Nail Gun Not Shooting Nails — 11 Fixes for DeWalt, Bostitch Nailers

If you buy something through our posts, we may get a small commission. Read more here.

When my nail gun refuses to shoot nails, it’s not just an inconvenience—it’s a disruption to my entire workflow. The key to seamless, uninterrupted work lies in understanding the root causes of these hiccups. 

That’s why, in this guide, I’ve outlined and pinpointed the most common issues, along with tried-and-true troubleshooting techniques. Let’s get that nail gun back in action.

What Could Go Wrong with Nail Guns?

Several factors can cause a malfunction and merely blow air without the nail gun shooting nails. Common culprits include:

  1. Using incorrect nails: Inappropriate nail size, weight, or gauge can result in a non-firing nail gun or cause jams.
  2. Stuck nail gun firing pin: In case the firing pin remains lodged in the extended position, gently tap it back in with a nail setter or a comparable instrument, and lubricate the gun.

For frequent issues, lubricate the tool by adding 5-6 drops of applied air tool oil via the air inlet, connect the air hose, and activate the nailer several times to distribute the lubricant, especially in the driver blade.

nail gun

Nail Guns are Firing But Not Shooting Nails

Reason #1: Jammed Nail Gun

A jammed nail gun creates challenges for woodworkers, as it blows air without firing nails, often only revealing the jam upon hitting a surface. Knowing how to clear that jam is crucial for anyone like me who works with wood. And of course, it’s equally important to be familiar with what usually causes these jams in the first place:

How To Fix

  1. Detach the nail gun from the power source and air supply.
  2. Unfasten the nose bolts and lift the nose latch to release the nose plate front.
  3. Access the barrel.
  4. Examine for damage and pinpoint required repairs.
  5. Remove jammed nails, and surplus fasteners, and swap out damaged parts.
  6. Shut the nose front.
  7. Reconnect the front nose, making sure the work contact tool remains clear.
  8. Place the fuel cell and battery.
  9. Load the gun with fasteners and activate the feeding system.
  10. Restore the power connection.
  11. Perform a test. Shoot nails on a piece of scrap wood. (You might want to know the best nail to use for wood soffit. Read next!)

Reason #2: Improper Air Pressure Setup: Why it Set Wrong?

One of the main culprits behind a nail gun failing to shoot nails is improper air pressure settings. Even though the ideal pressure is usually laid out by the manufacturer, sometimes my compressor doesn’t quite stick to that. 

When this happens, my nail gun just blows air without firing. Both too low and too high air pressures mess with the hammer’s energy, leading to nails not going in right. I’ve learned it’s crucial to grasp what causes these off-kilter pressure settings to avoid such hitches in my work.

nail gun improper placement

If air pressure is excessively high, it can result in nails penetrating too deeply, causing the wood to crack. Conversely, insufficient pressure makes it challenging for nails to effectively pass through the fibers of the wood.

It is advisable to maintain the correct air pressure within the recommended range—typically between 70 and 120 psi [1].

How To Fix

  1. First, set the air pressure on my nail gun as per the guidelines in the instruction manual.
  2. Disassemble the nail gun and inspect the compressor for damage.
  3. Replace the air compressor if needed.
  4. Check and replace if there’s a damaged shooting spring.
  5. Before getting to your main project, test out the nail gun on some scrap wood. This way, you can fine-tune the air pressure and ensure it’s just right.

Reason #3: Air Leaking

Another cause of nail gun malfunction is air leaks, causing the tool to only blow air without properly driving nails into the wood. While many air leaks can be resolved independently, more significant issues may necessitate the assistance of an expert nail gun repair facility.

An air leak in a nail gun can result from several factors, including:

fixing nail gun recon

Excessive trigger activation can cause it to loosen and allow air to escape, while worn O-rings, typically made of rubber, can fail to cover the exhaust opening, resulting in air supply leakage.

Type of Air Leaks

Air Leaks Through the Exhaust Vent

Air leakage in exhaust openings or back exhaust channels is often caused by worn components, allowing air supply to go through. O-rings, made of rubber or synthetic materials, are designed to seal surrounding the valve and prevent air leakage, ensuring proper operation.

When faced with this problem, I always grab a replacement kit provided by the manufacturer. It’s crucial to make sure it’s compatible with my nail gun model. This ensures that when I replace the O-ring, it fits just right and does the job effectively.

Air Leaks Through the Trigger

Trigger valve pressure issues often result from wear caused by repeated trigger pulls. To resolve this, acquire a replacement valve according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This issue is distinct from sensations experienced during nail firing.

When all else fails and your nail gun still isn’t cooperating, a faulty valve might be the culprit. In cases like these, swapping out the valve often solves the problem, especially if it’s not cycling as it should.

