When it comes to battery-powered framing nailers—nailers that only use a battery and not gas cartridges—there are only a handful of players currently on the market. We got to test the Metabo HPT Cordless Framing Nailers, including the NR1890DRM and NR1890DCSM. These include a 3-1/2″ 18V cordless 21° plastic strip framing nailer and 30° paper collated nailer. Metabo HPT also makes the near-identical NR1890DCSM which is the paper-collated version. This Hitachi cordless framing nailer has some pretty cool features. I want to go over those as well as some of the testing we did while framing up a home theater riser.
Editor’s Note: Hitachi changed their name to Metabo HPT in North America. Many of their tools, like these Metabo HPT 18V cordless framing nailers, have simply been rebranded with the new logo and are otherwise unchanged.
Metabo HPT Cordless Framing Nailers Overview
So right up front, these Metabo HPT cordless framing nailers operate solely on battery power. But that battery powers nearly the same type of system their pneumatic nailers use. Metabo HPT calls this their Air Spring Drive System. It uses a sealed compressed air cylinder to fire the nail. Basically, the brushless motor drives the piston so that it compresses the air into the cylinder. When you pull the trigger, all that compressed air is released, driving the piston down and striking the nail into the wood. This is very different from a flywheel system that requires the motor to stay at speed in order to drive a nail.
That may sound like a long process, but it’s not. In fact, the brushless motor does it’s work even before the trigger is pulled. That means that when you fire the nailer, the fastener is driven instantly with zero lag. It’s constantly in a ready state to drive the next nail. The process is quick enough to drive 2 nails per second and the recoil feels about the same as a good pneumatic nailer.
Metabo HPT NR1890DRM Features
Now, in terms of what you can fire, both the Metabo HPT NR1890DRM and 1890DCSM Cordless Framing Nailers accept 2″ up to 3-1/2″ nails in either clipped or offset round head. The DR model uses 21° plastic collated strip fasteners. The DC version takes 30º paper strip nails. The paper version also holds about 10 more nails due to the difference in spacing from plastic. On either tool, you’ll only get a single full magazine loaded at one time. When the last nail is fired, the framing nailer has a dry fire lockout to let you know you need to reload.
Using the Metabo HPT Cordless Framing Nailers
The new Metabo HPT cordless framing nailers feature an onboard control panel right at the base of the handle. It does a few things. First, that’s where you turn the nailer on and get it ready for work. You just hold the button for a second, and it comes to life. There’s also a momentary button to check the battery charge. Finally, you can manually select between sequential and bump fire modes. You don’t want to underestimate this, either—it’s just so easy to do. With most pneumatic nailers you’ve got—at best—a locking switch that changes the trigger mechanism. At worst, you have to replace the trigger. Now… you just press a button. Very cool.
Depth of Drive
Both Metabo HPT cordless framing nailers have the expected tool-less depth of drive adjustment dial near the nose. I recommend using that more for compensating for different wood densities. We mostly sank 3” nails into white and yellow pine, and with the setting near the middle, it didn’t leave any nails proud.
We’ve got to mention the pivoting rafter hook. I love it. It’s big enough to hang the tool from a 4x beam, and it easily swivels in or out of position as needed.
Metabo HPT NR1890DRM Framing Nailer Performance
As soon as the Metabo HPT NR1890DRM nailer came in I had plans for it. In my home, there’s a theater room, but I wanted to add a riser to elevate the second row of seats. Yes, I really like movies. Anyway, I have some experience with this, and it involves nailing together a joist-like system of 2x8s topped with 3/4-inch plywood. I laid out the pattern, cut my wood to size, and went to town with the new Metabo HPT 21° cordless framing nailer.
Testing Bump-fire and Sequential Modes
I used both bump fire and single fire modes but typically stuck to single fire just to allow me more control. I was nailing on a curve and some of the wood had a bit of twist to it. I wanted to be sure to stay on the center. Two words came to mind as I used the tool: confident, and quick. I also really like the tip. It offers a good amount of grab for angled firing and toenailing.
