"This here's a gunpowder activated, 27 caliber, full auto, no kickback, nail-throwing mayhem man. Shit right here's tight. F— this nailin' up boards, we could kill a couple motherf—s with this right here..."Nail guns are a common Improvised Weapon in fiction. Generally, they are portrayed as being analogous to firearms that shoot nails instead of bullets, while in Real Life, nail guns have a safety mechanism explicitly to prevent this - it must be pressed in direct contact with a surface to fire (meaning you can't just pick one up and, say, start blasting zombies with it). Even if you did bypass said safety mechanism, nails aren't as aerodynamic as rifled bullets, so they don't have the accuracy or range that makes real firearms so deadly. They make better melee weapons since a nail gun is a blunt object that can stick out a long spike on contact, but this is hardly ever represented in fiction. Still, *never* point a nailgun at someone - the safety mechanism can malfunction and if the nail does hit someone it can inflict serious injury. The MythBusters tested this one and declared it "Busted" because while its accuracy was surprisingly good up to about 15 feet, a nail gun's penetration and stopping power are nothing compared to a real gun. This trope can also cover the use of rivet and staple guns as weapons. Subtrope of Spike Shooter.
— Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, The Wire
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Anime & Manga
- Near the beginning of High School of the Dead, Kohta modifies a nail gun into an improvised rifle and consistently headshots the infected with it.
- Franky in One Piece can spit nails in a gatling-like fashion from his mouth.
- Psycho-Pass: Real guns have been replaced with the Dominator, the next thing criminals use are nail guns. They aren't very good weapons: their range is quite short and their penetration is so poor that it takes near a dozen nails just to incapacitate one mook.
- Tsumugu of Kill la Kill uses a nail gun with very, very Bottomless Magazines. Rather than carpentry nails, it fires acupuncture needles that make people incapable of using Goku uniforms and enough can prevent them from moving at all. However, once they get back up they actually feel better than they did before.
Films — Live-Action
- One of the fake Exploitation Film trailers produced in the wake of Grindhouse for a contest and selected by Quentin Tarantino is "Nailed by Nikita", about an Eastern European ex-sex worker who uses a nail gun in her rampage against the bad guys, played by Russian-Dutch playmate Olga Urashova.
- In Small Soldiers, a nail gun is used as a heavy machine gun.
- In MouseHunt, one of the two heroes is using a nail gun, not knowing that the mouse is behind the wall.
- Lethal Weapon 2. Sergeant Murtaugh is attacked by South African agents and defends himself with a nail gun, ending it with him invoking the trope name.
"Nailed 'em bofe."
- Stay Alive: One character tries to use a nail gun to "nail" a vampire.
- Event Horizon: Doctor Weir threatens other characters with a nail gun designed to bolt hull patches on.
- Arachnophobia: Ross kills a spider with a nail gun, albeit one meant to patch holes in starships.
- In Final Destination 3, one of the victims meets her end when shot by a malfunctioning nail gun.
- In Cliffhanger, Gabe (Sylvester Stallone) uses a spike-gun to shoot a bad guy, but it's at close range, and it's pressed against a sheet of ice; so it might work.
- In UHF, Stanley gets chased by goons through the offices of Channel 8, and ends up shooting one with a staple gun in desperation, causing the mobster to get staples stuck in his face.
- In Real Men, Super Agent Nick Pirandello constructs a projectile automatic-fire nail gun from supplies in meek mild-mannered Bob Wilson's garage, and proceeds to mow down multiple Russian agents with it.
- James Bond (Daniel Craig) uses a nail gun for self defense against Gettler in Casino Royale (2006).
- The 1985 film The Nail Gun Massacre is a notoriously sub-par slasher which chronicles the killing spree of a maniac who, adorned in army fatigues and a motorcycle helmet, drives around in his gold hearse, killing semi-randomly with a nail gun while cracking bad jokes.
- Hollis's death in the original My Bloody Valentine.
