Framing hammers have long handles, hefty heads, and grooved faces to provide surer nail-to-hammer contact. They are made for people who frame houses and need extra punch and grip.
Yet, like many task-specific home improvement products that have migrated into general use (duct tape, drywall screws, etc.), framing hammers come in handy for lots of other things. Even when it's not the most appropriate tool, I find myself picking up the framing hammer.
I tested both the Hart 21 oz. Milled Face Steel Framing and the Hart 21 oz. Milled Face Hickory Framing hammers. Both have angled drive faces for better contact with the nail head.
Both have 180 degree Side Nail Pulls for nails up to 16d. The side nail pulls supplement rather than replace the claws. They help you snug in closer to some nails and, in some cases, allow you to pull them out with greater leverage than the claws.
Both have magnetic nail sets. In case you're not familiar, a nail set allows you to set up a nail on the hammer's head. This gives you a chance to lightly strike the surface and get the nail in place--without bashing your fingers.
Finally, the sides of the heads are somewhat flat, allowing you to side-strike the nail in those rare instances when you need that extra room.
Between the two, I became a great fan of the hickory handled hammer. It felt light in my hand, yet powerful enough capably to pound in 16d nails.
My current framing hammer has none of the neat little perks mentioned above. I may just have to relegate it to "emergency" use on those inevitable sad occasions that I can't find either of the Hart framing hammers.