Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com


GMC Model ATFRGK

Pneumatic Framing Nailer

Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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Please note: Since this review was published, Global Machinery Company (GMC) has gone into receivership and is no longer operating. As such, spare parts or technical support cannot be obtained directly through them. Their website at www.gmcompany.com appears to still be available online and offers some product information and manuals but contacting them will receive no reply. Note that OnlineToolReviews.com does not work for GMC, nor do we offer any support or spare parts for their products.

Australian tool company, Global Machinery Company (GMC) are certainly stamping out a name for themselves around the world as a supplier of cost-effective power tools and products for the DIY/budget market. They also do have a professional line of tools designed for trade/industrial use. The company started with basic power tools but have now expanded into many other types of tools and products, including air nailers, garden tools, pressure cleaners and more.

The company has only recently offered a line of air tools as a standard item in their lineup, and today we will take a look at their framing nailer... Let's go!

The ATFRGK Framing Nailer
Firstly, the nailer comes shipped in a black plastic molded case for storage and portability. Inside the case you will find the nail gun (obviously), a small pot of pneumatic tool oil to keep the tool lubricated in use, several hex head keys for adjusting/disassembling the tool, a 1/4"air fitting to attach to your air hose, and the manuals and warranty documentation for the tool. The printed manual is well written and offers instruction on how to use the tool, as well as safety requirements. GMC do have a good reputation for quality product manuals in full color, however, the photos in this particular product manual were very pixelated and not as good as they could have been, making viewing the images difficult. You should be able to get by however, as most functions are explained well enough in the accompanying text.

A framing nailer is a heavy nail gun. Heavy in the sense that this gun type generally fires the larger nails on a construction site or framing project. As its name suggests, it is used mostly for framing tasks. Framing nailers can drive either clipped head or full round head nails, and in some locations, building codes stipulate that full round head nails must be used, whereas in other areas, clipped head nails can be used legally in construction projects. Check with your local building authority before considering purchasing a nail gun for your project(s). The ATFRGK uses the clipped head nail variety. This is because of the magazine's angle to the nail gun's axis of fire. The 34 degree angle dictates the use of clipped head nails, mostly because clipped head nails can be stacked more tightly in a strip of collated nails than can full round head nails, which would need to be more widely spaced, and hence capacity per collated strip is greatly reduced. Nail heads need to be sufficiently separated to ensure proper and safe operation of the tool. Because the ATFRGK uses clipped head 34-degree nails, it can hold up to 100 nails in its magazine, compared to just 64 full round head nails that can be loaded into the Porter Cable FR350A Full Round Head Framing Nailer we have reviewed previously. If your area allows the use of clipped head nails, the opportunity to fire 100 nails before requiring a reload is an obvious advantage over the lower capacity full round head nail guns.

Specifications
We have already mentioned that the ATFRGK framing nailer can take 100, 34-degree clipped head nails in its magazine, but let's detail the specs of those nails. Nail length must be from 50mm - 90mm in length, must be 8-10 gauge, be clipped head and have a nail body (shank) diameter between 2.8mm - 3.8mm. Nail head diameter must be 3mm - 6.5mm. Luckily, most nail gun manufacturers adhere to common nail size standards, so finding nails to use in this nail gun shouldn't be a major issue. GMC doesn't retail their own line of compatible nails, so you need to find a supply that will run with the nailer. Most nails made for other 34 degree nail guns (Bostitch, Senco etc) will work fine with the GMC ATFRGK nailer. Just be sure to check the specs of the nail against those listed in the printed manual. Using the correct nail type is crucial to ensure safe operation and prevent nail jams.

In terms of compressor requirements and operating pressure, the nailer will run off just about any sized compressor with a storage tank, even the small pancake compressors will work fine. This is because air nailers in general use very little air per shot. Naturally, smaller tank compressors will need to cycle more than large tank compressors, but unless you are going to be firing the gun rapidly and constantly, your small compressor will handle it fine, as long as it can reach the operating pressure of between 70-120 PSI. As a benchmark, if you were to fire 40 nails per minute at a compression of 120 PSI, your compressor would need an air output of over 3 CFM to handle that air consumption. Now, 40 nails per minute is a very high rate, and even in commercial and trade use, say for your average house frame construction, firing 40 nails in any minute is very uncommon. Usually you would have perhaps 3 or 4-shot bursts before re-aligning materials, adding materials etc before you make another run of nail driving. That downtime between shots will allow your compressor to catch up without any trouble.

