Shop Talk

Clipped Head Versus Round Head Framing Nailers – An Epic Battle

  • There is much debate in the tool community surrounding both the benefits and short-fallings of clipped head pneumatic framing nailers and full head pneumatic framing nailers. There are craftsman on either side of the fence loyally fighting tooth and nail (pardon the pun) for their preference: clipped heads holler for superior toe nailing and more efficient magazine capacities while full heads bellow for greater strength and holding power and a more polished overall result – and then, of course, there are folks like me, the on-the-fencers if you will, whose experience lends no real favor to either side of the battle field.
    We on-the-fencers have found the performance differences between these types of nailers negligible to say the least, our experience prompts us to encourage peace rather than partisanship amongst the framing nailer community, but also shows us where both the clipped heads and the full heads are right. Although differences in the full head and clipped head framing nailers are marginal, negligible, insignificant, they are still there, and for many professional craftsmen, a minute difference makes all the difference in the world.

    The fact is, clipped head framing nailers do offer a fuller magazine; this allows craftsmen to shoot more nails in between reloads which, in turn, means greater progress and time more efficiently spent. On another hand, though, it is this same benefit that keeps many clipped head nailers from passing code or inspection. The “D” shaped head on the clipped head nail, the design innovation that allows them to pack more tightly into a nail magazine, is also the feature that deems them, in many areas, insufficient for building. Because the traditional circular head is, well, clipped, it ultimately provides less holding power and a less secure fastener in your projects. Also, assuming each craftsman behind a clipped head framing nailer is a human being, we can also assume he will rendezvous with some human error; this human error, however, is difficult to correct with a clipped head nail. Often as craftsmen attempt to remove a mis-shot nail, the clipped head will break off making nail removal a gigantic hassle and a time consumer that will undoubtedly cancel out any time saved with a fuller magazine.

    On yet another hand, it is also true that full head nails do have better holding power, and according to most tastes, styles, and preferences, do look better where a polished finish is important or anywhere nail-heads are exposed. There isn’t much in the debate to counter these facts save for the slightly more frequent nail reload requirements of the full head nail. Otherwise, this could quite possibly be all she wrote. The fat lady may have sung, and if she did, she certainly sang something to the tune of, “full head framing nailers and clipped head framing nailers are equally valid (except where clipped heads are barred) – clipped heads have a greater magazine capacity and full heads offer better security and a more polished appearance. Ultimately, though, they are both strong, powerful, and precise pneumatic tools with subtle differences that, overall, are insignificant (unless, of course, the clipped head nailer is out-lawed in your area, this may, in fact, be a significant consideration”). And, of course, she sang this all in one breath as the singing fat lady does. And, as the clipped head may not pass code in your jurisdiction, she probably would have also sung a recommendation that you consult building codes in your area before choosing which type of pneumatic gun best compliments your nailing style.

    In short, there is very little differnence between each type of nailer and only little more difference between the nails they shoot. Both full head and clipped head framing nailers are good, they both get the job done, and both offer different benefits and disadvantages. If I must indulge a hypothetical, though, with my own wallet on the table or my own back against the wall, my money’s on the full head, every time. But, please, don’t tell my fellow on-the-fencers, I’ll be kicked off the neutral squad and into the muck and mire of the full heads battle front.