Can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer? Comprehensive answer

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This Q & A article tackles a common question among woodworkers: Can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer?

From our 18 gauge brad nail vs 16 gauge finish nailer discussion, we learned that the thinner 18-gauge nails (shot with an 18 gauge brad nailer) are a great choice for binding lightweight trim, fastening shiplap, and attaching molding largely because they’re unlikely to split thin materials.

On the other hand, a 16-gauge finish nailer is the best tool for woodworking projects where you need more holding power such as the installation of larger trim like baseboards, crown molding, and more.

Now, you may not want to spend on two tools and you may feel that the finish nailer is the way to go since it tends to be more versatile.

So, can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer to attach exterior trim, molding, and other smaller jobs?

Well, the short answer is- and we hate to tell you this-, you can’t. Or at least, it is not professionally recommended unless it’s a 16/18 gauge 3-in-1 nail gun like this (shoots 18-gauge staples, 18-gauge brad nails, and 16-gauge finish nails).

Read our indepth answer below to learn the key reasons why shooting 18 gauge nails – commonly called “brad nails”- with a 16 gauge nailer is a bad idea…


Can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer – detailed answer

Now, nailers are designed to shoot specific fasteners and switching can ruin your nailer.

To be clear, drive pistons in nailers are sized to fire particular nail diameters. Likewise, the aperture (through which nail guns shoots fasteners) can only support fixed nail sizes.

As such, trying to drive different sized nails may easily damage the tool.

Your nailer could also lead to difficulties in operating the tool (since it tends to ‘act up’) or even a bad accident.

Plus, you’ll probably be unhappy with the results. For instance, the finished look may be nowhere near the polished masterpiece you’d hoped for.


What exactly happens if you swap nail sizes for nailer?

Truth be told, for the most part, firing incorrect nail sizes can bring tons of problems.

Here are some of the issues (we already talked about the risk of harming the tool) using nail sizes that don’t match the specifications of your nailer might bring:

1.  Frequent jams

There might be a massive jam up if you put the incorrect nails in.

2.  “Double kiss”

Feeding the wrong size fasteners in your pneumatic nailer might also result in a “Double Kiss”.

For starters, this simply means that the tool fires two (2) nails at once!. In extreme cases, the second fastener can bounce off and ricochet, hitting you.

It can also be terrible for the tool since the second nail could impact the first nail’s head with the impact of jamming the driver shaft, potentially bending it.

3.  The nailer will not shoot nails

Another worst case scenario is the nailer ‘refusing’ to fire nails until you swap the nails.

Keep in mind that manufacturers indicate the nail gauges that every nailer is intended to fire for this very reason – firing anything else but the designated nail size can be a safety hazard and it ends up messing your nailer.

Put simply, you’re better off shooting 18 gauge brads with an 18-Gauge Brad Nailer while using the 16 gauge finish nailer exclusively for projects that require 16 gauge finish nails.

The exception, as we had mentioned, is when you own a multi-purpose 16 and 18 gauge nailer such as this.

These nailers are compatible with 18-ga staples, 18-ga brad nails, and 16-ga finish nails making them ideal for tons of applications including baseboards fitting, attaching furniture trim, installing chair rail trim, shoe/crown moldings tasks, installing window casings, cabinetry, and more.

So, before you order a brad nailer to add to your 16 gauge nail gun, you may need to consider the option of a dual purpose 16 and 18 gauge nailer (look at considerations such as pricing, how well it will do the job, and more).


Can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer – related questions

Can you use 16 gauge nails in a 18 gauge nailer?

The answer is still a big NO because the nail gauge doesn’t match!

You’ll just be asking for trouble if you somehow feed the fatter 16 gauge fasteners into your 18 gauge brad nailer.

You see, the nailer will probably frustrate you a lot, for example, by keeping on jamming on you, if at all it fires.

For the most part, a brad nailer won’t just shoot 16 gauge nails!

A colleague once couldn’t bring his 18 gauge brad nailer to shoot nails until he figured out that he had accidentally loaded 16 gauge finish nails into the 18 gauge nailer!

Needless to say, you may get away with both nail sizes if you’re using a 16/18 gauge 3-in-1 air nailer/stapler instead (Here is a great example).


Can you use 16 gauge nails in a 15 gauge nailer?

Again, No!

Not only is the nail gauge different but also the angle of collation (15 gauge nailers typically drive angled nails).

In contrast, 16 gauge finish nails are straight thus they typically won’t work fine.


Can you use pin nails in a brad nailer?

You know our answer, right?

You shouldn’t.


Because a brad nailer is meant to shoot 18-ga nails, which are significantly fatter than the 23 gauge nails (commonly called pins) a pin nailer usually shoots.

In short, nail guns work the same way and it important to stick to the manufacturer specified nail sizes.


Can you use 18 gauge nails in a 16 gauge nailer? – Summary

No. You shouldn’t.

Swapping nail sizes will cause lots of problems to the nailer itself (and may even destroy it if you persist).

It can also be a safety hazard for you and can lead to a bad injury- a nail can ricochet after shooting it!

Use the correct nail sizes for safety and smooth operation.


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