How to Use a Nail Gun with Safety First

There was a time we had no choice but to master the art of hitting the nail on the head, literally, with a hammer. One too many times, we accidentally bumped our fingers, you experience pain you can never forget. It became tricky when trying to maneuver nails through corners and into delicate trimmings without splitting them in half.

Well, right now, you have the nail gun to do the job for you. Nail guns are fast, efficient, super easy to use and get the job done with time to spare. You can learn how to use a nail gun, safely, right here. Let’s do this.

How to Use a Nail Gun

There are different types of nail guns in the market, depending on their source of power. Nail guns can run on compressed air (pneumatic), electricity. There also exists powder-actuated nail guns, used exclusively for nailing into concrete and metal surfaces. They lie beyond the scope of this article.

The method of operation of nail guns is universal. All you need to grasp is these few steps we have laid out, and pretty soon, you’ll know how to use a nail gun.

How to Use a Nail Gun

1. Load your nail gun

If you look closely at your nail gun, you will notice a lever at the bottom. Apply a little pressure on this lever, and it will pop, releasing your nail gun’s magazine. You can then load your nail strip onto the magazine. Once the nail strip is fastened onto the magazine, push the magazine back in firmly. You will hear the distinctive click of the lever back in place.

Be sure to use the correct nail size while loading your nail gun. It is good practice to choose a nail that can pierce through the wood and fasten it to the underlying material about ¾ to 1 inch deep.

2. Power your nail gun

To fire the nails into the wood, they will need some propulsion. The source of energy provides this force. It could be plugging your nail gun to the nearest power outlet or connecting the air compressor to your pneumatic nail gun through a pneumatic hose. Ensure the compressor is set to the appropriate air pressure (120 lbs. is recommended).

As long as your nail gun is in good working condition, it should power up immediately, without delay.

3. Always put safety first

Get your hard hat, your safety goggles, and heavy duty hand gloves and put them on. It might seem too much, but a nail gun is a powerful and sometimes dangerous tool. All it takes is a little slip of attention and nails go flying into the air and through your skull.

Nail gun safety plays a big part during nail gun operation. You should never fire a nail gun towards your body.

4. Practice makes perfect

Find pieces of wood that you are not using and practice firing a nail gun on them. Before the nail gun goes off, you need to apply a considerable amount of pressure on the contact tip and pull the trigger. Get a feel of the nail gun before proceeding to the actual work.

5. Fire the nail gun

Before the nail gun fires, two things must happen first.

  • The contact trigger must be pushed onto the surface you intend on nailing.
  • The trigger must be pulled.

The occurrence of both these actions shoots the nail into the wood material. With the correct amount of pressure on the contact trigger, the nail is firmly secured within the wood.

6. Pull back the nail gun

Pulling the nail gun back will release the contact trigger from the surface. You will be able so clearly see whether or not you fired the nail gun correctly by the placement of the nail on in the wood surface.

If you badly fired the nail gun and you have a nail sticking out of the surface, you can use a hammer to hit it back into place. For nails sticking out at more than ¼ inches, it is wiser to cut the nail closer to the surface using side-cutting pliers, and hammering in the remaining portion.

7. Power off your nail gun

As soon as you are done using the nail gun, promptly disconnect it from its power source and call it a day. Certain situations may need you to shut down the nail gun; these include loading or unjamming your nailer and when performing maintenance on your nailer.

See how to use a nail gun below:

How do Nail Gun Injuries Happen?

It is unfortunate, but accidents are prone to happen while handling nail guns. These could be small injuries like scratches or shallow piercings, or severe injuries such as nails piercing the bone and skin.

You are faced with the responsibility of understanding the causes of these injuries so that you can prevent them. Most of these causes are avoidable. Nail gun injuries occur:

1. Using Contact Trigger Nail Guns

Sometimes when trying to hold the workpiece in place after firing the nail gun, a second unwanted firing takes place. This kind of injury is susceptible to new nail gun users. As they brace themselves for the recoil, they accidentally end up double firing.

2. Using Single Actuation Trigger Nail Guns

The single actuation trigger works in such a way that the finger remains pressed against the trigger while firing multiple shots of nails into wood. Accidentally bumping into the contact tip can shoot a nail into someone’s back, puncturing their internal organs.

3. Blowouts

This happens when a nail pierces through the wood and into one’s flesh. You might be nailing together the casing to the jamb using your brad nailer. After some horrible miscalculation, you angled the brad nailer wrongly, and the nail blows out of the wood and into your palm! Ouch!

