The STIHL company dates all the way back to the 1920s where the foundation of the trusted chainsaw company began in Stuttgart, Germany, but it wasn’t till the 1960s that STIHL began making major innovations in the chainsaw world. With nearly 60 years of experience in chainsaw creation, STIHL is one of the most trusted, reliable and sought-after brands.
This guide to STIHL chainsaws outlines the best STIHL chainsaws for various needs. For example, a 16-inch gas chainsaw with a 50cc engine is probably overkill if all you need to do is some light pruning around the yard, while an electric chainsaw isn’t suitable for cutting large bundles of firewood in the forest. With this guide, you’ll be able to pick out the right chainsaw for the job at hand.
There are two main components to a chainsaw: the guide bar and the engine. The guide bar is the portion of the chainsaw around which the chain rotates, and it represents the cutting area. The length of the guide bar is synonymous with the size of the wood it can cut in one pass. Guide bars vary anywhere from 14 to 32 inches in length. Homeowners typically don’t need a guide bar any longer than 16 to 20 inches long. Anything longer than that is for heavy-duty cutting, landing those models in professional territory.
The engine provides power. The type of engine that you need greatly depends on the amount of work you want to do and the size of the cutting job. Here are the three common types of chainsaws and the type of work each is used for:
Gas chainsaws are by far the most powerful and portable, as well as the most common, but they’re also the heaviest. These engines run longer than battery-powered engines, but are much louder than both electric and battery-powered chainsaws. Gas engine power is measured in cubic centimeters, or cc, and a larger engine equals more power. Larger gas-powered chainsaws are best suited for heavy-duty cutting jobs, like felling medium or large trees and cutting medium to large firewood. A gas-powered saw is what you’ll want for forest cutting, since you’ll be away from any power source. The last thing you want is battery power to run out in the middle of a job.
Electric saws are best for yard work around the home. These saws have to be plugged into a power source, so they are not as portable as chainsaws with gas- or battery-powered motors. These saws are less powerful and quieter, and they require no gas mixing or refueling. Plus, they are much simpler to maintain than gas motors. An electric chainsaw is best used for pruning, light firewood cutting and limb cutting.
Battery-powered saws are best for simple yard work. Pruning and trimming small branches is as about as much as battery-powered chainsaws can handle safely. These basic saws are best for the most casual of chainsaw users.
Are you going to be doing mostly light trimming and pruning or are you going to be cutting medium sized fire logs? Are there tall branches that you can’t reach? Do you need to climb trees to do your cutting? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself because all require different types of chainsaws for the job. Below are suggestions on the best homeowner chainsaws, their motor type and what jobs each can handle.
Best Gas-Powered Chainsaw
For home and professional use, a gas-powered chainsaw is a safe bet. Gas-powered chainsaws are versatile enough handle small jobs like felling or trimming small tree and to cutting medium-sized firewood, and larger gas models can do even more. Gas-powered motors have a longer running life than battery-powered motors, and you aren’t confined to the length of an electric power cord.
Best Inexpensive Option: STIHL MS 170
The MS 170 is one of the best chainsaws for the money. The 30.1cc motor is powerful enough for felling, trimming and pruning small trees, as well as for light firewood cutting. You don’t have to be an ironman to pack this motor around, either. The MS 170 is lightweight and compact, and it features an anti-vibration system that helps keep your hands and arms from getting tired while cutting. This is an important feature not only for your hands, but for your overall safety. The chainsaw can be equipped with a 12-, 14- or 16-inch guide bar.
Best Versatile Home Option: STIHL MS 250
The MS 250 is for homeowners that need a bit more power than the MS 170 can provide. The MS 250 has a 45.4cc motor and the option for a 16- or 18-inch guide bar. The 45.4cc motor is ideal for moderate tree felling and medium to large firewood cutting (and the 18-inch guide bar is recommended for larger cuts). There’s a side-access chain tensioner that makes it easy to adjust the chain tension with a bar wrench, and the fuel and oil caps can be accessed without the use of any tools.
Best Professional Option: STIHL MS 271
The STIHL MS 271 is known as the Farm Boss. It is a great combination of power and portability. It features a 50.2cc engine that can handle cutting large logs and felling medium-sized trees when necessary. This chainsaw is similar to the STIHL MS 290 and STIHL MS 029 – both popular models that are no longer in production. The MS271 has nearly as much horsepower, but weighs slightly less, making it more portable, fuel efficient and better performing than its predecessors. In fact, it is one of the best chainsaws for cutting fire wood and log bucking. Bear in mind that a 50.2cc engine packs a lot of power, so the chainsaw is loud. Your neighbors will appreciate you for not using this for light yardwork around the home.
STIHL: Best Electric Chainsaws
While gas chainsaws are more powerful and portable, electric chainsaws also have their benefits. Electric saws don’t emit any emissions and eliminate the need for buying and mixing fuel. They are also much easier to start that gas-powered motors. In some cases, all you need to do is plug them in and press the start button. As long as these saws are plugged in, you don’t have to worry about running out of power, so they will continue to run until the entire job is finished. Your ears and neighbors will also appreciate the quieter motor compared to gas chainsaws.