How To Fix

  1. Adjust the nail gun’s air pressure according to the user manual.
  2. Disassemble the nail gun to inspect the compressor for any damage.
  3. If needed, replace the air compressor.
  4. Replace any damaged nail gun shooting springs.
  5. Test the adjusted air pressure on scrap wood to ensure its correctness.
nail gun checking air leaks

Reason #4: Build Up of Dust and Dirt

Dust and dirt accumulation is a prevalent issue in woodworking tools, including nail guns. If your nail gun is not firing properly, it’s essential to inspect it for dust and dirt build-up.

Tackling issues with your nail gun early will always help you avoid bigger problems down the line and extend the lifespan of the tool. There are a few reasons your nail gun might gather a concerning amount of dirt and dust, such as:

How To Fix

  1. Regularly clean the nail gun properly.
  2. Frequently tidy up your workspace to avoid dirt build-up.
  3. Keep a nail gun in a dust-free storage area.
  4. Examine the nail gun magazine function by taking out fasteners and moving the feeder back and forth. Clean any hang-up areas with a nylon brush.
  5. Ensure all moving parts are clean, particularly the nail gun trigger.

Reason #5: Incompatible Nails + Why You Can’t Use Just Any Nail

Using the wrong nails that aren’t compatible can seriously impair the performance of your nail gun and even risk damaging it.

using wrong nails for nail guns

It is crucial to avoid using the wrong nails with your nail gun, as each one is designed to work with specific nail sizes, angles, shapes, and collations. Using unsuitable nails in a nail gun can lead to the following issues:

How To Fix

  1. Before loading nails into the magazine, ensure they are the correct size
  2. Properly load the magazine
  3. Consult the instruction manual to become familiar with the appropriate nail types

Reason #6: Not Enough Fasteners + Why Nail Guns Dry Fire?

It is essential to maintain a minimum quantity of fasteners within the nail gun’s magazine. Insufficient fasteners can result in dry firing, which can cause issues during operation. Insufficient fasteners can lead to a nail gun not firing due to the following reasons:

dry firing of nail guns

How To Fix Dry Firing

  1. Ensure the magazine contains an adequate number of fasteners.
  2. Refill the magazine as needed.
  3. Detect dry firing early on.
  4. Test the nail gun. Shoot nails on scrap wood after addressing the issue.

Reason #7: Improper Cleaning and Maintenance

To maintain optimal efficiency and extend the lifespan of a nail gun, it is essential to perform regular maintenance, safeguarding the tool against environmental factors like moisture. Regular maintenance of a nail gun is crucial for the following reasons:

How To Fix

  1. Swap out damaged components
  2. Remove dust and debris
  3. Regularly clean the magazine
  4. Address air leaks
  5. Keep a tidy environment

Reason #8: Dead Battery

Many nail guns run on battery power. So, if the battery’s dead, the gun won’t shoot nails. I’ve come across models that use both a battery and a gas fuel cell, which is pretty handy. It means the nail gun can still work even if the battery’s run out.

dead battery

Here are some reasons how a dead battery affects nail gun shooting:

How To Fix

  1. Replace the old battery with a new one to resolve the nail gun not firing issue.
  2. Ensure the existing battery is fully charged before use.
  3. Inspect and refill the fuel cell canister as needed.

Reason #9: Spring Magazine Malfunction

If the magazine spring is tensioned incorrectly, your nail gun can end up firing blanks. I usually sort this out by opening, reloading, and closing the magazine.

Avoid overloading and monitor the red tell-tale indicator for reloading. Always use up nails before adding full strips to prevent spring breakage and maintain performance.

Reason #10: O Ring Issue

Replacing the O-ring demands a bit of technical know-how, as messing it up can do permanent damage to the tool. I’d generally recommend consulting a professional for this kind of task.

Consider taking your nail gun to an authorized dealer, who can ensure it is returned to you in optimal working condition.

fixing o ring on nail guns

Reason #11: Nail Gun Damage

If prior solutions don’t work, inspect the nailer for damages, such as dents in the magazine or a bent feeder spring. Check the trigger assembly, hose fittings, and nosepiece. Stop using the tool if any damage is found until it’s repaired.

Removing Jammed Nails From Your Nail Gun: Basic Troubleshooting

Step #1: Unplug from the Power Source

As an initial step in any repair, ensure the device is disconnected from its power source. Typically, this involves detaching the nail gun from the air hose to eliminate power.

Read Next: Recommended Nail Guns for Crown Molding 

Step #2: Take Out the Remaining Nails

After unplugging the tool, make sure to take out any remaining nails or strips from the magazine. This is to prevent any unintentional firing. Given that the nailer is jammed but ready to shoot, it will fire the moment the jam is cleared. That’s why getting all the nails out is so vital.

