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Driving fasteners into concrete or steel can be painfully slow and difficult, but Toolmongers during WWII needed a fast way to attach a steel-plate patch to the steel hull of a damaged ship. So, Yankee ingenuity produced powder-actuated tools.  A chemical propellant — like gunpowder — explodes inside the tool and drives the fastener, with action similar to a firearm.

For a guy with a home shop, who infrequently needs to attach things directly to steel or concrete, a single-shot model like this one should fit the bill nicely.  If you’ve got a lot of fasteners to drive, you might want a semi-automatic model.

Street pricing for the Ramset Single Shot RS22 is about $75.

Single Shot RS22 [Ramset]
Ramset [Corporate Site]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?] [What’s This?]


15 Responses to Powder-Actuated Tools

  1. fred says:

    These have gotten much safer (but less powerful) in recent years – but they are not toys and need to be treated with respect and knowledge. The hardenned steel pins that they drive can cause serious injury or worse – and you need to be aware of the substrate that you are driving into. I’ve seen botched jobs where folks have tried fastening to brick and mortar that fractured on impact. In our locality you need to have training and a certificate of fitness (license) to use one of these commercially

  2. joelfinkle says:

    My father had a Ramset that had to date from the 60’s or earlier.

    It was nearly idiot-proof: The loaded single-shot device had to be placed onto a sturdy surface, pressed down and twisted, then hit with a hammer. That made it pretty much impossible to drive a shot into things like people.

  3. AOJ says:

    I just finished framing a portion of my basement. I used powder activated nails to attach the floor plate Pressure treated 2x4s for an area about 1000sq ft. I probably went through 200 nails or so.

    Had trigger version very similar to the one pictured (Dad has had it for 20+ years). Drove the nails fine, but really started to take a toll on my shooting hand. You end up pushing down on the tool then pulling the trigger. the recoil goes right into your thumb joint. the version I have was actually made by remington 🙂

    Dad also has the type that you whack the top with a hammer. This one (also remington and probably similar vintage as the trigger version) worked great until it jammed. I haven’t tried too hard, but I don’t have high hopes of getting it working.

    I ended up borrowing the one my neighbor had bought recently. It is also a hammer style, ramset brand I think he said he paid $13 for it. The plastic is broken off of part of the top, it’s covered with paint, and every other thing you can imgine showing up in a basement finish project. and the thing shot nails all day long. Of the aprox 200 nails I used, I probably used this gun for 150 of em.

    My preference has swayed away from the sexy trigger version in favor of the much more recoil friendly hammer style.

  4. anthony says:

    The first year I worked maintenance (11th grade), we had one of these. Naturally, I was itching to use it, but obviously was not allowed – aside from the fact that around here, you also need a cert to use one.

    Never knew that bit of history about the tool. Very cool.

  5. Julian Tracy says:

    I have a Hilti DX36M. They sell for about $550 or so, but can be had for about $110 on Ebay used.

    There’s a reason these things cost so damn much…. it shoots like butter. There is virtually no recoil to you arm or hand – very easy to use and comfortable to use all day.

    Screw them hammer driven ones – what a pain in the butt.


  6. Wheels17 says:

    The key to the hammer ones is to use a big hammer. I have a 3 lb engineer’s hammer with about a 12″ handle. Short, hard slam, and the mass of the head takes the recoil.

  7. fred says:

    As Julian Tracy Says- recoil is an issue. We have switched from Ramset to Simpson with a noticeable difference in recoil and noise – but also quite a step up in price for the PAT.

    My old .38 caliber single shot Remington – weighed a ton – had recoil springs and cooling fins. It was a direct drive (no intermediary drive pin) and I believe that this makes it now illegal.

  8. cc says:

    one of these powder driven nailguns (possibly a hilti) had a prominent role in The Wire season 4.

  9. james b says:

    My dad settled an insurance claim in the 70s where a lady working as a secretary got killed by somebody missing the stud and shooting through drywall with a powder actuated nailer.

    I used a cheap one with a BFH to set the bottom of my floating walls when I finished the basement. Got a hammer drill a couple of weeks ago and like that much better for getting fasteners into concrete. The expanding lead slugs are the deal.

  10. fred says:

    re james b Says:

    Roto-hammers, hammer drills PAts all have their placefor different applications. For doing more than a few connections – drilling holes – placing lead or other shields and then aligning the work is much too time consuming if you are trying to make a living. Anchors are great if you need to remove things – PATs do a faster job of securing sill plates etc.

  11. james b says:

    re fred – I guess that’s why I do my own work. I’d rather take the time to get a good connection. It doesn’t seem like much more work to drill thru the wood and into cement to mark the spot then set the anchor; than it does to pull the spent shell casing, load a new one, load the fastener, and hope it sticks.

  12. Putnameco says:

    james b Says:
    It doesn’t seem like much more work to drill thru the wood and into cement to mark the spot then set the anchor; than it does to pull the spent shell casing, load a new one, load the fastener, and hope it sticks.
    Hilti makes both auto and semi auto guns. Like with the DX460, your only reloading every ten shots.,
    The only hoping you’ll be doing, is hoping you put your piece in the right place,cause it’s down, hard and fast.

  13. jeff K says:

    The older Ramset tools where called standard or high velocity tools. The charge itself drove the nail home and they could be scary. All the new Ramset guns are low velocity. The pin not only travels at a lower speed but they are drive by a piston in a much more controlled manner.
    They still are not a toy, I have had several of my customers shoot their hand, but out of the several million rounds I have sold, that is safer than most tools!
    Keep in mind, you get what you pay for. If you buy the cheapes tool and pins you can find, your results may be just so so.

  14. Missingfingers says:

    I have work with PATs for 25 years and I am very familiar with them. Most of this stuff is true, these are not toys and improvements (and downsizing powder loads) have made these things safer over the years. Despite this things can still go wrong because once you make something idiot proof along comes a moron. If you using one be sure your base material is either steel at least 1/4″ thick or concrete 3″ thick. If you have question call the manufacturer before using.

  15. OldShootist says:

    I know the ‘new’ low-v tools are now the prefered ‘safe’ alternative to the old high-v guns, however I came to love my Impex .065 High-V gun. When tilt-up construction switched from wood to steel ledgers the ONLY way to make the wood to steel diaphagm connection was with the High-V guns. My former roof structure client tried to save $$$ by having his carpenters shoot the ledger with the Hilti DX35 guns they used for attaching wood to concrete. When I arrived at the jobsite after he called me to come and ‘fix this mess’ i saw no less than three Hilti’s laying scattered across the roof with their muzzles blown to smithereens, and about a thousand wasted pins that I had the guys pry out of the plywood. My high-v Impex gun shot every pin perfectly and I was finished shooting the whole 13k square feet before the guys were done cleaning up the previous mess. I never picked up a ricochet from the High-V tool, a claim I couldn’t make of my Pneutek air-powered gun.

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