Naturally, you should keep air hose diameter as large as possible, and as short as possible for maximum efficiency in your nailing tasks, however, a 1/4" hose will work just fine in most cases.

The tool has a net weight of 3.9kg. These guns are generally heavy because of their size, so the 3.9kg figure is not out of the ordinary however it is slightly heavier than the PC FR350A we alluded to earlier. The weight does help dampen vibration and recoil in use, but framing nailers will certainly cause user fatigue much faster than your average light brad nail gun.

Tool Build, Features and Use
The most noticeable build feature of the ATFRGK nailer is the magnesium body. Magnesium alloy construction of the main drive chamber is becoming more common with air nailers because it offers the advantage of a lighter weight material which still possesses the strength required to do its job. Using magnesium alloy reduces overall tool weight, delaying the onset of user fatigue.

It is worth noting at this stage that the ATFRGK is labeled as part of GMC's Platinum line of tools. These tools are designed for commercial/trade use and come with a full 2-year warranty for use in that environment.

Before you use the tool for the first time, you need to lubricate it. This involves placing several drops of proper air tool oil directly into the air inlet connector at the base of the handle. When you fire the first few nails, the blast of compressed air will disperse the oil throughout the tool. The tool should be kept well lubricated, usually by placing 2-3 drops of oil in before each use, or if you are using the tool extensively throughout the day, add another couple drops half way through the day. Lack of lubrication will lead to premature wearing and failure of the internal components of the tool, and poor tool performance. A small pot of oil is included which would probably last a week or so of every day use, so grab a large bottle of tool oil to refill the pot when you buy the nail gun. A 1/4" quick connector fitting is supplied with the nail gun, but this may need to be changed to the specific fitting type you use with your air supply.

With appropriate 34 degree clipped head framing nails in hand, loading them into the nailer is a two-step process, as is the case with most framing nailers. The spring loaded nail feeder latch must be pulled back to the bottom of the nail magazine (hardened aluminum) and locked in place using the "nail lock" lever. As you pull the feeder mechanism down, it will automatically engage the nail lock lever. Strips of framing nails can then be inserted into the back side of the nail magazine. Two strips of 50 nails can be loaded to give you the 100 nail magazine capacity. Ensure the strip nails are straight and not bent before you load them in. The Nail Lock lever can then be released, and the feeder latch releases under spring tension back up the magazine to engage the last nail in the strip. As you fire each nail, the feeder mechanism ensures the nail stack is constantly being pushed upward to the driver under the spring tension. It is essentially the same feed "system" as used in most framing nailers, however, the physical mechanisms and nail loading locations do differ in shape and design between nail gun brands/models. I found on the ATFRGK that the feeder latch travel was stiff out of the box. A spray of silicone lubricant (or something similar) into the magazine channels makes a world of difference and the feeder glides up and down the magazine very smoothly afterwards, and also helps the nail strips to move easier too. Be sure the lubricant is applied lightly however and the chamber is not saturated as dampness can weaken the paper collation if you use paper collated strip nails. The magazine itself has a printed Nail Usage indicator strip showing approximately how many nails remain in the magazine. It also features a 305mm reference measure tape (in 1mm increments) which is useful for measuring material thickness or nail length on the job without having to pull out the standard builder's measuring tape.

The main handle features a rubber overmold for slip resistance and user comfort. The trigger is bare metal however, but does feature an extended angled lip on the bottom of the trigger which ensures few troubles with your finger slipping off the trigger or sliding down and off the trigger in use. A standard air exhaust port is found at the rear head of the tool. It rotates through 360 degrees, and can be tightened our loosened via the standard philips-head screw it is secured with. It does not need to be screwed down tight, i.e. you can hold the exhaust port in firm with the screw but still have enough give to rotate it by hand and not move from that position as air is blasted out from the tool. Naturally, the exhaust port removes any additional air not consumed as a result of firing the nail, and since exhausted air under pressure can be dangerous in close proximity to the user, the air exhaust should be directed away from the user or any other nearby persons during use.

In use, framing nailers have much more recoil than smaller brad or finish nailers, and the user should naturally allow the gun to recoil as the tool is fired. You must keep a relatively firm grip on the tool of course to maintain control as it is fired. It's a matter of experience as to how to physically handle/control the nail gun when fired, if you have never used one before. Remember that nail guns can be deadly tools if used incorrectly or carelessly. Always read the instruction manuals supplied in full before use and wear personal protective equipment as instructed. I know I harp on about safety all the time in these reviews, but there is a very valid reason! Your health and safety should have priority over everything else in a project or on a job site. Look after number 1 (that's you) first. You are generally not expendable!

