Sure, your glue gun melts glue sticks, but does it drip glue all over the place when sitting on its “kickstand”? Does it seem to spontaneously tip over when sitting on said kickstand? Does it take forever to reach maximum heat?
If your glue gun does any or all of these things, it might be time to break up with it and find a new model. After hours and hours of testing 6 models—4 corded and 2 cordless—of wildly varying prices, we’ve pinned down our favorites. Let’s introduce our contenders (and our recommendations):
- Black & Decker 125 Watt 20v Max (Highly Recommended, w/ Stipulations): $80 on Amazon-For the complete gun with battery and charger)
- Master Appliance GG-100K Master PortaPro (Recomended, w/ Stipulations): $53 on Amazon (not including butane fuel tanks sold separately)
Here are our findings:
First, corded options:
Recommended-Dewalt Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun
The Dewalt Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun is one of our favorites of the corded bunch, and it’s also the least expensive. At about $24, the Dewalt is a no-frills glue gun in that it’s a plug and play (no on/off switch), one-temp-only (high) model. However, it has several features that we dig:
- First, it has a light indicator that tells us it’s running, which is nice in that we don’t have to follow the cord to see if it is still plugged in the outlet or touch the glue gun to see if it is still hot/warm.
- It has a super-stable kickstand PLUS a rubberized hilt that keeps it from tipping over. Seriously, we intentionally bumped it this way and that but the Dewalt did NOT want to tip over when propped up on its kickstand.
- And the Dewalt stands up to its manufacturer’s claim that it heats up 50% faster than its competitors too. We clocked heat-up times for all the glue guns we tested, and the Dewalt was ready to go in about 45 seconds, which was, indeed, about 1/2 the time as the fastest of the bunch. When fully heated, the glue’s flow was exceptional; it was completely melted and ran crystal clear.
Other things we loved about this gun is that it only weighs 8.30 ounces, the lightest of all we tested. The handle felt comfortable in our palms and fit to their curvature. The trigger fits two fingers and is a comfortable reach for both small and larger hands. For all-around crafting and lightweight DIYing, we do not hesitate recommending the Dewalt for both quality, function and price.
Note: reviews on Amazon are mixed in that some consumers complain about the gun not feeding the glue sticks properly. We didn’t have that problem. Actually, it did a superior job advancing glue sticks. If, however, the occasional model fails in advancing sticks sufficiently, it’s recommended that you clean the gripper with isopropyl alcohol to remove any oil in shipping.
Not Recommended-Surebonder Pro 2-100
We really, truly, wanted to love the Surebonder Pro 2-100. At about $31, it has a lot going for it. We appreciate its designated on/off switch (no plug and play like the Dewalt), a polarized plug and a rubber-polymer comfort grip that fits in the crooks of our thumbs. The large ergonomic trigger is definitely a plus, especially for those with joint issues. This particular model also allows for wrench-free interchangeable tips—although none were included with its purchase.
We did notice right away that we had to install the gun’s metal kickstand ourselves. No biggie, but when installed it wasn’t very stable, which makes the Surebonder Pro2-100 a bit tippy. Weight-wise it clocks in at about 11 ounces which makes it nimble to handle.
So why can’t we recommend this model? Besides it being too tippy for our tastes, it didn’t get hot enough. The manufacturer claims it reaches maximum heat in 2 to 3 minutes. We checked the gun at that time, and the glue—although melted—came out rather thick and was still opaque. We waited another 2 minutes and checked again. The glue still flowed at the same rate and was still opaque. All in all, it performed about as well as our old $15 Surebonder that’s seen better days.
Highly NOT Recommended-Stanley GR 100 Glue-Pro DualMelt
Although we wanted to love the Surebonder Pro 2-100, we sort of expected to love the Stanley GR 100 Glue-Pro DualMelt. At about $34 the GR 100 offers everything we could want and more in a glue gun:
- It has both high and low temperature options
- It includes 18 – 4” glue sticks
- Two interchangeable tips (one extended round tip and one flat)
- A 15 minute auto shut-off
- A light indicator signaling that the unit is “on” and a removable cover on the tip to prevent burns.
Plus, it has a great rubber-polymer over-mold on the handle for a sound grip and at about 11.5 ounces is still quite nimble. Sounds great, right?
Yeah, not so much.