After a while, the tool did feel a bit on the heavy side. Now I was hunched over in a cramped space. If you can stand and work normally, I don’t think that will be nearly as much of an issue. This is, after all, a great punch-list or project tool and not something designed to replace your primary framing pneumatic nailer. It hits hard enough, but the weight works against it for all-day use.
Metabo HPT Cordless Framing Nailers Runtime
The tool has a safety feature whereby it turns itself off after 30 minutes of inactivity. If you go to lunch, nobody’s going to “accidentally” discharge a nail. It also saves battery life. Metabo HPT claims their cordless framing nailers can drive as many as 400 nails on a single charge with the included compact 3.0Ah battery. We didn’t do full run-time testing, but we used a couple of sticks of nails on our riser project and then fired a couple more sticks on some internal testing. After roughly 150 nails it still showed over half the battery life remaining.
Metabo HPT had safety in mind when they designed this tool. Let’s say you’re in bump fire mode and you pull the trigger but get distracted. It happens, trust me. Metabo HPT makes it so that the nailer head must be depressed within 2 seconds or it won’t fire. Let me show you how this works. The same occurs in sequential mode but in reverse. The trigger must be pulled within 2 seconds of depressing the nailer’s head or else the trigger locks out. Resetting is easy. You just release the trigger and pull it again to keep going.
The Metabo HPT cordless framing nailers also seem to have mastered ergonomics. The expected non-slip rubberized grip that we love on their cordless drivers is alive and well with the NR1890DRM. It’s not as contoured as Metabo HPT drills and impact drivers, but it’s certainly curvier than their pneumatic framers. I mean the tools… the framers using these tools are usually a lot curvier… typically right in front.
Anyway, I like the balance of the tool. It also maneuvers easily. It is a bit heavy, though. With a compact 3.0Ah battery, this nailer weighs in at 10.2 lbs. For reference, the DeWalt weighs 9.25 lbs with their 4 Ah battery, and a typical pneumatic framer weighs around 8.7 lbs. If you’re holding it upright for long, you’ll feel it. Horizontally and toenailing… not so much. I still think the time-savings for quick punch-list jobs still make it worthwhile.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I’m really glad to see Metabo HPT throwing in with cordless framing nailers. This is a solid product in that category, though Metabo HPT is going after repeatability and power at the possible expense of weight-savings, and that’s a gamble. Get to a Metabo HPT dealer and see if they’ll let you demo one of these. You want to get it in your hands and see if it might be a tool that will save you time and money.
One more thing. The kits come packaged with this new Metabo HPT Compact 3 Ah Lithium-ion battery and a charger. Now, understand—this battery offers the same power and runtime as Metabo HPT’s original 3.0 battery. It just does so with 5 cells instead of 10. That makes it 3/4″ shorter and drops 0.6 lbs off the weight. It’s basically twice as dense in terms of power. You can use those older batteries or even Metabo HPT’s 6.0 Ah pack, but why would you? If you get 400 nails off the new compact 3.0 then I say drop the weight. Incidentally, Metabo HPT actually has these new compact 3.0 batteries selling for around $40.
Hitachi Cordless Framing Nailer Features
- Models: Metabo HPT NR1890DCSM (30-degree), Metabo HPT NR1890DRM (21-degree)
- Air Drive Spring System
- Brushless Motor
- On-Tool Control Panel
- 2 Modes of Actuation: Sequential or Bump Fire
- Automatic Shutoff After 30 Minutes of Inactivity
- Tool-less Depth of Drive Selection
- Pivoting Rafter Hook
- Ergonomic, Non-Slip Rubber Grip
- Dry-Fire Lockout
- Safety Lockout Feature
- Lifetime Lithium-Ion Tool Warranty
- 2-Year Lithium-Ion Battery Warranty
- 1-Year Lithium-Ion Charger Warranty
- Price: Metabo HPT NR1890DCSM (30°) $399, Metabo HPT NR1890DRM (21°) $399