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A nicely designed, slim-line case keeps everything protected and organized.
Click image to enlarge

Porter-Cable 18 Ga. Brad Nailer (#BN125A)

Reliable, versatile and economical

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   When considering a brad nailer for the home woodshop, quality, reliability, range of fasteners and cost are all-important factors. The Porter Cable (PC) BN125A 18 Ga. brad nailer qualifies on all counts.

Initial Impressions

   The BN125A comes in a nicely designed slim-line case that safely protects (and organizes) the brad nailer, tool oil, a ¼" male air connector, 1000 1 ¼"-long brads and instructions.
   The BN125A feels good in the hand, nicely balanced and the trigger within comfortable reach. Despite the range of fasteners this gun will drive, it is surprisingly trim in size and weight at just over 2 ¼ lbs.
   The quality of the castings and machining are first rate. Fit and finish throughout is typical PC high quality.

Comfort and Control

The grip and relationship between it and the trigger make for a comfortable, easy-to-use nailer.
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   The grip on the BN125A features a rubber-like insert that is molded into the body. The grip is both comfortable to the hand and reduces the already small amount of recoil. The insert's semi-tacky surface also gives the operator a solid feel of control even when holding the nailer at odd angles.
   The trigger appears oversized but feels comfortable in use. When driving brads, the trigger offers sufficient resistance for a positive feel but not so much to be tiresome.
   The trigger on the BN125A is sequential and has no provision for converting to "bump" shooting where you hold the trigger down and tap the safety nose on the material to shoot more brads. The sequential trigger is a good thing in terms of safety for the home woodworker who normally uses this kind of tool only occasionally.

Power to Spare

This is an oiled gun but if you follow the directions the oil stays in the gun, not on your project.
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   The BN125A uses an oiled air cylinder that is both slim and powerful. Adding a few drops of air tool oil before using takes seconds to do but insures a very long life and a crisp brad driving sequence.
   Oiled air tools get a bad rap from some who fear contaminating their projects with excess oil. First, if oil is blowing out of the exhaust, far too much is being put in. In addition, the BN125A has a directional exhaust that allows aiming that puff of air, oil-contaminated or not, wherever desired. Using the correct amount of oil and aiming the exhaust somewhere other than on the project should alleviate those concerns, unfounded as they may be.

Nail-Driving Mechanism

   The mechanism that actually drives the brads is simplicity itself. A specially hardened driver blade harnesses the power of the air motor to drive the brads, with authority. The brads are driven straight and to the depth set by the adjustable dial control regardless of wood species.

Clearing jams, if they ever actually occur, is simple on the BN125A.
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Jam Clearing

   The transition between the magazine and driver mechanism is seamless which virtually eliminates mechanically induced jams. However, wood is an inconsistent medium so PC added a tool-less jam clearing system. Disconnect the air supply, open the magazine and remove any remaining brads. Squeeze a lever to release the forward mounted door, swing it open and the brad path is totally exposed. Removal of the damaged brad is simple, assuming it doesn't fall out on its own.

Depth Control

   Remember when depth controls on air nailers came unlabeled? With most of the nailers I have owned in the past, that lack of labeling wasn't a concern because turning the wheel in either direction had little to no affect on nail depth. Those days are over.

Depth control is both extraordinarily effective and visually explained.
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   The depth adjustment on the BN125A is clearly labeled with arrows and graphics. That is a good thing because turning that dial produces clear changes in how deeply the brad is driven.
   In what I thought was a rather unfair test, I drove five brads into a board at the same depth setting. The first two were driven in a clear area of a pine board, the third through a hard knot (ran through the entire thickness) and the remaining two again in the clear pine. The BN125A set all five brads to the same depth.

Magazine

   Made from hard-anodized aluminum in place of the plastic so common these days, the BN125A magazine holds 100 brads from 5/8" to 1 ¼"-long. Changing brad length requires no changes or adjustments of the magazine.

The magazine holds 100 brads and requires no adjusting when changing sizes. The indicator (arrow) lets you know when the supply is about to run out.
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   The left side opens fully by pushing a rear-mounted lever to allow easy loading or removal of the brads. A window near the front of the magazine cover either shows brads or when the supply gets low, an automatic red warning indicator.

In the Shop

   The BN125A is a sweet piece of equipment to use. Regardless of the angle or type of wood, the brads were consistently sunk to the setting dialed in. Unlike other nailers I have used, the depth does not vary as the line pressure drops to where the compressor kicks in.
   The safety tip wraps around the rear of the driving mechanism rather than the front as so many others do. This seemingly small design feature allows getting closer into corners and against vertical obstructions. We often use a brad nailer to tack small pieces in small places; the BN125A makes that task easier.

Exhaust can be directed virtually anywhere you like.
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   Despite its power and capabilities, the BN125A is very comfortable to use, light and well balanced, even with the air hose attached. Whether nailing up, down or sideways, putting brads exactly where you want them is easy.
   During testing I used nearly all sizes of brads the BN125A is capable of shooting. There are no adjustments needed when changing brad sizes, including the depth control in most cases. Load the length fastener needed and go to work.

Conclusions

To test the depth control I started with the heads flush (left arrow) and adjusted less power for each successive shot as the gun moved to softer wood. The brads rose from the surface regardless of less power being needed to drive them in!
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   The Porter Cable BN125A brad nailer is a top shelf tool for the home woodworker and professional alike. The quality of the materials and workmanship means the BN125A performs flawlessly and will maintain that level of operation for a very long time. Both are important attributes when the shop budget cannot be overlooked.
   The instruction booklet is well written with easy to understand illustrations. While there isn't a lot in the way of technique that needs explaining, the manual does present important information on safety and tool maintenance that the user should take the time to read and understand.
   If you have a brad nailer on your tool list, pencil the Porter Cable BN125A nailer on that line. If performance and value are important considerations, the Porter Cable BN125A brad nailer is for you.

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