What’s the Best Air Compressor for a Nail Gun? (2022)

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A small, portable air compressor won’t split or polish pine, but it is one of the most functional tools you will ever have if you want to power a nail gun. It can support a wide range of pneumatic nailers that are applicable at home, on-site, and in the workshop. Many users prefer small compressors chiefly for affordability and ease of transportation/storage reasons.

But there is more to a small air compressor

Indeed, we receive many questions on what size air compressor you need for nail guns. So before we deep dive into the best air compressors for nail guns, we wish to address some of these questions.

Why portable air compressors are best for nail guns

Compressed air can be needed in hard-to-reach areas for renovation works, powering air tools and similar applications. Pneumatic nail guns are intermittent tools that don’t need a continuous supply of air. You only need busts of air to push nails into the frame. In other words, all you need is a compressor that can deliver about 2CFM and that has a tank capacity of between 1 and 6 gallons. This is why portable compressors are the best solution. 

As we mentioned above, due to the smaller tank capacity, portable compressors are easy to store and transport. They are also typically affordable. For the contractor or homesteader, there is no better combination of factors than these.

So whether you want to power a finish nailer, pin nailer or framing nailer, a portable compressor is all you need.

What size air compressor do I need for a nail gun?

We often meet people who assess the size of a compressor’s potential in terms of physical size. The best approach is to look at the amount of air delivered, which is given in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM).

An air compressor with a low CFM rating is made for small tools and tire inflation. Sanders and grinders demand higher ratings. Nail guns (including a finish nailer) generally require a little CFM rating. Most small portable air compressors can provide this volume of air provided they are connected to one nail gun.

Expert tip: All you need to do to determine the size of the air compressor you need for a nail gun is to find two parameters: CFM of the compressor and air consumption per cycle. Divide the latter by the former; you will get the approximate nail drives per minute. The result will tell you if the air compressor is suitable for the performance you need from the nail gun.

For more detail on size, see our comprehensive article What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

How can you understand the correct psi requirement of your nailing gun?

When searching for the best size of air compressor for a nailing project, two parameters are the most important to consider: CFM and PSI.

Most nail guns are rated within the range of 60 and 120 PSI. Most compressors have those specs. That’s why unless it is necessary; you shouldn’t bother too much about PSI when looking for the best air compressor for nail guns. Rather, you should focus on the second parameter; CFM.

That said, it is important to mention that the CFM and PSI ratings of the compressor should not be lower than the nailer requirements. If the unit can’t meet the requirements, the nail gun may not work properly. Not even an increase in air pressure output from the compressor can solve this problem. If you intend to use other pneumatic tools alongside the nail gun, ensure that the compressor can support the entire load.

For more information on PSI, see our article What PSI Air Compressor Do I Need?

What are the things to look for when buying an air compressor for your pneumatic nail guns?

To add to the requirements discussed above, the application of the nail gun is an essential consideration. Where do you intend to use the nail gun? Is it for flooring, roofing or framing? Usually, this question is a matter of whether the project is indoors or outdoors. If you are working indoors, you need a quieter alternative. Portability and physical size matter too, so watch out for them too.  

Finding a lightweight compressor is not easy, but some units are more portable than others are. For larger models, the inclusion of sturdy wheels and ergonomic handles can be the deal-breaker for some buyers.

With this information, all that is left is to determine how fast you intend to use your nailer. A nailing job in a construction site may need a little more juice because there could be larger tools or simultaneous use of several tools.

Such are the considerations we made when choosing the items we have discussed in this article. We’ll now present our picks for the best small air compressors for nail guns in different categories.

Comparison Table of The Best Air Compressors for Nail Guns

Category Image Product Summary
Best Air Compressor for Brad Nailers CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 2 Gallon Portable Air Compressor, Twin Tank, 1/3 HP Oil-Free Max 125 PSI Pressure, Model: CMXECXA0220242, Red Maintenance-free, super-quiet, compact
Best Air Compressor for Floor Nailer Craftsman Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K) Craftsman Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K) Sufficient capacity, maintenance-free
Best Air Compressor for Framing Nailers California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal Oil-free, sizeable tank, faster refill
Best Air Compressor for Roofing Nailer HPDAVV Oil-Less Portable Air Compressor HPDAVV Oil-Less Portable Air Compressor – Duel Outlet – 110V/650W/6.5A – 4cfm @ 125psi – 2Gal Tank – 42lbs Light Weight – 56dB Ultra Quiet Garage Tool Super-quiet, maintenance-free
Best Portable Air Compressor for Nail Guns BOSTITCH Air Compressor (CAP1512-OF) BOSTITCH Air Compressor for Trim, Oil-Free, High-Output, 1.2 Gallon, 120 PSI (CAP1512-OF) Easy start-up, portable, suitable for rough applications
Best Air Compressor and Nail Gun Combo DEWALT Air Compressor Combo Kit with Brad Nailer (DWC1KIT-B) DEWALT Air Compressor Combo Kit with Brad Nailer (DWC1KIT-B) Refills quickly, has long running time, quiet, low-maintenance
Best small air compressor for nail gun Craftsman CMXECXA0200141A , Red Craftsman 1.5 Gallon 3/4hp air compressor, Max 135 PSI, 1.5 CFM@90psi, Oil Free Air Tank, Electric Air Tool, CMXECXA0200141A , Red Small and compact, fast pressure buildup, suits home projects

