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Selecting the Right Caulking Gun Type for Your Project  

The right caulking gun configuration will help you craft the perfect bead, and selecting the right type of caulking gun will help you be more productive and experience less fatigue on those tough jobs.

After analyzing the factors of job use, material type, and special features, you are ready to make your tool purchase. The first decision is the choice between two types of caulking guns. Manufacturers offer both manual and powered tools. Both types of guns can be configured to dispense material packaged cartridges, sausage tubes, and bulk buckets. And with either type of gun, you can select a drive with the thrust ratio that matches your material’s flow characteristics.

1.      Manually Operated Caulking Guns

Manual guns are probably the most common choice when purchasing a new caulking tool. It’s important not to let the initial price of this important tool be your deciding factor. Many manufacturers offer very basic products targeting the DIY market, who use the tool once a month or less. These tools are designed for small applications and should only be used to place common caulks and sealants.

Most of these basic tools can look very similar. Manual guns are operated by pressing a trigger that moves a plunger in the material dispensing unit (barrel) to force out product. But there’s much more to consider when purchasing a professional grade, manually operated caulking gun than this basic function.

Start by feeling the tool in your hand to see how much it weighs. Full-bodied caulking guns often weigh more than open-frame guns. Many manufacturers now offer frames made with fiberglass and aluminum. Lighter units can be easier to position and may help you with better bead placement.

Next, check out the manual gun’s plunger rod. You have two options – a ratchet rod or a smooth rod. This feature really distinguishes whether the tool is professional grade.

Ratcheted rods are best suited for applications that don’t require the finesse of creating a good-looking bead, such as placing adhesives. With a ratchet (notched) rod, you must pull back on the trigger to push the rod forward. This operation limits you when you are about to pull off a bead placement in mid-trigger. This forced pause also requires you to reorient the rod’s notch in the spring mechanism before the next product placement. Ratcheted plungers usually have less thrust that can create trigger fatigue when placing cold and thicker materials.

Most professionals opt for a manual gun with a smooth plunger. The trigger is less stiff, and you have more control on how the tool dispenses the product, resulting in a better-looking bead.

2.      Power Operated Caulking Guns 

Power guns are becoming very common on construction projects. They’re a great option when you are filling high volume applications such as wide joints or applying adhesives. Many contractors find that powered caulking guns can help create a smooth bead that requires less tooling. The power units provide a consistent push, avoiding the globs that can result from stops and starts when triggering a manual tool.

Powered caulking guns are worker-friendly as they take the strain off your hand and wrist when applying stiffer sealants and 2-component materials with static mixing nozzles. These guns also work well on applications involving long nozzles.

Powered caulking guns can be pneumatic, or battery-powered. Both power systems have a variable speed feature that gives you complete control over the tool’s dispensing action.

•   Pneumatic
Air-powered or pneumatic caulking guns have an air pressure regulator that is attached to an air compressor, which pushes the sealant out instead of a plunger. An air-powered caulking gun can be loud, and it does not have a lot of portability like a manual or battery-powered caulking gun.

•   Battery-Powered
Battery-powered caulking guns are a great choice as they offer you on-the-go portability for inside and outside jobs. They are quieter than an air-powered caulking gun and provide a good amount of power.

When they were first introduced, battery-powered units were a little heavy, but newer units with the new battery options are lighter and easy to handle. Today’s electric caulking guns feature batteries that can last the entire shift. Like the pneumatic caulking gun, the battery-powered gun is more expensive than the manual caulking gun, but most contractors find that the payback for these tools comes quickly.


Which is the better option tool for powered caulking guns, cordless electric or pneumatic?

The answer is really based on contractor preference.


  • Initial cost is often about equal when you are already set-up to use compressed air on the jobsite. But if compressed air is not an option, electric powered caulking guns are a good option.

  • Cordless electric caulking guns are more mobile than pneumatic guns.

  • Cordless electric caulking guns offer a little more trigger control and are better suited when placing fine work since the trigger on pneumatic air tools are basically controlled with an on/off switch.

  • Pneumatic caulking guns typically weighs less than cordless electrics, not including the hose.

  • Both electric and pneumatic-powered caulking guns have enough power to get the job done. But for some specific configurations, such as twin sausage packs, air-powered may be the best option. 

  • If you are planning to do a lot of crack injection work using powered caulking guns, opt for air-powered. Cordless electric tools are designed to dispense at a continuous rate and are not recommended for crack injection. 

Caulk Gun & Sealant

Matching Your Caulking Gun to the Material Packages You Plan to Use

The final decision factor when purchasing a caulking gun is the type of product packaging you most commonly use. Manufacturers offer both manual and powered caulking guns that can accept material packaged in cartridges, sausages, bulk containers, and multicomponent materials.

Cartridge guns are the least expensive choice of caulking guns. They can dispense most common preformulated construction products. But there’s a hidden cost when considering this initial purchase. Preformulated materials packaged in cartridges are generally higher in cost per unit when compared to sausage and bulk packaging. If you have projects that require cartons of cartridges, you should probably consider upgrading to either sausage guns or bulk guns.

Sausage guns are more expensive than cartridge guns, but these tools offer greater installation efficiency and reduced material expenses. Sausage guns easily dispense long tubes of materials that are precision-loaded by manufacturers using packing technology. These units are designed to dispense a wide range of common and customized products.

One advantage of this caulking gun type is the nozzle. On these units, the nozzle is a replaceable accessory placed on the end of the caulking gun. You can easily switch tips for different applications. Once you make the perfect cut on a tip, you can use it repeatedly.

There are two economic advantages when making this tool investment. First, materials purchased in sausages routinely have a lower cost-per-unit than when packaged in cartridges. And second, there are lower disposal costs as the foil that encases the product collapses into small pieces of waste taking up very little space in the dumpster.

Bulk caulking guns are the most expensive type of unit, but as with sausage guns, these units are designed for maximum jobsite efficiency and the lowest cost of material. Manufacturers offer an extensive array of bulk caulking configurations that include extended containment units, variable thrust controls, and handle options.

Switching to bulk caulk containers has several advantages over cartridges and sausages. Material formulators offer products with many color options, faster curing, and lower material cost. Bulk caulk guns have full (closed) barrels which are loaded and dispensed by the suction created by the piston cups that are moved up and down the interior of the barrel with the drive rod.

The primary difference between bulk and sausage guns are the piston assemblies inside the barrel. Changing the pistons requires just a wrench and the new piston assembly.

This feature allows you to easily convert to match the material and the packaging type to be dispensed. You can easily swap out pistons and rods to allow you to match the gun's operation to the type of material, bead configuration, and job conditions.

Multi/dual-component caulking guns are specially designed tools used to dispense materials that require blending at the point of application. These guns are designed to place materials that, when mixed, are very reactive and require quick placement. Multi-component guns are commonly used on concrete crack repair that also require consistent thrust.

These tools feature two or even three material containment units. The containment units are often replaceable and interchangeable. These types of guns are equipped with two plungers and rods that are powered simultaneously. The mixing ratio of the two materials is controlled as the material is discharged through the nozzle.  

Reach Out to the Experts

You can easily work through these purchasing options with the help of your White Cap sales professional. White Cap works with the leading caulking gun manufacturers to offer the leading brands and all the accessories you’ll need to outfit your team to be at their best.

Discover better prices and location specific benefits