Soldering guns and irons perform the same job: heating an electrical connection so the solder may melt and flow into the wires. The hotter, heavier soldering gun may be used for other jobs, such as stained glass work.
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A soldering gun is controlled by a trigger, so the tip does not remain at its working temperature all the time. A soldering iron heats up as soon as it is plugged in and remains at its working temperature at all times. Some soldering irons have variable heat controls which enable you to dial back the heat for use on more delicate joints.
Soldering guns are generally higher powered tools intended for the soldering of heavy gauge wires and electrical components. The high power of the gun is not appropriate for use on delicate printed-circuit boards which would be damaged by the excessive heat. A lower-powered soldering iron provides less heat to the work area, so it will not be able to heat heavy-gauge wires for soldering. The limited heat range is also less likely to damage circuit boards when used correctly.
Both soldering tools generally use replaceable tips which include a variety of shapes suitable to different jobs. The pencil tip and handle shape of the soldering iron enables greater precision than is possible with the soldering gun. A soldering gun may be fitted with a pencil tip but the pistol-grip does not allow for precision control by the operator.
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