It’s tough to review a framing nailer without incurring the wrath of somebody. If you’re a professional, you pretty much view these as an extension of yourself. Most people are pretty opinionated on what they like and don’t like. There’s a good reason for this. If you’re framing a house and you have ever used a poor quality tool, you’ll know just how important it is to get this one right on the money. What fascinated us about the Bosch SN350-20F Framing Nailer was that they haven’t traditionally messed around in this area.
Bosch SN350-20F Framing Nailer vs the Competition
You’ve got Senco, Hitachi, Paslode, Bostitch, others… Bosch wasn’t even on the radar until they introduced these tools. And then they didn’t come to market as a “me-too” brand, they actually innovated – something that hasn’t really occurred in quite some time with air-powered tools. Aside from the occasional amenity, and of course, the quality of parts used, most framing nailers all pretty much work in the same way. Sure there are different loading methods and plenty of variation on the triggers, air exhaust, and other niceties, but the differentiating factors were primarily summed up by features, convenience, and durability. With the new Full Force line from Bosch, all that goes out the window. Now you’ve got a new way to make the actual nailer function – and it’s a game-changer.
According to Bosch, the company worked, in some fashion or another, on the Full Force technology for around 4 years. The Full Force technology uses a patented air chamber design that eliminates the need to use some of the drawn air to recycle the driver to the start position. Basically, it sends a second, smaller, burst of air through the gun that resets the driver – removing the need for a surrounding chamber to store air. The result is a 20 percent space savings (mostly in girth) and a 10 percent power boost over comparable tools. The power-to-size ratio is actually quite impressive – and anyone who picks up the nailers sees this right away. Armed with this info, we took an in-depth look at the tool to see what we’d find.
Bosch SN350-20F Full Head Framing Nailer Build Quality
The Bosch nailers look great. Sporting the standard Bosch Blue and a cast aluminum body (with brushed Bosch logo on the sides), the SN350-20F is actually an attractive framing nailer. The tool weighs just 8 pounds, 11 ounces and the weight falls almost directly down the vertical axis of the rubber overmolded handle. On the back of the tool is a metal strike plate that is specifically designed to protect the tool when it is used to tap studs into place. Rather than put a warning in the user manual about not using the tool this way, Bosch, having redesigned the tool to vent through the front, opted to just admit that framers use their nailers this way. I guess they figured why not just admit it and give them some protection in the process?
The trigger is also equipped with a rubber overmold and we found it to be perfectly shaped for gloved and un-gloved hands. It has an extra long length and there is a duck-bill bottom which keeps your finger on the tool even when you manipulate it into awkward positions. The trigger features a tool-less method of adjusting from standard mode (one pull, one hit) to bump mode (trigger down for continuous bump-and-hit mode). All you do to switch modes is push in on the yellow plastic insert located just behind, and attached to, the trigger. Moving it to the top position places it in bump mode, while leaving it down keeps it operating at its defaults. To be able to flip between modes on the fly and without having to reach for a tool was impressive and came in handy on more than a few occasions.
The Bosch Framing Nailer magazine is pitched at the standard 20-degree angle and loading of nails is accomplished by pulling back the nail feeder, dropping in the full head nails into the top, and pulling the feeder again to release it and put tension on the nails. But here’s where we were impressed… If you encounter a jam in the tool, the entire magazine can be removed from the nail in about a half-second by simply pulling the quick-release lever and removing it from the tool. While we never actually needed to do this on the jobsite, it was one of our favorite things to demo to others when showing them the tool.
You can easily adjust the nail depth via the metallic red adjustment knob located just behind the point of evacuation for the nailer. We used this quite a bit as we switched from framing to sheathing as we describe later in the review. The depth adjustment was convenient and easily activated with gloved hands. The integrated depth gauge isn’t an absolute metric for adjusting depth, but will allow you to memorize the settings which correspond best with the pressure being sent to the tool.
In the Field
We used the Bosch SN350-20F on a decking project and also to build an addition onto an existing home. We used 3-1/2″ common framing nails as well as 2-1/2″ ring-shank nails – likely over 1500 nails total for this review. Brands ranged from generic to Grip-Rite, and neither seemed to give us any hassle. This rendered the impression that the Bosch nailer is pretty much nail-agnostic and will work with anything you choose to throw at it.
On the addition project, we really liked the design of the metal contact element, which was perfect for both full-on and angled nails. The Bosch Framing Nailer made it very easy to shoot a toenail into a piece of two-by material due to the sharp teeth provided which really gripped the wood. The tool almost never slid across the wood and we found that in the course of the job we really didn’t waste too many nails since most went exactly where we wanted them. For those who have ever wished there was a way to quickly suspend the tool while up in the air, Bosch offers a Rafter Hook (SN350-RH) accessory that will allow the tool to hang off a rafter when you need a moment to regroup or beat a feisty piece of dimensional lumber into place.
Building Walls with the Bosch Framing Nailer
Our favorite use of the tool was when we brought it to a local Habitat for Humanity project and used it to put up several walls for a home they were building. They were using a generic nailer and it was leaking like a sieve and very bulky to use, especially for some of the participants who had never before seen or used a framing nailer. They thought this leaky nailer was great until they got to play around with the Bosch. There was more than one comment directed at how different, and smaller, the Bosch looked from the other nailer. It was certainly more agile.
Working on Habitat for Humanity
For the Habitat work, we were also able to quickly adjust the nail firing depth to bounce back and forth between sheathing and framing. This allowed us to secure the sheathing with the nails just flush with the surface of the board, thus ensuring its strength and meeting local building codes. Afterward, a few quick turns of the depth adjustment dial let us sink nails 1/16″ into the 2×4 framing material. Switching back and forth was easy as we adjusted the red metallic dial to our needs each time. After a while, everyone on the jobsite was using the Bosch like they had been doing this work for years. The reduced weight of the tool and its noticeably lower bulk made it far easier to manipulate than even our own personal favorite framing nailer we use regularly.
At the end of that particular job we actually gave Habitat for Humanity a new Ridgid framing nailer that we had brought along to help with the day’s work. We all laughed, however, when the supervisor looked at the Ridgid, then back at the Bosch and exclaimed with a smile on his face: “But I want that one!” I guess it kinda sells itself.
Conclusions & Recommendations
The Bosch SN350-20F is a class-leading tool that brings innovation, style, comfort and ingenuity to the world of framing nailers. This is a tool for pros, and one that I would recommend to anyone looking for a great workhorse tool that has features that count and makes the job a lot easier. It’s compact for a nail gun, and that translates into better sight-lines and maneuverability. Bosch has entered the air nailer market with extreme prejudice and they seem poised to really shake things up.
At a typical street price of just $329, this tool is not only an awesome performer, but it’s also a great value. For this reason, we gave it an 8/10 Value rating. If you’ve read this site for long you’ll also know that we rarely score a tool with a 10, especially in Performance. Bosch has earned it and if you can’t already tell, we were more than a little impressed by this entry into the market. I give this my rare “Run. Buy it now!” recommendation.