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Ryobi 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer Review

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Ryobi 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

Ryobi 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer

(c) 2013 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
The Ryobi 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer (Model #P320) is an 18-volt cordless brad nailer that doesn't require an air compressor or an air canister to drive the nails. Instead, the unit uses Ryobi's AirStrike Technology to create enough compression to drive up to a 2-inch 18-gauge nail.

The entire unit, with battery pack and a full load of nails weighs about five pounds, but it is relatively well-balanced enough to allow for easy use over head when installing crown moldings. The unit uses any of Ryobi's One+ battery packs (either Lithium Ion or NiCad), but the battery pack and the charger are sold separately. If you already have other Ryobi One+ tools with a charger and a battery, you can swap out those batteries into the brad nailer as needed, keeping the initial cost of entry into this tool much lower. The package does include the P320 brad nailer, 500 1-1/4 inch nails to get you stared, a belt clip that can be attached to either the left or right side of the base of the nailer and an operator's manual.


Like most comparable brad nailers, the Ryobi 18-Gauge Cordless Brad Nailer has a selectable drive switch that allows for either a single nail with each pull of the trigger, or for a nail to be driven on each depression of the rubber-tipped point. In this latter contact actuated mode, you can drive up to 60 nails per second. Ryobi has positioned a switch at the base of the handle (just above the battery) to allow for an easy change between single-shot and contact actuated modes. No matter which mode you choose to use, Ryobi estimates that you can expect to drive about 700 nails per charge when using one of their high capacity Lithium+ batteries (the manufacturer did not list the number of expected nails per charge on a NiCad battery).

Again, like other brad nailers, the P320 has a toolless drive depth adjustment feature that can be adjusted for any nail length or type of wood (be it hardwood, softwood, plywood, etc.) so that the head of the nail is depressed just below the surface of the wood. A large dial just above the handle on the back of the cylinder allows for easy adjustment - no tools needed. Additionally, the nose of the brad nailer can be popped open by flipping a lever to relieve any jammed fasteners quickly and easily.

The dry lockout feature prevents the tool from being fired if there isn't a nail ready to be driven, which can prevent damage to the tool, and a low nail indicator light shows you when you need to add more nails to the magazine. To add nails, simply push the button on the back of the magazine, slide out the magazine sheath, insert more nails into the base of the magazine and close the sheath.

Using the Ryobi P320 Cordless Brad Nailer

While the battery operation of the nailer (thus eliminating the need for cumbersome air hoses or costly air canisters to drive the nails) is the major feature of this brad nailer, I was truly impressed by some of the features that Ryobi engineers included. First of all, being able to attach the belt clip to either the left or right side of the base of the unit is a convenient touch, allowing easy use by either left-handed or right-handed operators.

Additionally, like many cordless drills, the unit can actually be placed onto a table resting on the base of the battery. While the unit is a bit bottom-heavy in this position, making it a bit unstable when balancing on the battery, it certainly is manageable.

Another feature that I found quite thoughtful is the dual LED lighting system (one LED on each side of the base of the nailer) that illuminates the work surface as you drive a nail. The LED lights are turned on by a small secondary trigger that is mounted directly behind the large main trigger, but in a position where your other fingers wrapped around the padded to support the tool would automatically turn on the light. These dual LED lights serve a second purpose, to indicate when the battery is low on power and needs to be re-charged. When the LED lights flash, remove the battery pack and install a fully-charged pack.

NOTE: If the lights continue to flash, this is indicative of a problem with the tool.


All in all, I was duly impressed with the Ryobi P320 Cordless Brad Nailer. The tool has a very solid feel in hand, and in testing, the unit drove the 1-1/4 inch nails provided with the tool flawlessly. Like many other cordless nailers, it does have a whirring sound that isn't overly bothersome, but that is simply the tool compressing the air. While a five-pound tool isn't something you want to be holding over your head all day long, being free from air hoses, a noisy air compressor or having the added expense of air canisters makes this Ryobi P320 Cordless Brad Nailer a solid choice for installing trim and moldings.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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