Many tool manufacturers are releasing mini versions of their power tools and calling them “palm” tools. Nailers have followed the same route with palm nailers coming to town. We will examine how these diminutive versions compare to the originals in our palm nailer vs nail gun comparison.


Palm Nailer vs Nail Gun

The trend for power tool makers to produce smaller handheld tools that do the same job as the larger varieties makes sense, but some questions arise about these smaller options.

  • How do they work?
  • Are they powerful enough to do the job?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of palm nailers over nail guns?
  • Can palm nailers replace full-size nail guns?

We will answer these questions and more as we compare the palm nailer and nail gun options.

A green and black colored nailer near a white wall on a gray carpet


Palm nailers of mini nailers use different methods to drive nails into wood compared to nail guns. A nail gun uses a single downstroke piston to power-drive the nail into the wood.

A palm nailer can be considered an impact nailer, which uses multiple, short strokes of a piston to drive the nail into the wood. The piston hits the nail multiple times per second to drive the nail home, but each impact stroke has less force than the single stroke of the piston in a full-size nail gun.

A palm nailer mechanism is similar to using a manual hammer, but the hammer strokes happen much faster.

Most of the best palm nailers are pneumatically powered, but manufacturers started offering battery-powered versions. The battery-powered option further enhances the palm nailer’s ease of use and ability to access small spaces. Nail guns are either pneumatic or battery-powered.

Nailer Uses

A palm nailer can be used in the same circumstances as a nail gun, but its main advantage over the nail gun is that it can be used in tight spaces.

If a nail needs to be put in between joists or where the space is limited, a standard nail gun will not be able to fit in the space. A palm nailer is made for this circumstance and is ideal for driving nails in spaces where a nail gun or even a manual hammer will not fit.

Differences in Efficiency

A palm nailer does not have the same operational efficiency as a nail gun. Nail guns are designed to drive nails at a fast rate to improve speed and efficiency in large projects.

Nail guns have a spring-loaded magazine that holds a supply of nails that can be driven into the wood in quick succession with the single pull of a trigger.

Palm nailers do not have a supply of nails in a magazine. The nails are driven one by one, and each nail must be fitted into the tool by hand before it can be driven into the workpiece.

Palm nailers were not created to be fast but to solve the problem of driving nails in tight spaces. They take longer to drive a nail than a nail gun, but they were not created to replace a nail gun but to complement their use.

Different Types of Nails That Can Be Used

Nail guns come in a range of sizes, designed to drive nails of different sizes into different types of construction or decorative material.

From pin nailers to framing nailers, there is a nail gun made for different-sized nails. This is where the palm nailer is different.

Palm nailers are generally intended and sized for driving larger nails, such as framing and joist nails, and cannot be used for smaller nails, such as pin nails.

The recommended nail size for palm nailers is 4d to 16d nails with lengths of between 1 ½ inches and 3 ½ inches.

Palm nailers generally require the nails to have heads, so the piston hammer has a wider surface area to impact the nail.

Advantages and Disadvantages

To compare the advantages and disadvantages between palm nailers and nail guns and summarize the differences, we have compiled a table for easy reference.

Nail Gun

Less noise when operating a nail gun
Available for many nail sizes
A magazine is used to feed new nails to the nail gun firing mechanism
It cannot be used in small spaces
No vibrations
Fast action for efficient workflow

Palm Nail

Small size
Very loud – hearing protection is recommended
Low cost
Limited nail sizes
Drives single nails, with no magazine to feed new nails
Useful in small or tight spaces
Lots of vibrations in the user’s hand
Takes longer to drive the nail with the multiple-impact mechanism

Can a Palm Nailer Replace a Nail Gun?

Palm nailers and nail guns are designed to fulfill different roles on the job site or on the project at hand.

Nail guns are made for fast, efficient repetitive nailing tasks, while the palm nailer is designed to solve the problem of driving nails in small spaces. The palm nailer works better for this task than even a manual hammer since it was designed for this purpose.

A palm nailer is not meant to replace a nail gun, even though it can be used to do the same job. The two tools are designed to be used in tandem to make the job easier and faster overall.

A person wearing blue pants is using an orange and black nailer on a brown wood

Frequently Asked Questions

People new to palm nailers may have some additional queries about these nailers, which we have answered below.

What Kind of Nails Can You Use With a Palm Nailer?

Palm nailers are designed to use larger nails, preferably nails with a full head. A head on the nail provides a stable, larger surface area for the hammer to impact.

Small-diameter nails cannot be used with a palm nailer. The impact of the hammer can bend the nail.

Can a Nail Gun Use Any Size Nails?

Nail guns can generally be used with a range of nail sizes but are also limited to certain sizes. Different nail guns are designed to be used with different-sized nails.

For this reason, many woodworkers or contractors have multiple nail guns which are used for the appropriate job.

Can a Palm Nailer Be Used to Remove Nails?

Nail removal is not a standard function of a palm nailer. The only time a palm nailer can be used to remove a nail is if the tip of the nail is protruding through the opposite side of the wood.

The palm nailer can be used against the nail’s point to drive the head up to above the wood, where the nail can be removed using more conventional means, such as a claw hammer.

Best Tool for Tight Spaces, Palm Nailer: Toolsday


Palm nailers are useful tools designed for a specific task. They are not made to replace nail guns and cannot compete with these tools in terms of speed, efficiency, and versatility.

Palm nailers and nail guns are intended to work side-by-side on a job site, each with its own role to play to make the work more efficient.

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