- The most infamous scene in The Toolbox Murders features the killer chasing a naked woman (who was masturbating in the tub) around with a nail gun. In the remake, a woman is nailed to the ceiling with one, after being shot in the throat.
- The Big Bad Strack uses a rivet gun in his battle with Darkman, high atop a skyscraper under construction.
- In Night of the Demons (2009), Maddie loads a shotgun with extremely rusty wrought iron nails, one of the few things that can harm the demons. They lampshade in the commentary how utterly impossible this is.
- In The Island, there is a particularly... disturbing example. Jordan and Lincoln are hiding in a bathroom waiting for one of the company's men to find them. The man finds them, and they lock the door. He punches through the brittle door and reaches over to unlock the door. Jordan nails his hand to the door.
- A staple gun is one of the many makeshift instruments of torture utilized by the killer in Rest Stop.
- The victims in The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) are stapled together.
- The main character's wife is shot in the head with a nail gun in Seed.
- A rat and a woman are killed with a nail gun in The Carpenter, while a man is shot in the eyes with a staple gun.
- A character is tortured with a nail gun in Bunnyman.
- Dale in Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil uses a nail gun rather like a machine gun, not to directly target anyone, but just to create a distraction. This is one of the few chaotic sequences in the film that doesn't end in someone getting killed.
- An expositionary Montage shows that Happy Gilmore apparently got to be quite good at plinking cans with a nail gun while working construction... except when he accidentally hit his boss in the head with one. Luckily for Happy, the man was wearing his helmet and survived without serious harm. Less luckily, he failed to see the funny side and beat Happy to a pulp for it.
- D.O.A. (1988 remake). The (at that point unseen) killer tries to kill the protagonist and the girl he's with by turning up the air pressure on a nail gun that's been left in the prop room of the university's theatre, loading in a 'magazine'-like container full of nails and opening up on them like it's a machine gun.
- Used correctly in Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh with a close-up attack, pinning a protagonist's hands to the wall one by one at contact range.
- Demon possessed Natalie uses one to shoot Eric and David in the Evil Dead (2013) remake, firing it from across the room.
- In The Good Son Henry uses a homemade nail gun he made from various pieces of machinery to kill a neighborhood guard dog, he had earlier tried to kill a cat with it but the sight was off.
- Erin in Final Destination 3 is killed after trying to avoid a falling ladder and bumps into a nail gun that fires several nails into her head and hands, her boyfriend Ian had earlier used it to kill pigeons that came into the hardware store he worked at.
- The Gingerbread men Clumpy, Lumpy, and Dumpy from Krampus use a nail gun as a weapon against Howard, he manages to avoid serious harm by shielding himself with a cookie sheet.
- In the Prince of Persia film, one of the Hassasains, specialised weapons users, has what amount to primitive nail guns strapped to his wrists. He fires spikes from these over great distances to great effect.
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's Diplomatic Immunity, an automated hot riveter is used (after bypassing several safety interlocks) as an improvised automatic slugthrower. Miles, being Miles, says "You might say he riveted my attention."
- In The Dresden Files novel Small Favor, Charity Carpenter uses a nail gun against the gruffs in the opening chapter, followed by beating their skulls with a heavy contractor's hammer. Since the gruffs are Fae, they are extremely vulnerable to the touch of Cold Iron, and retreat very swiftly.
- Patrick Bateman from American Psycho uses a nail gun in quite a few of his murders, the most notable of which involves him nailing a woman's hands to a wall so many times her fingers start to fall off.
- In The Millennium Trilogy novel "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest", Lisbeth uses a nail gun to affix Ronald Niedermann's feet to a warehouse floor, then calls some old enemies to come and kill him.
- Criminal Minds:
- The "Hopeless" episode has the killers nail a man's hands to a bartop before beating him to death.
