This article first appeared on the Tools of the Trade website.
The DeWalt 18 GA Narrow Crown Stapler (DCN681) drives 18 GA 1/4" Narrow Crown Staples from 1/2” to 1-1/2”. As with all of the tools in DeWalt’s line of cordless finish nailers, the stapler is driven by a pin that’s actuated by a flywheel. The brushless motor is powered by a single 20V Max battery. Aside from the weight and a couple of small issues I have with the stapler, it’s difficult to distinguish this from the pneumatic stapler I’ve been using for years.
Powerful and Reliable Performance
The stapler's bump fire mode when running in pine and poplar plywood functions better than I expected; there is not much ramp-up time compared with that of previous iterations of the flywheel design in earlier nailers. When running in bump fire mode, the stapler was capable of keeping up with me when firing 1/4-inch birch plywood on the back of birch cabinets. You can keep your finger on the trigger but have to completely depress the nose to move on to the next staple. Sequential mode worked as anticipated--and you don’t have to put a lot of pressure on the nose to get the gun to fire. Kickback is minimal. The stapler has plenty of power; it set staples nicely into pine and poplar 1-by when driven through birch and popular plywood.
The gun requires an Allen wrench to clear jams but has a lever to release the pin should it get stuck. I didn’t have any issues with jams, though I did have some issues with staples not setting properly after reloading. The dry-fire lockout leaves about four staples in the magazine and it’s difficult to add a new full sleeve with those four staples still loaded. It is possible to do this, but I found that sometimes the first shot or two buckled on the work surface--mostly when running 1-1/2-inch staples.
No-Mar Nose Slips
The depth-of-drive knob works effortlessly, and the onboard work lights are helpful in some situations. But the no-mar nose piece is this stapler’s weakest link--impeding line of sight slightly and making the nose prone to slipping. Besides the fact that it’s difficult to get off and to store, the tip is bulky and rounded, so it’s difficult to see exactly where you’re putting your staple unless you’re able to look at it directly from the side. It also slips easily, so if you’re trying to set the staple in a narrow amount of space--say, on the edge of plywood into a rabbet on the back of a cabinet cabinet carcass--it’s difficult to do so efficiently and without occasionally missing the rabbet if the nose slips. My fix for that was to take the no-mar nose piece off completely in areas where I didn’t care about leaving marks on the surface. Weight-wise, the stapler is a little heavy but well-balanced.
According to DeWalt, the DCB203 - 2.0Ah Battery that comes in the kit will drive 750 staples per charge. I didn’t count the number of staples as I was running various lengths through different materials, but I will say that the number seems reasonable. Runtime with a 2Ah battery was substantial; add a second 2Ah battery into the mix, and I’d guess you would get a solid day’s work out of it unless you’re building pallets. If you’re doing production work like that and need to use a tool all day long non-stop, this isn’t the right tool for you. But for punch-out work, building custom cabinets, and miscellaneous work in the shop - building jams, and so on - it’s a solid performer.
- Brushless motor maximizes runtime and durability
- Tool-free selectable trigger for sequential or contact actuation modes
- Tool-free depth adjustment for precise countersinking of staples
- Low nail lockout prevents dry firing and unwanted marks on the work material
- Multi-functional LED lights help to provide both workspace illumination and tool diagnostics
- Integrated tool-free stall release lever to quickly reset the driver blade in the event of a stall
- Adjustable belt hook for left or right attachment depending on user preference
- Bottom Load magazine for easy loading and removal of jammed fasteners
- Compatible with all DEWALT 20V MAX* batteries
- Fastener Length 1/2 to 1-1/2 in
- Fastener Type / Gauge: 18GA ¼” Narrow Crown Staples
- Firing / Acutation Mode Tool Free Selectable Trigger
- Jam Clearance Tool Free
- Power Tool Type Cordless
- System 20V MAX*
- Tool Height 11.4 in
- Tool Length 10.1 in
- Tool Weight 5.7 lbs
- Tool Width 3.7 in
20V MAX* XR® 18 GA Narrow Crown Stapler
- DCN681B: $249 (tool only)
- DCN681D1: $299 Kitted with (1) 2.0Ah battery, (1) DCB112 charger, and bag.