Has there ever been a better time to buy a nail gun?

You name the application. Brad, finishing, roofing, flooring, and palm nailers. Pneumatics. Cordless. Fuel cell. 21- and 28-degree models. 15, 16, and 18 gauges. Sequential- and bounce-fire.

In a marketplace packed with contenders, who is trending up in 2016? What names are contractors asking for at purchase time?

A good person to ask is Jeb Buffington.

Buffington runs the pneumatic and compressor business for The Home Depot, the 2,274-store North American home improvement and pro construction retail chain. From his vantage point at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta and in personal chats with dozens of contractors each month, Buffington has a market understanding few can match. Here’s a look at what the pro community is saying and how Buffington and his Home Depot team respond:

Chart-Topping Brands. The Home Depot carries many of the industry’s leading nail gun brands, including Milwaukee, DeWalt, Ridgid, Bostitch, Porter-Cable, Ryobi, Paslode and Makita among others. Each day pros determine brand rank by their online and in-store purchases. So who is a fast-rising standout? “DeWalt,” announces Buffington. “We carry a who’s who of top nailer brands. They’re all superb names. But DeWalt now heads the class.” Buffington believes that the DeWalt name combined with some nifty best-in-class engineering, a great price, exceptional light weight, and between-the-studs compactness makes DeWalt a tough out.

Cordless vs. Pneumatic. “The power gap is rapidly closing,” Buffington says of the advantage that pneumatic has long held over battery-powered nail guns. Milwaukee is the brand that stands out for their battery platform. “Their M18 battery is one of the pros’ top choices,” Buffington confirms.

“The Milwaukee guns are fast and powerful. They have a battery-powered trim nailer that will drive a 2 ½-inch nail through an oak board. Plus, they are fast. You know how a battery-powered trim nailer gives a rev, then pops? With Milwaukee it’s just pop, pop, pop. You can now hit three nails per second. Yes, per second.” Buffington says performance like this makes battery-powered category more legitimate, though pneumatics still rule as the overall speed and power champ.

Durability. If a nailer’s gun goes down, they’re out of business. Roofers expect 10-hour a day performance. The name Buffington likes is Makita. “They’re built to survive the apocalypse. They’re very sturdy,” observes The Home Depot executive.

Online User Reviews. Any pro who grades a tool online can rest assured of one thing: that rating and write-up is intensely studied by Home Depot leaders. “We listen carefully to what the street is saying,” Buffington reports. “If a pro has an issue, we expect the nail gun maker to respond quickly. I personally share what contractors say with our top suppliers. Our name is on the line, too.”

Crystal Ball Time. What can pros look forward to? Buffington says watch battery-powereds. “Their growing acceptance will force all manufacturers to create even more reliable, durable, and deeply-tested nailers that are light and small. It’s not unreasonable to think batteries will one day take over the trim world. They have a ways to go for framing and roofing.”

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