Ryobi 18 Gauge Cordless Nailer Review

Add Cordless Brad Nailer to Your List of "Must Have" DIY Remodeling Tools

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Buy on Amazon - 18-Volt ONE+ AirStrike 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

If you plan on doing any amount of home remodeling work, you will eventually want a brad nailer. For nailing trim, it's possible, but difficult, to nail by hand.  But with a nailer, you press the trigger, you hear a brief whirr as the tool compresses air, and then smack! in that nail goes. No splits. No exposed heads. No banged fingers.

Perfect.

Cordless Visits the World of Nailers

What we're not talking about is a compressed air framing nailer, the very same tool that wakes you up on Saturday mornings because your neighbor is putting on an addition and the workers love showing up at 6:30 am. That's a different tool.

What we are talking about is a nailgun that delivers 18 gauge wire brads that come attached in long strips. These brands are meant for finish work, trim, crown, baseboard. Anything where it's important to sink the head.

This cordless brad nailer is powered by Ryobi's ONE+ 18 volt lithium ion battery packs. It claims to fire 60 brads per minute, with a magazine capacity of 105 nails. However, due to its Dry-Fire Lockout feature, which prevents the nailer from firing the last four or so nails in order to extend tool life, you could rightly say that the capacity is more like 100 nails.

The nailer fires brads from 5/8" to 2".

It does come with two strips of 1.25" brads. In case you were wondering, this also happens to be the right length for most types of trim that you might be installing.

How Well Does It Work?

Being the impatient type, my view of any tool is always predicated on how quickly I can get the thing up and run--without looking at the instructions.

Bosch tools are famous for being dead-simple. Ironically, the worst set-up I've had involved a utility knife, of all things. Ryobi tends to fall somewhere in the middle--except that this tool did prove to be exceedingly easy to get running. I unboxed it at 11:27 am; by 11:38 am, I shot my first test brad into my workshop door. Eleven minutes! It would have been half the time, if not for battery issues (more on that later).

Sixty nails per minute, they say? I tested its speed prior to consulting the product specs, and my speed was exactly one per second. I was able to accomplish this with the tool's Contact Actuation feature.

With Sequential Actuation, you place the nailer, pull the trigger, fire, and back to square one. With Contact Actuation, you keep the trigger depressed and move the nailer down your work. As soon as the plastic No Mar Pad depresses on your work, the gun fires automatically. Fast but less precise than Sequential Actuation.

The tool easily nailed trim, as expected. But how strong is it? I was able to face-nail 1.25" brads into 3/4" red oak hardwood flooring, sinking the heads and everything. This is not the Ryobi's intended purpose, by the way. But it is an indicator of what the tool can do if pressed into hard service.

I appreciated the limited number of features on the nailer. It's a simple tool without a lot of confusing bells and whistles. Really the only things to learn are:

  • The depth of Drive Adjustment. Turn the wheel in one direction or the other to make the nails sink deeper or shallower.
  • Air Pressure Dial. On the back, this dial controls internal air pressure, giving you more or less force.
  • Mode Selector. Mentioned earlier, this is the toggle between Sequential or Contact Actuation.

A Few Downers

The biggest issue is the issue I have cordless tools in general, and often, Ryobi in particular: short lifespan of lithium ion batteries. Of that eleven minute period, it took to get the tool running, I spent most of it switching between three of my 18-volt battery packs until I could find one that had not failed.

The two failed battery packs were no more than a few months old, and each had been used for about 2 or 3 hours, max.

Also, I wasn't wild about the Depth of Drive Adjustment wheel. It has no reference points to let you see what depth you have dialed into. A numeric indicator would be great. Failing that, at least it would be nice to have a dial-and-pointer indicator, similar to the Air Pressure Dial.

Buy on Amazon - 18-Volt ONE+ AirStrike 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer