The History and Invention of Nail Guns

The History and Invention of Nail Guns

Nail guns are a fairly recent invention. Before their invention, people constructed log cabins, barns, and bungalows with hammers powered by biceps, laboriously (and slowly) pounding wooden pegs or iron nails. In the 1950s, however, the burgeoning post-WWII building boom required a snappier solution. Here we offer a brief synopsis of the history of the nail gun.

While most sources credit a few American GIs working in construction for coming up with the nail gun idea, based on the machine guns they used in the war, some credit an earlier inventor—Morris Pynoos. Pynoos was an engineer famed for working on Howard Hughes’s behemoth aircraft, the H-4 Hercules, also known as the “Spruce Goose” because it was constructed primarily of wood. He is credited with inventing a nail gun to hold the craft together during construction of the enormous fuselage. Workers glued the nailed parts together and then removed the nails.

The first commercial pneumatic nail guns became available in the 1950s. The earliest stand-up versions fired 40–60 nails per minute into subflooring. The first handheld nail gun versions appeared in the 1960s. Designs steadily improved to fire more and different gauges of nails. Eventually, cordless versions appeared. Nail guns have been powered by electricity, compressed air, and even explosive gases. In 2019, a New Zealand–based company called Airbow introduced a portable, rechargeable pneumatic nail gun that doesn’t require a tether to an air hose. Using advanced valve technology, the Airbow nail gun employs just a gram of air to fire a nail with compressed air stored in the tool itself. It recharges on a compatible air compressor.

Nail guns originally used to fasten flooring evolved for framing and roofing. The upholstery nail gun appeared, making life easier for furniture shops. The history of the nail gun continued to advance with brad nailers that fire thinner fasteners for more delicate applications like trim and molding. These are especially useful to reduce the risk of splitting trim materials.

Find nail guns and staplers suitable for flooring, roofing, framing, and more delicate finishing, trim, and molding applications, here at Staple Headquarters.