1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

powder actuated tools

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by eocoolj, Apr 1, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. eocoolj

    eocoolj Member

    Mar 28, 2008
    I've always thought powder actuated nail guns are pretty cool, and though i have zero use for one, if I ever find one at a yard sale or similar for cheap I would love to buy one. I happened to be reading the wiki article on them tonight. The following statement got my attention:

    "Powder-actuated tools come in either high velocity or low velocity types. In high velocity tools the propellant acts directly on the fastener. This process is similar to a firearm.... High velocity tools may not be made or sold in the United States, however some made decades ago are still in use in shipbuilding and steel industries."

    The article does not cite any sources, but I was wondering if anyone is familiar with these? I assume if they are using these in shipbuilding, they must be monstrous? And why are they illegal to manufacture? If they were reclassified as firearms, why didnt they just continue to make them, give them serial numbers, and sell them through FFLs? I believe thats what they do with the industrial shotguns used to clean kilns and furnaces. If people are still using them decades after they were banned, they must have some real advantages over the still-legal low velocity, indirect-fire drivers.

    Any thoughts?
  2. rule303

    rule303 Member

    Dec 5, 2010
    Just a guess, but I bet it would be considered a "zip gun", and subject to NFA registration as an AOW.
  3. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    These used to be regulated sort of, and had a licensing requirement supposedly.

    When I got mine, I went through some simple Mail Order Licensing procedure.

    As a Carpenter I used it a great deal for all sorts of things where Nails or threaded fasteners were needed in Concrete or Steel.

    The one I have is a Remington, and, probably from the 1950s or maybe 1960s, which I got used in the 1970s, and is a general use item for applying Nails or threaded Shank Fasteners to Steel Plate or Concrete or Masonry.

    It uses what appear to be normal enough looking .22 Rimfire Cartridges which are a sort of 'Blank', and, one Loads the Gun from the Breech, inserting the Nail or Fastener of choice, and, then the Cartridge which sits in a sort of holder that fits into the Breech, and, one closes and locks the Mechanism, and, then fires as one pleases.

    All the various versions were smooth Bore, and, mine, being more or less a Deluxe outfit, has two different Barrels, one I believe is about .38 Calibre, and, the other, closer to 45 Calibre for obliging the larger heavier Fastener kinds, but I have not looked at it critically in quite a while, and, had never lopoked at it with those sort of thoughts in mind.

    Of course these are pressed firmly against the material one wishes to 'shoot' a fastener in to, for how one fired them, and, are not used from a distance as most Firearms would be.

    It will put the equivelent of a Hardened and somewhat chubbier 16 D Nail or Threaded pointy end Bolt, through 3/8ths Steel Plate, or, maybe 1/2 inch Steel even, I forget.

    The Cartridges one uses are color coded on the cardboard cover wad, through a series of magnitudes, and, a second Series of longer type .22 rimfire 'Blanks' are used for the heavier applications.

    Of course, now and then, operatives who lacked judgement, would put a Fastener right through an ungrouted Cinderblock Wall or other, and injure or kill someone standing on the other side, and, so, there were some discomforts from whatever sources or from underwriters for liability concerns, over the occasional mis-adventure episode.

    Generally these were well made and easy to use and well designed durable Guns, and, the one I have is about the same size as say a Colt M1911, but has a much longer Barrel and shroud.

    At some point quite a while back, it became difficult to find the kinds of fasteners these use, and, from that, it became roughly impossible, unless one stumbles on to some at a Flea Market or Yard Sale or something.

    I have never used nor would I care to own or use, any of the kinds od 'Guns' which superceded these, which use a Powder Driven Piston to drive a Muzzle Loaded fastner.

    They just seem silly and stupid looking and I dunno, I prefer the era when Artisans and Practioners had some self respect, and, discernment with their Tools...and posessed the intelligence to use them sensibly.

    I still have plenty of Fasteners and Cartridges to last a few more decades at the rate I am going, so, glad for that.

    Anyway, very useful and practical device which I have relied on many many times in all sorts of construction projects and home improves and so on.

    It is funny, but I was just musing on this yesterday, wondering what the status of these 'Guns' is presently with the B of A T F and now also E as well.

    I really doubt they could make a fuss over one, since there are still endless thousands of various versions of them, languishing in garages or sheds and so on across the Country, and, since one can not obtain Ammunition for them any more, I suppose it would ipso facto have to be some sort of "C & R" item?


    Well, I know I registered mine and myself as owner/operative, and obtained the Licence back in like 1978 or so, so, far as I would imagine, no more good faith than that could have been asked of me.

