ABSOLUTE POWER MAY CORRUPT ABSOLUTELY in politics, but few things are as sweet as a tool that gives you more power and performance. Manufacturers have been successful in increasing their tools' muscle, but they are still finding ways to add more.

The new 41XP finish nailer from Cincinnati-based Senco Products is one such product. Despite being 10 percent lighter than its predecessor, the tool has 15 percent more power. It drives both bright and galvanized 15-gauge finish nails and has a design that prevents oil from dripping on work surfaces.

The power craze is evident in other types of tools as well. At the 2004 International Builders' Show, The Stanley Works, based in New Britain, Conn., unveiled the Bostitch RN46 roofing nailer. Made with a magnesium frame, the tool weighs just 4.9 pounds yet delivers 410 inch per pound of power at 100 pounds per square inch. The company says it has the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class.

But it's not always just about power, says Mike Gorman, group product manager for nailers at Baltimore-based DeWalt Industrial Tool Co. Sometimes users want a product that has a balance of power, run time, and speed. “It starts first with the user's definition of power,” he says. Some users, he explains, prefer a tool that has a longer run time rather than one that is powerful; others may not want a tool that is so powerful it hurts finish work.

DeWalt used this balanced strategy for the introduction of its newest product. The company says its line of 16-gauge cordless finish nailers offers the speed and run time that users need, but it also delivers the power that contractors want. During the product's development, focus groups told the company that they wanted a tool with enough power to countersink a 2-inch nail in oak-to-oak trim. “The tool had to be able to accomplish that,” Gorman says. “We think it delivers that and gives them good run time.”