After building many deck, the Camo Marksman tool is one of my favourite tools for installing pressure-treated wood decking. From how the decking is finished to ease of use, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Before Buying a Camo Marksman
A few things to consider before buying one.
Gapping of Deck Boards
One of the advantages of a Camo Marksman is its built-in spacer. Which is great for consistent decking gaps but is limited by tools. There are three set gaps, 3/16″, 1/16″ and no gap to choose from, a change of tools is required according to your deck designs.
Size of Boards
Similar to gapping is board size. Because the Camo Marksman tool clamps unto the board, you are limited to 5-1/4″ (133mm) to 5-3/4″ (146mm) deck board with the MARKSMAN Pro® Tool and MARKSMAN Pro®-X1 Tool.
The MARKSMAN Pro®-NB is limited to 3-1/4″ (83mm) to 5″ (127mm) deck board.
The MARKSMAN Edge Tool doesn’t clamp the board, making it a bit more universal, but you lose out on the spacing feature.
Make it best to select your decking before buying a Camo Edge tool. Or, if you’re a pro, you will need to have a few in your truck. Giving you some options.
Quality of decking
I mean, this in two ways.
One, if the boards are twisted or warped, the edge tool may fail you. You are probably better of face screwing the boards down to the joists. There are some tricks to make it work but it’s not easy.
Secondly, green deck boards. Not the colour but how wet they are. The beauty of edge screwing is the screw heads are hidden between the gaps in the decking. But wood the wood dries in the sun it could shrink, breaking away from the edge screws.
The Camo Decking Edge Fasteners
The are multiple Camo Edge fasteners. Here is a quick rundown of each and where I often find them most beneficial. The Marksman Pro Tool will be ideal for most DIYers, unless you are installing smaller boards, the Marksman Pro-X1 Tool.
The other two have unique applications that are nice to have but may not justify purchasing unless you build many decks. If you are a pro, just order the complete set of 4, you will use them all.
Camo Marksman Pro Tool
Designed for standard deck board with a 5-1/4″ (133mm) to 5-3/4″ (146mm) clamp setting with a 3/16″ gapping.
The Camo Marksman Pro is a heavy-duty contractor-grade tool that can be used with various decking materials, including composite decking, pressure-treated lumber, hardwoods, cedar, PVC decking and more.
Wolf Serenity PVC decking recommends using Camo edge screwing. Azek allows for the use of Camo edge screws. Just two PVC brands off the top of my head that you can use the Marksman Pro with.
The Camo Marksman Pro guides the Camo Deck Screws into the outer edge of the deck board and directly into the joist, securely attaching your deck boards. This allows your deck boards to shine through with a fastener and screw-free view.
Camo Marksman Pro-X1 Tool
Designed for standard deck board with a 5-1/4” (133mm) to 5-3/4” (146mm) clamp setting with a 1/16” gapping.
Same as the Marksman pro except with a smaller gapping tool. Ideal for greener wood, except be careful about board shrinkage causing the edge material to break off. Also, if you enjoy smaller gaps between your deck boards for a deck with plenty of underdeck ventilation.
Camo Marksman Pro-NB Tool
Designed for standard deck board with a 3-1/4″ (83mm) to 5″ (127mm) clamp setting with a 3/16″ gapping.
The Camo Marksman PRO-NB tool is an excellent choice for anyone looking to install smaller decking without visible screws or fasteners. Creating a beautiful, fastener-free deck surface while simplifying installation.
The narrow board (NB) is often advantageous for cedar and exotic hardwood boards. Which are more commonly narrow boards either for appearance or the woods performance or availability. In Calgary, cedar is often on sold in 4 ½” (177mm) planks because of the size of the cedars’ harvest and to minimize cupping.
In can be used for narrow composite and PVC decking, but more commonly, they are installed use biscuit or clip hidden fasteners. Most porch lines of composite decking’s warranty do not cover edge fastening.
Camo MARKSMAN Edge Tool
It does not clamp on the boards nor include an auto gap.
If you’re looking for an easy way to create a seamless, gap-free deck surface, the CAMO Marksman Edge tool is the perfect solution. Designed to work with Camo Hidden Deck Fasteners, this handy tool will securely drive screws diagonally through the deck board and into the joist below, creating a fastener-free deck that looks great and lasts for years.