- The UnSub from the "Hashtag" episode used a nail gun to kill all his victims except the first one because he was emulating a Creepypasta called The Mirror Man that kills people with his long (finger)nails. Also, during the second murder, he fired his nail-gun repeatedly at the back of the driver's seat of the victim's car, forming a hashtag with the holes as a Calling Card.
- In CSI: Miami, Ryan Wolfe is shot through the eye by a nail gun, although here they do at least point out that the safety that prevents the gun from firing unless pressed against a surface is broken.
- In an episode of Get a Life, Chris gets a job with the ancient brotherhood of construction workers (just roll with it) and by the end has gotten into a tool duel with one of them. The opponent seems to have the upper hand when he brings out the ultimate tool duel weapon, a staple gun, but Chris is able to force him to surrender by utilizing a construction worker's greatest weakness and threatening to pour out the last beer.
- The A-Team took this trope Up to Eleven in one episode where they made a machine gun out of a nail gun.
- My Name Is Earl: Earl was shot on several different occasions with either a nail or a staple gun by Sweet Johnny.
- While Earl and Randy got into an argument about Randy being put on the List in "Barn Burner", a struggle with Earl's pen caused Earl to accidentally fire the nail gun he had in his arm, shooting a nail into his hand as it laid on a plank of wood.
- Psych: In "Lights, Camera, Homicidio", the killer has been replacing prop weapons with real ones on the set of a Spanish soap opera. The last one is a nail gun, which the actress fires at Shawn before realizing it's really loaded.
- Burt gets attacked with a staple gun he was returning in an episode of Raising Hope, after telling the person he was giving it back to that he's in the Sex Offender Registry.
- Reaper used nail guns in the first episode to capture the Baddie of the Week.
- The Smallville episode "Mortal" featured a pair of Creepy Twins who need to be touching each other to use their forcefield powers. Lana Lang manages to knock them apart, then nails one twin's hand to a wall. Disturbingly, the twin simply pulls his hand through the nail to free himself.
- The Wire features Snoop buying a nail gun in the fourth season premiere, originally just for boarding up houses to cover up murders, but the salesman's Does This Remind You Of Gun Porn description puts other ideas in her head.
Salesman: The DX-460 is fully automatic, with a 27-calibre charge. Wood, concrete, steel-to-steel, she'll throw a fastener into anything. And for my money, she handles recoil better than the Simpson or the P-3500. Now, you understand what I mean by recoil?
Snoop: Yeah. The kickback, I'm witcha. 27 caliber, huh?
Salesman: Not large ballistically, but for driving nails, it's enough. Any more and you'd add to the recoil.
Snoop: Aw shit, I seen a tiny-ass .22 round-nose drop a nigga plenty o' days, man. Motherf—s get up in ya like a pinball, rip your ass up. [salesman growing increasingly uncomfortable] Big joints though? Most the time they just break ya bones, say "f— it." I'ma go with this right here, man. How much I owe you?
- In the Heroes episode "The Fifth Stage", Peter, fueled by rage and grief over Nathan's death and the subsequent cover-up, gets into a nasty fight with Sylar in the hospital basement after gaining The Haitian's ability to block Sylar's powers. The fight ends with Peter straddling Sylar onto a table, grabbing a nearby nail gun, and using the gun to pin his palms to the table and then fires a shot into Sylar's balls. Ouch.
- One episode of Penn and Teller: Fool Us featured Penn doing a memory trick involving a nail-gun with some of the cartridges replaced with blanks and him alternating nailing the table and pressing the gun to his hand. Predictably, Teller gets nailed at the end.
- In "Shut Up, Dr. Phil", a Victim of the Week is killed by a nail gun firing nails through a porter potty. Somewhat lampshaded when the local cops comment that they can't figure out where the nail gun had been plugged in during the attack. In this case A Wizard Did It (or rather a witch).