4. Projectiles

Nails become airborne when they hit metal surfaces or wood knots within the wood. Both these kinds of surfaces are harder than their surroundings. So when the nail strikes either one, it bounces off the wood surface and ricochets. These ricochet nails are very dangerous and can cause serious injury to whoever it pierces through.

5. Awkward positions

These could include operating nail guns in tight spaces, on high grounds or even while toenailing. Toenailing requires the user to hold the nail gun at an angle before firing. Miscalculation of this angle could lead to the nail missing the workpiece, becoming airborne and unfortunately landing on someone.

6. Eliminating safety features

You may be meaning to save yourself some time and energy, so you remove the spring from the contact tip of your nail gun. Now, when you press the trigger without pushing on the contact tip, and the nail is fired. This modification can cause you some serious injury, and it is not recommended.

Steps to Nai Gun Safety

We want to save you those dreaded trips to the emergency room by laying out these steps for your use. Applying these measures while working on your projects at home, or even on large scale construction work, can be of great benefit to you.

nail gun safety training

1. Choose full sequential trigger based nail guns

To fire these nail guns, you have to push the safety contact and then pull the trigger, in that particular sequence. Before another nail is fired, you will have to repeat the procedure in that particular order. This goes to great lengths in reducing cases of double firing or even unintentional discharge of nails.

If you are thinking of purchasing a nail gun, buying one with this trigger mechanism will be the best decision you will ever make. It is best you avoid any contact trigger or single actuation trigger nail guns for the time being.

2. Color code your nail guns

If you have an extensive collection of nail guns at your disposal, keeping track of their identity can prove difficult. Try color coding all your nail guns on their trigger mechanisms to make your work easier for you. In this manner, you will be able to choose the right nail gun for the right job.

3. Training

Whether you are the lone workman at your garage or working as a group on a construction site, a little knowledge on triggers or first aid can go a long way. Learn how to work in proximity to ricochet-prone surfaces and how to handle using a nail gun around awkward positions. Skim through the manufacturer’s manual to learn a little bit more about your tool, and how to deal with cases of nail gun malfunctions.

4. Create your personal work procedure

Put down details you will religiously follow while handling your nail gun. From loading your nail gun, maintaining your tool to understanding the meaning of different labels on your nail gun.

5. Cut off the power source

When you are done using your nail gun, remove the remaining nails, power it off and store it accordingly. When unjamming your nail gun, always remember to power it off too. This also applies when conducting maintenance on your nailer.

6. Wear protective equipment

This is the last, but not the least bit of safety measure you should follow. Heavy duty gloves, goggles, earmuffs and also hard hats are the way to go. Keep the distance between the nailing point and your hand to at least one foot just as a safety precaution.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How dangerous are nail guns?

  • “Nail gun injuries are very common and can affect both the operators of the nail guns and also bystanders. However, proper use of nail guns and adhering to nail gun safety measures can substantially reduce the occurrence of nail gun injuries.”

2. What are the safety precautions I can take while using nail guns?

  • “You can start by using a sequential trigger nail gun, which is relatively safer than its counterpart triggers such as the contact trigger, for example. You can also practice wearing goggles, hard hats, earmuffs and heavy duty gloves while operating nail guns. Always wear protective equipment when learning how to use nail guns.”

3. What is the difference between a contact trigger and a sequential trigger?

  • “The main difference between the two is their mode of firing. The contact trigger can be fired by activating the contact tip and the trigger in any order. The sequential trigger can only be fired by first pushing the contact tip and then pulling the trigger, in that order.”

4. Between the contact trigger and the sequential trigger, which is more likely to cause an injury?

  • “It is the contact trigger that is more prone to causing damage. Since the contact tip and the trigger can be activated in any order, double firing is commonplace. Operating a contact trigger nail gun in tight spaces can prove risky as the recoil could lead to unintended firings.”

5. Do different nail guns vary in operation speeds?

  • “No. How fast one can operate a nail gun solely depends upon the person’s level of experience and dexterity while using a nail gun.”


So that is that. Now you know all the ways and means of using a nail gun safely. You also understand the causes of injuries while operating nail guns. We have explained nail gun safety measures, and some of your frequently asked questions have been tackled.

It is now up to you to put this acquired knowledge to good use. Best of luck!

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