Best Lightweight Option: STIHL MS 170 C-BQ
This is one of the best electric chainsaws for homeowners. Even though it is electric, it still has a considerable amount of power. The 13.1-amp motor can handle a number of different jobs, including medium tree felling, trimming and cutting medium-sized firewood (roughly 10-inch logs). This chainsaw has a two-year warranty and can be equipped with a 12- to 16-inch guide bar. With all of that in mind, the MS 170 C-BQ only weighs 9.4 pounds, making maneuverability a cinch. It also comes with STIHL Quickstop, a chain stopping system that can help prevent injury during chain kickback.
Best Powerful Electric Option: STIHL MS 250 C-Q
This is one of the best electric chainsaws for professional use. It features a powerful 15.0-amp motor and options for 16- to 20-inch guide bars. The 250 C-Q weighs just over 11 pounds, which is a bit on the heavy side for an electric chainsaw. It is incredibly simple to start – plug it in, press the start button and it’s running. The motor has a red LED light that indicates when the motor starts to run too hot, helping you prevent motor damage.
STIHL: Best Battery-Powered Chainsaw
Battery-powered motors are the smallest and least powerful out of the group. Battery-powered saws offer portability like gas motors, but they aren’t recommended for use beyond simple yardwork. All of STIHL’s battery-powered chainsaws come with a 36-volt lithium-ion battery. Perhaps the most convenient thing about battery-powered chainsaws – beyond the portability – is the easy start. Once the charged battery is placed into the STIHL chainsaw, you turn it on by simply squeezing the trigger.
Best Quiet Option: STIHL MSA 160 C-BQ
This chainsaw is easy to start, easy to handle and easy on the ears. It offers up to 50-minutes of operating time, depending on your usage, and it weighs 6.8 pounds without the battery. It also has the STIHL Quickstop feature, a chain-stopping system designed to keep you from getting hurt in the event of chain kickback. The MS 160 C-BQ also has a quick chain adjuster that enables you to adjust the tension of the chain without using any additional tools. This is one of the best cordless chainsaws STIHL offers. Keep in mind that the battery and charger are not included with purchase.
STIHL: Best Top-Handle Chainsaw
Top-handle chainsaws should only be used by trained professionals. These chainsaws are specifically designed to be used with one hand for making cuts in trees. These saws are lightweight, compact and perfect for in-tree work.
Best for Professionals Only: STIHL MS 150 T C-E
This top-handle chainsaw only weighs 5.7 pounds – less than half the weight of a standard homeowner saw. Its 23.6cc motor is gas powered and great for in-tree branch cutting. The size and power combination makes this one of the best small chainsaws STIHL offers. Remember, only professionals should attempt in-tree cutting.
STIHL Pole Saws
Most homeowners aren’t trained to climb trees, let alone with a chainsaw. A STIHL pole saw is great way to keep you on the ground where it’s safe while you cut those difficult and tall branches.
STIHL pole saws have an adjustable pole between the motor and the guide bar, but other than that, they function exactly like a normal chainsaw would. The bar can be adjusted to various lengths to cut limbs or do light pruning around the yard. STIHL offers pole saws that are gas and battery-powered, as well as pole saws for home and professional use.
Expect a general gas-powered STIHL pole saw to have (roughly) a 27cc motor and a 10-inch guide bar. That is enough power for pruning a tree as well as light branch and limb cutting. A 10-inch bar guide bar is still rather small, so do not attempt to cut oversized branches.
A battery-powered STIHL pole saw doesn’t have as much power as a gas-powered saw, so it would be ideal for light branch and limb cutting at most. The typical battery life on battery-powered pole saw is about 50 minutes, the same as a non-pole battery-powered saw, but that will vary depending on use.
Professional STIHL pole saws are more powerful than both general homeowner pole saws and battery-powered pole saws. The motors range anywhere from 30cc to 40cc, and they can weigh over 13 pounds. With more power and a 14-inch guide bar, a professional chainsaw is optimal for cutting large limbs, as well as cutting, trimming and pruning trees. Remember, with more weight comes more arm fatigue, so be sure you are strong enough to maneuver a heavier, professional pole saw.
Handling and operating a chainsaw is extremely dangerous. Don’t attempt to use a chainsaw without any prior knowledge and without the right safety equipment.
Along with a chainsaw, there are some additional purchases that you need to make to operate your chainsaw safely. Chainsaws are loud and spray woodchips everywhere while cutting. Gloves, safety glasses and earplugs are all must-haves to protect your eyes and ears from damage. It is also smart to take extra precautions: Safety pants, cut-resistant boots and additional head protection will also help to prevent you from getting seriously hurt while operating a chainsaw.
Additional Safety Tips
Don’t attempt to use an electric saw in wet conditions because there is a chance for electrical shock. Do not use a chainsaw that is not equipped or powerful enough to do the job. Don’t try to make large cuts with a chainsaw with a small guide bar. This will only increase chainsaw kickback and increase the risk of injury. Also, make sure you are strong enough to operate a chainsaw. Arm fatigue is a serious matter when using a chainsaw for extended periods of time. If you have a large cutting job at hand or in-tree cuts that need to be made – call a professional.