But I digress, in terms of recoil I didn't notice any more recoil in this model nailer than I have experienced with the majority of other framing nailers I have fired/used before that use similar operating pressure ranges.

The GMC ATFRGK nailer features only one listed firing mode, and this is a single fire mode (also known as full sequential actuation). This means you must first depress the spring-loaded safety nose at the front of the tool against the material surface to be nailed, and the depress the trigger once to fire the nail. The nail cannot be fired unless the safety nose has been depressed against the material. There is no "bump fire" mode on the tool. While bump fire mode can be faster to use in trade situations, it is generally considered more dangerous and less accurate than single fire mode. Even if a nailer does feature bump node, I prefer not to use it for those safety reasons I mentioned above, i.e. put your own safety first before anything else. I don't see the few seconds saved using bump fire mode as valuable enough if my safety is even partly jeopardized by using that mode, but again, it is a personal choice. You may have a different opinion.

On the safety nose itself is a removable no-mar tip which helps protect the surface of the material you are nailing, however, these types of nail guns are rarely used on materials that require such protection, so when removed the metal nose exposes teeth-like prongs which depress slightly into the wooden material to help keep the nose from slipping as a nail is driven into the wood surface. Both the no-mar tip and pronged safety nose are fairly standard features on all nail guns.

Depth adjustment on the ATFRGK is a procedure that, unfortunately, requires tools and time to achieve. Unlike higher-priced nailers that have a simple rotatable dial or wheel to control depth adjustment, on the ATFRGK, you must physically move the entire nose piece forward and back for depth adjustment. You must loosen the two hex screws on the depth adjustment plate on top of the tool, move the nose forward/back as required, re-tighten hex screws and then perform a test on scrap material of the same variety in which you plan to nail. If you require further adjustment, you must complete the process over. It may take up to three or four adjustment cycles to find the depth setting you need (trial and error etc) and this process makes it a time consuming task. It must be remembered that this nailer retails for a fair bit less than other "name brand" framers on the market, so some sacrifices have to be made here and there. On the ATFRGK this involved depth adjustment process appears to be that sacrifice.

On the positive side however, in use we found this nail gun to work quite well. Perhaps just a little less comfortable and a little less balanced than the Porter Cable FR350A we have also reviewed on this site, but not a long way behind by any means. The larger 34 degree angle on this tool allows easier toe-nailing for framing than that on the 22-degree Porter Cable model, and if you plan to do a lot of toe-nailing on your framing project, it should be a point to consider carefully. The depth adjustment, while time consuming to initially set, does seem to deliver consistent depth-driven nails, even when air supply falls to the lower end of the scale (70 PSI). We had little trouble driving nails into standard framing materials and into most dense hardwoods.

Conclusion
Fit and finish is not as "clean" as the name brand nailers, but you are paying only AUD$199 for this model compared to up to twice as much (or more) for a top-of-the-line model. In terms of "doing the job" this nailer performed consistently in our tests. The 2-year commercial/trade use warranty offers good insurance for the retail price, but like all air nailers, if you are going to use it on a daily basis, you might want to check it out in person and handle it yourself to see whether you find it comfortable or not in the hand. If you are buying for occasional use, renovating, or a one-off extension, I don't think you can go wrong at this price. While a lot of cheap power tools can't match it with the name brands, my experience is that cheaper air tools are a little more forgiving and can deliver good results and be durable if looked after properly. I'd be fairly happy if this tool delivers an extended working life, but I have 2 years insurance and you would have a 30 day money back guarantee if, in your opinion, you don't think the tool is worth the money you pay for it.

Considering that the price to hire a nail gun for 48 hours is close to half the cost to buy the ATFRGK new, it makes sense to buy rather than to hire because you can then keep the tool as long as you like, and then if you decide you no longer need it, you can sell it to recoup some of your initial investment. It makes sense to buy if you plan to use the nailer for more than a few days and a nail gun like the GMC ATFRGK is priced right for this type of situation, or it provides a reasonable framing nailer option for anyone on a budget.

 

GMC ATFRGK Photos
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The ATFRGK off the shelf.


Full body view.


Plastic moulded case keeps everything together.


Rubber overmold handle and plain metal trigger.


Adjustable air exhaust port.


Here you can see the brass colored nail feeder mechanism, the no-mar tip installed on the nose and the clear plastic safety hood.


Printed nail usage meter and measure tape on the magazine body.


34-degree clipped head, paper collated framing nails used by the ATFRGK framing nailer.

 

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