There are a variety of staplers that fire a fastener to secure carpet to a floor, felting or shingles to a roof, or a poster to a bulletin board. They come in manual, electric, and pneumatic varieties. But when it comes to hammer tackers vs. staple guns, what’s the difference?
Squeeze or Whack?
The chief difference between a staple gun and a hammer tacker is right there in the name: one works with a trigger, while the other work like a hammer. A staple gun comes with a handle that you squeeze to trigger the spring mechanism that fires the fastener into whatever you’re securing in place. Manual ones are good for smaller jobs. But if you’ve got a lot of acreage to cover when you’re reupholstering a couch or securing fabric to a box valance frame, your hands will get tired from the repeated squeeze and release action. For larger jobs, you might consider an electric stapler. The manual variety is more portable, but the electric option is more powerful and easier on the hands. However, with the electric version, a cord with tether you down. Electric staplers also can have quite a kick to them and fire off easily, so consider getting one with a safety mechanism.
Staple guns are great for smaller jobs where you require more precise fastener placement. They typically require two hands—one to hold whatever you’re fastening in place, and the other to squeeze the stapler’s handle. Just be careful that no part of the hand that’s holding the material is directly under the business end of the stapler! They’re called “guns” for a reason—they fire the staple with force, and you don’t want a staple going through your finger or into the meat of your hand.
For heavy-duty work, staple guns also come in pneumatic versions that use compressed gas, so you need to connect them to a compressor. They can use longer staples, too. These are usually more appropriate for professional users.
Hammer tackers, also known as “slap staplers” or hammer staplers, actually look more like hammers than staplers. They don’t have handles that a user needs to squeeze. Instead, the momentum of your arm drives a staple in as you whack it against whatever you’re stapling. They load very much like staple guns—just pull out the spring mechanism to place staples in the magazine. You only need one hand to use them, and you can go fast. They’re good for fastening things that you’re going to cover up with carpet padding, roof felt, house wrap, moisture barriers, or insulation. They’re also good when you’ve got a lot of ground to cover because you can move fast and whack away without worrying about looks.
Different Sized Staples
Staple guns and hammer staplers will have a range of staple sizes that they can accommodate. Some require staples from the same brand that manufactured the stapler itself. The type of job you’re doing will determine what size staple is appropriate. If you’re not sure, ask your supplier for a recommendation. They may even be able to give you even more details about what to consider when weighing the differences between hammer tackers and staple guns.