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6/5/2007

Porter Cable COIL250 Coil Nailer Review


Porter Cable COIL250 Coil Nailer Review
By Dean Bielanowski, OnlineToolReviews.com
4/14/2005

Note: Click the link above to view image references.

The humble old hammer is certainly becoming more redundant every day. I'm trying to think back to when I actually used it last to drive a nail. Most of its use in my shop nowadays is as a claw to remove old nails from boards or from old constructions or old furniture. Nothing can replace the satisfaction of hand driving nails into wood. It's almost relaxing, as long as you don't hit your thumb instead. Tools and tool technology's advance cannot be stopped however, and in the modern world of construction, we are showered with nail guns of all shapes and sizes. From headless pinners, brad nailers, air staplers, framing to full round-head nail guns, there is a nailer to suit almost any task.

The primary purpose of a nail gun is not only to make the operator's task much easier, with less effort, but they save a ton of time in the process, and time is what most of us have less and less of these days. The downside to these benefits is that the use of nail guns is substantially more dangerous than the old human-powered whacker, but with careful use and a healthy respect for the tool, nail guns can be just as safe as any other method of driving fasteners.

Today we are looking at one of the bigger nail guns in the pneumatic air driving tool range, the coil nailer, and Porter Cable is the brand we managed to get our hands on for this review. So let's put it through its paces, find out what nifty features it has, and most importantly, how we thought it performed during our tests, and in general use.

Porter Cable COIL250 Coil Nailer
The COIL250 model is the one we are reviewing today. It is marketed frequently as a nail gun for 'fencing' but can be used in many other tasks where full round head nails are warranted, or desired. That brings us to our first tool feature... the full round head nail is exactly that - the head of the nail features a full round (circular) head, very much like common nails you would drive with a hammer. Many finish and framing nailers use clipped head (half moon shape) nails, and while these work fine in most cases, there are certain parts of the world, and states within countries where local building codes require the use of full head nails in specific types of construction. Coil nailers, by virtue of how coil nails are packaged and supplied in wire collated form, allow hot dipped galvanized type fasteners to be used in the nailer. These are especially useful for tasks and tropical environments where heat, salt air, high humidity and moisture play a factor. These type of nails provide a much higher resistance to corrosion and eventual failure. You can also get stainless steel nails!

Features & Use
The COIL250 shipped in a plastic carry case with the nail gun, user manual and a small container of oil. I like to keep air tool cases solely for the purpose of keeping dust off the tools and reducing the chance of dust and other contaminants entering inside the nail gun where they can cause damage. The COIL250 does come with a inlet cover attached to stop dust entering the air inlet. The user manual provides the standard safety and basic operating instructions for the user. Read them, abide by them, and don't get too complacent with any power tool. There have been some very serious accidents involving nail guns in the past.

Ok let's start at the air inlet area of the COIL250. The nail gun will accept any 1/4" male fitting as required for your air supply. It comes fitted with what I call a "ChargeAir" type quick connector fitting, although it may be referred to by other names elsewhere. This was good because this is the same style I use on my compressor and with other air tools, so I had no need to apply, or replace any fittings to get going. There is a friendly 'engraved' reminder at the air tool inlet to "OIL DAILY". You should follow those words of advice if you use the tool on a daily basis and add in about half a dozen drops of proper 'air tool oil' if you are going to be shooting plenty of nails. If you use it only occasionally then you can just add some oil before each use. You add the oil direct into the air inlet. The force of the compressed air that travels through the tool when it is fired will disperse the oil throughout the tool and keep all the seals, O-rings and mechanisms well lubed.

The COIL250 operates on a supply pressure of between 70-120 PSI. You may or may not need to regulate your supply, depending on your compressor. My 2HP, 6 gallon unit fills to 120PSI, and kicks back in once supply drops under 80PSI, so I do not need any additional pressure regulation to use the COIL250. Actual air usage is small in comparison to other types of air tools. I can fire three of four dozen nails before my compressor cycles over. If you have a larger tank, naturally, you can fire many more before a refill is needed.

Moving up to the handle, it is barrel-shaped (as most nail gun handles are) and wrapped with a rubber overmold grip, another standard feature on most nail and staple guns. This provides extra grip and prevents your hand slipping in use.

Next we come across the trigger which is all-metal design. I love the rubber overmold trigger on the Senco 41XP finish nailer we reviewed in the past, but the trigger on this COIL250 works just fine and is comfortable to use. It operates in accordance with the safety release on the front of the tool. You must press the safety release against your workpiece before the trigger becomes active and can fire a nail, however, it also works in reverse, and if you have the trigger depressed and then 'bump' the safety release on the workpiece, it will also fire a nail. This is often called 'bump fire' mode. I have never been comfortable with bump firing, even for the sake of saving time. The risks are much greater than standard single trigger pull per nail mode in my opinion, and often the nailing is not as accurate. A Restrictive Fire Trigger (which does not allow bump firing mode) is available from Porter Cable free of charge if you wish to limit the tool to normal trigger firing action only. You need to call Porter Cable to order this.