- Sam and Dean discover that Fate is out to get them. As You Can't Fight Fate, they walk down the street in broad daylight jumping at anything that's vaguely threatening. At one point a construction worker's nailgun jams and he starts hitting it while letting the nailgun point in their direction. The boys freeze in terror, but nothing happens.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. In the first season finale, when Agent May is fighting Ward in a part of the building that's under construction, they both make use of the power tools lying around. She ends the fight by grabbing a nail gun and putting three of them through his foot. The nail gun is actually used realistically, instead of firing the nails like bullets.
- Staple guns were a staple (no pun intended) of ECW "garbage" matches. They were "used" correctly though, pressed against the target, as opposed to being used at range. They are still used today in "deathmatch" wrestling from time to time. This was shown in The Wrestler during Randy the Ram's hardcore match against the Necro Butcher. Necro, a Real Life deathmatch wrestler, is well known for doing stuff like this.
- The smart nail gun from GURPS: Ultra-Tech is more accurate than most pistols and is surprisingly effective at piercing armor.
- World of Darkness: Armory includes rules for using a nail gun as an improvised weapon. Notably, they have to be modified to use them at range, and in doing so, you lose any sort of accuracy.
- BattleTech features 'Mech-sized nail/rivet guns...that are basically useless in combat because they are essentially only upscaled construction equipment, having only a single-hex effective range and lacking any ability to damage actual armor. They're nonetheless on the equipment lists for use in scenarios involving more "civilian" units.
- Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Kharadrin Endrynriggers have tools powerful and heated enough to rivet together an airship that's falling apart in the midst of being shot at, so it's not surprising when they later turn those same rivet guns on whoever's trying to shoot their ships down. As one can imagine, white-hot rivets that can staple an ironclad's hull together can do a number on even the thickest armor.
- BioShock uses a variation: The Big Daddies use a rivet gun as their primary ranged weapon. In the sequel, where you play as a Big Daddy, the first gun you pick up is a prototype version. One of the weapon options in the sequel's multiplayer is a nail gun.
- Present in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Donning the Irvin mask lets you start the level with a nail gun, which functions like a silenced pistol (but with less accuracy).
- Your main weapon in Dead Space: Extraction is also a rivet gun. Dead Space 2 also features the Javelin Gun, which is more of a spear gun that can pin enemies to walls. Dead Space 3's weapon-crafting system also offers lots of options for rivet guns, including rivet shotguns, rivet machine guns, and rivets that explode.
- The first game has Nine Inch Nail Guns. Contrary to most examples, they're some of the most accurate weapons in the game, and they're actual dedicated weapons: the super nailgun is essentially a gatling gun that spits out iron stakes.
- Dissolution of Eternity adds Lava Nails, superheated versions of the same projectiles that deal extra damage in two ways: they ignore the armor of other players and deal 30% more damage to monsters.
- Quake II Mission Pack 2: Ground Zero introduced the ETF Rifle - despite the name, it's by all means the nail gun from Quake I, stylized to fit the Quake II aesthetics, that ignores armor and shields. It even sounds like the original nailgun.
- Quake III: Arena has shotgun nail guns. A nail gun that fires a shotgun-like burst of 9 inch barbed railroad spikes. Getting hit with this is almost always a One-Hit Kill and causes you to get thrown backwards a huge distance, sometimes leading to a fall to your death.
- Quake IV, true to tradition, has a usable model as well. However, besides being rather consistent in its accuracy from the start, it can be modded so that the nails can chase the target. Even around corners.
- Warframe has the Twin Gremlin "pistols", used in Grineer ship construction, which fire nails at lethal velocity and pin enemies to walls. The Bolto pistols and Boltor rifle likewise fire nails, though they are purpose-built weapons.
- Hitman: Blood Money allows you to use a nail gun, but you'll find it to be slow to fire, so short in range that you literally have to be in the face of the guy you intend to kill with it and the accuracy blows. Its one advantage is that you can sometimes carry it openly without drawing suspicion.
