The humble old hammer is certainly becoming more redundant every day. I'm
trying to think back to when I actually used it last to drive a nail. Most
of its use in my shop nowadays is as a claw to remove old nails from
boards or from old constructions or old furniture. Nothing can replace the
satisfaction of hand driving nails into wood. It's almost relaxing, as
long as you don't hit your thumb instead. Tools and tool technology's
advance cannot be stopped however, and in the modern world of
construction, we are showered with nail guns of all shapes and sizes. From
headless pinners, brad nailers, air staplers, framing to full round-head
nail guns, there is a nailer to suit almost any task.
The primary purpose of a nail gun is not only to make the operator's task
much easier, with less effort, but they save a ton of time in the process,
and time is what most of us have less and less of these days. The downside
to these benefits is that the use of nail guns is substantially more
dangerous than the old human-powered whacker, but with careful use and a
healthy respect for the tool, nail guns can be just as safe as any other
method of driving fasteners.
Today we are looking at one of the bigger nail guns in the pneumatic air
driving tool range, the coil nailer, and Porter Cable is the brand we
managed to get our hands on for this review. So let's put it through its
paces, find out what nifty features it has, and most importantly, how we
thought it performed during our tests, and in general use.
Porter Cable COIL250 Coil Nailer
The COIL250 model is the one we are reviewing today. It is marketed
frequently as a nail gun for 'fencing' but can be used in many other tasks
where full round head nails are warranted, or desired. That brings us to
our first tool feature... the full round head nail is exactly that - the
head of the nail features a full round (circular) head, very much like
common nails you would drive with a hammer. Many finish and framing nailers use clipped head (half moon shape) nails, and while these work
fine in most cases, there are certain parts of the world, and states
within countries where local building codes require the use of full head
nails in specific types of construction. Coil nailers, by virtue of how
coil nails are packaged and supplied in wire collated form, allow hot
dipped galvanized type fasteners to be used in the nailer. These are
especially useful for tasks and tropical environments where heat, salt
air, high humidity and moisture play a factor. These type of nails provide
a much higher resistance to corrosion and eventual failure. You can also
get stainless steel nails!
Features & Use
The COIL250 shipped in a plastic carry case with the nail gun, user
manual and a small container of oil. I like to keep air tool cases solely
for the purpose of keeping dust off the tools and reducing the chance of
dust and other contaminants entering inside the nail gun where they can
cause damage. The COIL250 does come with a inlet cover attached to stop
dust entering the air inlet. The user manual provides the standard safety and
basic operating instructions for the user. Read them, abide by them, and
don't get too complacent with any power tool. There have been some very
serious accidents involving nail guns in the past.
Ok let's start at the air
inlet area of the COIL250. The nail gun will accept any 1/4" male fitting
as required for your air supply. It comes fitted with what I call a "ChargeAir"
type quick connector fitting, although it may be referred to by other
names elsewhere. This was good because this is the same style I use on my
compressor and with other air tools, so I had no need to apply, or replace any
fittings to get going. There is a friendly 'engraved' reminder at the air
tool inlet to "OIL DAILY". You should follow those words of advice if you
use the tool on a daily basis and add in about half a dozen drops of
tool oil' if you are going to be shooting plenty of nails. If you use it
only occasionally then you can just add some oil before each use. You add
the oil direct into the air inlet. The force of the compressed air that
travels through the tool when it is fired will disperse the oil throughout
the tool and keep all the seals, O-rings and mechanisms well lubed.
The COIL250 operates on a supply pressure of between 70-120 PSI. You may
or may not need to regulate your supply, depending on your compressor. My
2HP, 6 gallon unit fills to 120PSI, and kicks back in once supply drops
under 80PSI, so I do not need any additional pressure regulation to use the COIL250.
Actual air usage is small in comparison to other types of air tools. I can
fire three of four dozen nails before my compressor cycles over. If you
have a larger tank, naturally, you can fire many more before a refill is
Moving up to the handle, it is barrel-shaped (as most nail gun
handles are) and wrapped with a rubber overmold grip, another standard
feature on most nail and staple guns. This provides extra grip and
prevents your hand slipping in use.
Next we come across the trigger which is all-metal design. I love the
rubber overmold trigger on the Senco 41XP finish nailer we reviewed in the
past, but the trigger on
this COIL250 works just fine and is comfortable to use. It operates in
accordance with the safety release on the front of the tool. You must
press the safety release against your workpiece before the trigger becomes
active and can fire a nail, however, it also works in reverse, and if you
have the trigger depressed and then 'bump' the safety release on the
workpiece, it will also fire a nail. This is often called 'bump fire'
mode. I have never been comfortable with bump firing, even for the sake of
saving time. The risks are much greater than standard single trigger pull
per nail mode in my opinion, and often the nailing is not as accurate. A Restrictive Fire Trigger (which does not
allow bump firing mode) is available from Porter Cable free of charge if
you wish to limit the tool to normal trigger firing action only. You need
to call Porter Cable to order this.
Moving up the tool we find the main head housing which is of light-weight
aluminum construction. Total tool weight is around 6 lbs (2.7kg), so it
does have a bit of weight to it giving it a durable feel, but is lighter
than other brands on the market. Naturally, if
you carry this tool around all day and use it frequently, some
user-fatigue will set in. When you hold the tool horizontal, there is
quite a forward weight bias that wants to tip the front/nose of the tool
forward and down. This does place some strain on the wrist over prolonged
use. When held vertically, i.e. with the nose pointing upward, this front
weighted bias is not as evident, indicating the tool is reasonably well balanced
vertically and would not pose such a large strain for overhead nailing
tasks, although you are battling directly with gravity in this situation.
