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I needed/wanted a small pneumatic nailer for assembling small wood construction. I purchased an inexpensive nailer and nails at the local discount store, and found the nails often jammed. Within a few attempts the nailer became unusable from damage caused by nails jamming.

I went to DIY box store and bought a quality (I did some research first) nailer and quality nails. This works fine, and I am very happy with the results. But I wonder if I I really need to buy the expensive nailer and the expensive nails.

Was it the nailer or the nails that caused the issue? Could I reliably use inexpensive nails in an expensive nailer, or can I reliably use expensive nails in an inexpensive nailer? Do both the nailer and the nails need to be quality?

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    I don't use enough nailers to give a quality answer, but in my opinion you never go wrong buying quality tools. A good quality nailer should be able to handle lower quality nails reasonably well, but... – bowlturner Mar 18 '15 at 12:31
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Quality Related to Jamming

The best answer to this question would be to run an experiment and report the jam rates for different grades of nail guns, with different grades of nails.

However, since most users most likely won't have a number of differing quality nail guns at their disposal, I can tell you the experience I've had with my mid-range quality Hitachi 18 gauge brad nailer. Maybe others can chip in if they've got a high quality nailer, or a lower quality nailer and we can make a complete answer.

I generally buy the cheapest nails I can find at the big box store, and I've never had my mid-range quality nailer jam on me. I mainly use Porter Cable and Hitachi nails of varying lengths, from 3/4" to 2".

From an engineer's perspective, I'd expect the nail gun itself to play the biggest factor against jamming. Variables would include:

  • Consistency of feed and fastener placement in the magazine. If the nailer places the next fastener in a different spot under the drive head each time, you're more likely to have a jam. A higher quality nail gun should have better consistency.
  • Component tolerances. All the moving parts in the nail gun should be designed and manufactured to slide smoothly without interference. A cheaper quality gun may have machining defects or a looser fit between components, which could lead to a jam.

For the fasteners, the most important aspect would be uniformity. If the nail gun is designed for a certain size of fastener, and the low quality nails are outside of that design spec, you'll experience more jams.

Quality with Respect to Other Factors

Jam free operation isn't the only factor that is affected by quality. Others include:

  • Consistent depth setting. This may be affected slightly by the glue used to collate the fasteners, but the biggest factor will be nailer quality.
  • Mar-free operation. Nicer nail guns will have a shoe over their safety mechanism to keep it from marking or scratching the work piece.
  • Ergonomics and reduced user fatigue. Higher quality tools will be engineered to shave off extra weight and make it easier for the user to work with.
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