Skip to main content

How to Use a Ryobi Brad Nailer for Home Projects

Nolen is a part-time home handyman who has used Ryobi and other brands of 18 gauge brad nailers for several years now.


What Is a Brad Nailer?

Brad nailers are designed to drive 18 gauge collated nails (brads) into wood, plywood, MDF or similar materials. There several types of brad nailers, including electric, cordless pneumatic and air powered brad nailers.

Our favorite kind of brad nailer to use for home projects is a Ryobi Airstrike cordless model. This versatile tool uses patented Airstrike technology, which combines the power of an air powered nailer, with the convenience of a cordless tool. A rechargeable lithium battery pack powers a small piston inside the nailer, which means no cumbersome hoses or air compressor to worry about dragging around. We purchased our Ryobi Airstrike at Home Depot two years ago, and it's performed flawlessly ever since.

Where They Come in Handy

The sort of projects where brad nailers come in very handy include cabinetry, baseboard molding and trim, as well as for outside projects such as decorative fencing or lattice work. Galvanized brad nails are available for such outdoor projects and they're designed to resist corrosion for years.

Loading a Ryobi Cordless Pneumatic Brad Nailer

Choosing the Right Length of Brad Nail

The first step when using any brad nailer is to determine which size brad your project needs. You don't want to drive brad nails into objects beyond the substrate you're nailing into (pipes, wires, etc.) so you only want to use nails which are long enough for each job. Using a measuring tape determine the depth a brad nail will need to be to go through the material you're attaching, while also going about halfway through the next layer that you're attaching it to.

Loading the Nailer

The next step is to load the collated brad nails into the nailer. You'll want to open the nail magazine and place the 18 gauge brads down flat and toward the outer side of the tray, as seen in the photo below.

Brad nails are directional and have a head just like an ordinary nail, though it may be hard to see it. Place the brad nails with the nail head toward the body of the nailer.

Place the collated brads flat and toward the left side, with the head toward the side of the driver.

Place the collated brads flat and toward the left side, with the head toward the side of the driver.

Tips for Using a Ryobi Airstrike Brad Nailer

After you have loaded the right size 18 gauge brad nails into your nailer and have installed a charged battery pack you'll be ready to get started. Be sure to wear eye protection when using any power tool.

Tip: The Ryobi Airstrike models feature a main trigger and also a smaller one just beneath it, which activates a flashlight. You can place your middle finger here first to turn on the light and illuminate the spot being nailed.

Steps for Using a Ryobi Brad Nailer

  1. Wear safety glasses.
  2. Keep fingers, feet or other body parts well out of the way.
  3. Use the second small trigger button to turn on the light to illuminate the area.
  4. Make sure the brad nail will not penetrate anything other than the material you're nailing.
  5. Hold the body of the brad parallel with the material you're nailing, not at an angle.
  6. Depress the tip towards the board, then gently press the trigger.

Caution: Never place your fingers, feet or other body parts behind the area being nailed. With some very soft materials such as cedar, brad nails may be ejected all the way through and travel some distance.

Troubleshooting and Adjusting Pressure

For different materials and sizes of brad nails you may have to adjust the Ryobi Airstrike's air pressure. On the end of the tool, as seen below, is a dial. If your tool isn't driving the brad nail deep enough (leaving an exposed head), you can try turning this dial clockwise for more pressure.

If your nail is being driven too deep, either all the way through the top board, or leaving a deep indentation, turn this knob counterclockwise to reduce pressure.

Be sure to use only as much air pressure as you need for the job, since using too much may cause the nail to drive on through and out of the materials being nailed.

Turn the knob clockwise for more nail driving power.

Turn the knob clockwise for more nail driving power.

Using a Ryobi Pneumatic Brad Nailer for Outdoor Projects

One of the beautiful things about cordless pneumatic brad nailers such as the Ryobi Airstrike is the ability to use them on outdoor projects, such as exterior trim work and crafts. In the photo above we made these small plant shelves on a cedar privacy screen in just a few minutes using our cordless brad nailer. Be sure to use galvanized brads for your outdoor projects, otherwise the nails will rust and your project won't last long!

We love our Ryobi Airstrike brad nailer and use it at least once a week. If you're tired of hitting your fingers while driving tiny finishing nails you might want to consider one of these yourself!

Example of an outdoor project where a cordless pneumatic brad nailer comes in handy.

Example of an outdoor project where a cordless pneumatic brad nailer comes in handy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Nolen Hart