When we frame houses here in the Pacific Northwest, our process for a long time was to glue and nail the subfloor down with ring shanks, then screw everything again right before the finished surfaces were installed. This has worked well for this rainy climate. My first experience with an autofeed screwgun was in 1995. We bought the first model QuikDrive gun, and it was my job after school to screw the subfloors down. Now, more than 20 years later, I've used three popular models, the most recent one being the FastenMaster PAMFast.
When I first started using autofeed screw guns, I really hated that QuikDrive gun. Screws constantly jammed or were left proud of the surface. We replaced that gun with the Grabber SuperDrive. It was a huge upgrade. The square bit in the QuikDrive worked okay, but I found I needed the free bits that came with every box because by the time I got to the end of the box, the bit was stripped. The SuperDrive uses a LOX bit so I didn’t need to replace bits nearly as often. I could typically use a bit for up to about 200 sheets of subfloor.
For us, the downside to using the SuperDrive was that at the time, we had to order fasteners online, which resulted in buying way more than we needed in the short term. This was only a minor inconvenience though. In 2012, the market here was slow, and we started framing for other builders. One builder wanted us to screw the floor down as we laid the sheathing. At that time, our Grabber SuperDrive was broken, so we just bought a new QuikDrive at the local lumberyard. After using it on that house and then on a few more, we stopped using it. It performed better than the first version we had purchased, but was still aggravating because of the bit quality, and it was slow.
Last fall, my brother requested that a rep from FastenMaster come out and demo its new autofeed screwgun, PAMFast. FastenMaster bought the Pam fastening system and rebranded it. After seeing the demo and finding out our lumberyard was going to stock fasteners, we ordered the gun.
Features. The P13KUE comes with a removable extension and a nice hard plastic case about the size of an electric guitar case. You can use fasteners 1-3” in length and with the extension on, it is 42” long. I love how lightweight it is, at 6lbs. It maxes out at 2,500 rpm.
FastenMaster has a wide assortment of fasteners to go with this gun. I ordered 2” “traditional OSB and Plywood” subfloor fasteners.
Performance. We use Max high pressure coil nail guns for framing and shooting down sheathing. We love these guns because they are smaller and lighter than conventional coil nailers due to the high pressure (we run about 300 psi). But in the winter these guns freeze up quickly and so become a limiting factor in installing subfloor.
The first day I pulled the PAMFast gun out, it was in the uppers 20s; we decided to just screw the subfloor down instead of nailing it. We had about 25 sheets of subfloor down and tacked when I started screwing it off. I was able to catch up and stay even with two framers as they glued and laid the rest of the subfloor.
Now I have used screw guns for 20 years and this gun right out of the gate was faster than either the QuikDrive or the SuperDrive. While the QuikDrive can be ordered with a 3,500-rpm motor, the PAMFast gun was faster for two reasons: one, it never jammed on me and only left an odd screw here or there proud, and two, the screw design seems to allow it to drive quicker. I haven’t directly used it against the Grabber SuperDrive, but it seemed faster to me.
It only took me a minute to dial in the depth when setting the gun up. The tool allows for adjustments in 1/64 increments; I like to set it so that it drives the screw head just below the surface. I posted a video that first day to Instagram the day we started using it, and a number of framers commented on how fast they, too, found the gun to be.
I have since driven more than 20,000 fasteners with this gun and I’m still on the original bit; each box of 1,000 comes with a bit so I have quite the stockpile. With the QuikDrive I could run about 2,000 screws before having to replace the bit; with the SuperDrive I could run about 10,000.
The bit shape on the PAMFast seems to prevent wearing. The LOX-style bit on the SuperDrive is good too, but does wear faster. The square drive on the QuikDrive wears very fast with fewer contact points.
When I first got the PAMFast gun, Amazon had it for $450 but it appears to be hard to find online now so check with your local lumberyard or tool supplier. Amazon was selling the SuperDrive for $400, but it too isn't readily available online. Amazon sells the QuikDrive for $299.
The QuikDrive is much less expensive than both guns, though you have to factor in downtime for bit changes and proud screws, as well as drive-speed. In my experience, this gun isn't the best option for the production-style framing that we do because it just doesn't keep up with the pace at which we work.
The SuperDrive is about $50 less expensive than the PAMFast gun, but doesn’t come with a hard case, fasteners take a little longer to arrive, and the boxes don’t come with bits. But this was a very good gun for a long time for us, so I have no problem recommending it if your budget is tight or if SuperDrive system and fasteners are more readily available in your area.
I have no reservations about recommending the PAMFast gun. I found it to be felt solid, reliable, and easy to adjust. And it is crazy-fast, which is good for a production crew like ours.