- Team Fortress Classic:
- The Scout, Sniper, and Spy all have nail guns. Oddly, the Nail Gun is not only fully automatic and 100% accurate (offset by the slow projectiles), but it looks exactly like a Sten submachine gun.
- The Medic's Super Nailgun is better. It, again oddly, resembles a Tommy gun.
- The Nail gun was for a long time going to be the Scout's primary weapons in Team Fortress 2 as well (it was even featured in one of the trailers), but was replaced with the Scattergun; this is referenced in how Dispensers seems to have a nail belt hanging out of them.
- Also from Team Fortress 2, The Medic's Syringe Gun is essentially a cross between this and an SMG. Several server-side mods have toyed with the idea of allowing the Scout to equip it, referencing the above, but it never caught in in the fandom.
- And finally the Engineer has the Rescue Ranger which fires a what looks like a staple with a battery attached. Like several video game nailguns it can tack killed foes to the wall.
- The F.E.A.R. games have the HV series of rifles,* which fire high-speed metal spikes designed to penetrate armor, but are less effective than regular guns against unarmored targets. As an added bonus, when close to a surface, the HV can stake enemies to said objects with the killing shot.
- Manhunt: The Skinz gang is armed with nail guns.
- The secretary unit in the Flash game HRmageddon uses a staple as a ranged attack weapon.
- The MMORPG Neocron had nail guns as newbie weapons.
- Harry the Handsome Executive uses a staple gun.
- Fallout 3 has a slight variation in the Railway Rifle, that doesn't shoot nails as much as railroad spikes. Similar to the Penetrator in F.E.A.R., the spikes pin body parts to walls.
- The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Lonesome Road adds H&H Tools nail guns, which work like silenced submachine guns. Its damage is fairly low (though it does more Subsystem Damage than normal, like the Railway Rifle), especially for an add-on that raises the level cap to 50, but its resale value is incredible.
- Fallout 4 has a nail gun that can be customized. You can also add nail guns to robots built in the Automatron DLC pack.
- Geist allows the player to possess a worker who has a rivet gun. While it's useful in a (literally) riveting action sequence, it's not much of a ranged weapon.
- One of the many enemies in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is a berserk construction worker bot with a rivet gun. It has horrible accuracy and range.
- The Mass Effect 3 multiplayer Resurgence DLC pack adds the Kishock Harpoon Gun, a batarian sniper rifle. It's a slow-firing weapon that inflicts significant bleed damage on the target. The main game has the Graal Spike Thrower, a krogan shotgun that fires large spikes. It has great accuracy for a shotgun—only the N7 Crusader is more accurate—and and can be charged up for extra damage.
- Used in name only by Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, which features a handful of "modified work tools" being repurposed as weapons, but while it calls its Sniper Rifle equivalent a rivet gun, it's plain to see the "rivets" are in fact arrows... arrows that can be charged to explode after lodging in some poor schmuck.
- The nail gun is one of the new weapons in Alan Wake's American Nightmare and one features prominently in the cover art.
- A nail gun is used in an interrogation in The Punisher video game. You have the option of using it to kill the guy with driving the nails through his eyes.
- The Hillbilly Horror Event for Killing Floor added Vlad the Impaler (Also known as Vlad 9000), a magazine-fed nail shotgun for the support specialist. The nails can ricochet and hit other specimens, which makes up for the terrible range. The sequel makes it a weapon shared with the Berserker, in order to give the melee oriented class some ranged attack options to get rid of pesky trash mobs. The gun can be toggled between firing a small bundle of nails like a shotgun, or a single nail.
- Nails in BLOODCRUSHER II are a possible ammunition type.
- The Saints Row series added this as a weapon skin in the fourth game for the submachine gun class weapons. The gun its used for has low damage and accuracy by default, but once fully upgraded it works more like an uzi and can fire lightning rounds!
- The manual for the first Guitar Hero states that Judy Nails got her nickname from an incident with a nail gun. Further details are not given.
