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

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When my nail gun isn’t shooting nails, it’s not just an inconvenience. It disrupts my entire workflow. However, by delving into the root causes, I’ve mastered the nuances of maintaining and optimizing its performance for smooth, consistent operation.

In this guide, drawing from my experience, I’ve pinpointed the most common issues and offer proven troubleshooting techniques to address them.

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. Understanding how to unjam a nail gun is essential, as is recognizing the common causes of jams:

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?

Improper air pressure settings are a primary cause of a nail gun that’s not shooting nails. While the recommended pressure is typically provided by the manufacturer, there are instances where compressors fail to maintain the specified range.

This will lead to the nail gun not firing and only blowing air. Inadequate or excessive air pressure settings affect the hammer’s energy, resulting in nail defects. It is essential to understand the factors contributing to improper air pressure settings to prevent these issues.

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. Adjust the nail gun air pressure according to 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. Conduct tests. Shoot nails on scrap wood to determine the appropriate air pressure.

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.

To address this issue, it’s recommended to obtain a manufacturer-provided replacement kit, ensuring compatibility with your nail gun model for a correct and effective for replacing the O-ring.

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.

If it appears that nothing is working, a faulty valve may be the root cause, and replacing it could address the problem with the valve not cycling properly.

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.

Addressing the problem early on can prevent more severe damage and prolong the life of your electronic devices. The following factors can cause your nail gun to accumulate significant amounts of dirt and dust:

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 incompatible wrong nails can significantly hinder your nail gun’s performance and potentially damage the tool.

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

A nail gun often relies on battery power. So, a dead battery can result in your nail gun not shooting nails. Some models use both battery and a gas fuel cell, which is advantageous as it enables the nail gun to operate even when the battery is uncharged.

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

The magazine spring can cause a nail gun to fire blanks if tensioned incorrectly. Resolve this 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 yourself requires some technical expertise, as improper handling can cause irreversible damage to the tool. It is advisable to consult a professional for this 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

Upon disconnecting the tool, it’s essential to remove any leftover unfired nails or strips from the magazine to avoid accidental firing. Since the nailer is jammed and primed to fire, it will do so as soon as the nail jam clears. This is why removing all nails from the nail gun is crucial.

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

Once the magazine is reloaded, reconnect the nailer to the power source, such as an air compressor. Test the nailer on a scrap piece of wood to confirm that it is operating correctly.

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 fix nail gun misfiring issues, disassemble the nail gun and add 10 drops of lubricant oil into the air line, which should help 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

A Paslode nail gun is a reliable tool, but it may encounter problems. If your Paslode nail gun fires without shooting nails, ensure the magazine is fully loaded with the right Paslode nails.

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. Decreased airflow due to leaking pipes could also be a contributing factor as to why the nail gun shoots nothing or blows air.

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

fixing other nail gun issues

Safety Measures While Working With Nail Guns

Creating a safe environment is crucial. Nail gun safety measures include using the right gears.

A nail gun with compressors can produce noise levels between 70-100 dBA, which can be harmful to the ears. When inspecting for jamming, we highly suggest wearing headphones or ear muffs for protection.

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:

My Recommended Nail Gun for Woodworking

WORKPRO pneumatic brad nailer

The WORKPRO pneumatic brad nailer stands out for its versatility. It’s compatible with 18-gauge brad nails, from a modest ⅜-inch to a full two inches in length. I particularly value its three-mode depth adjustment wheel, allowing me to fine-tune the nail penetration depth.

Another feature I appreciate is the 360° adjustable exhaust, which lets me direct the airflow as needed. Setting up and operating this nailer is a breeze. And, weighing in at just 4.31 pounds with an ergonomic handle, it’s a comfortable tool for those longer jobs I tackle.

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 Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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