Smooth shank nails are the most common and are often used for framing and general construction applications. They offer enough holding power for most everyday use.
Ring shank nails offer superior holding power over smooth shank nails because the wood fills in the crevasse of the rings and also provide friction to help prevent the nail from backing out over time. A ring shank nail is often used in softer types of wood where splitting is not an issue.
A screw shank nail is generally used in hard woods to prevent the wood from splitting while the fastener is being driven. The fastener spins while being driven (like a screw) which creates a tight groove that makes the fastener less likely to back out.
Annular thread is very similar to a ring shank except the rings are externally beveled which presses against the wood or sheet rock to prevent the fastener from backing out.
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