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The Porter Cable NS150A kit includes the staple gun, a nice case, staples and air-tool oil.
Click image to enlarge

Porter Cable 18 Ga. Narrow Crown Stapler Kit (#NS150A)

It's not your teacher's stapler anymore!

Text & Photos by Tom Hintz

   Staplers have come a long way, evolving into very useful woodworking tools. Porter Cable (PC), the leader in air-powered woodworking tools, dominates that market segment for good reason: quality, dependability and value for home based and professional woodworkers alike.
   In this review we look at the Porter Cable (PC) NS150A narrow crown staple gun, a tool with wide-ranging capabilities that can make your woodworking a little easier and better.

Initial Impressions

Despite having plenty of power, the NS150A is surprisingly slim and light. Note the exhaust that can be aimed anywhere needed.
Click image to enlarge

   The PC NS150A is a little smaller and considerably lighter than I expected. Though the staples it drives are several times wider than a brad, this gun is slim and very comfortable in the hand.
   The fit and finish is very well done throughout. The castings, materials, machining and workmanship are first rate.

Power

   Driven by an oiled air cylinder, the PC NS150A drove staples with authority in all species of wood tried. Air usage is very low allowing nearly instantaneous recovery between staples. In the rapid "bump fire" mode, the PC NS150A drove a dozen staples in rapid succession, all driven to consistent depth even when the compressor was recovering.
   Exhaust exits at the top of the motor cylinder through a port that can be directed wherever is most convenient.

Trigger Modes

(Top) The trigger modes are clearly marked.
(Bottom) Changing modes is easy but takes a conscious effort for your safety.
Click images to enlarge

   The PC NS150A is equipped with a dual-mode trigger with settings for sequential or "bump fire." In the sequential mode, a staple is driven each time the safety foot is depressed and then the trigger pulled. The "bump fire" mode allows holding the trigger down and firing a staple each time the safety foot is bumped on the wood.
   Though changing the fire mode selector is tool-free, it requires a conscious effort to accomplish. That is a good thing as bump fire could be dangerous if enabled accidentally. In addition, the modes are clearly marked on the trigger, making it easy to visually confirm which mode the gun is in before use.

Depth Control

   The substantial amount of power developed by the PC NS150A's air cylinder makes effective depth control not only useful but necessary. An easy to use dial built into the housing ahead of the trigger is clearly marked and produces noticeable changes in fastener depth when turned. Once set, depth remains very consistent.

Staple Driving Mechanism

   The PC NS150A features a deceptively simple driver mechanism. A wide hardened blade, driven by the air piston, operates within a closely machined channel. Close manufacturing tolerances between the blade and channel means staples are driven straight and jams minimized.

The staple-driving mechanism is simple but works very well. Press a lever and the front of the mechanism swings open to clear jams that so far do not seem to happen.
Click image to enlarge

   To enhance driving staples near an edge or vertical obstruction with the PC NS150A, the driving mechanism was designed surprisingly flat and the safety foot is offset to the rear. These small design considerations also make aiming the staple accurately much easier.

Jam Clearing

   Driving staples is similar to driving brads two at a time. Though I had no jam problems in all of the shop testing, the infinite range of situations that can be encountered when working with a natural material like wood means the possibility exists.
   Should a jam actually occur, Porter Cable added their super simple flip-front cover, released by depressing a single lever. Opening the cover completely exposes the staple path. No tools, no fuss. Clearing a jam could not be easier, or faster.

Magazine

Loading up to 100 staples is simple. The supply is visible through the side of the magazine to let you know when it's time to reload.
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   The PC NS150A has a cleverly designed magazine that makes loading strips of staples very fast and easy. The staples drop over a center guide bar that is exposed by retracting the follower and tilting the spring-loaded right side of the magazine out. The left side of the magazine remains open so you can see exactly how many of the maximum 100 staples remain.
   Changing staple lengths from the ½" minimum to 1 ½" maximum length requires no adjustment to the magazine.

Grip and Handling

   A rubber-like insert molded into the handle makes using the PC NS150A comfortable with very good control. The insert material provides a non-slip grip that makes driving staples at odd angles a simple task.

In the Shop

The design of the NS150A nose allows shooting staples very close to a vertical obstruction and to control how far from it they are.
Click image to enlarge

   Driving staples exactly where they are wanted is easy due to an unobstructed view of the safety foot and it's shape. Because the staples are driven at the front of the foot, having to imagine the actual spot where the staple will be set is eliminated.
   At just over 2 ½ pounds fully loaded, the PC NS150A certainly is not tiring to use. Even with the air supply hose attached, balance feels very good. The shape of the rubber-like grip insert and the trigger position make operating the PC NS150A at odd angles feel comfortable and secure.
   Driving staples to the depth wanted requires little adjustment. The power of PC NS150A seems to overcome the density of hard wood with ease while the effective depth control prevents over-driving fasteners in softer spots or when moving to markedly softer wood. Even making substantial changes in staple lengths required very small adjustments to the depth control.

Firing 12 staples as fast as I could into solid oak in "bump fire" mode shows how consistent the NS150A is, even with the compressor kicking in while shooting this group.
Click image to enlarge

   Driving staples in hardwood in rapid succession using both the bump fire and sequential trigger modes produced no miss-fires, jams or improperly set staples. Accuracy of placement understandably decreases in the bump fire mode, something average users should consider. Staples can be driven very quickly in the more accurate sequential mode. Saving the bump fire configuration for wide open jobs like tacking sheet materials to flat substrates makes more sense.

Conclusions

   The PC NS150A is an excellent staple gun that features a wide range of fastener sizes and the durability woodworkers need. Superior design, materials and workmanship mean the PC NS150A will perform flawlessly for many years to come. The surprisingly low price tag makes adding the PC NS150A to virtually any shop a wise and cost effective decision.

UPDATE - 6-7-2006: After using this gun for over two years it continues to work like day one. Though I have used it extensively, it has not misfired or done anything else unexpected. Notably, in all this time, the only occasion I have had to open the jam-clearing door was to show someone how easy it would be to clear a jam if I ever had one.

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