Craftsman 20V Stapler & Framing Nail Guns Review

Craftsman 20V Brushless 18GA Stapler and 21° Framing Nail Guns (Models: CMCN621PL & CMCN618N)

Craftsman 20V 18GA Stapler and 21° Nail Guns

Manufacturer: Craftsman
Model number: CMCN621PL & CMCN618N
Power source: 20V (Lithium)
Motor size: Brushless
We recently got the chance to test out a couple of Craftsman 20V Nail Guns, the Craftsman 20V Narrow Crown Stapler, and the 21º Framing Nailer. Cordless nail guns are now a staple (pun intended) on most job sites and most brands are unveiling new and higher-performance offerings on a regular basis. Craftsman may not be a PRO or high-end DIYers go-to manufacturer so we were excited to put them through their paces to see how they stacked up. Does Craftsman keep up with other black and red (or PRO favorite) tools? I often hear Craftsman being described as a mid-grade or Pro-entry tool. In this article, we will dive into the features and performance of these nail guns from a frame-to-finish perspective.

Features and Specifications | Craftsman CMCN621PL

Features:

  • Tool-Free Depth of Drive Adjustment
  • Tool-Free Jam Release
  • 360-degree Rafter hook
  • Jam indicator light
  • Steel Magazine

Specifications:

  • Angle: 21-degree
  • Battery: 20V
  • Nail Gauge: 10Ga. Roundhead (0.113 – 0.148 inch diameter)
  • Magazine: 49 Nail
  • Nail Length: 2 to 3-1/4 inch
  • Tool Weight:  8.8 lbs (bare tool)

Design & Key Features | Craftsman CMCN621PL

The Craftsman 20V CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nail gun is a fully-featured framing nailer. It had many of the essential options we look for in a framing nailer we want to bring on the job site. It offers an adjustable depth setting and is built around a long-lasting 20V cordless & brushless platform. The CMCN621PL also allows for a useful range of nail lengths from 2 – 3 -1/4 inches centered around a standard 10GA nail size.  It also offers an integrated tool-free jam release for quick recovery from fasteners jamming mid-work. These features allowed us to use the CMCN621PL with almost no issues to stud out (and adding strapping to) a garage addition .

We found the ergonomics to be comfortable and reasonably balanced. The CMCN621PL is heavy at about 10 lbs with a 4Ah battery, but not that much more so than other cordless framing nailers we’ve used. We appreciated the multi-function status indicator light built into the back of the tool for easy viewing. The light works as both a low-battery and nail jam indicator light. It was easy to see even during daylight when working overhead on strapping.

 

The CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nailer also has a sturdy plastic nose safety protector. The full circle enclosure can help in aligning nails (but it does obscure the line of sight too). The nose assembly seemed well designed and sturdy with many metal components. This may seem obvious but we’ve tested other nail guns where this wasn’t the case and we were concerned about tool longevity. So we appreciated the CMCN621PL nose design even if there were some slippage issues (more in a bit). Overall the CMCN621PL design and key-features can be described as basic and streamlined to get the job done.

 

Adjustability and Performance | Craftsman CMCN621PL

Craftsman included a number of integrated adjustment options into the CMCN621PL 21-degree nail gun. The first feature we want to highlight is the tool-free jam release lever.

There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of driving a series of framing nails and jamming up. The Tool-free jam release lever is a quick fix to this issue. Kudos to Craftsman though as we never got an opportunity to test out this function. Try as we might we couldn’t get the Craftsman MCN621PL 21-degree nail gun to jam. It gave us a few days of jam-free operations.

The CMCN621PL also features a tool-free nail depth adjustment knob.  The knob is built into the tool driving nose just above the safety tip. It responded well to the adjustments we made when switching between job site tasks and was very intuitive to use. We appreciated the stamped guide pictures on which way to turn for each setting. We also liked that the steel housing protruded slightly above the adjustment knob giving a degree of protection to the plastic knob (more on that in a bit).

