Screw Gun versus Drill: What is the Difference?

Having the right tool for the right job is essential to complete tasks in a timely manner. Of course, this means having to know what exactly the right tool is. One of the most basic tools any handyman will need in his or her arsenal of power tools is a drill.

Everybody knows what a drill is. They can be either corded or cordless, have large or small chucks, and are used mainly to remove material prior to driving screws. A drill can also be used to drive screws with the right attachment.

So what exactly is a screw gun? Is it like a nail gun that fires screws instead? How does it differ from a power drill? Do you need one? These are just a few questions that any aspiring DIY-er would ask him or herself surrounding the confusion of screw guns vs. drills debate. In this article, we’re going to settle any confusion you may have regarding either of these tools and give you our two cents on which of them would be the better, more versatile tool to own.


What is a Screw Gun?

Imagine undergoing a project that requires having to drive thousands upon thousands of screws, each one having to reach a certain depth. Back in the day, professional crews had to do it by hand and hammer. Needless to say, hanging 1,000 feet of drywall – a project that requires roughly 1,000 screws – could be an all-day endeavor. But with a screw gun, you can do this in a matter of hours.

In a nutshell, a screw gun is a gun that allows users to drive screws effective and efficiently. The main issue of hanging drywall without a screw gun is driving the screw deep enough for the screw head to lay flush with the adjacent surface. Before screw guns were a thing, this was achieved by whacking the screw with a hammer, but today, pull of a trigger can embed the screw at the perfect depth.

Pros

The biggest upside of using a screw gun is that it lets you determine just how far to drive the screw. Admittedly, many renovation projects don’t really take the depth of the screw into account, and you can get by with a little bit of a hanging screw, but other projects require driving them deep enough to lay flush with your workpiece. Conversely, driving a screw too far into your project – e.g. drywall – could ruin the structural integrity of the entire sheet.

Driving screws too far into drywall may not seem like an issue at the time, but it’ll definitely become more noticeable in a few years. This is why a screw gun with an accurate, reliable depth adjustment is the must-have tool for projects involving drywall.

Some of the top screw gun models also feature self-feeding belts that automatically reload the gun so users can drive more screws in less time. This obviously helps professional construction workers in meeting tight deadlines.

Cons

A number of times we mentioned the word “drywall” should be a clear indication of what this tool can do. Basically, screw guns are used to drive a ton of screws in no time at all, and that’s it. Screw guns aren’t exactly known for versatility, making them a specialized tool for use in specialized applications only. If you don’t plan on hanging a ton of drywall, or if time isn’t a factor in your work, then a screw gun is just a luxury item.

Furthermore, remember how we said that greatest benefit of a screw gun is its ability to drive screws at a certain depth? Well, this is achievable with a power drill. All you need is an attachment called a dimpler. This handy attachment lets you drive screws at a consistent depth every time. Of course, you’ll still have to load screws manually, but it’s the more cost-effective than investing in one single-function tool entirely.

What is a Drill?

Even the not-so-handyman knows what a drill is. If you need to assemble furniture, hang picture frames, or bore holes to feed wires through, then the drill is the go-to tool for the job.

A drill is a handheld power tool that’s used mainly to bore holes by removing material. The material can be anything from concrete to drywall to ceramic tiles. The size of the drill’s chuck along with the motor determines how large or small a hole the drill is capable of creating.

Pros

Unlike screw guns, a drill is an extremely versatile tool that can be used for almost anything. Even chefs make use out of power drills by attaching large whisks to the chuck to mix batter.

As we mentioned earlier, a dimpler attachment can be fitted onto the drill’s chuck to help drive screws to a certain, consistent depth, effectively replacing the only job that a screw gun can do.

Furthermore, a drill’s motor produces much more torque than a screw gun, meaning that you can drive longer screws into denser materials (not just drywall).

Cons

Continuing with the previous point, drills can be used to drive screws in a pinch, but this isn’t exactly what a drill is designed to do. If you need to drive long screws through wood or other dense materials, your go-to tool should be an impact driver.

The dimpler is a neat attachment to have, but it’s not exactly a time saver. In fact, when using drills to drive screws, you’ll most likely end up grinding your teeth at how long it takes to load each screw onto the drill bit and drive it perpendicularly into your workpiece’s surface.

Screw Gun vs. Drill – Which to get?

Between screw guns and drills, which would benefit you more? Ultimately, it depends on what you need them for.

A screw gun is a special piece of equipment that won’t be used in applications outside of hanging drywall. It’s extremely accurate, easy to use, and the depth adjustment system makes it the ideal tool to fire thousands of screws at a certain depth in a fraction of the time it’d take a common drill.

However, the common drill is a much more versatile tool that can be used for all sorts of things. The main function of a drill is to bore holes by removing material, but it can also be used to drive and remove screws. You can use drills for much more than just drywall work, making it the essential tool to have for most DIY and professional construction/renovation jobs.