At the rear of the main housing is the air exhaust port. It is adjustable
to a wide variety of angles, and there are seven pre-set detents which are
locked in by a small spring loaded ball-bearing at the lower edge. This
exhaust port can be moved around without the use of additional tools. Exhausted air
can pose a health risk and cause damage to body parts, particularly damage
to the eyes if high pressure air and its contaminants are blasted into the
eye. It goes without saying that quality eye protection should be used at
all times especially since those nails can be traveling up to 5.0 m/sec.
Ear protection is also required with this tool. It blasts out a weighted
sound impulse of 101 decibels, according to the manual, with an average
emission sound pressure of 88 decibels.
Moving to the nose of the tool we come across the clear plastic nose
shield, trigger release safety catch, nail drive shaft and depth
adjustment knob. This is the dangerous end of the tool and no adjustment
should be made to this area with the air supply attached. The safety
release comes equipped with a no-mar rubber tip. This helps prevent
marking/denting of the workpiece. After some work on rough fencing timber,
it tends to get a little chewed up, but replacements are available if
needed. It is not an essential component if you are working on fences or
projects where a little dent or mark is not a problem. Most tasks this
nail gun will be used for do fall under that category. The depth
adjustment control is on the rear/outside face of the tool (if you use it
right handed) and is a small wheel with detent positions to modify drive
depth. A simple turn of the wheel to the next detent either drives a nail
further into your material, or backs off the depth so it doesn't drive the
nail as far. You may need to change this for varying material density, but
I found results were fairly consistent over most materials often requiring
only a single initial depth adjustment in most cases.
Unlock and Load!
We may as well describe the nail loading process and features now as
we move down toward the magazine. Now, the COIL250 will take standard
15-degree wire collated nails with lengths from 1 1/2" up to 2 1/2" and
0.99" to .120" in width. Such nails are available widely and most hardware
stores or stores selling pneumatic tools will stock them. Nails are
available in many types and styles from plain shank to ring shank and even
stainless steel nails for the ultimate protection from rust and corrosion.
The magazine can hold 225-300 collated nails, which is quite a reasonable
capacity and will mean less downtime with nail reloading. The magazine
itself is of hard plastic construction and has an adjustable nail spacer
detents that can raise and lower to better hold nails of varying lengths.
Length indicators are marked on the inside of the magazine and you can
lift and rotate the spring loaded adjustable magazine nail support to hold
nails securely in the magazine. To release the magazine cover you pull
open the latch above the nail feeder which releases the magazine cover.
You then place the coil of nails over the center rod on the spacer in the
middle of the magazine and
then unwind the nails off the coil to place in the nail feeder mechanism,
with the heads of the nails located in the nail head track. The second
nail in the chain is pushed into the feeder bracket (double-cam design) so
the first nail lays in the drive shaft ready to be fired. When this is
done, close the magazine cover and drop the feeder cover and lock back in
place. The nails are now loaded and ready to be fired once your air supply
is attached. This same action of exposing the nail feeder also allows you
direct access to the nail drive shaft to clear any jams. We have yet to
suffer a nail jam with the COIL250.
There is no indicator to tell when your nail supply has run dry on this
tool, however, it is not really needed as you can directly see the nail
supply up near the nail feeder without obstruction, and because full round
head nails are pretty easy to see, you will soon know if the magazine is
Use, Tests and Results
Since this is a fencing nailer, and I had a need to re-do some fence
around the house, I started with this task. We were fixing standard
treated pine palings with hot dipped galvanized nails. Results were good
with a consistent depth of drive being achieved throughout the process. I
suffered a bit of wrist fatigue after an hour or so nailing, but this is
probably to be expected given the weight of coil nailing guns. I would
certainly expect much more user fatigue had I needed to nail each paling with
the trusty old hammer, so I'm definitely not complaining about the user
fatigue issue or the time I saved using the COIL250 to re-fix warped or
old palings on the
fence. Next I tested the nail gun on some general framing work with some
stud material scraps I have floating around the shop. Again no problems
and consistent results driving both with the grain and across it. I then
tested the gun with some general driving into scrap, dense hardwoods to
check consistency results. After an adjustment to the drive depth with
some Merbau and Ipe, the nail gun worked a treat, even in fast bump firing
mode. You can also see an image in the right column where we tested the
depth of drive adjustment feature showing positive results.
My brother-in-law then borrowed the COIL250 to repair his own fence and
then asked to buy it off me! Naturally, I said no. Who is going to give up
a nice big nail gun? Not me! He was also very happy with the performance
of the tool. As a builder he also borrowed it to secure siding/shingles
and nailed through cement fiber boards with good success.
Because of the size and weight of the tool, you can expect a bit of recoil
after driving a nail, and this is exacerbated slightly in dense woods. The
recoil is quite manageable and I expected it to be of the magnitude that
it delivered. Certainly no worse than any other coil nailer I have looked
at previously - about average in this regard.
The COIL250 comes with a 12-month parts and service warranty. It is
constructed in Taiwan to Porter Cable's specifications and is geared for
heavy duty/professional use. Overall, I would have to say the Porter Cable
COIL250 is a pretty solid nail gun which performed as expected. We
experienced no obvious faults with the tool during use and testing.
Adjustment features are all user-friendly and easy to manipulate without
tools. If a tool offers frustration free and reliable use, for me, that is
a big selling point, and the COIL250 delivers on these aspects.
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