15 Gauge vs 16 Gauge Nailer

Have you ever got stuck in the middle of a nail gun operation just because of your nail gauge was mismatched with the nailer? Yes, we all have that experience. To get rid of it, a clear understanding of the gauge number of nail guns must be there so that next time we don’t get baffled and decrease our work efficiency. 

Bringing that up, today we are planning to discuss on the gauge number of nail guns and I will illustrate to you the fifty shades of nail gauge numbers. No worries if you have zero knowledge on this, after the end of this article, you can arrange your own TED Talk on this very point. 

Alright, then. Fasten your seatbelts and get ready to dive deep in; what say? 

What Does Gauge Mean in Nail Guns 

If you’re a nail gun enthusiast, you may know the answer to this question already. In that case, you can skip this very portion of this article and move on with your life. But if you’re a newbie who has just started with nail guns, this probably is unknown to you. Yes, homie, all my efforts are only for you. 

In the context of nail guns, the term “gauge” refers to the thickness or diameter of the nails that the nail gun is designed to use. Nail guns may come in various gauges; each gauge refers to a specific size of nails. The two most common gauges for nail guns are 15-gauge and 16-gauge, although other gauges also exist. 

Here’s to a detail of the gauge and how you can identify the thickness of a nail just by looking at its gauge number. That is, if the nail has a smaller gauge number, it will be small in diameter. And if it holds a large number, then the diameter of the nail is relatively larger. In short, the more the gauge number, the thinner the nail. 

Different gauge nails are used in several fields of work. You may select which gauge number you need for your nail gun based on the application area. Also, not all nail guns support all sorts of nail gauges. This is why the compatibility of the nails for a nail gun is a key consideration while you’re purchasing a nail gun. 

15-Gauge Nailer 

Before we get into this, firstly, you have to know what does a 15-gauge nailer means. Well, you already know about the gauge number. Now, if there’s any nail gun that uses 15-gauge nails in it, you may call that a 15-gauge nailer. 

If you have any experience in trim work, cabinetry, paneling, or furniture making using nail guns, then you may have already used 15-gauge nail guns. All of these mentioned applications are halfway impossible without the help of a 15-gauge nailer. You may ask why, right? Well, it’s because the 15-gauge nailers provide a strong and secure hold for structural integrity. 

Along with the strong hold, it leaves larger holes compared to 18-gauge and smaller holes than 16-gauge nails. If you are looking for a versatile choice for various carpentry and woodworking tasks, I would always suggest a 15-gauge nailer because it’s worth it. 

16-Gauge Nailer 

As per the definition of the nail gauge I introduced to you earlier, the 16-gauge nail must be smaller in diameter than the 15-gauge one. And in reality, it is really what it is. However, this very type of nail is rapidly used in terms of framing, sheathing, subfloor installation, decking, siding, and application areas like cabinet backs or light framing. 

In the very first place, 16-gauge nails are thicker and stronger than 18-gauge nails, providing a more secure and stable fastening. This makes 16-gauge nailers versatile for various applications, from structural framing to finish work.

These nailers strike a balance between the fine finish of 15-gauge or 18-gauge nailers and the substantial holding power of larger framing nailers. This makes 16-gauge nailers suitable for a broad spectrum of tasks, offering strength without leaving overly large holes. 

15-Gauge VS 16-Gauge: A Brief Comparison 

I guess you have had enough knowledge about both of the nail gauges. Now it’s time to compare both the nail gauges from a straight and balanced point of view so that you can pick on using your rational mindset. Also, this has to be the most crucial segment of this piece. If you don’t have the time to read the entire article, you can just roll your eyes at the below chart, and this is it. Let’s go then; what say? 

Characteristic15-Gauge Nailer16-Gauge Nailer
Gauge15-Gauge Nails16-Gauge Nails 
Nail ThicknessThicker NailsSlightly thinner nails
Common ApplicationsHeavy-duty framing, sheathing.Versatile; suitable for a wide range of tasks. 
Holding PowerExcellent for structural work.Good holding power, suitable for framing. 
Finish QualityLeaves larger holes (may require more patching)Leaves smaller holes (easier to conceal)
VersatilitySuited for robust and demanding tasks.Well-suited for general carpentry and trim work. 

There you go, mate. Nothing to be confused about. If you feel like you should be using a 15-gauge nailer, go for it. Also if you think 16-gauge nailers put the right nail on your thing, don’t stuck into the metamorphosis and give it a shot right now! 


Is a 15-gauge nail bigger than a 16-gauge? 

Ans: Though I have answered this question already in the body of this very article. However, in case you’ve missed it- 

Yes, a 15-gauge nail is bigger than a 16-gauge one. The gauge number in nail sizing inversely correlates with the nail’s thickness. Therefore, a lower gauge number, such as 15-gauge, indicates a thicker nail compared to a 16-gauge nail, which is slightly thinner. 

How many mm is a 16-gauge nail?

Ans: A 16-gauge nail typically measures approximately 1.6 millimeters (or 1.58 mm to be more precise) in diameter. Gauge measurements can be converted to metric units, with one gauge unit roughly equivalent to 0.4 millimeters. 

So, a 16-gauge nail is roughly 1.6 mm in diameter. Keep in mind that there may be slight variations depending on the manufacturer and specific nail design, but this measurement provides a good approximation.

Is 15-gauge too big for trim?

Ans: Yes, 15-gauge nails can be used for trim work. However, it’s important to note that they are thicker and leave larger holes compared to the more common 16-gauge nails. The choice between 15-gauge and 16-gauge for trim depends on your specific project and desired finish quality. 

Some trim carpenters prefer 15-gauge nails for their holding power, especially with denser or hardwood trim, but it may require more attention to detail during finishing to conceal the larger holes effectively.

Is 16 gauge big or small? 

Ans: In the context of nail gauges, a 16-gauge nail is relatively small. The gauge number is inversely related to the thickness or diameter of the nail. 

So, a lower gauge number, such as 16, indicates a thinner and smaller nail compared to higher gauge numbers. 16-gauge nails are commonly used for various carpentry and construction tasks where a relatively small yet sturdy nail is required.


Till now, we have been discussing the gauge size of nail guns. As we are almost complete, it’s time to sail our boat and go home. But whatever, if you have any sort of inquiry or confusion, you can read this article again and again to make your points clear. Also, if you think any of your friends and family may require this very knowledge, I would like you to refer them here. 

That’s for today. 


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