Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer Review – Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

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milwaukee m12 pin nailer

In the category of “Best candidate for cordless tools,” nailers have to be at or near the top of the list. Regularly using a tool that can launch chunks of steel at high velocity, while wrestling with an air hose and listening to the obnoxious roar of a compressor, often while perched at the top of a ladder, is inspiration to ask the question “Do you feel lucky today?” Over the past few years, the folks at Milwaukee Tool have been perfecting the art of the cordless nailer, with a lineup that includes finish nailers, framing nailers and staplers. Once they had all the big guns taken care of, they had a tiny space left on the shelf, and they recently filled it with the Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer. They sent one along to us here at HomeFixated, so we could explore the joys of launching tiny chunks of steel while going walkabout.

Some of you may be unfamiliar with pin nailers, and are undoubtedly wondering why the heck anyone would want to nail a pin to something. While there may indeed be someone out there who feels the urge to do just that, in actuality pin nailers are very useful tools. A pin nailer is a small nailer that shoots tiny, 21-ga or 23-ga (23 is smaller) miniature nails called pins. They’re very useful for attaching small pieces of molding or trim, assembling small projects, or for holding wood parts together and in position after they’re glued up.

The Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer, ready to help out with the small stuff

Like some of its larger Red brethren, the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer relies on a nitrogen gas spring mechanism to propel the tiny 23-gauge pins. This allows the pinner to launch the pins with absolutely zero ramp-up time, and to sink them fully into both hard and soft varieties of wood. The magazine can accommodate 120 pins, and you can choose pins from ½” to 1-3/8” in length. Here’s the full list of specs from Milwaukee:

• Double-Action Trigger for Sequential Driving
• No Compressor Hose or Gas Cartridge
• Compatible with 1/2″ to 1-3/8″ 23 Gauge Headless Pin Nails
• Up to 750 Pin Nails Per Charge
• Tool Free Drive Depth Adjustment
• (2) Interchangeable, Non-Marring, Precision Point Tips Included
• Magazine Reload Indicator and Dry Fire Lockout Mechanism
• LED Light for Increased Visibility
• Reversible Belt Clip
• Fits all M12™ Batteries
• Height 7.7 in.
• Length 8.7 in.
• Weight 3.3 lbs.
• Width 2.6 in.
• Magazine Capacity 120 Pin Nails

Pinning Down The Details On The Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer

As with most of their tool lineup, the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer is available as a bare tool, and in kit form. If you’re already on the M12 platform, with a battery and charger, buying the bare tool will save you around $50. The kit provides a charger and a 1.5Ah M12 battery along with the pinner, and also includes a soft rectangular contractor case, which is large enough to store it all, along with an assortment of pins (the pins aren’t included). Both versions include a belt clip and two non-marring tips. We received the kit to evaluate, and I will say I’m very happy to have the bag to keep everything corralled.

milwaukee m12 pin nailer
The Milwaukee M12 pin nailer kit comes in a handy storage bag. Red, of course.

When I freed the pinner from its packaging, the first thing I noticed was its build quality. Like the larger nailers in Milwaukee’s lineup, the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer feels very solid and well-made. There’s some rubber overmold on the handle to help prevent slipping, and make the pinner a bit more comfortable to hold. There’s plenty of room around the handle, even for my largish hands.

The pinner is very compact, but the handle is plenty roomy.

Any Milwaukee M12 battery can be used to power this little pinner. Milwaukee claims the 1.5Ah M12 battery will last long enough to sink up to 750 pins. We didn’t verify that, but I never came close to running a battery down, even after several days of intermittent use. A battery gauge built into the pinner helps you keep tabs on your remaining power supply.

Loading up the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer is a snap. Just depress the magazine release, slide the pusher to the rear, and drop in a strip of your favorite headless pins. Note: Most of these pins come with arrows printed on the side, to indicate which side should be facing down. Seems pointless, for a “headless” pin, but what do I know… At any rate, just slide the holder forward, pop in an M12 battery, and you’re locked and loaded and ready to make some tiny holes.

milwaukee pin nailer magazine
Loading up is easy: Slide the pusher back…
milwaukee m12 pin nailer
Drop some tiny pins in, and get to work!

Launching Some Pins

When it’s time to get to work, don’t spend time searching for the power button – there isn’t one. There’s a safety mechanism at the rear of the trigger on the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer that you engage with your middle finger. Once you do that, the pinner is ready to fire, so be careful about pulling the trigger; the nose piece doesn’t have to be depressed, like it does on larger nailers. Which is good – no one wants an unhappy nailer. As with the pinner’s big brothers, there is absolutely no ramp-up time when you pull the trigger.

There’s a little safety lever just behind the trigger…
milwaukee pin nailer
Flip it up with your middle finger, and your trigger is live.

