Staple Guns vs. Nail Guns: What’s the Difference


Staple Guns vs. Nail Guns: What’s the Difference

Staple guns and nail guns are similar, but also different. Although they share features like electric or pneumatic power, they are better suited for different jobs. Comparing staple guns vs. nail guns makes choosing the right tool for the task easier.

Staple Gun Features

The main difference between staple guns and nail guns is in the type of fastener they fire into the materials being joined. Staple guns of various types accommodate staples with different crown widths. The crown is the flat part perpendicular to the “legs” that penetrate the material. The crown remains visible after the staple is applied, while the legs drive down into the materials to hold them together.

Staple guns are most useful for tasks like upholstery, holding cabling in place, cabinetry, and applying roofing felt and house wrap. A slap stapler makes holding that felt or wrap in place a quick task, firing a staple with a simple, manual “whack,” like a hammer. Specialized framing staplers drive “points” into frames. Flexible points can turn aside and back to allow inserting backing into the “rabbet” or depth of the frame, and then hold the backing in place behind the artwork, fixing the framed artwork within the frame. The visibility of the crown isn’t an issue with these tasks, as the staple will be on the underside of the furniture, the back of the frame, or covered over with another layer of roofing or siding.

Staples are more difficult to remove and cause visible damage when pulled out. There’s an upside to that, though, as staples make it easy to detect tampering with cartons or bags.

Nail Gun Tasks

Nail guns come in different versions to fire different types of single-leg fasteners. Longer or heavier gauge nails hold wood framing together, while thinner, almost headless “brad” nails attach molding and baseboards. Nails are less visible once applied than staples, and easier to remove, with less damage. Nail guns also attach sheathing, like plywood to roof rafters or to framing. The downside is that nails wiggle out of wood with changes in temperature and humidity more easily than staples.

Weighing the difference between staple guns and nail guns will help you choose the right tool for your project. Depending on the task, a staple gun or a nail gun will make the job easier, faster, and longer-lasting.