The overall power and battery life of the CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nailer were both positives. We had no issues driving nails into a variety of surfaces. we did find that we had to increase the power when toenailing but that’s not uncommon. And the gun worked fine once adjusted. We also got about 3 hours of consistent use out of a 4Ah battery which was at least average if not better. For a 20V cordless framing nailer, we were satisfied with the CMCN621PL’s overall performance.

Room For Improvement

The CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nailer missed out on a couple of features we really like to see in a framing nailer. First, There was no bump mode designed on this gun. Bump mode is a great feature that we use often on the job site. It allows you to hold the trigger and drive a nail simply by bumping the safety tip down fully. This is the quickest way to drive a series of nails. and saving time on a job site is the gold standard and saves dollars. We really missed this feature, especially after extended use in single drive mode (where the trigger has to be pulled for each nail driven).

Second, and also frustrating, was the nail load design. Unlike other framing nailers, the CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nailer has a top load design. A clip of plastic collated 10GA nails drops into a top-recessed mounting slot. Then the spring-loaded catch is pulled back and a clip grabs the top of the end nail head to pull the clip forward. This was an issue when we loaded 2 clips into the gun. On a couple of occasions, the spring-loaded catch pulled the clips crookedly and caused a jam. It was easy to reset, but a direct result of the top-loading slot and nail head catch design.

Lastly, some of the high-impact parts of this gun were designed with plastic components. This contributed to the nose tip slipping when toe-nailing. Designing the safety tip to include non-slip spurs or non-slip rubber vs. plastic would go a long way to solving this issue. Eliminating plastic components on the rafter hook and nose assembly would also likely increase the durability of the tool. While these functioned well while we used the CMCN621PL, they make us question how well the CMCN621PL will hold up to PRO-level job site use over time. Again, these were not issues at all during our test of the CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nail gun.

Overall Impression | Craftsman CMCN621PL

The Craftsman CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nail gun is a good DIY framing nailer but not one we would bring to the job site. It delivers good power and user-friendly ergonomics. The average weight for a cordless framing nailer was not burdensome in any way. But it will be a noticeable change for users switching from pneumatic framing nailers. But the hose-free maneuverability more than justifies the weight. Craftsman should consider an optional magazine extension which would be a huge feature for PROs on the job site. Although without a bump drive feature this tool is really not designed to reach the PRO market. The depth adjustment worked well and the CMCN621PL had no issues continuously driving nails into stud framing. Overall the CMCN621PL is a decent offering with ample power and battery life for a DIYer needing a framing nailer for limited use.

Features and Specifications | Craftsman CMCN618N

Features:

  • Tool-Free Depth of Drive Adjustment
  • Tool-Free Jam Release
  • Steel Magazine

Specifications:

  • Fastener Type: Narrow Crown Staples
  • Fastener Gauge: 18 Gauge
  • Battery: 20V
  • Fastener Length: 1/2 to 1-1/2 inch
  • Crown Width: 1/4 inch
  • Tool Weight: 5.6 lbs (bare tool)

Design & Key Features | Craftsman CMCN618N

The Craftsman CMCN618N 20V narrow crown stapler is a fully-featured narrow crown stapler. Of the 2 nailers, it was my favorite! Crown Staple nail guns or “nailers,” as they are often called, play a complementary role with their siblings; the framing and finish nailers. narrow crown staples are often used to join a miter, thin trim, or cabinetry joints together. They have an advantage because the crown secures or “catches” the surface of the material they are being driven through. This makes for a very secure connection, especially in thin or delicate wood or material.

The loading mechanism for the CMCN618N is very simple and user-friendly. There is a large catch release trigger located at the back of the clip magazine. Once pressed, you pull the cover back to expose the open bottom of the magazine. narrow crown staples (1/2 to 1-1/2 inch) are simply dropped into the open slot on the bottom of the tool before the magazine cover is pushed back into place. This simple but secure design allowed for quick and easy loading every time. And know how much we love efficient, time-saving tool designs.

