Milwaukee M18 FUEL 21 Degree Framing Nailer Review

Tool Box Buzz rating:

Milwaukee 2744-21 Cordless 21 Degree Framing Nailer

M18 FUEL™ 21 Degree Framing Nailer Kit

4/5
Manufacturer: Milwaukee
Model number: 2744-21
Power source: 18V Li-Ion
Motor size: Brushless
Weight: 10.05 lbs
This year Milwaukee introduced two new cordless framing nailers in the popular 21 and 30 degree nail configurations. We’ve been using both versions on jobsites this Fall and this review focuses on the 21 degree version. We also reviewed the other model, Milwaukee 2745-21 30 Degree Cordless Nailer Review, which you can read as well. Both models offer some unique features worth noting.

Features and Specifications

  • Fire up to 3 nails per second with zero ramp-up time
  • No gas cartridge
  • Power to nail engineered lumber
  • Nail Collation Angle: 20°- 22°
  • Nail Length: 2″ – 3-1/2″
  • Nail Shank Diameter: 0.113″ – 0.148″
  • Nail Head Style: Full Round Head Nails
  • Length: 14.1″
  • Width” 4.7″
  • Height: 15.2″
  • Rafter Hook
  • Dry Fire Lockout
  • Sequential or contact actuation firing modes
  • Tool Free Depth of Drive Adjustment

Power & Performance

Like most “newer” cordless tool types the first questions I get about this tool are does it have enough power. There have been quite a few different cordless framing nailers on the market for years now, some using gas, some just battery like these new Milwaukee nailers. Ultimately most of those early generation nailers struggled when nailing engineered lumber and they also struggled with speed to fire.

The first time I tried this nailer was at it’s introduction to our team at the Milwaukee Media Event in 2019 and we were really blown away at the power and the speed. But we really needed time in the field to get a better evaluation and proof of concept. Over the last couple of months we’ve had several of these nailers on two framing jobs (a residential house and a small commercial wood framed building) and everyone that’s used them has been blown away.

Shooting 3-1/2″ framing nails into LVL headers is a simple task for the new 2744 nailer. Not only does the nailer consistently sink the nails fully, we dialed back the adjustable nose as many of the nails were being sunk below the header surface. For me this really is the best test to prove cordless framing nailers can compete with pneumatic nailers.

Power isn’t everything though, users also want speed and the 2744 is fast! Milwaukee claims it can fire 3 nails per second with no ramp-up time and we found that claim to be completely justified. In “bump” mode this nailer can keep up with production nailing as well as any pneumatic we’ve used. One of the big bonuses in my opinion is there isn’t a “lag” like you get at times with pneumatic nailers if the compressor falls behind. The 2744 keeps up regardless of how fast you fire nails.

Comparison – 21 vs 30 Degree

Besides the obvious difference in the degree of the fasteners some of you may be wondering what if any big differences exist. Having used both models side-by-side on a couple framing projects several things really stand out (some of which are obvious to those who regularly shoot both styles). Several of the more obvious differences include:

  • Nail Capacity – There is a difference in the total number of nails these two configurations can hold. 21 degree plastic collated nails come in strips of 25 nails. 30 degree paper collated framing nails come in strips of 34. With the standard magazine on both nailers they can only hold one strip. So the 30 degree certainly holds a bit more per load.
  • Magazine Length / Overall Tool Size – The 30 degree nailer is more compact than the 21 degree version. It’s pretty simple geometry and may not seem like a big deal but it can be a big difference for anyone nailing in tight joist or truss spacing. There’s almost 2″ difference in overall tool length between the two versions.
  • Paper Vs Plastic – For many the choice between paper and plastic is a regional choice, or what you’ve always used. Some guys HATE the pieces of plastic flying everywhere while other guys can’t stand worrying about wet paper. Ultimately I don’t really have a preference, if paper is available that’s my first choice.

These nailers can be outfitted with an optional extended magazine allowing two full strips for longer use between refills. These can be ordered as an accessory.

All Day Framing?

So the question most guys ask me is whether these nailers can frame all day. So far the answer is most definitely yes if you’ve got a spare battery charging while you use the other. When it came to production wall framing we had no issues at all. The nailers are fast and extremely powerful.

However, we did run into a problem when sheathing the finished walls. When running these nailers repeatedly nailing off sheathing we did hit a thermal overload on a few occasions. This is an internal safe guard to prevent overheating of the batteries and damage to the tool. A simple change to a cool battery took care of the problem but it’s certainly something to keep in mind.

From my perspective this leaves a bit of a limitation to consider. If you’re framing walls (studs/plates/headers), setting trusses or rafters, framing joists, decks and blocking you’ll be in great shape with these framing nailers. However, if you’re doing wall, roof or deck sheathing then there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with a thermal over-temp shutdown (remember this is a design feature to protect the tool and battery). This doesn’t mean you can’t do sheathing, but you can’t set the world on fire with your amazing speed and expect this nailer to keep going without a shutdown.

Suggested Improvements

Without a doubt, each of the guys that have used these new framers say they are the best on the market by a long shot when it comes to power and speed. However, there are a few things that we think will bring these to the next level:

  • Weight – These are definitely heavier than today’s light weight pneumatic nailers on the market, by 2 to 3 lbs. It would be great if the next generation could drop a pound or two!
  • Thermal Overload – These nailers are so much faster and powerful than other cordless framers on the market. It would be great if Milwaukee could find a way to manage the heat so that users can shoot these fast in sheathing production. This would truly help cut the hose and make these a full pneumatic replacement.
  • Nail Pusher – On several occasions the power of these nailers (recoil) made the nail pusher jump over the back nails in the magazine. This can surely be tweaked to prevent the loss of pressure on the nails when it jumps off.

Cost

We tested this as a kit with one 5 Ah battery pack. This kit costs (at the time of publication) $449. This is a fairly good value when you consider many pneumatic framers cost $200-$250 without a compressor or hose. When you factor those costs in these nailers are pretty reasonable.

Overall Impressions

These new cordless framing nailers from Milwaukee are easily the best on the market. They are incredibly powerful (easily shoot 3-1/2″ nails fully into engineered lumber) and very fast in bump mode. While we think these are not quite ready to completely make pneumatic framing nailers obsolete, they sure are close. If you’re framing walls, setting trusses, doing truss bracing, framing decks or floor systems these nailers are more than capable and a great upgrade to air nailers. While using them all day doing sheathing may be a problem they certainly will work wonders for small additions and remodeling.

I think every crew should have a cordless framing nailer. If you’re in the market for one these are outstanding.

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About the author

Todd Fratzel

Todd Fratzel is the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and the President of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web based media company focused on the Home Improvement and Construction Industry.He is also the Principal Engineer for United Construction Corp., located in Newport, NH. In his capacity at United he oversees the Residential and Commercial Building Division along with all Design-Build projects.He is also the editor of Home Construction & Improvement.

@tfratzelTodd Fratzel

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