The 7 best Air Compressors for Nail Guns 

Best Air Compressor for Brad Nailers

Using the brad nailer is common in home renovations and construction projects. The brad nailer comes in handy for driving brad nails into trimmings for doors and walls. The tool could also help in other parts of the construction where the visual intrusiveness of common nails is a concern.

Most brad nailers are small and lightweight, so you can expect the small air compressors’ requirements to be less demanding. We recommend the CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor, 2 Gallon Portable Air Compressor, Twin Tank, 1/3 HP Oil-Free Max 125 PSI Pressure, Model: CMXECXA0220242, Red.

This 2-gallon air compressor is exactly what you need for your nailing tasks.  If the job will require you to move from one site to another, this product is designed with such scenarios in mind. It is lightweight and comes with a convenient handle that is reinforced with sturdy rubber.

The compressor is also powerful, as it is capable of delivering up to 150 PSI. It can comfortably run brad nailers. Alongside this power, the product offers 0.5CFM@90PSI, which is good enough for this type of nailer.

Another attractive quality of this compressor is the oil-free pump, which indicates zero maintenance. For lazy users like us, this point makes the compressor even more worthy of investment. See our article What Is Air Compressor Oil for more information on this.

The CRAFTSMAN CMXECXA0220242 does not stop there; it offers long-running.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 14.56 x 13.18 x 16.14

Weight:  22. 82 Lbs

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oil-Free

Capacity: 2 gallons

Power Source: Corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 1/3

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 150

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 0. 5 CFM@90PSI

Noise Rating: 78

Package Includes: 1x Air compressor, 1 x Air filter, 1 x 6 Feet power cord, 1 x Quick coupler, 1 x Ball valve,

Warranty: 1 Year Manufacturer and Distributer Limited Warranty

Pros

  • Super quiet
  • Compact
  • Great portability
  • Maintenance-free

Cons

  • Too small-unsuitable for heavy applications

 

Best Air Compressor for Floor Nailer

Power is an essential consideration when buying a floor nailer. Although this tool incorporates a hammer, its power requirements are much lower compared to a manual floor nailer. Muscular guys had better be careful when using it because exerting too much pressure may only mean frequent trips to the repair guy. The driver head doesn’t need excess hitting.

The exact pressure required for a floor nailer can vary for several reasons:

  • Hose length
  • The thickness of the floor
  • Type of wood
  • Whether using cleats or staples

For the most satisfactory performance when installing your floor, we recommend  Craftsman Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K).

Craftsman Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free with 13 Piece Accessory Kit (CMEC6150K)

This pancake compressor is powerful, portable, durable and easy to use. It is one of the most exciting models from the leading US manufacturer. Its decent 150 PSI capacity ensures admirable performance on a heavy-duty application such as floor installation.

This item is well-built with portability features. Most notable is the pancake air compressor design tank that can accommodate up to 150 PSI of pressure. The design is a huge plus for portability- you can take this product anywhere around the home or job site, making perfect as an air compressor for your home shop. Talking of 150 PSI, the craftsman CMEC6150K has sufficient cut-in pressure. It has good pressure for an array of applications. So connecting multiple floor nailers will not cause trouble.

In terms of durability, this nailer exceeds the expectations of many reviewers. It comes with a maintenance-free pump. The other components are also sturdy.

Compared to the predecessor, the craftsman CMEC6150K pancake compressor has a quicker recovery time. The secret to this is the 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI rating.