- A basic 'handgun' in Alien Shooter Vengeance is a pneumatic nail gun. It's got the second-lowest weapon skill requirement in its class, but it's inaccurate and fairly wimpy, saved mostly by the fact that it somehow has Bottomless Magazines. The game's Flare Gun has half the skill cost, does twice the damage, and lights up dark rooms. Somehow, the nail gun is still more powerful than the game's TEC-9 equivalent.
- The Home Improvement Licensed Game gives Tim Taylor one of these as his first ranged weapon. It's a weak and somewhat unwieldy weapon thanks to its burst-style Spread Shot firing pattern, but it's all you get until Tim finds something more effective. Of course, given it's a tool designed by Tim Taylor, the fact that it can be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands is pretty justified.
- Nail guns in Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead are good early-game weapons since ammo is extremely common (just take apart some furniture). You can also use them to craft nail rifles, which are more powerful.
- The nailgun in 7 Days to Die behaves realistically: it's hard to aim, and nails are very weak. Its true purpose is, again realistically, as the tool it's supposed to be: it upgrades blocks with one click, and has a "rate of fire" so high, it can fully repair and upgrade a whole building three times as fast as the claw hammer, its immediate inferior. Construction with a nailgun is a matter of seconds.
- Averted in Contagion. The nailgun is not a weapon, it's an item used to barricade entrances. Its "ammunition" is wooden planks.
- In the episode "False Start" of Code Lyoko, XANA materializes some Kankrelats to the real world. One of the weapons the team uses is a modified nail gun.
- In The Venture Bros., Brock Sampson uses a nail gun to save Dr. Venture from falling. The nail gun is shown firing with precise accuracy, though the third time he accidentally pinned Venture through his body instead of by his shirt. Brock also uses it to dissuade an approaching enemy who's actually bigger than he is.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode where Homer goes berserk over baby-proofing the house for Maggie, he hands Maggie the nail gun. She nails his hand to the wall from ten feet away. Homer realizes how in trouble he is, and attempts to coax Maggie into giving back the gun. She pins him to the wall with at least four more nails, with one landing in each ear.
- In another episode, Homer and a new friend have a light-hearted sparring match with nail guns. They each get several shots point blank in the face which do no more damage than snowflakes.
- Also humorously subverted in "Who Shot Mr. Burns." Burns orders Smithers to attack Principal Skinner, but the only thing he could find was an ordinary stapler. He tries shooting him, but Skinner just irritatingly asks him not to waste them.
- An episode of King of the Hill had Cotton snap and hole up in a newly-built house with a nail gun.
- In Family Guy, when a boy was faced with taking Meg on a date, he resorted to shooting himself in the stomach with a shop class nail gun to get out of it.
- Young Justice: Blue Beetle fires out giant staples to pin people to surroundings. His Scarab tells him that shooting through bone is more effective.
- As mentioned above, nailgun safeties can malfunction. There was a case where someone pulled the trigger on a nailgun to demonstrate it wouldn't fire because of the safety. Said safety was non-functional and the nail was found embedded half an inch deep in a wood post 120 feet away.
- A man in Australia was murdered by being shot 34 times in the head with a nail gun.
- Nail gun injuries crop up frequently in the Darwin Award. (In one attempted suicide, a construction worker tried to end his life after he slipped and a saw chopped off a hand, finding the pain so unbearable. He wound up shooting himself multiple times in the head... and survived, and had doctors simply reattached the hand.)
- Bolt pistols, used in slaughterhouses to stun livestock and for in-the-field euthanasia of injured farm animals, operate on a similar principle to nail guns.
- The Blunderbuss, a spiritual ancestor to the Sawed-Off Shotgun, was reputed to be remarkably undiscriminating about what one fired out of it. Old nails or rivets were frequently substituted for lead shot as a field expedient, although this wasn't terribly good for the barrel life and reduced the weapon's already poor effective range.
- A Needlegun, using metal darts or flechettes, have been used sporadically since the fourteenth century.