First, the 80-watt Stanley GR 100 Glue-Pro takes 10 minutes to reach maximum heat—the longest of all the glue guns we tested. The kickstand is plastic and, we’re sorry to say, can’t keep the gun upright if its life depended on it. We used the standard tip (the one with which the gun was shipped) when we first tested the glue melt time and feed. It was a mess. The tip is so truncated, the glue wicked over its edge, making the glue NOT go where we were expecting.
Also, the gun’s removable safety tip cover made it impossible to glue into tight/tricky spots. But it came with an extender. That should take care of the issue, right? We swapped out the stubby tip to the extended one. To do this, we first had to remove the safety cover and then find a wrench. That’s no problem—we have plenty—but it was still a pain especially compared to the Surebonder, which only requires a manual twist-off.
We thought things couldn’t get any worse, but they did. When we kicked the Stanley’s stand down and set the unit on the table, the tip of the extended gluing tip touched the work surface.
Think about that for a second. The hot tip of the glue gun was touching the work surface. Hazardous? Yes. Which brings us back to our recommendation. Stanley really dropped the ball on this design. Best to avoid it, especially when the Dewalt is available.
Highly Recommended-Surebonder PRO2-220
After we tested the Surebonder Pro 2-100, we didn’t expect to be blown over by the Surebonder PRO2-220 220-Watt Adjustable Temperature Industrial Glue Gun, but we were. Hard. This monster clocks in at a whopping $119 and it just might be worth every penny.
We adore that the 220-watt (!) Surebonder Pro2-220 comes with:
- an exceptional case that has plenty of additional storage space for glue sticks and tips, as this model also enables tip interchangeability (it comes with one additional tip)
- an industrial-sized stand that makes it virtually impossible to tip over
- an illuminated on/off switch
- adjustable temperature control (from 220F to 400F)
- a stroke adjustment to control glue stick advancement
- a safety cord and grounded plug.
Another thing we loved about the Pro2-220 was the ergonomic trigger, which is, again, great for those with joint issues. And unlike its little brother, the Pro2-220 heated up in a flash. Set at 400 degrees, the gun was fully hot in 2 minutes and the resulting glue flowed perfectly, was crystal clear and went right where we were aiming it.
Although we highly recommend this glue gun, doing so does come with caveats. First, it gave off a peculiar smell. Not bad, but kind of flowery, for lack of a better word. We assumed correctly that the scent would dissipate with time (it took about a week), but we felt it should be mentioned just in case ours wasn’t the only one doing it. Besides the price tag, at 1 pound and 3 ounces the Pro2-220 isn’t the lightest glue gun on the market to be sure. Also, it’s big—about 12” from stem to stern and the biggest we tested—so it’s probably not the best fit for the average crafter. For the serious DIYer, however, it probably doesn’t get much better than the Surebonder Pro2-220. Unless, of course, your heart is set on a cordless glue gun.
Highly Recommended, With Stipulations-Black & Decker 125-watt 20v Max
First up is Black & Decker’s 125-watt 20v Max Lithium Cordless glue gun which is part of the Black & Decker 20v Max Lithium System. We’re not going to lie, we were pretty psyched about trying out a cordless glue gun. Happily, our joy wasn’t short-lived.
Out of the box, the B & D impressed us. The rubber-polymer over-mold on its handle made for a comfortable grip. Add on a 2Ah lithium ion battery, and the gun felt perfectly weighted in our hands. (If feels very much like handling a small cordless drill.) That being said, the battery does add weight. On its own the gun weighs about 15 ounces. Add the battery and that number jumps to 1 pound 12 ounces. The B & D comes with a momentary LED switch that stays illuminated when the gun is powered on. Heat up time was an impressive 90 seconds.
Other things we liked about the B & D cordless drill included:
- the solid trigger, which pulled smooth and easy.
- the glue tip, which isn’t too short (see the Stanley review) or too long (also see the Stanley review). It’s just right.
- and, of course, the glue gun is cordless, which makes everything better—just like Bluetooth.
There were a few things about the B & D that tripped us up, however. When we first fired it up, we noticed that that momentary LED went on and then blinked off after about a minute or so. (Other reviewers on Amazon have remarked on the same issue.) We thought we had a defective model, but fully charging up the battery took care of the problem. And yes, the battery does add to the weight of the gun as mentioned earlier, which might make it less nimble than others, but the battery also makes for a great kickstand, making it super stable when in the at-ready position. Minor quibbles aside, we still recommend this glue gun for both crafters to more serious DIYers, but with stipulations.
