Milwaukee M18 2746-20 Cordless Brad Nailer Review

Over the years, my crews and I have installed hundreds of thousands of feet of baseboards, casings and crown moldings. The process use to involve lugging around a bulky air compressor, running air hoses and a fair amount of set up work before we even started working. We’ve been using cordless nail guns for quite a while now, but for big jobs with a large crew working, we still run a few hoses and mix in the cordless models. If you’ve been following me, you know how much I like DeWalt’s 18-gauge cordless nail gun for the hassle free, hose free, solid performance. In this review we’re going to take a look at the Milwaukee 2746-20 Cordless Brad Nailer and see if it has what it takes to replace my DeWalt DCN680 as my favorite cordless trim gun.

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What’s in the Box?

The 2746-20 is sold a bare tool, meaning it is just the nail gun without accessories. In Milwaukee’s numbering system, the 20 after the model denotes a bare tool. It works on Milwaukee’s M18 platform, and will accept any M18 battery regardless of amp hour rating. The 2746 is also available as a kit (2746-21CT) that comes with the brad nailer, an 18-volt 2.0 ah battery, charger and a contractor bag. This is the 2nd generation (GEN II) of the 2740 cordless brad nailer and Milwaukee has made a number of improvements to the original design.  


What Makes It Work?

Milwaukee’s nitrogen air spring mechanism is basically a piston that is located inside a cylinder. There is an outer cylinder with an area between the two cylinders that is filled with nitrogen and set to a predetermined PSI. The earlier Gen 1 nailer (2740) had way too much recoil so Milwaukee reduced the PSI. While it still has plenty of power to drive brad nails into hardwoods, the reduced PSI will give you more run time on a battery and less wear and tear on the tool. The cylinders are permanently sealed, so you’ll never have to refill the nitrogen.


The Nails

The 2746 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 (once there are 5 nails left in the magazine).


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 that is located on the right side of the tool. The first generation had the adjustment dial on the front of the gun, which made it more difficult to get into tight places.


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 Milwaukee 2746. 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- no tools required.


LED Light

The Milwaukee 2745 is equipped with an LED light in the base.


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? Milwaukee includes two extra tips of different shapes that are stored on the nail gun. 


Belt Clip

The belt clip can be attached on either side of the tool.


Sequential Fire Mode

Pushing the mode button to show one nail puts the 2746 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

Milwaukee’s 18-volt batteries have these nifty indicator lights to show you how much charge is left in the battery. When you press the button, all four red lights mean full charge. Three lights signal 75% of full charge, two means 50% and one light means less than 25%.



How does it Perform?

The handle and trigger feel comfortable and the tool is well balanced. While a bit bigger and heavier than a traditional pneumatic brad nailer, it’s about the same weight (5.3 lbs) as the DeWalt DCN680. It is however a little slimmer than the DeWalt and has no trouble sinking nails in hard or soft woods. The biggest difference between the DeWalt and the Milwaukee is the ramp up time. The DeWalt has a very slight delay between when the trigger is pulled vs when the nail is driven, due to the flywheel needing a split second the get spinning. The Milwaukee is instantaneous- it responds exactly like a traditional pneumatic nail gun. 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 Milwaukee 2746, 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 now one less air hose strung about. If you’re a DIY-er that hasn’t yet invested in an air compressor, the 2746-20 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 Milwaukee 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.