DeWalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer Kit

Over the years, my crews and I have installed hundreds of thousands of feet of baseboards, casings and crown moldings. The process always involves lugging around a bulky air compressor, running air hoses and a fair amount of set up work before we even start working. Ever since Paslode invented the first cordless nail gun in the 1980’s, the idea of being untethered from air hoses has always been appealing, but the added expense and unreliability made it impractical. In this review we’re going to take a look at the DeWalt DCN680D1 Cordless Brad Nailer and see if it has what it takes to replace my tried and true setup of compressor, hoses and pneumatic nail guns.

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What’s in the Box?

The kit comes with the DCN680 18-gauge brad nailer, a 20-volt 2 ah battery, DCB112 charger and a gig bag. If you already have other Dewalt cordless tools that are part of their 20-volt Max platform, the DCN680B is available without the battery and charger. In DeWalt’s numbering system, if the tool model number is followed by a “B”, it means bare tool (without accessories). Tools ending with D1 denote a kit with 1 battery and charger, while D2 stands for 2 batteries with charger.


What Makes It Work?

DeWalt’s innovative flywheel design has a brushless motor that spins super-fast, storing energy from its rotation. When the driver blade contacts the spinning motor, the blade pushes forward to drive the brad nail. Pressing the nose of the tool against the work piece activates the motor, with virtually no lag time before you can fire the gun. The power is of course supplied by the 20-volt battery.


The Nails

The DCN680 can shoot 18-gauge brad nails ranging from 5/8” to 2-1/8”, covering most any project – installing cabinet skins, paneling, and any trim or molding. The advantage of an 18-gauge brad nail vs a 16 or 15 gauge is the size of the nail hole is significantly smaller, requiring less putty to cover. Speaking of nail holes, if you’ve ever fired an empty nail gun into a piece of door casing, you’ll appreciate the low nail lockout feature that prevents dry firing and unwanted marks on the work material.


Depth of Drive Dial

Depending on the type and thickness of the wood you are working with, you’ll need to adjust the depth of the countersink, or in other words, how deep the nail is driven. It’s easy to dial in the perfect amount by turning the wheel and looking at the visual slider indicator.


Clearing a Jam

While not an everyday occurrence, freeing a jammed nail can be a real pain on some nail guns. Not so on the DeWalt DCN680. It’s as easy as removing the battery and emptying the nail magazine before opening the jam clearing latch and pulling out the bent nail.


Clearing a Jam

If the driver is stuck in the down position after clearing the bent nail, just slide the stall release lever to retract the driver.  


LED Lights

The DeWalt DCN680 is equipped with two LED lights in the base. In addition to providing some illumination, the lights serve as indicators as well. The LED on the right will flash continuously in the event of a nail jam and the left LED will flash four times and then shut off when the battery is about to die.


Non-Marring Tip

You know that non-marring tip that keeps you from putting extra dents in work piece? The one that inevitably gets lost somewhere on the jobsite, never to be seen again? DeWalt includes two extra tips that are stored on the nail gun.  


Sequential Fire Mode

Setting the slider switch to show one nail puts the DCN680 into sequential fire mode, which operates like any normal trim gun. Depress the nose and pull the trigger to fire one nail.


Bump Fire Mode

Selecting the three nail icon will allow the gun to fire every time the nose is pressed against the work piece while holding the trigger.  


Battery Indicator

DeWalt’s 20-volt batteries have these nifty indicator lights to show you how much charge is left in the battery.


Battery Indicator

When you press the button, all three green lights mean full charge. Two lights signal between 50 and 75%, and one light means less than 50%. The 2 ah battery will drive approximately 850 brad nails on a single charge.


How does it Perform?

The familiar DeWalt handle and trigger feel comfortable because they are almost identical to the design of their cordless drills. While a bit bigger and heavier than a traditional pneumatic brad nailer, it’s not so heavy that it should receive any negative marks against it. Despite what you might read in reviews done by people that have never used it, the DCN680 is not so big that it won’t fit easily under a cabinet toe kick or in any other normal nailing situation. The tool works well, is equipped with tons of useful features and it should stand up to years of use.      


Final Thoughts

Am I ready to ditch my air compressor and pneumatic nail guns? Not yet, but the more I use the DeWalt DCN680, the more I appreciate the hassle free portability. It is a great tool for small projects or pickup work, and it really can do anything that a traditional pneumatic nail gun can do. On our jobsites today, there is one less air hose strung about. If you’re a DIY-er that hasn’t yet invested in an air compressor, the DCN680 is worth considering as it will set you back about as much as a professional grade compressor and brad nailer, but you’ll get the ultimate in portability. If you already own some DeWalt cordless tools and batteries, that’s a double bonus.  

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Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.