Nail Gun Not Shooting Nails? Here’s What To Do!

Nail guns are pneumatic saviors of the garage and workshop. Many of us rely on them for large-scale carpentry and all kinds of projects – so what happens when they stop working? 

Reasons for your nail gun not shooting nails are likely related to nail jamming, cleaning issues, and/or the types of nails you’re using. It’s time to start troubleshooting!

In this DIY guide, we will take you through the common causes for nail gun problems and how you can remedy them – safely! Let’s get started.


Staying Safe

Before you start to inspect your nail gun, always make sure to wear safety goggles and gloves. Even if it is not firing nails at present, it always pays to stay safe. Even the best nail guns can be highly deadly – and may even prove fatal if mishandled.

Make sure your gloves are heavy-duty, and that your goggles fit snugly to your face. You may also wish to wear industrial earmuffs or other audio protection, as some nail guns can create noise of up to 120 dB!

Once you are wearing the right safety equipment, it is time to get started.

Common Reasons for a Nail Gun Not Shooting Nails

More often than not, a nail gun that doesn’t shoot nails needs internal inspection. Here are the most frequent reasons for these tools breaking down.

It’s a Nail Jam

Unfortunately, even the best nail guns can jam. This might be a result of improper loading and can stop the blade from firing nails.

You’ll need to carefully inspect and clear jams before testing your tool once more – further down, we offer a step-by-step guide, so be sure to keep reading.

Your Nail Gun Needs Air

In some cases, nail guns will stop working if there is a fault with your air compressor. Many nail guns need compressed air to keep firing – and if there are problems with the connection, or if your compression tank is full, they may grind to a halt.

Be sure to check your nail gun is getting plenty of air and that your compressor is working as it should. Check the seals for escaping air, too. You may need to seal with tape in some cases.

Your Nail Gun Needs Power

Yes – this is hopefully the first thing you check if your nail gun isn’t firing nails – but is it powered on? There may either be a problem with your power outlet or with your battery (if you are using a handheld tool).

Cordless nail guns may be at risk of power rundown or even compartment corrosion, so be sure to take a look at the battery source. It’s likely to be the quickest fix, in any case!

You Need to Clean Your Nail Gun

Sometimes, feeding problems may arise as a result of you needing to clean your nail gun’s magazine. In these cases, you may still find that nails fire but that it’s tough to load properly. An easy sign to spot is if the firing mechanism starts to stick, for example.

Always consult the manufacturer for advice on cleaning your nail gun, and, as always, power down first! You may need to unhook its fasteners and clean with a brush and compressed air. A good brush and spray of its various mechanisms occasionally is always a good idea.

You’re Using the Wrong Nails

A very common problem for a nail gun not firing nails is that the magazine simply won’t accept the load-in. You need to be exceptionally careful to load the right nails to fit your specific magazine, though this problem happens even to the most experienced of us.

You’ll need to check your operating manual and remove your nails. If you are using custom-fit fasteners in your nail gun, too, it may be that you have an improper fit. In which case, check which fasteners are ideal for your specific tool.

Your Nail Gun Seals Need Replacing

Seals inside your nail gun aren’t going to last forever, but if you don’t lubricate and care for them regularly, they will wear down much quicker than you expect. Often, if there’s no jam and no nails are firing, there’s a chance you will need to replace your gun’s internal o-rings and other seals.

This is a job you probably won’t be able to attend to yourself unless you are certain you have a supply of seals and o-rings in your garage or workshop handy. We’d also advise you to check your tool warranty carefully, too, as adjusting these fittings may lead to invalidation. Where in doubt, arrange to have your nail gun inspected and repaired by a certified specialist.

You’ll likely find that your seals have worn out if your nail gun is just shooting air. That’s because air is leaking through a gap in the sealing – it’s time to get the internal pieces replaced.

Your Nail Gun’s Damaged

All kinds of internal damage can face your nail gun without you realizing it. That’s why, if you do choose to take a closer look at the inside of your tool, it is also worth checking for signs of wear, tear, and outright breakages and snaps.

You may simply find that the firing pin has broken and that it won’t pull back anymore. You may even find twisting on the magazine, or that your loading spring is broken or burned out. There may even be dirt buildup inside the main guide, which could cause no end of problems.

In any case, depending on your own knowledge and your nail gun’s warranty status, it is always a very good idea to reach out to your manufacturer. In most cases, there will be a recommended or certified repair center you can take your tool to for help and guidance.

Out of sheer safety alone, we wouldn’t ever recommend you go ahead and fix any damage inside or outside your nail gun unless you’re qualified to attend to it.

How to Remove Nails From Your Nail Gun: A Step By Step Guide

As mentioned, nail jams provide some of the most frequent causes of nail gun misfirings, so it’s worth realizing what you can do to inspect and fix this issue moving forwards. Again – if all else fails, and for the safest process possible, be sure to take your nail gun to a certified repair center.

1. Power Down

Always, always make sure that your nail gun is ‘off’ before you inspect it. That means disconnecting from your power outlet and ensuring that your air hoses and other connections are removed. Do also make sure there’s no battery in the nailer if you are using a portable tool.

Examining your nail gun while it is powered up is a huge safety risk – so take it from us, don’t skip this step.

2. Remove Unfired Nails

Follow steps recommended by your manufacturer in the nail gun’s manual to open up the device and head straight for the magazine.

It’s here where you should ideally start taking any nails or strips left over out of the gun. The aim of this step is to empty it out before we test it any further. If in doubt, empty the gun as clear as you can.

3. Get Into The Jam

You’re then going to need to actually access the jam to remove the nails or blockages that are stopping the tool from firing. This isn’t something we can help you with specifically – as different nail guns have different mechanisms – so find your manual, and follow the steps. You’ll normally need to release the barrel with a lever, but some nailers use flip-tops to allow ease of access.

In some cases, you may even need a screwdriver to hand, so again – consult the manufacturer.

To get into the jam, you will likely need a pair of pliers or a sensitive, intrusive tool that can get deep into a tight space and help you take out any nails bent or stuck into the jam.

This step in the process can take some time and patience, so don’t get frustrated. Taking this stage nice and slow will be key to ensuring you don’t damage the nailer.

4. Reload Your Nail Gun and Test

Once you’ve cleared out your nail gun, it’s time to put the pieces back together again. Fix everything back in place and load your nailer once again with the correct nails for the job. Once everything is back as it was – secure and loaded – you can try using your nailer again.

Power back on, and test on a piece of wood or test material to see if nails start firing once more. If they don’t, you will need to consider one of the other reasons for nail firing problems listed above, or to take your nailer to a specialist.


If your nail gun is not firing nails properly – or at all – there are thankfully things you can do and try to make sure it starts working as you expect it to. In many cases, it’s likely to be a very quick fix!

However, don’t be afraid to take your tool in for repair if you need to – and you should never try opening up or fixing your tool on your own unless you know that you are protected by warranty!