Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20

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Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18ga Brad Nailer Review – Gen 2

Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20

Manufacturer: Milwaukee
Model number: 2746-20
Price: 279.00 bare / 399.00 kit
Power source: M18 battery
Motor size: Brushless
Weight: 5.3 lbs
Every time we review a cordless nailer the debate starts. Battery operated nailers are not so new anymore, and they are getting better and better with each iteration. I will say that until a year or so, I was a complete skeptic of any of the battery operated cordless nailers.

The problem I had was that they were heavy, bulky, and seemed not to have enough power for toe-nailing penetration.

Enter in the story the NEW Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer. This nailer is a generation 2 revamp or what they call in the tool business a Gen 2.

Problems with the Gen 1 Tool

The earlier Gen 1 tool had several negative user feedback issues, that resulted in a complete “Back To The Drawing Board,” approach. We also reviewed the earlier Gen 1 tool and mentioned some issues needing improvement.

Well, Milwaukee, went back to the drawing board and starting from scratch, with a larger design team, set out to address mine and your user feedback issues.

Gen 1 User Feedback:

  • Double-Strike mark
  • Oversized holes in the material
  • A bulky nose that inhibited sightlines
  • Excessive recoil
  • Inconsistent toe-nailing result

What’s NEW on the Gen 2 Nailer?

Milwaukee made ten significant improvements to their Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer:

More Power with Lower Tank PSI

The earlier Gen 1 nailer was powerful which resulted in too much recoil.

To address this, Milwaukee reduced the energy output [PSI in the tank] Which results in less wear and tear on the tool, less jumping off the material [smaller fastener hole], and less recoil.

The Gen 2 brad nailer has an inner cylinder with a nitrogen air spring mechanism [piston] and an outer cylinder. The area between the two cylinders is filled with Nitrogen to a specified PSI.  Milwaukee chose to use Nitrogen over air because it is least likely to result in condensation and corrosion of the tanks.

Moved Depth Adjustment

The Gen I depth adjustment interfered with the user line of sight.  Milwaukee moved the depth adjustment from the left side of the tool to the right side, ” and recessed it a bit. This immediately improved the nailer’s line of sight for 85% of right-handed users.  Recessing the depth adjustment knob further improved the line of sight on the right side.

More Compact

The Gen 1 nailer had a bulky nose, which made it difficult to get into corners. Milwaukee significantly reduced the weight by 1-pound, and size of the Gen 2 nailer, making it more compact, lighter, better accessible, and improved line of sight. They also improved the nailer’s toe-nailing ability.

Workpiece Contact Bracket – improved Accuracy!

The Gen 1 installs fasteners, 3/16thinch off-center, in the model we tested, this was the result in too much play in the contact bracket. Milwaukee improved the contact bracket by reducing this play, or wobble, improving fastener placement accuracy.

I was able to place fasteners spot on – they solved that issue.

Improved Contact Tips

The Gen 2 nailer comes with three interchangeable contact tips, that stores on the magazine of the tool.:

  1. General Purpose:
  2. Small Tip – useful with small profiles.
  3. Wing Tip – more surface area to actuate the tool, less likely to mar softwoods, allows close profile nailing in certain angles not normally able to fire tool]

Angled Battery

The battery orientation has been angled allowing the tool to sit on its battery pack and magazine.

Belt Hook Relocated

The reversible belt hook was relocated to the front/bottom / battery area of the tool and enlarged to allow better balance, and hooking onto tool belts.

Increased Runtime

Milwaukee found that by reducing the PSI in the cylinder tank the tool drew less energy from the 2.0 Ah battery which resulted in an increase in runtime.  Gen 1 experienced 1200 fasteners on a 2.0 h battery charge and was improved to 1500 fasteners in Gen 2.

The nailer magazine holds 110 nails and is able to accommodate fastener sizes from 5/8” – 2-1/8”.

Thermal Overload Protection

Milwaukee made some big improvements from Gen 1 to Gen 2 regarding thermal protection controls.

Gen 1 would hit the thermal protection at approximately 100-150 nails when fired at a fast rate continuously.  The Gen 2 tool won’t hit thermal protection until between 700-2000 continuous nails, depending on how fast your firing. [i.e. 3-4 nails/second continuously vs 1 nail/second continuously.]

Job site users should never find themselves hitting a thermal protection limit with the Gen 2 tool, whereas that was possible with Gen 1.

While speed may be fun to talk about and interest some production trim carpenters, the real test on the job site is the fastener holes, depth of fastener, line of sight, accuracy, and doing quality work.

Power Switch

The power switch is located on the lower rear area of the tool’s handle. This power button needs to be pressed for approximately 2-seconds to power on the tool.

The Gen 1 tool requires you to hold the power switch button down for 5-7 seconds to turn off the tool. On Gen 2 turning the unit off requires depressing the switch for 2-seconds. Which is WAY better!

Note: The tool will power itself off after 60 minutes (1 hour) of inactivity. This is to ensure the tool is safe if left unattended on a job site, or if it is accidentally stored in your vehicle/storage box.

An LED power indicator lights up and stays on the entire time the tool is connected to the battery, and in the “powered-on mode.”