Then there is the 13-piece accessory kit that is also attractive to many users. Some of the items in the kit are inflator adaptors, PVC airhose, and blow gun. With this capability of the pancake air compressor and the accompanying accessories, you can perform many other tasks apart from nailing.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 16.5 x 16.5 x 17.88

Weight:  ‎ 32.5 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 6 gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower):

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 150 bars

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI

Noise Rating: ‎

Package Includes: 1 air compressor plus accessories

Warranty: ‎ 1-year limited warranty

Pros

  • Maintenance-free
  • Value for money
  • Sufficient capacity

Cons

  • Vibrations and noise
  • Quality control issues

 

Best Air Compressor for Framing Nailer

Framing nail guns are visible in many wood projects including fencing, framing, and deck work. So obviously, this will require some good amount of power from the air compressor.

Starting with the CFM requirement, there is a minimum of this value for every nailer. From generalized charts, a typical framing nailer requires about 4CFM for a 4-6 gallon compressor.

If you choose to stick to portable air compressors, you will most likely limit yourself to between 2 and 20 gallons. If your project is in a remote area, you might need a bigger compressor. A 4-gallon air compressor is perfect for indoor jobs. Consider at least 6 gallons if you intend to take your jobs outdoors. 

The California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor suits the requirements of a typical framing nail gun. It is powerful and maintenance-free, has a solid tank capacity, and is highly portable. California Air Tools is renowned for the manufacture of ultra-quiet air compressors. We see this feature in the California Air Tools 8010A too.

California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor

At the center of this product is the powerful 1.0 hp air compressor motor, which operates at 1680 RPM for less noise and less wear. For minimal operational costs, the air compressor features an oil-free pump that minimizes messes and spills.  The pump and motor are impressive in the way they manage to refill the unit and recover pressure within seconds.

Oil-free pump systems are highly regarded in the compressor world because they are pre-lubricated by the manufacturer. Apart from the resulting low-maintenance costs, air compressors with this feature deliver cleaner air that is suitable for nail guns. If you will be using this compressor for occasional or light frame nailing, it should work perfectly.  The manufacturer says one should expect over 3,000 usage hours, which is much higher than what comparable units give.

The compressor is small-sized and relatively lightweight at ‎37.2 pounds. It comes with a decent tank size of 8 gallons. The company designed this air compressor to be both small-sized and ultra-quiet. It produces a paltry 60 decibels, making it one of the quietest air compressors in the market today. If you need to use framing nailers indoors, this could be an important attribute.

You may use this air compressor with other pneumatic tools apart from the framing nailers.  It is a wonderful product that offers good value for money.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 26 x 14 x 23

Weight:  ‎37.2 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 8 gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 2

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 120

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: ‎60 dB

Package Includes: 1 air compressor

Warranty: ‎1 Year Limited Warranty

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Quiet operation
  • Big tank
  • Fast refill time
  • Portable

Cons

  • Handle could be sturdier

 

Best Air Compressor for Roofing Nailer

When choosing the best air compressor for a roofing nail gun, it is important to determine the number of tools you are planning to use. If there will be several roofers on the project, you’ll need to get a bigger air compressor. For instance, if you will be using four roofing nailers, a 2-gallon compressor may be too small. Two or three roofers need at least 6 gallons.

Alongside tank size, consider the amount of CFM delivered. You need an air compressor that recovers quickly because the last thing you would wish for is to spend hours sitting on the roof as you wait for the unit to recharge.

We suggest the HPDAVV Oil-Less Portable Air Compressor – Duel Outlet – 110V/650W/6.5A – 4cfm @ 125psi – 2Gal Tank – 42lbs Light Weight – 56dB Ultra Quiet Garage Tool for this category.

HPDAVV Oil-Less Portable Air Compressor

Roofing jobs are as demanding as flooring and framing ones. That’s why this powerful air compressor is a fit for roofing nailers. A portable design characterized by a complete roll-cage construction makes transport easy. It is also effective in protecting the critical components of the compressor no matter where the job or store is. The 42 lb. weight and compact design also enhance portability.

Use it with your roofing nailers for indoor roofing jobs without worry because it is extremely quiet. The manufacturer rates it at 56 dba, which is quieter than comparable units. While it offers superior performance, it has an oil-free pump, so it is also durable.