We were also big fans of the dual-LED design. As noted above, narrow crown staplers are often used with trim work or cabinet joinery. And as every PRO knows, those are not always the most well-lit crevices or corners. So having dual LEDs was awesome. There was a slight amount of light blocking from the magazine, but they still proved quite effective.

 

Adjustability and Performance | Craftsman CMCN618N

The Craftsman CMCN618N 20V narrow crown stapler features an easy adjustment option for stapler depth setting. The adjustment method for the depth on the Craftsman 20V Brad Nail Gun was a bit different than other designs we’ve seen. The user adjusts the depth with the tool-free knob while watching the alignment bars move in the depth window.  The depth adjustment simply controls how far from the material the stapler nose is when driving the staples. It doesn’t increase the overall power level. As a result, this gives more depth constancy when working with consistent materials. This shows up in performance. This gun shoots constantly, after just a few calibrating shots.

The Craftsman CMCN618N also features a tool-free jam release lever. This is the same overall design as was discussed on the CMCN621PL 21-degree framing nail gun. It worked well the one time a staple actually jammed up in this gun. It is conveniently located out of the way on the top of the gun. Again, having a way to quickly clear jammed fasteners is great but we were more impressed that we only had to use it once. Not bad!

We also found that the battery life was excellent on the CMCN618N. A single 4Ah battery got us through a full day of intermittent staple driving. We used mostly 1-1/4 inch (1/4 crown) staples on trim and cabinet drawers. The ramp-up time was good, not exceptional for the operations we performed. On a few occasions, there was a very minor (less than 1 second) lag required between driving staples.

Room For Improvement

As with most tools, there is always a little room for improvement and the CMCN618N  is no exception. First, the loading window could be easily extended to give the user a better idea of how many staples are loaded at any time. With the current location and size of the load indicator window, you can see when the tool gets down to about 20 staples or below. Why not extend the window so you know the number of loaded staples anytime? Second, the tool belt slip is inserted into the slot and then a screw is tightened to hold it in place. On one occasion the clip was able to wiggle around the screw head and pop off. We recommend Craftsman look at the clip design to make it more secure. This will prevent accidental falls and drops that could damage the tool.

Overall Impression | Craftsman CMCN618N

Our overall impression of the Craftsman CMCN618N 20V NArrow crown stapler is that it’s a very good staple gun. It delivers high-end, adjustable performance. It has great ergonomics paired with very good battery life, But the CMCN618N also sports well-designed LED lights and a tool-free jam mechanism that makes operations smooth and reliable. We appreciated the good line of sight on the nose which allowed accurate placement of staples every time. There is no reason as to why a professional could not get great results with this tool and would make a great addition to the professional or DIYer. Nicely done Craftsman!

Final Thoughts | Craftsman 20V Nail Guns

Craftsman has stepped up its game with these Craftsman 20V Nail Guns.  While there are still a few improvements to be made, they functioned well overall. Reliability is critical and these guns both proved to be very reliable throughout our test operations. Craftsman put some thought into both the ergonomic and performance features. Unfortunately, the 21-degree framing nailer is missing some core features that make it a PRO level tool. The battery life and power met all our expectations for accomplished. We recommend Craftsman look at some of the high-risk impat areas of the guns and replace a few plastic components where able. Overall, for anyone who already owns Craftsman 20V tools, these nail guns are a good addition to your kit. And if you are looking to get into the DIY cordless nail gun game, you should check these Craftsman 20V nail guns out!

About the author

Ben Fecteau

Benjamin is a former project manager, CNC-designer, and AWS-certified welder with experience running a commercial and industrial steel design and fabrication company. Before making the jump to commercial construction, he spent years renovating houses and building furniture where he became skilled in the art of home wiring, flooring, siding, and custom tool modifications. Benjamin has a Masters Degree in Education and is passionate about sharing his love of design with his sons and through community-based outreach. He resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and enjoys spending time with his family, in his workshop, and serving as an Air Force Officer.

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1 Comment

  1. Always wrong

    This would be good for me since I don’t use a framing gun but few times a year. With my usage it would last a decade.

    Good article, it’s nice to see coverage of the mid range tools.

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