The arrival of Dewalt’s newly updated 16-gauge XR finish nailer could not have come at better time. My co-worker, Bruce Cranston, and I were just one week into a two-month-long interior trim job, giving us the perfect opportunity to put the gun to work. After trying several other styles of cordless trim guns that required gas cartridges over the years, we were excited to try out a fully battery-powered gun that boasts some impressive features.

Performs like a pneumatic

After two months of consistent use and thousands of nails later, we were very happy with how the gun performed. We had no trouble with lack of power coming from the 20-volt lithium ion battery. The gun was able to drive and set nails effortlessly into pine and poplar trim while it was less consistent in setting nails in harder trim like oak. According to the specs, with a fully charged 2Ah battery you can shoot up to 800nails. Although we didn’t keep count, that number seems completely realistic. DeWalt only supplies one battery with this gun, so you need to incorporate charge time into your work schedule. Two batteries would be very helpful especially if you’re going to use this as your main finish nailer. One nice feature on the supplied battery is the gauge; battery level indicator at the press of a button.

We had no problems with jams and misfires when shooting through softer woods and poplar. The gun did jam while firing into oak on a few occasions. But the tool-free jam clearing is fast and easy to use, so these jams didn’t slow us down noticeably. Coming in a 6 lbs, it’s not light, but the ergonomically designed handle and the tool’s balance makes using the gun seem easy and lighter than it really is. The design also allows you to stand the gun up on the battery or its face when you set it down so it’s convenient to grab quickly and keep moving.

Great features, easy to use

The XR comes with a well-designed carrying case, charger, and battery. In addition to the holding the gun, charger, and battery, the case also holds multiple nail boxes. Having room for multiple nail boxes is a nice feature because it allows you to can keep a few different nail sizes with you at all times and in one place.

The gun is easy to load, and holds up to 110 nails at a time. One thing we found disappointing is that the gun will continue to fire even when empty. Unlike pneumatics that will do the same, this cordless nailer doesn’t make a different noise when firing empty. There’s good visibility through openings in the magazine, however, so if you keep an eye on the nails as you work you can train yourself to overcome this minor annoyance.

Changing nail depth can easily be done with a turn of a dial, and we particularly liked the depth gauge that is provided. The depth gauge gives you a clear indication of the depth setting so every adjustment can be monitored easily.

The sequential and bump modes allow for fast and precise nailing, and made using the gun feel very similar to using a pneumatic. Both features are perhaps the most surprising and appreciated features. Most battery-powered nailers have a recovery time after each nail fired, but this gun plays like a pneumatic in that respect. The bump mode is fantastic for tasks like running baseboard, though we found it only made us miss the lack of an “empty” lock-out feature even more. You can run a hundred feet of baseboard without taking your finger off the trigger, but you’ll never know you ran out of nails. The belt clip and work light is also very helpful. Unlike most work lights on tools these days, DeWalt created a headlight-like style that illuminates the area around where you’re working – not just a spot light right over the nail.

Our verdict

Our minor criticism of a lack of lock-out feature and lack of a second battery aside, this tool has become a must-have for us on the job site. The luxury of being hose and compressor free for trim work is priceless. One feature we found as a bonus was the dust-free baseboard installation. In new construction where we do most of our work there’s often enough sheetrock dust on the floor to make using a phneumatic slightly annoying: you either position the exhaust away from you and get blasted with dust on each fire, or you position it away and get a spray of air in your face. With this gun there’s none of that. And, surprisingly, it is not as loud as other cordless nailers we’ve used. In short, we would recommend this product to any trim crew. It is a great gun for window, door and baseboard applications.

Mike Triller and his partner Bruce Cranston are finish carpenters living in Saratoga Springs, NY.

All photos by Chris Ermides