Step #3: Get Rid of Jammed Nail/s

It’s advisable to follow the guidance provided in your nail gun’s manual, as it will be tailored to your specific model. However, here are some general procedures to consider in a nail jam.

Use Release Lever

In case your nailer is equipped with a release lever, utilize it to open the barrel. This approach is safe and effective and is available in most nailers. If your nailer doesn’t have a release lever, consider trying an alternative method.

dislodging jammed nails

Dislodge Jammed Nail/s

For flip-style nailers, use a hammer’s claw or pliers to remove nails and free the magazine. If there’s no nose latch, unscrew the top latch to access the jammed nail. Check the driver blade.

Dislodge nails with a nail tip and claw or pliers. Remove all nails, inspect for damage, and consult a professional if needed.

Step #4: Reload the Magazine

Having successfully unjammed the nailer, reassemble it (if needed) and load a new strip of nails in the proper orientation. Lastly, slide the pusher back over the nails to secure them in position.

Step #5: Restore the Nail Gun Power and Test

After reloading the magazine, hook the nailer back up to its power source, like an air compressor. I usually give it a test run on a spare piece of wood to make sure everything’s working smoothly.

Step #6: Go to the Service Center (If Nothing Works)

If these troubleshooting techniques don’t resolve the issue, or you’re not comfortable performing the repairs yourself, consider visiting a nearby service center or contacting the manufacturer’s customer support.

A service center can assist in diagnosing and helping you fix nail gun issues, ensuring your tool continues to function efficiently for years to come.

fixing nail gun

Other Nail Gun Issues

Nail Guns Misfire

Nail gun misfires can occur due to insufficient piston lubrication. To address this, I typically disassemble the nail gun and apply 10 drops of lubricant oil into the air line. This usually resolves the issue and helps prevent future misfires.

Nail Guns Shoot Two Nails

A nail gun shooting with too many nails can occur when the trigger is worn out, causing a recoil effect. To prevent the nail gun from shooting two nails rapidly, replace the worn-out trigger with a new one. This should fix the nail gun shooting nails twice.

Paslode Nail Gun Not Firing Nails

The Paslode nail gun is known for its reliability, but like any tool, it can run into issues. If my Paslode nail gun starts firing without actually shooting nails, the first thing I check is whether the magazine is fully loaded with the correct Paslode nails.

Also inspect the air filter for dirt, as it can restrict airflow, and examine the o-ring, which helps maintain pressure. Replace a damaged o-ring or apply petroleum jelly as a temporary fix.

Slugigish Nail Guns

If your nail gun seems to lack force but still drives nails, several issues can be easily addressed. Pneumatic nailers typically require minimal air pressure, and pancake-type air compressors are suitable.

However, continuous shorting may take time to resolve. Sometimes, the problem lies in decreased airflow caused by leaking pipes, which can contribute to the nail gun either not shooting nails or just blowing air.

Also Read: How to Fix a Hole in a Gun Stock

Safety Measures While Working With Nail Guns

fixing other nail gun issues

Ensuring a safe working environment is paramount when using nail guns, and it begins with the proper safety gear.

It’s important to note that nail guns powered by compressors can generate noise levels ranging from 70 to 100 dBA, which can be harmful to your ears. When conducting inspections for jamming or performing tasks with the nail gun, I highly recommend wearing headphones or ear muffs to protect your hearing.

Tips for Proper Maintenance and Use of Nail Guns

Now that you’re aware of possible reasons for your nail gun malfunctioning or not firing nails, here are some usage tips to take note of:

My Recommended Nail Gun for Woodworking

WORKPRO pneumatic brad nailer

The WORKPRO pneumatic brad nailer is highly versatile, compatible with 18-gauge brad nails ranging from ⅜-inch to two inches in length. With a three-mode depth adjustment wheel, users can control nail penetration depth. 

It also features a 360° adjustable exhaust for directional air control. Setting up and operating the nail gun is a breeze, thanks to its user-friendly design. The gun’s lightweight build, at just 4.31 pounds, along with its ergonomic handle, ensures comfort during extended periods of use, making it an excellent choice for various applications.

Next Read: Angled vs Straight Finish Nailer Comparison


Troubleshooting a nail gun that’s not shooting nails can be a frustrating experience, but understanding the possible causes and following the guidelines can help you overcome this issue.

You don’t have to go to the service center right away. By using the right nails, proper maintenance, and following safety precautions, you can ensure your nail gun continues to function efficiently and safely, keeping your projects on track.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles
Join our community on facebook and get 3 woodworking plans for free!
    Your Cart
    Your cart is empty