Moving up the tool we find the main head housing which is of light-weight aluminum construction. Total tool weight is around 6 lbs (2.7kg), so it does have a bit of weight to it giving it a durable feel, but is lighter than other brands on the market. Naturally, if you carry this tool around all day and use it frequently, some user-fatigue will set in. When you hold the tool horizontal, there is quite a forward weight bias that wants to tip the front/nose of the tool forward and down. This does place some strain on the wrist over prolonged use. When held vertically, i.e. with the nose pointing upward, this front weighted bias is not as evident, indicating the tool is reasonably well balanced vertically and would not pose such a large strain for overhead nailing tasks, although you are battling directly with gravity in this situation. At the rear of the main housing is the air exhaust port. It is adjustable to a wide variety of angles, and there are seven pre-set detents which are locked in by a small spring loaded ball-bearing at the lower edge. This exhaust port can be moved around without the use of additional tools. Exhausted air can pose a health risk and cause damage to body parts, particularly damage to the eyes if high pressure air and its contaminants are blasted into the eye. It goes without saying that quality eye protection should be used at all times especially since those nails can be traveling up to 5.0 m/sec. Ear protection is also required with this tool. It blasts out a weighted sound impulse of 101 decibels, according to the manual, with an average emission sound pressure of 88 decibels.

Moving to the nose of the tool we come across the clear plastic nose shield, trigger release safety catch, nail drive shaft and depth adjustment knob. This is the dangerous end of the tool and no adjustment should be made to this area with the air supply attached. The safety release comes equipped with a no-mar rubber tip. This helps prevent marking/denting of the workpiece. After some work on rough fencing timber, it tends to get a little chewed up, but replacements are available if needed. It is not an essential component if you are working on fences or projects where a little dent or mark is not a problem. Most tasks this nail gun will be used for do fall under that category. The depth adjustment control is on the rear/outside face of the tool (if you use it right handed) and is a small wheel with detent positions to modify drive depth. A simple turn of the wheel to the next detent either drives a nail further into your material, or backs off the depth so it doesn't drive the nail as far. You may need to change this for varying material density, but I found results were fairly consistent over most materials often requiring only a single initial depth adjustment in most cases.

Unlock and Load!
We may as well describe the nail loading process and features now as we move down toward the magazine. Now, the COIL250 will take standard 15-degree wire collated nails with lengths from 1 1/2" up to 2 1/2" and 0.99" to .120" in width. Such nails are available widely and most hardware stores or stores selling pneumatic tools will stock them. Nails are available in many types and styles from plain shank to ring shank and even stainless steel nails for the ultimate protection from rust and corrosion. The magazine can hold 225-300 collated nails, which is quite a reasonable capacity and will mean less downtime with nail reloading. The magazine itself is of hard plastic construction and has an adjustable nail spacer base with detents that can raise and lower to better hold nails of varying lengths. Length indicators are marked on the inside of the magazine and you can lift and rotate the spring loaded adjustable magazine nail support to hold nails securely in the magazine. To release the magazine cover you pull open the latch above the nail feeder which releases the magazine cover. You then place the coil of nails over the center rod on the spacer in the middle of the magazine and then unwind the nails off the coil to place in the nail feeder mechanism, with the heads of the nails located in the nail head track. The second nail in the chain is pushed into the feeder bracket (double-cam design) so the first nail lays in the drive shaft ready to be fired. When this is done, close the magazine cover and drop the feeder cover and lock back in place. The nails are now loaded and ready to be fired once your air supply is attached. This same action of exposing the nail feeder also allows you direct access to the nail drive shaft to clear any jams. We have yet to suffer a nail jam with the COIL250.

There is no indicator to tell when your nail supply has run dry on this tool, however, it is not really needed as you can directly see the nail supply up near the nail feeder without obstruction, and because full round head nails are pretty easy to see, you will soon know if the magazine is empty.

Use, Tests and Results
Since this is a fencing nailer, and I had a need to re-do some fence around the house, I started with this task. We were fixing standard treated pine palings with hot dipped galvanized nails. Results were good with a consistent depth of drive being achieved throughout the process. I suffered a bit of wrist fatigue after an hour or so nailing, but this is probably to be expected given the weight of coil nailing guns. I would certainly expect much more user fatigue had I needed to nail each paling with the trusty old hammer, so I'm definitely not complaining about the user fatigue issue or the time I saved using the COIL250 to re-fix warped or old palings on the fence. Next I tested the nail gun on some general framing work with some stud material scraps I have floating around the shop. Again no problems and consistent results driving both with the grain and across it. I then tested the gun with some general driving into scrap, dense hardwoods to check consistency results. After an adjustment to the drive depth with some Merbau and Ipe, the nail gun worked a treat, even in fast bump firing mode. You can also see an image in the right column where we tested the depth of drive adjustment feature showing positive results.

My brother-in-law then borrowed the COIL250 to repair his own fence and then asked to buy it off me! Naturally, I said no. Who is going to give up a nice big nail gun? Not me! He was also very happy with the performance of the tool. As a builder he also borrowed it to secure siding/shingles and nailed through cement fiber boards with good success.

Because of the size and weight of the tool, you can expect a bit of recoil after driving a nail, and this is exacerbated slightly in dense woods. The recoil is quite manageable and I expected it to be of the magnitude that it delivered. Certainly no worse than any other coil nailer I have looked at previously - about average in this regard.

The COIL250 comes with a 12-month parts and service warranty. It is constructed in Taiwan to Porter Cable's specifications and is geared for heavy duty/professional use. Overall, I would have to say the Porter Cable COIL250 is a pretty solid nail gun which performed as expected. We experienced no obvious faults with the tool during use and testing. Adjustment features are all user-friendly and easy to manipulate without tools. If a tool offers frustration free and reliable use, for me, that is a big selling point, and the COIL250 delivers on these aspects.


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