Porter Cable 23ga Nailer PIN138 & Compressor C2004 – Review

In the interest of full disclosure this is the first time we really have spend any significant amount of time with a pin nailer. Previously we had thought of an 18ga brad nailer more as the go to finishing tool for molding, trims and regular finishing. The pin nailer, in our head, seemed more for decorative accents or craft projects.

After some research and using the Porter Cable PIN138 ($136, Amazon) a couple of times we are starting to feel pretty stupid for that kind of thinking. Similar to how we felt the first few times we used an impact driver instead of a traditional drill several years back. Now we are curious just what all this little pinner is capable of, in chatting with some folks in different construction forums they were discussing techniques of using liquid nail and pins (more to secure while the adhesive dries) to install crown molding. That seems pretty optimistic but they are having success with it and no need to go back and fill holes.

Out of the Box


The case on the pin nailer is a very nice quality. Inside we were pleasantly surprised to see safety glasses and 2000 1” pins along with the tiny nail gun. The gun itself feels very well constructed even though it was extremely light weight. A few features on the gun that we liked at first glance were onboard hex key and backup no mar tip. The pin magazine is easy to open and add pins varying in size from 5/8” to 1-3/8”.


The Porter Cable compressor C2004 ($199, Amazon) at first glance does look more compact than other pancake units we have used, but maybe it was just the marketing doing its job which claims 15% lighter and 20% more compact. Two ¼” quick connects, nice large gauges, cord storage, decent length of air hose and easy to carry handle all lead to a very good first impression. Both the compressor and pinner highlighted the “Maintenance-Free” features which are also great as long as it doesn’t take away from the overall life of the tool.



We were pleasantly surprised just how accurate it was to place the pins, even with the no mar cap it was very easy to line up the pins on single pencil marks. With more practice it would become second nature to tuck these pins into molding grooves or just about anywhere. The pinner also does not require the tip to be compressed to fire (just a second safety triggers) so be careful, the temptation to shoot things John Wayne style is great but should never be done. We found the belt clip on the gun to be unnecessary but could see it being handy if you were on a ladder. Also it is very easily removed with the attached hex key. After several hundred pins we still couldn’t get a jam but if it should happen we found the removal plate easy enough to take off. We are still amazed at how small the mark is, how little it manipulates the surrounding material and how well it holds work together.  


The pancake compressor performed very well with this tiny nailer as we would expect, even when firing repeatedly to purposefully try and exhaust the reserves it was able to keep up. For a single user it can easily handle anything this pin nailer can throw at it, two users our though is it would still be very capable. Of course we had to give it a better test than that so we got out the DeWalt framing nailer ($212, Amazon) to see how it would keep up. For a pro rapidly framing a house it would obviously be underpowered but for smaller remodel type jobs we may reach for this compressor over the wheelbarrow we have at the shop. Definitely able to provide enough power to drive the large nails, very portable and it can keep up at a pretty respectable pace. It was also fairly quiet, claiming 35% quiter, although not sure if that is really compared too. 


Like we said this was our first chance to really get into it with a pin nailer and while we are extremely happy with its performance we can’t speak to how it holds up to the competitors, however our good friend Marc at Home Fixated recently did a Pin Nailer challenge, Say Hello to My Little Friends you may want to checkout. Some of the other high end pinners can do up to 2” pin and perhaps we need to try one out before we speak to how useful this would be. We were more than thrilled using the 1” pins and the Porter Cable can handle up to 1-3/8” so it seems more than adequate for most tasks, larger than that we would still be more comfortable stepping up to an 18ga nail. Read the full Porter Cable press release below.

TOWSON, Md. – PORTER-CABLE announced today the first ever maintenance-free pin nailer with its new 23GA, 1-3/8” Pin Nailer Kit (model PIN138), offering long life, consistent performance and innovative on-board features. The PIN138 meets the needs of professionals and serious woodworkers who are looking for superior holding power while keeping nail visibility to a minimum. The PORTER-CABLE pin nailer fastens materials that would normally split using larger tools, providing greater flexibility and time-savings on projects. 

Designed with a “Maintenance-Free Long Life”® motor, the new 23GA, 1-3/8” Pin Nailer Kit requires no oil to be added to the tool. The motor utilizes a dual-stack ring system where the outer ring is designed to minimize internal friction, resulting in longer tool life. “With the ‘Maintenance-Free Long Life’® motor of the PIN138, there is no guessing how much oil needs to be added to the pin nailer,” said Jorge Silveira, product manager for PORTER-CABLE. “Unlike all other pin nailers on the market, the PIN138 reduces the possibility of work surface oil contamination and promotes hassle-free tool operation.” 

The consistent power and penetration of the PIN138 is delivered through an internal piston catch that holds the piston-driver assembly at the highest position in the cylinder, resulting in maximum power on each shot and ensuring accurate nail setting. “The PIN138 is designed to counter-sink a 1-3/8” nail into hard materials like Oak,” said Silveira. 

The PIN138 also provides the option of using headless and slight headed 23GA pin nails from 5/8" to 1-3/8" in length. “The ability to utilize both nails gives the user a choice of keeping nail hole size to a minimum by using headless pin nails or maximize holding power by using the slight head pin nails,” said Silveira. “With the increased holding power you get from slight headed pin nails, there are now even more applications to use your pin nailer.” Either type of pin nail will save you time by reducing the need for clamping on a particular project or eliminating the need to fill holes due to their extremely small size. 

Featuring a dry-fire lock-out, the PIN138 will not allow users to fire the tool when there are no nails remaining in the tool. The dry-fire lock-out feature eliminates witness marks (empty nail holes in the material). In addition, a low nail indicator is provided on the outside of the side-loading magazine to alert when nails are running low. For added convenience, the PIN138 holds 130 pin nails and automatically adjusts to different fastener lengths to provide easier loading and has fewer problems with pin nails that are out of spec. 

he PIN138 includes additional features that further protect your work surface from being damaged. The tool comes equipped with a rear exhaust, which directs any potential moisture and contaminates away from the work surface. The PIN138 is designed with a narrow nose for improved visibility and features a removable non- marring tip that eliminates wood indentations. An extra non-marring tip is provided and stored on the tool. Plus, a rubberized PORTER-CABLE logo on the side of the tool provides soft contact if the tool were laid on the work surface.

Weighing only 2.2 pounds, the PIN138 still delivers durability with its aluminum body and magazine construction. The reversible belt clip allows the user to keep the tool by their side for when it is needed. Ideal for cabinet makers, cabinet installers, furniture builders and mantle builders, the PIN138 is appropriate for light fastening and clamping applications including, but not limited to, small trim and small decorative moldings, cabinet crown molding, raised panel doors, rope and bead molding, mantle building and wood joining. 

The PORTER-CABLE 23GA, 1-3/8” Pin Nailer Kit includes the pin nailer, 2000 headless pin nails, a 1/4” plug with cap, a wrench for internal access and a carrying case. It is backed by a three-year limited warranty and includes one year of free service and a ninety-day money back guarantee.


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