You could use this tool with green decking for minimal gap during construction to minimize gapping once dry. But I wouldn’t recommend it since edge screwing decking can shrink and break off the edge of the screws.
Where I find this most advantageous is for corrections. No two deck boards is exactly alike for width, especially 5/4 pressure-treated decking, which often requires regular adjustments to remain true. Often a smaller gap will realign the boards, but you can’t use the Marksman Pro with their pre-set gapping. This is where the Edge Tool is perfect for holding the screws on the edge of the board while giving you complete freedom to adjust the decking gap.
Features & Benefits of Camo Edge Fasteners
After installing face screws for years, it was the beauty of edge fastener that first grabbed my attention, and I am sure you are also. But now, after thousands of screws, I can say there are many advantages of edge screwing, in particular using the Camo.
But along with these pros, I have also found some challenges. I don’t want you to order one without being first aware of these cons.
Using the Camo Edge Tool
Using a Camo Edge tool is relatively easy, which is the point.
- Clamp unto the decking, centred on the joists
- Load Camo screws into side slots
- Hold decking tight to the install decking
- Drive screw on the open side with drill/impact driver with a T15 Star driver bit
- Finish with screw on the installed decking side
- Pull the lever to release clamp, move to new location
- Repeat till entire decking is screwed in place
- Place new deck board in place and repeat process
- Look back and enjoy the beauty of your deck without ugly screw heads marring the surface
Strength of the Fasteners
The size of the screws may surprise you, 1-7/8″ (48mm) for 1″ or less decking. Only 2-3/8″ (60mm) for traditional 1 ½” decking. But keep in mind the screw is driven from the edge of the decking, not the top face, reducing the required length.
Plus, the power of 45° screw. Rather than straight up and down, the screws installed at an angle create greater holding power
You can use the longer screws for 1″ decking like I did trying to compensate the first time. But quickly realized it wasn’t necessary.
- Small screw heads easily hidden in the gap
- Easier than Undermount Hardware
- Cleaner appearance
- No pooling of water and dirt on the screw head increasing rot.
- No snagging screw heads on the decking
- Stronger holding with 45° screw install
- No pre-drilling required
I can summarize the pros of Camo Tool in two words, appearance and time savings.
Edge screwing makes the board look better, and the Camo tool makes screwing on the edge of the board easier.
As a bonus, edge screwing minimizes pooling of water and dirt in the screw heads and wood surrounding it, reducing rot and splinters on the decking.
It is a big advantage compared to Kreg Deck fastener, which has a similar concept of edge screwing, except it needs pre-drilling. There is no need to pre-drilling the Camo self drill screws before driving the screwing. Saving so much time.
- Harder to correct deck gapping
- Cannot screw last few boards
- Doesn’t work for Butt Joints
- Slow Compared to Face screwing
The pre-set spacer is great for combining two tools in one, holding the screws while consistently gapping the boards. But wood decking is rarely consistent in size. To prevent having an ugly tapered board in the end small correction in gapping is required. Which cannot be done with the pre-set spacer.
You can own all three tools, allowing you to shift between 3/16″ standard gap, 1/16″ top correct the gap and even the no gap, MARKSMAN Edge Tool. But this is not practical if you are only building one deck.
I have sacrificed my fingers before, holding the screws at the edge to drive into the decking. It works, but your fingers will feel a little raw after a few boards.
The beauty of 45° driven screws also requires more space to drive. Making the last few deck boards impossible to edge screw. Requiring either to use small “L” brackets under the decking to hold the last board or to have the last few boards face screwed.
With every additional step adding, adds time. Clamping the tool on the decking loading the screws. All increase how long it will take to complete the deck.
Also, the very nature of the driving screws on the edge of the board requires overhang of the decking to prevent splitting of the decking. Related is you cannot butt joint decking on a single joist. There just is not enough room on the joist for the camo screws.
Price is dependent on what you compare it to. If you use clips or under deck tracks, camo screws are a bargain. But when compared to using #8 deck screws, expect to pay 3 times as much. Plus, the tool.
Others Reviews of Camo Edge Tool and Screws
So far, this has largely been one deck builder, me. Sharing my experience and thoughts about the Camo Marksman Pro tool and screws. But I have also read through many others reviews from Amazon, Home Depot, to name a few, to get a more rounded review. Sharing what other’s people experiences has been.
As my teenage daughter would say, “there are literally hundreds of reviews.” So, I will cherry-pick for unique, better-worded ones that highlight the Camo Marksman tool experience.
