Brad nailers and finish nailers can be compared based on the size of nails they use and the type of woodworking projects for which they are appropriate. Brad nailers use brads made of 18 gauge wire, which is thinner than the 15 and 16 gauge wire used in finish nailers. Carpenters often use a brad nailer to attach small moldings and trim to keep them from splitting.
Both nailers are available in either straight or angled styles. Strips of 50 to 100 nails are inserted into the finish nailer. Nails range in size from 1.25 to 2.5 inches. They are available for purchase in boxes of about 2,000 nails. Brad nailers are available in boxes of the same large quantities but are only up to 1.5 inches long.
The selection of a brad nailer or a finish nailer depends upon the type of wood to be nailed. Delicate trim is best nailed with a brad nailer. However, some hardwoods resist the brad nail. Brads tend to bend easily with these woods. They can also bend when hitting knots in the wood. If the brad does not nail all the way into the wood, a hammer and nail must be used to recess the nail. In these cases, the finish nailer may be a better choice.