21-Degree vs. 30-Degree Framing Nailer: Which to Choose?

21-Degree vs. 30-Degree Framing Nailer: Which to Choose?

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If you are planning on doing some framing, fencing, siding, sheathing, or anything else of the sort, one of the best tools you can use is the framing nailer. Now, this is a special type of nail gun that uses relatively thin nails, but those nails can be set at different angles within the nail gun. Two of the most common angles include 21 and 30-degree nailers.

Today, we want to figure out what the differences between these two are and which is best used for various applications.

What Does the Angle Refer to with Framing Nailers?

Ok, so what can get really confusing here is the talk about the angle itself. What is important to note is that when using a framing nailer, the nail is usually always driven into the wood or other material at a 90-degree angle (or as close to 90 degrees), or in other words, parallel to the wood. The angle at which the nail is inserted is not what is being referred to here.

Instead, that angle refers to the way or the position in which the nails are packed into the strip or magazine that then gets loaded into the nail gun. Simply put, this number refers to the angle at which the nails are packaged, not to the way in which they are inserted into the material. Although it might not seem that important, this difference in angle does actually lead to a few other important differences.

21-Degree Framing Nailer

Similarities of 21-Degree and 30-Degree Framing Nailers

Now that we know what the angle of these framing nailers refers to, let’s take a quick look at what makes these two types of nail guns similar.

1. The Same General Build Type

The most common similarity here is that both the 21-degree and 30-degree framing nailers are both nail guns. The only real difference here is the shape of the clip or magazine that holds the nails, which we have of course discussed in great detail above. To the untrained eye, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two, as they look nearly identical.

They just look like very large and cumbersome handguns with a bulky rear and large clip to hold nails. On a side note, keep in mind that 21-degree framing nailers may also come in 20-degree or 22-degree varieties, whereas 30-degree framing nailers may come in 30-degree and 32-degree varieties.

2. The Same Power Sources

Another similarity between these two types of framing nailers is that they both use the same power sources. Most nail guns out there are going to use compressed air as the power source, as this allows for the most power to be produced compared to minimal energy expenditure. These are also known as pneumatic nail guns. That said, there are also cordless or battery-powered nail guns out there, which don’t have nearly as much power, but are fine for some smaller applications. The bottom line is that both are powered by the same power sources.

3. Nail Size

Another similarity here is that both types of framing nailers feature the same size of nail. They are usually the same length and width, usually between 2” and 3.5” long, with a gauge of 16d, also known as a 16-penny nail. In other words, these are fairly thin and small nails designed to be inconspicuous.

4. General Applications

As you might be able to tell by the name of the tools, we are talking about framing nailers here, and although the exact applications may differ, you can use both for the same general purposes. Both of these types of framing nailers are often used for decking, siding, and sheathing.

30-Degree Framing Nailer

Differences Between 21-Degree and 30-Degree Framing Nailers

Now that we know what makes 21-Degree and 30-Degree Framing Nailers similar to each other, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. The Nail Head

Perhaps the biggest difference here is that with a 21-degree framing nailer, the nail head is almost always going to be full round in shape. This allows for a really good hold and is generally considered to be the better nail head type to use if you are looking for a solid hold. 30-degree framing nailers on the other hand have either clipped or offset nail heads. These are fine to use if you are inserting nails at an angle or need a head that won’t show once inserted, but the hold just isn’t as good. Many places may actually require a round nail head to be used for framing applications.

2. Collation Type

Another difference here has to do with the collation of the nails. These nails come in so-called clips or magazines that are held together with various materials. With 21-degree framing nailers, the nails are usually held together using plastic. Plastic is fine because it is durable, and if it gets wet, it won’t come apart. However, when using this type of collation, little pieces of plastic get ejected constantly, and this results in a large mess being created. With 30-degree framing nailers, the nails are held together with strips of paper. They aren’t nearly as messy, although if the paper gets wet, the nails will start to come loose.

3. Degree of Collation

Of course, the biggest difference here is the angle at which the nails are set. A 21-degree framing nailer and a 30-degree framing nailer, as the names imply, have the nails set at different angles.

4. Magazine Capacity

Another big difference here is that with a 21-degree framing nailer, the magazine can usually fit up to 60 or 70 nails. However, with a 30-degree framing nailer, that magazine can fit 88 nails or more. Therefore, the 30-degree framing nailer is best used for larger jobs because you don’t have to reload it nearly as often as the 21-degree framing nailer.

5. Fitting Into Tight Spaces

The other main thing to consider here is that, due to the shape of the 21-degree framing nailer, as well as the magazine, this version tends to be slightly more compact than the 30-degree framing nailer. For this reason, the 21-degree framing nailer works better in tight spaces than the 30-degree variety.

21- vs. 30-Degree Framing Nailer: Which One Should You Get?

If you are doing a large job and don’t want to keep reloading your nail gun, then the 30-degree option is best. The 30-degree option also makes less of a mess due to the use of paper collation. On that note, this version of the framing nailer is often used for decking, woodworking, siding, framing, and hard lumber applications.

On the other hand, if you need to use nails that have full round heads, and you need to fit into relatively tight spaces, then the 21-degree framing nailer is best. This type of framing nailer is recommended for use with decking, siding, framing, and sheathing applications.

Other Common Framing Nailer Angles

There are two other angles that framing nailers are commonly set to, so let’s take a quick look at both.

15-Degree Framing Nailer

We then also have the 15-degree framing nailer, with the biggest difference being that these are collated with wires, and two wire strips can hold up to 300 nails. These nails have fully rounded heads and are often preferred as far as building codes are concerned. This type of nailer is ideal for corners, wall studs, floor joists, and tight spaces in general.

28-Degree Framing Nailer

There is then also the 28-degree framing nailer, which also uses wire-collated nails, with the nails having either clipped or full round heads. Just keep in mind that 30-degree nailing magazines cannot be used in this nailer. This type of framing nailer is ideal for all types of sheathing and framing.


Now that you know what both the 21-degree and the 30-degree framing nailers are used for, you can make an informed decision between the two.