One more thing, I did not make these up, but the names sure sound like it. I guess not everyone wants their real names on Home Depot’s site.
“This is the easiest and best hidden screw product I have ever used. Very sturdy, even my wife had no trouble using the system with perfect results.”by jedi
JED42, I am guessing not his real name but he has had a wealth of experience with many different fastening systems.
“I own a small remodeling company in the midewest. I have installed decking with every fastener imaginable: Face nailed, face screwed, clips that go under the decking, hidden clips on the side, in a groove, biscuits…you name it. None of them work correctly every time. The gaps aren’t consistent, the screws don’t drive in correctly, you have to place a spacer in between each board before nailing etc. This tool eliminates all of it. No clips, no spacers nothing. Material is screwed to the joists. Done.”JED42
I agree with Shocker88 about the problem of the last few boards.
“Works great and deck looks great, only one issue is against a starting wall or tight spot can’t always fit in so the first board on one side against the house (1/2″ off wall) it wouldn’t work so used normal screws on top. The rest of the deck though has NO visible screws in in holding down the decking, AWESOME!!! Worked great just a few spots where couldn’t apply it but still well worth the money.”
I install a lot more composite than wood decking and initially struggled with Valarie dilemma, but I am glad I went for it.
“For the price of this thing, you have to definitely want to hide the screw heads in your project. Yes, the tool does exactly what it is designed to do and yes, I like the way my deck looks. But unless I can sell this tool cheap and recoup some of my money, I now have an expensive tool collecting dust.”
Valarie F Randall
Comparing Camo to clips or biscuits.
“Compared to other hidden fastener systems, this is a no-brainer! I installed cumaru decking and the results are amazing. I am so happy that I did not buy the pre-grooved boards to utilize standard hidden clip systems. Saved money on the decking and eliminated the groove which will catch water and promote rotting.”
You will need knee pads with this tool.
“This tool spaces the boards and positions the screws. It works well in conjunction with the camo screws. The only issue is that it is slow. I had to be on my knees to use it. Probably to slow for a contractor but good for a DIY’er”
Here’s a good argument for buying the Camo Marksman Pro-X1 Tool, with its smaller gapping.
“The tool worked great. My only complaint is that it gave too wide a space between boards. Worked around it and deck looks great. Start the screw, remove tool, close gap as desired, tighten down.”
Most reviews are very positive, and complaints largely fall under screwing the last few boards, adjusting the gapping or initial price of the tool. Which are all fair assessments.
Alternatives to Camo Marksman Tool
Camo is not the only option for hidden fasteners for your deck.
Kreg Deck fastener
Two significant differences compared to the Camo tool.
- Pre-drilling required
- No pre-set gapping
Adjusting gapping to straighten boards is a struggle with the Camo Marksman, but the auto gapping is more advantageous than negative.
The time savings with the self-drilling screws easily will cut your time in half.
“As a professional contractor, my work crews are now using the CAMO hidden screw system on all of our deck boards when we build a deck. Clients love this as NO screws are ever seen. We used to use Kregs, but now that we found CAMO, we’re not going back. Could be happier, well worth it!”
I am with Ken on this one. Kregs hidden fasteners are great for finishing work like cabinets but on a deck with thousands of screws to install. Camo is better.
Hidden Deck Fasteners Clips
I use these Ipe clips as an example, but clips to hold down decking works well. The biggest drawback is price and needing to machine all your decking with a groove.
With composite decking boards. I almost always use clips. With wood it’s just not worth the extra cost. Especially when Camo is available.
Conclusion in Reviewing Camo Marksman Edge Tools
The speed of installation compared to pre-drilling and the finished look of the decking definitely makes the Camo tool worth it.
On the flip side, the extra cost of the tool and screws will add to the cost of your deck. Especially if this is the only deck, you are planning on building. You will definitely want to try to sell it after.
Quick links for more screws.
For thicker boards (1 ½”) use 2 3/8” edge screws. The carton on the left 1750 screws should be enough for 500 sqft of deck. On the right 700, 200 sqft of deck.
For thinner boards (1”) like 5/4 decking use 1 7/) screws. The carton on the left 1750 screws should be enough for 500 sqft of deck. On the right 700, 200 sqft of deck.
Many reviews recommend a lever to help straighten out the deck board while screwing.