    It would be interesting if anyone has any info on what the present status is of these 'Guns'.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  4. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    This is one of the mistakes on Wiki I believe. If you Google "powder actuated tools" you will get a bunch of hits showing US manufacturers and places to buy them (even Lowe's). The ones I've seen will only take blanks and would need a lot of machining to make into a firearm.
  5. isc

    isc Member

    May 4, 2009
    I've used hilti powder guns alot. They're mostly used for attaching fasteners to steel and concrete. They're simple to use and the only reason my company did the class was for insurance purposes. They use .25 rimfire blanks and special nails that come on a plastic strip.

    I think the blanks could be used as detonators for an explosive, but it would be easier to design a gun from scratch than convert a hilti gun into a firearm.
  6. Owen Sparks

    Owen Sparks member

    May 27, 2007
    I was looking at these things at Lowe's a while back myself. They still sell them.

    As for detinators, ANY shotgun shell could be cut open and the primer could be used the same way, especially if you soup it up with the flash powder out of a few common firecrackers. I doubt nail blanks would be outlawed for that reason but then again, we are talking about the BATFE.
  7. eocoolj

    eocoolj Member

    Mar 28, 2008
    @ Grizz, isc, and Owen: What you are describing is the "low velocity type" powder actuated drivers. These use a cartidge to drive a piston, which in turn drives the nail. The "high velocity type" that I was asking about, and Oyeboten is referring to, uses a cartridge to directly drive the nail (if I am understanding it correctly).

    Oyeboten, I really appreciate your detailed response. This is exactly the type of information I was hoping to get. Any way you could post a picture of yours? Were pretty much all of the powder actuated drivers before a certain date the high velocity type? Or was it the type of thing where a consumer would buy the low velocity piston type, and the high velocity type was pretty much left to professionals?

    Do the older type look significantly different from the newer ones? This sounds like something that would be really cool to own, if for nothing else than a conversation piece. I assume there isnt really any way to get one at this point other than stumbling on one at a yard sale or flea market?
  8. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Mine is on a Job Site right now, but I can bring it home and post some images of it.

    There used to be many Makes and generally they tended to be similar in design, as far as the 'Professional' Grade Models.

    A good sized Pistol Grip, Trigger and Trigger Guard, and, a locking Breech which opened by twisting to the side, and, a safety of sorts ( typically very easy to get around by merely pulling on the Barrel if need be, as well as one could remove the Guard Box at the Muzzle, which I did early on and never put back ) which required the Gun be pressed firmly against whatever one was to fire it into.

    There were also very simple Breech Loading ones which one hit with a Hammer once loaded and closed, and, these accomidated the lower range of the power Range choices, using the same .22 Rimfire Blanks and the same lower power range Fasteners as the Commercial or Professional Models.

    These were usualy used for Nailing down Bottm Plates or Sill Plates on to Concrete, or, Fastening Metal Plates for setting Colums or Posts on to Concrete and so on, but were fine for shooting threaded shank Fasteners into thinner Steel sections of Ohhh, I dunno, 1/4 inch or so I imagine...not sure what their limits were, and, I never owned one or used one or payed any attention if one was in use close by, other than to mind my cares if the operative was about to do anything stupid with it.

    All the old ones I recall seeing were breech Loading and fired the fastener "like a Bullet".

    This was changed at some point to instead have designs which permit the Cartridge Powder Charge to push a Piston, which Piston pushes the Fastener, and, these latter ones loaded the Fastener shallowly from the Muzzle...and, loaded the Cartridge Charge from the Breech.

    Their Fasteners do not fit the older designs that were entirely Breech Loading, though some brands of fasteners can be modified to work.

    I just never liked the new design, nor their style in appearance, so I kept mine instead of up-dating to the new designs.

    The older Breech Loading 'simple' Styles which loaded at the Breech and which one struck with a Hammer to 'fire', jusdt looked like a stout Tube with a sort of widened Bicycle Gripo on the top part where you would hold it with one hand, and, hit it with a Hammer using the other Hand...and are still possible to find in Yard Sales or Flea Markets...where all in al, they have nothing remarkable for appearance to draw any interest or attention, like the Pistol Style ones would.

    The older Commercial or Professional grade Models or outfits were never as commnon as the 'simple' ones, and or probably, many were scrapped or destroyed once the emphasis was on the new designs, or insured settings and construction sites began to forbid their use, anyway, so, they are relatively scarce I am sure, by now.

    I do not know if any of the contemporary Models of the Piston type can drive heavier fasteners though, or, what I mean is, drive the fasteners into or through 3/8ths or 1/2 inch Steel Wide Flange Beam sections or the like, like the old 'Serious' Models could.

    I just payed no attention to the ones which were supposed to supercede the true Powder Actuated designs, and, I am never on any Job Sites anyway where anyone would know or care what Tools I own, bring, and use.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2011
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page