If you desire a flexible and powerful air compressor for your roofing projects, then we would recommend this unit.  It can offer 50% extra runtime thanks to the 125 PSI pressure and 3.9 CFM flow rate. You can run multiple framing nailers simultaneously thanks to the two quick disconnect coupler in 1/4inch. If you happen to divert to some other tasks during your roofing installation task, you don’t necessarily have to switch to another air compressor. This HPDAVV oil-less portable air compressor can also support bolting, painting, cleaning and inflation tools.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 17.7 x 17.3 x 16.1

Weight:  46.2 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free:  oil-free

Capacity: 2 gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 0.9

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 125

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 4

Noise Rating: 56 Db

Package Includes: 1 air compressor

Warranty:

Pros

  • Super quiet
  • Maintenance-free

Cons

  • Poor quality plug

 

Best Portable Air Compressor for Nail Guns

Portable air compressors have a big quality of allowing the user to power the nail gun anywhere anytime. Depending on the size of your project, you have many tank sizes to choose from. Small tanks are okay if your job is simple and likely to last a short time.

Although all the items on this list are largely portable, our choice in this category is the BOSTITCH Air Compressor for Trim, Oil-Free, High-Output, 1.2 Gallon, 120 PSI (CAP1512-OF). How would you like a unit with 150 max PSI and a 2.8 SCFM* @ 90 PSI pump? We present to you one of the best products from BOSTITCH that has all the qualities you may need in a portable air compressor for nail gun.

BOSTITCH Air Compressor (CAP1512-OF)

This air compressor may be designed for part-load applications, but the portability qualities overshadow this shortcoming.  It will perform well in light-duty nailing tasks. It is a maintenance-free air compressor that is easy to use.

Its performance is admirable, with a 12-amp 1.5hp motor running the show. The motor is easy to start even in bad weather, so circuit tripping is unlikely to be an issue. BOSTITCH put some good work in designing against overheating or malfunctioning.

It comes with non-marring rubber feet – there is little chance of wearing out no matter the type of ground they are in contact with. On safety, we like several inbuilt features including the LED On/Off and Control Panel that counters low-pressure misfires and gauge damage respectively. 

Being compact and weighing in at only 24 pounds, this air compressor can be a valuable tool for your remote tasks. The roll cage doubles as an ergonomic handle and protection of gauges. To add to portability, this product features an onboard storage pocket for tools and cord wrap.

We recommend this air compressor for your light jobs both at home and remotely. You wouldn’t have to worry about misfires because the LED power switch warns you. As you work, the compressor sits steadily on the ground thanks to the no-marring rubber feet.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 17 x 13 x 11

Weight:  23.5 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 1.2 gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 2

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 150

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.8 SCFM*@ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: Average level

Package Includes: 1 air compressor

Warranty: ‎1 Year Limited

Pros

  • Suitable for rough applications
  • Portable
  • Low price
  • Easy start up

Cons

  • Packing a little bit wanting
  • Relatively loud

 

Best Air Compressor & Nail Gun Combo

You may be wondering why you need the best nail gun compressor combo when you can just buy the tool and compressor separately. What we have discovered is that combo units tend to be more affordable than buying each component separately. So getting the kit can save you some money.

However, it is possible to land a poor-quality nail gun compressor combo if you lack proper knowledge of what to look for. To clear this confusion, we will go straight to our recommendation for the best air compressor and nail gun combo.

The DEWALT Air Compressor Combo Kit with Brad Nailer (DWC1KIT-B) is our top pick in this category. This set is ideal for a wide range of projects for not only the do-it-yourself category of users but also renovation pros. The combo unit is made up of a DWFP12231 18 ga Brad Nailer, air hose with fittings, a DWFP55126 Compressor, an owner’s manual, and sample fasteners.

DEWALT Air Compressor Combo Kit with Brad Nailer (DWC1KIT-B)

One thing you will appreciate about the air compressor nail gun combo is the number of handy features it contains. A tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment, tool-free jam release, and a removable non-marring nose tip are just examples. The jam release mechanism is particularly a good one because it makes the removal of jammed nails easy.

The portability and flexibility of this air compressor for nail guns are on another level. A weight of 37.2 pounds is quite modest for most users, so there is no stress in handling any kind of nailing job. First off, this product is made of magnesium, so working on those lengthy projects is not going to be a worry.

The nailer itself is applicable for many jobs including fencing and flooring. Other than that, it is low-maintenance and has a rear exhaust for keeping contaminants at bay.

As for the air compressor, quick recovery and long runtime are guaranteed, thanks to the 165 -PSI storage of the 6-gallon tank and the 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI delivery. The compressor has a low 10 Amp draw motor that starts easily even in cold weather. Use it for your indoor projects without worry because it produces only 75.5 decibels.

Every pneumatic tool requires some level of maintenance, so it is also worthwhile to note that the DEWALT Air Compressor Combo Kit with Brad Nailer is easy to dismantle for repairs. The protective cover is easy to remove for this task.