First, the glue gun itself is quite reasonably priced at $36, but that’s predicated upon you already owning the battery and charger, which you may already own if you happen to have one of Black & Decker 20v Max series’s tools. But purchased separately, a battery and charger will set you back $25 and $36 respectively. OR you can purchase the B & D cordless glue gun ensemble for about $80. Even at $80, that’s still a significant price tag, especially when going up against the outstanding Surebonder Pro2-220 for 30 bucks more. BUT, again, that $80 (or better yet $36) buys cordless freedom. However, the next gun may be a better option if you are yearning for complete off-the-grid glue-gunning.
Recommended, With Stipulations-The Master Appliance GG-100K Master PortaPro
Enter the 200 watt Master Appliance GG-100K Master PortaPro Butane Powered Glue Gun Kit, which set us back about $53. It’s true we were psyched about handling the cordless Black & Decker, but the Master had us absolutely giddy. That’s because it runs on butane. Butane! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Our first impressions were positive as the PortaPro came with a case that rivals the Surebonder Pro2-220’s. The PortaPro also came with 8 – 6” glue sticks and three extra interchangeable glue tips: flat, needle and a smaller round one. Like the Stanley, we did need a wrench to change the tips, which is a bit fiddly. Also on the down side, the kit did not include butane, which was something we didn’t realize until after the glue gun arrived. (Totally our fault as we missed the details on the product’s Amazon page.) Another trip to Amazon and $20 bucks later, four 3 3/4 ounce canisters arrived and we were ready for ignition.
Filling the glue gun’s butane tank is easy. Just invert the gun, slip the butane canister’s nozzle into the valve on the bottom of the gun and pump. (We were surprised that there was hardly any smell emitted from the gun or canister when fueling the gun.) What we weren’t sure about was when the gun’s tank was completely full, although the instructions said the indicator was when the gas “overflow[s] from the nozzle.” (Not comforting, but whatever.) Instructions also said that we were to wait a few minutes for the gas to stabilize before attempting to light the gun, which we did. To ignite the gun, we pushed the fuel flow control (the wheel at the top of the grip) up and then turned it to the right until we heard the familiar ‘hissing’ sound of gas. A quick pull of the ignition switch just under and back from the tip of the gun and the gun was ‘on’. Master claims that the gun will reach full heat at 3 to 4 minutes, but ours was ready in about 2 minutes.
For a cordless glue gun, the PortaPro has a lot going for it. At only 15.30 ounces with a full tank of gas it’s just under a pound less than the Black & Decker, but it takes butane and not a battery, which is both good and bad. In remote locations, both on job sites or if you’re living off the grid, the PortaPro could very well be a must-have. As for its cost and its being a cordless glue gun, $73 (for both gun and butane) isn’t bad. But butane will have to be replaced eventually. When that is, we’re not sure. We were only told how long a full tank of fuel will last (140 minutes) on the gun, not how many refills there are in the individual butane tanks.
Comparing cordless to cordless, both the Black & Decker have their drawbacks as far as nimbleness is concerned. The former has a battery pack that can get in the way; the Master has a bigger-than-average handle in which to fit the butane tank that can make it cumbersome. Only the largest of hands might find it actually comfortable. That being said, the ergonomic trigger of the PortaPro is comparable to both Surebonders. Ultimately, for your average crafter or DIYer, the Black & Decker might be a better choice than the Master. But, again, if complete portability and weight are the issue, the Master Appliance GG-100K Master PortaPro Butane Powered Glue Gun Kit could be the answer to your glue-gunning prayers.
Our Recommendations, a Recap:
So, to recap, we recommend the Dewalt 50 watt Rapid Heat Ceramic Glue Gun ($24) for the casual to average crafter.
For the serious crafter and DIYer, the Surebonder PRO2-220 220-Watt Adjustable Temperature Industrial Glue Gun ($119) cannot be beat.
For cordless options, the Black & Decker’s 125 watt 20v Max Lithium Cordless($36 for gun only) is a great bet, especially if you are already (or plan to be) invested in the Black & Decker 20v Max Lithium System, but if you need complete off-the-grid portability and hanker for the most unique tools on the block, the 200 watt Master Appliance GG-100K Master PortaPro Butane Powered Glue Gun Kit ($53 for gun only) will not only fit the bill, it’ll turn some heads too.
Note: None of the retailers of these glue guns supplied products for this review. Opinions of the products are mine and mine alone. If anyone has any further questions about the individual products reviewed, I’ll do my best to answer them for you. Just ask in the comments below.