Roll-around shop vacs are handy devices that we’ve used for decades. Every shop has at least one that’s parked under a workbench. Plug it in, add an extension cord for dragging it to extended locations, suck up floor or bench debris, roll it over to the trash can, remove the top, empty the can, clean the filter, reassemble and store until needed again. Quality pro-built units work great, and cheaper units are readily available at any home improvement store. The downside: The really good ones are pricey, and the cheap ones are, well, cheap. Caster wheels tend to break off. They also tend to tip over when dragged around, and regardless of the price paid, they take up floor space during storage. The worst case scenario is the chance for motor burnout, requiring a total replacement.
Well, here’s a nifty alternative. Guardair offers a compact, hand-held pneumatic vacuum gun that simply hooks up to your shop’s compressed air. The gun is lightweight and easy to maneuver, and a host of extensions and tips are available for any situation. A compact collection bag attaches to the rear of the gun. Connect shop air, squeeze the trigger and vacuum up whatever junk is lying around. When you’re done, simply pop the bag off of the gun, zip it open and dump the contents.
Guardair’s 1500-series Gun Vac requires 29 scfm air usage and a minimum 7.5 hp air compressor. Incoming air line pressure needs to be set at 100 psi. This provides a vacuum lift of 75 in H2O, a vacuum flow of 78 scfm and a noise output of 89 dBA.
The Gun Vac is available in three versions: the basic 1500 kit that includes a high filtration collection bag and a 9-inch crevice tool, the 1510 deluxe kit that adds a five-piece plastic accessory group (a fiber bristle brush tip, upholstery/cloth tool with dual lint pads, multi-purpose swivel brush, 7-inch elongated brush and a 12-inch crevice tool) and the 1548 flexible kit that includes an 18-inch-long 1-5/16-inch OD flexible metal inlet extension.
An array of additional attachment options also are available, including a handy heavy-duty chrome-plated metal telescoping extension that expands from 24 inches to 40 inches. A mini-vacuum attachment kit is another handy option that allows easy and efficient vacuuming of small crevice areas such as ducts, instrument panel crevices, etc.
The gun features cast aluminum construction, with a machined tapered nose designed to accept any standard 1-1/4-inch vacuum accessory. The contoured trigger can be quickly latched in the open position via a trigger latch that’s built into the forward grip surface.
The gun features two 1/4-inch NPT ports, one at the bottom of the grip and one at the upper rear. Either port can be used for compressed air connection. However, the gun can also be used for spraying liquids by connecting the incoming compressed air to the bottom port and connecting a siphon hose to the rear port.
The collection bag, which attaches to the rear of the gun, features high filtration, an internal stiffener to prevent bag-sag and tearing, and a handy bottom zipper opening for easy bag emptying.
During our in-shop tryout, we used the telescoping metal extension wand along with a variety of tips. The extension is really a nice feature for floor cleanups, since it’s adjustable from 24 inches to a whopping 40 inches in length. This means that you can suck debris from the shop floor without bending over, which is a distinct advantage for anyone with a sore back at the end of a long day. And since the extension is rigid, you can handle the task with only one hand, with no need to guide a floppy and argumentative flex hose with your other hand.
The gun grip is ergonomically shaped for a comfy fit, and the trigger is nice and wide and contoured, so it doesn’t dig into your trigger finger. Balance was also very pleasing.
I tried our test unit in my shop’s nastiest areas, including the area that features our lathe, drill press, milling machine and glass bead machine. The gun sucked up nasty hairballs of corkscrewed steel and aluminum from the work surfaces and floor with ease, like a hungry grizzly bear wolfing down a fresh salmon, and never clogged. We tried the vacuum with and without the telescoping extension (without for short reaches and with for floor cleanups). Suction was excellent, and operation is extremely quiet except when the compressor kicked back on.
When you’re done tidying up, you can disassemble any extensions/tips if you wish, with the option of hanging the gun on a wall hook via the built-in hook tab at the top of the gun.
My shop has three conventional shop vacuum units. They certainly have their place (especially on the rare occasion when we need to vacuum an interior of a vehicle that’s in our parking lot), but the pneumatic vac is quickly earning a special place in our hearts. It’s light, powerful, and there’s no need to drag a can around. Dragging a light air hose was a welcome change as compared to dragging a wheeled vac unit.
While there’s still a place for a conventional shop vacuum unit, for quick cleanups in both open and confined areas, this is the hot ticket. I’m sold. Street prices start at around $105 for the basic 1500 kit. ●
54 Second Ave.
Chicopee, MA 01020