I can't believe Sarge is pleased with the results! So far, at least!"Bet he ends up splitting it!"
I know I would. I drill pilot holes for almost all my nails anymore, especially small finishing nails. Takes a lot longer, but there's less splitting.
I also learned a trick from a carpenter guy that seems to work fairly well when using larger nails and lumber for framing: tap the sharp end of the nail lightly with the hammer to dull it just a bit. Reduces splitting... to an extent.