How to Use a Nail Gun

Speed up your next home improvement project with a nail gun. When you know how to use it, this tool is a valuable addition to your arsenal.

Go back to basics and discover our top tips for using a nail gun.

Manually driving nails with a hammer is no big deal—until you start a project that requires hundreds of them. Thankfully, nail guns exist. These handy power tools make it easy to drive a nail in a snap. They're a worthwhile splurge for an intensive wall treatment, baseboard installation, or other laborious project. Plus, many home improvement centers let you rent a nail gun for a few days, so don't worry if a brand-new power tool isn't in your budget. 

To use a nail gun, you'll need nail strips and safety glasses. A few pieces of plywood for practice are also a good idea. Ready to get started? Follow our instructions, below.

Once you've mastered using a nail gun, learn how to install shiplap.

What You Need

  • Nail gun
  • Safety glasses
  • Nail strip
  • Wood scraps

Step 1: Load Nail Gun

Consult the manufacturer's instructions of your nail gun to understand the mechanics of the machine. Put on your safety glasses, then load the nail gun with a nail strip. You'll need to locate your gun's magazine and slide the nail strip in. Close the magazine.

Essential Safety Tools for Home Repair Projects

Step 2: Practice Nailing

Turn on the gun's power. Get a feel for the gun by practicing shooting nails into a piece of scrap wood. Try testing different amounts of pressure and applying pressure for different lengths of time. Once you feel comfortable with the gun, place its tip adjacent to the surface you need to nail.

Step 3: Squeeze Trigger

Hold the gun with a steady hand away from your body. Make sure your finger can easily access the trigger. Exert pressure on the trigger, then release the trigger as soon as the nail has been released to prevent shooting multiple nails. Just like a real gun, expect a bit of a kick back. Do not press the gun with your chest or body as this could cause injury.

Editor's Tip: The nailhead should be even with the surface, not crooked or jutting out. If the nail isn't flush, remove it and try again. You may need to apply more pressure. 

Step 4: Continue Nailing

Continue releasing nails as necessary for your project.

Step 5: Reload Gun

If you need to reload the gun, disconnect it from power before inserting a new nail strip.

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