of shoe and quarter with an 18 gauge nailer, and my knees remind me of every foot.


View BentheViking's profile


1763 posts in 1981 days

#11 posted 06-07-2013 01:57 AM

I recommend getting a 18g brad nailer that shoots up to 2” nails. Use shorter nails if you can, but 2” is plenty long enough for doing baseboard, casing, crown, etc where you have to go through sheetrock into the studs. If your looking for a good deal on a decent brad nailer I’d suggest this one that we sell at Lumber Liquidators. We are offering a quickly growing selection of tools (and not necessarily just for flooring) that are a good balance of cost and price. This brad nailer is not made of all plastic like the cheap HF one and sometimes goes on sale for $30 or $40.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View Woodbum's profile


714 posts in 2482 days

#12 posted 06-07-2013 12:47 PM

IMHO stay away from dual purpose nailers. Nailers are finicky enough with out complicating the issue with misfires, bad fastening and damage to the work and your equipment. I would also stay away from the ultra cheapie guns too, unless you want to spend all of your time clearing jams and fixing messes. In this tool category, you definately get what you pay for. But the best you can afford, based on how much you plan to use the tool. There are exceptions however. I needed a 1/4 crown stapler for a project and didn’t think I would use it much again, so I bought a $28 unit from Grizzly. Remarkably, I have used it a lot and have had less jams, misfires etc from this inexpensive gun than in some of my PC framing units( 8 and 16 penny nails) and Craftsman 16 and 18 ga guns. You just never know for sure. Work safely and have fun.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View hjt's profile


822 posts in 2555 days

#13 posted 06-08-2013 03:38 PM

God Bless! Really, guys, don’t ya just love this web site – I posted this little question and just check out the wonderful, thoughtful, and often funny replies. I love this site!

Reedwood – “I’m trusting ya” and will go with the 18g.

Bill – sorry for the knees, I’m with you on that.

Ben The Viking and Wodburn, I’ll check out both Grizzly and Lumber Liq. Never gave them a thought.

-- Harold

View hjt's profile


822 posts in 2555 days

#14 posted 06-17-2013 09:26 PM

Quick update, after reading the reviews, I ended up buying a brad gun at harbor Freight. The reviews on line are very good and for $20.00 you can go wrong. So far I’ve completed two rooms (about 60 feet of shoe molding) without a miss fire. The gun is nice and light, making the project just that much easier.

-- Harold

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