Over the past three months or so, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve grabbed the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer. All I know is, it’s a LARGE number. It came in handy on a kitchen remodel, attaching scribe molding around some kitchen cabinets. On the same project, the pinner did a great job securing some loose face-nailed slat flooring in the dining room, and replacing a missing piece by a heat vent in the living room.

Scribe molding ready to attach…
The compact pinner was easy to get into position, and the tiny holes left behind are easy to fill.

On the home front, the pinner was pressed into service to help repair a piece that had come off the front edge of the slide-out support piece for a drop-down leaf on an old hutch. After applying some wood glue, I used 1-1/4” pins to secure the piece in place while the glue dried, and to help secure it permanently. The Milwaukee M12 pin nailer had no trouble setting the long pins sub-flush.

A piece of an old hutch had been patiently waiting to be re-installed…
milwaukee m12 pin nailer
After gluing it up, the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer tacked it in with a couple of 1-1/4″ pins.
End result: Sturdy repair, intact hutch, happy wife.

Another off-duty mission involved re-attaching the ends on a small doll’s bed. Again, I glued the offending pieces, then pinned each end to hold everything in position while the glue set. Result: One sturdy bed, and one happy child.

To fix the delicate little bed, I glued it up…
milwaukee pin nailer
Pinned the pieces in place…
And restored the bed to its happy owner.

The Untethered Life

Other projects involved using the pinner to install some small-diameter quarter-round molding, adding some light-weight molding around a ceiling air return, and reinforcing a couple of skirting brackets on the outer edge of an old staircase. And there were MANY more.

While doing these various projects, I used pins ranging from ½” to 1-1/4” in length. I fired pins into a variety of woods, including balsa, oak, maple and pine. Making adjustments for the various pin lengths and species of wood was fast and easy, using the tool-free adjustment dial on the side of the pinner. After dialing in the depth, I never had a problem sinking every pin sub-flush.

During all that pin launching, I also never had a single jam. If the pinner ever does jam, clearing it involves removing three screws and the plate on the front of the unit. The required hex wrench stows securely onboard, so there’s no foul-tempered searching necessary.

The Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer: No Holes Left Behind (Almost)

If you’ve ever used a pin nailer, you know that the 23-gauge holes they leave behind are tiny, and that’s certainly the case with the Milwaukee M12 pin nailer. The non-marring tip left everything I worked on in perfect shape, and makes it easy to place the pins precisely where you want them. An extra tip is included, and stows away onboard.

The hole from a 23-ga. pin (below) vs. the hole from an 18-ga. brad
The non-marring nose piece makes it easy to get those little pins where you want them.

When shooting such tiny fasteners, there’s virtually no kickback, and a dry-fire lockout ensures you won’t be banging merrily along, shooting tiny little blanks. An LED in the nose helps illuminate those dark, scary corners; there’s also good visibility along the side of the magazine, so you can see when it will soon be time to grab another fistful of those tiny pins.

milwaukee m12 pin nailer
A viewing slot lets you keep tabs on your remaining pin supply.

Any down side to this little pinner? Not as far as I’m concerned. It’s a bit heavier than a pneumatic tool, but it’s a helluva lot lighter than a compressor, and not having to deal with an air hose is a huge time and effort-saver for anyone who doesn’t work in a fixed position all day. The pinner is also very compact, and easy to maneuver into tight spaces, something that’s a bit more challenging with an air hose attached.

The Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer is a well-designed, robustly built little nailer. I’m constantly finding new uses for it, and when it’s time to do some delicate fastening, I’m WAY more likely to tackle the job, rather than put it off because I’m too lazy busy to drag out the compressor and air hose. Milwaukee backs the pinner with a three-year warranty, and the battery carries a two-year warranty. Try one out, and see how much more productive you can be making free-range tiny holes.

milwaukee m12 pin nailer

Buy the Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer kit Now - from Ohio Power Tool

Buy the Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer bare tool Now - from Ohio Power Tool

Buy the Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer bare tool Now - from the Home Depot

Buy the Milwaukee M12 Pin Nailer kit Now - from the Home Depot

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About Phil

Phil’s path to the pinnacle of success as HomeFixated’s Senior Writer was long and twisted. At various stages of his life, he worked as a framing carpenter, attended motorcycle mechanics school, served as an Army MP, did a hot and itchy stint installing insulation in Phoenix, owned and operated a small contracting firm doing residential renovations, and worked as an employee of a major airline (Motto: We’re not happy ‘til YOU’RE not happy). He is currently semi-retired, but continues to take on little projects, such as the total renovation of an old farmhouse. Yes, he is a slow learner. Future projects include a teardown restoration of his 1965 BMW motorcycle, and designing and building a kick-ass playhouse for his grandsons. Phil loves spending time outdoors, hanging out with family and friends, cool tools, and a cold IPA when beer o'clock rolls around.

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