Everywhere I look, nobody seems to use a soldering gun for electronics work, only soldering irons.

Is there a good reason for that ?

I'm a beginner in electronics and I happend to have a soldering gun at home. I thought I'll spare myself, for now, an investment in a good soldering iron/station.

Thank you!


4 Answers 4


In my experience, a soldering gun is typically a higher wattage device which is useful for soldering wire-to-wire or large, clunky components where you need a fairly large heat reservoir. The soldering gun I have is Radio Shack 100 watt, and is excellent for when I need to solder some 14 AWG stranded wire to something, or even just tinning the end of it. (It's been replaced by a 150/230 watt version.)

For any through-hole or surface mount work, you definitely want a temperature-controlled soldering station. David Jones, on his EEVBlog, recommends the Hakko FX-888 for starters (and has a soldering tutorial showing it), though there are many other brands he recommends in a video blog about setting up your shop.

I used to use a 15/30 watt selectable Radio Shack soldering iron, and I was able to get a lot done with it for over a decade. However, once I got a Hakko FX-951 temperature-controlled soldering station, I can't believe I ever made do with the old RS iron.

Honestly if I knew then what I know now (a common phrase in EE, I find), I'd have picked up a $85 Hakko FX-888. Don't let the unusual blue-and-yellow case fool you; it's a solid unit. (Hakko indicates that a digital version of the FX-888 is coming in January 2013, so you might want to wait for that.)

You can also go with a Pace, Weller, JBC, Xytronic, Ersa... There's a lot to choose from. Temperature control will get you more consistent results, but as others indicate, is not as important on through-hole work.

One last point: The temp controlled stations tend to have a lighter, skinnier iron handle than the ones that plug into the wall directly. This to me is a major advantage in being able to work around and between components and have more control over a lightweight iron.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have that exact soldering station. Its a champ, despite looking like a Playskool component. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 12, 2012 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, the Hakko FX-888 it's on my list to Santa :P. And yes, I also follow Dave and his blog and I'm aware of his recommendations :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Nicu Surdu
    Dec 12, 2012 at 23:58

What you really want is a temperature-controlled soldering station, such as the Aoyue 937+. Temperature-controlled stations happen to come in a "iron" handle shape instead of a "gun" handle, at least as far as I've seen.

I'm guessing people like the "iron" handle because it lets you have your hand closer to the workpiece, so that your hand's shaking is not amplified by a long lever arm.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You only really need a temperature controlled one if you're going to do surface mount work. A cheap one will suffice provided you've got a suitably small chisel tip. Leaded solder is easier than lead-free, but now harder to find. \$\endgroup\$
    – pjc50
    Oct 31, 2012 at 10:50

I had a gun type way back when I was first starting out, It'll probably do what you want but... The unit I had at least, only heated up when the trigger was held which meant it took forever to get anything done. Pick the unit up, pull the trigger for a minute, connect one joint, put it down to inspect and start over. As for surface mount components, there's pretty much no chance of getting them mounted with a gun type. I'd say you're better off with a cheap soldering iron than a gun type.

In my opinion if you're just starting off your money would be better spent buying additional components and kits etc than getting a temp controlled iron.

  1. The soldering iron uses an electric heating wire to generate heat, with low power and low temperature. It is used for workpieces that are soldered with solder.
  2. The soldering gun relies on the high temperature melting of metal by arc to weld. High power and high temperature. For workpieces welded with electric welding electrodes.
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Soldering is not arc welding, I think you've misunderstood the question here. \$\endgroup\$
    – John U
    Dec 18, 2020 at 11:15

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