Last but not least, this air compressor nail gun combo incorporates a lightweight PVC hose that doesn’t kink or twist. This is the crowning of the portable air compressor for nail guns.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 20 x 17 x 19.5

Weight:  ‎37.2 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 6 gallons

Power Source: corded-electric

HP (Horsepower):

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 165

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 75.5 Decibels

Package Includes: (1) DWFP12231 18 ga Brad Nailer, (1) DWFP55126 Compressor, Air hose with fittings, sample fasteners, and owner’s manual.

Warranty: 1-year limited warranty

Pros

  • Refills quickly
  • Long running time
  • Quiet
  • Low-maintenance

Cons

  • Could be more portable

 

Best Small Air Compressor for Nail Gun

A nagging question when searching for an air compressor for a nail gun is “What size air compressor is big enough?” Sometimes, having a small air compressor is enough if you are more into less demanding jobs. Many small air compressors are good partners with low-demand nail guns.

Still, you will need to be keen on various requirements, starting with the cfm. This feature shows how fast the compressor can deliver air. If your small air compressor delivers air slower than the nail gun swallows it, then there is a problem. Since most manufacturers test their air compressors at the standard 90 psi, cfm numbers are good for an apples-to-apples comparison.

Also important is the tank size. A smaller air compressor holds less air because its tank is smaller. Since we expect you to use the device on a small job, we bet this isn’t much of a worry. But remember it is good to know the specifics of your job because there is a tank for almost any requirement. You can find a tank as small as 1 gallon.

We suggest you pick the Craftsman 1.5 Gallon 3/4 HP Portable Air Compressor, Max 135 PSI, 1.5 CFM@90psi, Oil-Free Air Tank, Electric Air Tool, CMXECXA0200141A , Red to take care of your small-scale nailing projects.

Craftsman CMXECXA0200141A , Red

Craftsman is a renowned brand with several world-beating air compressors, so we couldn’t have this list complete without a product from the company. The Craftsman CMXECXA0200141A has many qualities that users want in a small air compressor for nail guns.

The lighter weight and small dimensions of the item make it highly portable. One person will enjoy carrying this compressor around, especially considering it has an easy design characterized by an ergonomic handle.

Apart from being portable at a weight of just 24 pounds, the CMXECXA0200141A is comfortable to use. Its noise rating may approach 87 dB, but the compactness and simple operation are user-friendly. For users in the United States, the standard quick coupler ensures compatibility of the compressor with many standard air tool accessories.

This Craftsman product gives fast recovery time thanks to its 1.5CFM@90psi rating. Of course, this is nowhere near the most powerful options in the market, but it is adequate for most small jobs that a contractor or homeowner may need to handle. The 1.5-gallon tank and 3/4 hp air compressor motor also imply that this product is best suited for small nailing jobs. This air compressor starts effortlessly, even in bad weather conditions.

The icing on the cake is the fact that the compressor doesn’t require much maintenance. With the Q235b steel housing structure and oil-free pump, you can expect to use this item for a long time without hitches.

Compressor Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 11.5 x 16.3 x 16.8

Weight:  24.1 Lb.

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 1.5 gallons

Power Source: corded electric

HP (Horsepower): 3/4 HP          

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 135

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 1.5CFM@90psi

Noise Rating: 87 decibels

Package Includes: ‎1 x 6 feet power cord, 1 x ball valve, 1 x user manual, 1 x air compressor, 1 x quick coupler

Warranty: ‎1 Year Manufacturer Warranty

Pros – small and compact, fast pressure buildup, suits home projects

Cons – a bit noisy,

Conclusion

All the small compressor brands presented here have carved a name for themselves in the market. Each of the products is capable of forming a great partnership with a nail gun; you only need to place it where it belongs.

Physical sizes can be deceiving, so take your time to analyze what size air compressors and all other aspects of the product before buying. The factors we have outlined here determine the overall performance of the unit. Try to gather as much information as possible, including from reviews. Then you can have a look at the pricing, but this too can be misleading.

Craftsman products have always been unbeatable in offering competitive prices, but that is not to say their suitability is questionable. For every air compressor, it should be a matter of looking at a product individually and awarding points according to performance.

We believe that this background information and product coverage will help you identify the best air compressor for nail guns in readiness for your next project.  

What are your views of these air compressors? Do you have experience with any of them? Please share with us in the comments section.

Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling is an air compressor obsessive who has been working with compressors for over 25 years, since he was an apprentice engineer in the mid 90’s. He designed Aircompressorcompare.com to offer technical guidance and buying advice for compressors.

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