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Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer

Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer

The Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer is a good representative of what a cordless nailer is all about.  The model we’re looking at here is the CMCN618C1 which is the kit version, coming with the tool, charger, and battery.  It incorporates the features that both the DIYer and the pro will appreciate.  Even pros with a pneumatic nailer for production work will want one for punch list clean-up and for the reasons below.

Cordless brad nailers are a good example of a power tool not only making a job easier, but doing it better.  Without one you have to nail a finish piece by hand.  This requires two hands—one to hold the nail and the other the hammer—leaving none to hold the workpiece.  If you’re nailing small trim you often have to pre-drill a hole, adding another step to the process, and of course you then have to set the nail.  And then the act of nailing a trim piece will often shift the position of that piece, making the resulting work sloppy.  Power nailers solve all these problems and leave a smaller nail hole to boot.

Cordless or pneumatic?

While it’s true that cordless nailers are heavier and a little more cumbersome than pneumatic nailers, this applies only to the nailer tool itself.  Remember that that tool is attached to a somewhat inflexible hose, and that hose it attached to a noisy compressor.  The hose is constantly getting in your way, presents a trip and tangle hazard, will knock over Mrs. McGillicutty’s vase from the mantel, and makes a really aggravating amount of noise.  This last is important if you’re working in an occupied house or office; heck, I don’t even like to listen to a compressor on an outdoor jobsite.

Bottom line is that no one runs compressed air around a jobsite because they want to.  Battery-powered cordless nailers are the choice for most remodeling jobs…in fact, for almost any job except for new construction where Type 4 production finish carpenters are paid by the lineal foot of trim installed.

18 gauge or 16 gauge?

Finish nailers commonly come in 15, 16, 18, and 23 gauge, and as staplers in various gauges.  The most versatile sizes are 16 gauge and 18 gauge, and which of them is the most versatile is a matter of religious debate.  16 gauge advocates are often field carpenters, while 18 gauge advocates are more often shop-based ones.  If I had to choose, I’d cast my lot with the 18 gauge crowd.  18 gauge brads can hold almost anything that 16 or even 15 gauge nails can, and in sub-inch lengths they will do much of the same job as a pin nailer.  I don’t do a lot of woodworking, yet my preference, if I had to choose only one, would be for the 18 gauge tool.

Now for some reason 16 gauge finish nailers are called “finish nailers”, while the only slightly thinner 18  gauge nailers are called “brad nailers”.  I guess the dividing line between nails and brads is at 17 gauge—at least in the power nailer world!


The Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer incorporates these features:

Uses for the Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer

An 18 gauge brad nailer such as this will find use in both the shop and in the field.  In the shop it can fasten pieces of up to, say 1X or 5/4 material, and as small as delicate trim.  I tried using ¾-inch brads with the Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer to hold ½-round trim onto a substrate, and it both worked fine and didn’t split that small trim.

In the field it will be used mostly for fastening finish trim —casings, molding, baseboard, etc. —and here its ability to drive longer brads allows it to do the job effectively.  This particular  Craftsman brad nailer, with its substantial power (see below) is also a good choice for fastening hardwood trim, even to hardwood (for example: oak casing to an oak jamb).

Performance – pros

Power  The Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer has plenty of power.  It easily drove 2-inch brads fully into 4×4 oak.

Line of sight  The line of sight was very good from both the left and right sides, both looking down and up.

Delay  The Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer uses a flywheel to store and deliver power.  The delay after pulling the trigger is maybe 1/3 of a second, which is hardly noticeable.

Empty indicator  While this tool doesn’t have a transparent magazine, there is a slot that allows vision of the last inch or so of the collated brads, so you can see when you’re getting close to running out.  You can only see brads of 1-inch or longer, though.

On/Off switch  There is a recessed power on/off switch in the front of the handle, which is a good safety feature.  Like a safety on a firearm, it should be engaged whenever the tool isn’t in the hand.

Time out  After depressing the tip, the tool will power down and not fire after about 20 seconds if the trigger isn’t pulled.  This is both a good power saving and safety feature.

Recoil  The recoil on the Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer is negligible

Bump fire  There is no bump fire mode on this nailer.  That is both a safety feature and something that’s not, in my opinion, at all important.  On a roofing nailer bump fire is nice; on a brad nailer it’s not important.

Balance/weight  No power nailer is light compared to a hammer, nor as well balanced.  But the same can be said of a circular saw compared to a hand saw.  In both cases the issue is, “is the wright and balance such that the tool is easy to use?”  In the case of the Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer, the answer is “yes”.  Even when nailing above my head, I found it comfortable.

Jam clearing  This nailer incorporates a standard jam-access quick-release lever on the top of the magazine, which you simply snap open to access and clear a jammed brad.

Stall release  A stuck (stalled) driver is different from a brad jam, and this nailer conveniently incorporates a stall release lever.  Many other nailers require a more intricate procedure, usually involving removing the battery.

Performance – could be better

Placement  The no-mar tip on this tool (and its Porter-Cable sister) has consistently been noted as obscuring somewhat the exact placement of the driven brad.  You can learn to make a visual adjustment, but it would be nice if Stanley Black & Decker would just redesign the rubber tip.  You can see below that I’ve put a line of pink paint on the tip to help me better locate the brad placement, and that solves about 50% of the issue.

LED lights  The good news is that there are LED lights on both sides of this tool.  The could be better part is that the light they cast is somewhat obscured by the brad magazine.

Empty lockout  The is no empty magazine lockout on this tool – it will fire even when there are no brads in the magazine.  Not a huge deal, but a would be nice to have.

Finally, the Craftsman V20 cordless 18 gauge brad nailer doesn’t come with a case.  I understand that few tools do these days, but a brad nailer has a nose that needs protection.  It would be nice if there was one available for sale.

Bottom line

I like this brad nailer.  I’m particularly pleased with the generous power it can deliver.  Its pros greatly outweigh its few cons, and it’ll find a lot of use on my project sites.


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