GEN 2 M18 FUEL™ 18GA Brad Nailer (2746-21CT) Specifications

  • Nail Gauge:18 Gauge
  • Nail Sizes: 5/8” – 2-1/8”
  • Magazine Capacity: 110 nails
  • Collation Angle: 0 degrees
  • 1500 nails per charge on a 2.0 Ah Battery
  • Sequential and Contact Actuation Modes
  • Dry-Fire Lockout
  • Adjustable Belt Hook
  • LED Work Light
  • 5.3 lbs

Milwaukee M1 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20 Review

We took the Milwaukee 18-gauge Cordless Finish Nailer 2746-20

to our job site and used it to install 2-inch 18-gauge fasteners into base trim, base molding, and crown molding. We then took it into our shop and did some specific testing.

First Impression

This new brad nailer installs fasteners with clean, consistent nail holes. The MOST impressive thing about this nailer is how fast it installs brad nails.

When using this nailer one BIG Difference from the earlier generations is how smooth it is. There is noticeable reduced weight and recoil and most importantly the quality of the fastener hole size has improved. There is a marked improvement [reduction] of the hole left by the nail and striker.

Lastly, Milwaukee reduced the weight and narrowed the front of the tool to improve line-of-sight to the work surface and allow better access in tight spots.

How It Performed

The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20 installed nails consistently at the desired set depth.

On the job site, the nailer performed flawlessly with no jammed or misfired nails. We immediately noticed that there is no “ramp-up time” for this nailer, meaning that the tool does not pause to recharge itself – it placed a nail as fast as I was able to accurately aim, set, and pull the trigger.

The recoil is definitely smoother; I’ve been using this tool for a few days on the job site with no negative issues.

In the shop, we tested the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20 by fastening different wood species from Oak, Maple, Poplar, plywood, and Cedar. We used spruce framing lumber and LVL stock as a subsurface under the trim to evaluate fastener penetration and nail hole size. The results were the same – consistent depth, fast fastening, and no nail jams.

Milwaukee took their time re-designing this nailer and it shows. This brad nailer consistently installed brad nails, to the proper depth, in hard and softwoods while leaving clean nail holes matching the head of the nail.

Clearing Jambs – Tool Free

We didn’t experience any jambs in our testing. Clearing jams is a simple and easy task by unlatching the “jamb latch,” clip on top of the tool’s front end.

Power Actuation Setting

This finish nailer will operate in single sequential actuation, as well as contact [bump fire] actuation.

Milwaukee claims this nailer will fire 3-4 nails per second. We fired this nailer both in single sequential actuation and contact actuation and were impressed with the speed you’re able to install fasteners.

Once powered on, there is an actuation selector switch and LED light just above the slide pack battery, which stays on the entire time the tool is on.

The indicator light tells you which mode the tool is set on:

  • Continuous solid green for single sequential actuation,
  • Continuous flashing green for contact actuation operation.

Depth Adjustment

The depth adjustment has a new location and was easy to operate and dial in.

Dry fire Lock Out

When the nailer reaches 4-5 fasteners the contact tip will not depress indicating fastener reloading is necessary.

Weight and Balance

At 5.3 lbs this nailer is not as light as my pneumatic nailer, but it’s not that heavy either and is fairly well balanced. The nailer measures 5.5”w x 11.9 L x 10.2” H.


The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20 sells online bare tools for $279; and kit for $399.

Room for Improvement?

The Gen 2 nailer is a MARKED improvement – they got this one right. The Gen 2 like ALL battery nailers are still bigger and heavier than their pneumatic brethren.

That’s the only challenge I have for Milwaukee – keep reducing the size and weight.


Having a battery-operated brad nailer, on the battery platform has always made sense to me. Not having to worry about setting up a compressor, hose, or gas cartridge expirations, fuel levels or cartridge cost is also a plus.

The most impressive feature of this M18 brad nailer is the rate of fastening that is achieved with zero ramp-up time. I was able to install accurate fasteners at a decent rate of work with no disruption in my work speed.

If you’re currently invested in a tool manufacturer’s battery platform – this nailer allows you to “cut the air hose,” and freedom from gas cartridges. As I said, I was a bit skeptical of cordless nailers but now but that’s changed. They’re getting lighter and less bulky – we’re using cordless, battery-only nailers daily on my remodeling projects.

The Gen 2 Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2746-20 is a nice tool and one you should look closely at.

Milwaukee Brad Nailer 2746-20 GEN 2 – Video Review – What’s New?

Head-to-Head Coming Soon

The TBB Crew and I are going to take this nailer and pit it up against the Dewalt, Metabo HPT, Ridgid, and Makita in an H2H real soon – Stay tuned!


About the author

Rob Robillard

Robert Robillard is a remodeler, general contractor, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts, and serves as the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and founding editor of A Concord Carpenter . Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review - Tool and Product Review - Video Channel, , where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob Robillard

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  1. […] call bag. The 17″ Open Top bag has become my dedicated trim work bag because I can fit my Milwaukee 18 Gauge Brad Nailer on one side and all my hand tools on the other. Additionally the tradesman Backpack would be a […]

  2. Jocelyn

    Hum I suppose I got a bad one cause it keeps jamming over and over again…always one nail jam and not able to put a full strip of nail in the gun because it won t close

    1. Todd Fratzel

      Sounds like you have the wrong brads installed in it.

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