With dozens of hands-on reviews covering the best battery chainsaws extensively, we wanted to turn to the pros. Picking from battery-operated tools has proven helpful for some, but we also wanted to pick our best professional chainsaw for those who need the power and runtime that our air chainsaws offer. This includes professional arborists, tree cutters, rangers, landscape professionals and more.
As always, we don't want to waste any time. After using, testing and reviewing dozens of top models, here are our picks for the best professional chainsaws.
STIHL MS 271 Farmkeeper Chainsaw
The original MS 271 came out in 2011. But it wasn't until Stihl granted the coveted "BOSS" status to the Stihl MS 271 Farm Boss chainsaw in 2015 that it officially replaced the much-loved MS 270 chainsaw. The new MS 271 cuts emissions in half while adding a pre-separation air filtration system. That sounds like a lot of marketing material, except that it increases the life of the air filter by 5 times.
Stihl continues to improve their air filtration systems, creating saws that can run longer with less impact on performance – even if the air filter becomes severely clogged from work. Get this saw for around $420.
Best Lightweight Professional Chainsaw
Echo CS-2511T Top Handle Chainsaw
This Echo CS-2511T Top Handle Chainsaw is the real deal. Sure, it’s small, but the 25.4cc two-stroke does chew wood fast. We used it to remove 4-8" limbs (it did it effortlessly). We even tested it by cutting larger oak. This light chainsaw bites right through it. We definitely prefer a 12" pole, although you can go up to 14".
In the end, we just love how this saw works. From the clutch-actuated oiler to the oversized fuel tank opening, it has great character to match its power. You can pick up our pick of the best lightweight chainsaws for around $430.
Best Top Handle Professional Chainsaw
Husqvarna T525 Top Handle Chainsaw
Husqvarna designed the T525 to be the company's lightest pneumatic tree care saw. This 27cc top handle chainsaw is designed for the full-time professional, and we've been impressed with the power you get from this compact tool. The T525 uses Husqvarna's low-emissions X-Torq engine, which has an auto-return kill switch that automatically resets to the "on" position for restarting. We also like the accessibility of the quick-release air filter cap and spark plugs.
This might just be our favorite climbing saw ever. At around $520 (and hard to find), pick up this saw and you won't look back.
Best 50cc Professional Chainsaw
STIHL MS 261 CM Chainsaw
The Stihl MS 261 CM Chainsaw is proudly made in the USA. It mirrored the fuel efficiency and low emissions characteristics of the MS 261, but with the addition of Steele's M-Tronic engine management system. The system uses a small computer to monitor and automatically adjust the fuel mix to account for things like altitude, temperature, fuel quality and (our favorite) dirty air filters.
We have tested the MS 261 CM and it is amazing at maintaining chain speed even when the air filter is nearly clogged. We don't recommend running the saw like that on purpose, but it gives a good demonstration of the efficiency of the system.
You can find this saw for under $600.
Best 60cc Professional Chainsaw
Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf 60cc Chainsaw
We tested the Echo Timber Wolf CS-590 chainsaw for everything from removing tree stumps to cutting barn beams in half. The saw starts very easily and without hesitation. What's more, it remains easy to use from the very first pull until the tool has been in use for over 7 years.
The 59.8 cc motor cuts easily with smooth power and feels like a larger professional chainsaw. There is more than enough torque without any kickback. The balance and weight of this saw work in your favor rather than against it. We have used more powerful saws, but none felt as balanced in the hand. At around $419, this saw doesn't run into problems it can't handle. Decide on your preferred pole size (18" or 20") and choose one.
Editor's Note: We have to mention the larger Stihl MS 661 Magnum series. These saws are much more expensive ($1280 to $1330), but we found them to be very powerful and flexible. You can get them in rod sizes from 16 to 32 inches so they can pick up where Timber Wolf leaves off.
Best Large Professional Chainsaw
Stihl MS 881 Magnum Chainsaw (up to 41″ pole)
Can you find a chainsaw with a bigger shaft and more power? Sure, but the Stihl MS 881 Magnum chainsaw is the biggest Stihl has to offer right now. It directly replaces the acclaimed MS 880 and reduces emissions. This saw boasts a 121.6cc motor and a 41" bar for support. While the MS 880 supports rods up to 59 inches in length, Stihl no longer appears to offer it as a stock or build-to-order option.
From forestry to logging or milling, this saw brings power and control. You can buy it for around $2020.
Best Professional Chainsaw Technology
Stihl MS 500i Chainsaw with EFI
The Stihl MS 500i chainsaw packs a lot of power from its 79cc (4.83 cubic inches) engine. What stood out to us, however, was the use of electronic fuel injection. They also use this technology on their TS 500i 14-inch brushless chop saw.
It enables fast acceleration of this professional chainsaw while better monitoring of fuel consumption. How fast is it going up? 0-62mph is achieved in a quarter of a second. That's fast.
Pushes 6.7 hp and weighs 13.9 lbs. The Stihl MS 500i saw also has an excellent power-to-weight ratio without fuel. A chainsaw without a choke? Yes, please. This saw costs around $1,350, and if you love it, you can plan on using it for over a decade.
The best professional chainsaw for cutting firewood
Husqvarna 455 Rancher Chainsaw
We love the Husqvarna 455 Rancher for its combination of power and value. You can buy the 545 Mark II for a little more. Honestly, we don't think it makes sense as it would sacrifice some engine size for Autotune and a magnesium crankcase. The 455 Rancher gives you a low-vibration 55cc saw that cuts firewood like butter.
We like the stock 20-inch blade because it's the perfect size for cutting all kinds of firewood. You can quickly adjust chain tension with a single screw and change the air filter without tools. With a retail price of $499, we can easily call this the best wood-fired professional chainsaw.
Best Professional Electric (Battery-Powered) Chainsaws
Husqvarna 540i XP 40V 16" Chainsaw
Professionals have more options than ever. Traditional specialty brands Stihl and Husqvarna have excellent models, while cordless powerhouses like Makita and Milwaukee make legitimate options themselves.
In the end, we chose Husqvarna's 540i XP as the best battery-operated chainsaw for professionals. While not as powerful as the Greenworks Commercial 82V, its balance of 40cc power and weight make it a good all-rounder for airless tree cutting.
We also like the option to use the standard battery pack or switch to a battery pack for long cuts. This is also characteristic of Stihl, Greenworks Commercial and Makita.
Price: $600 bare (14" bar), $610 bare (16" bar), $960 (kit with 9.4Ah battery)
Other professional battery-operated chainsaws we recommend:
- Stihl MSA 220 CB 36V 16" Chainsaw : Rugged Design and More Power Backed by Stihl's Dealer Network
- Greenworks Commercial GS181 82V 18" Chainsaw : 50cc gas equivalent power with 18" stock bar and chain (starting at $349)
- Makita XCU04 18V X2 (36V) 16" Chainsaw : Smooth cuts and powerful, with a wide range of compatible OPE ($299 bare, $409 with 4 batteries and charger)
- Milwaukee 2727 M18 Fuel 16" Chainsaw : 40cc gasoline performance with 12.0Ah power available ($329 bare, $499 with 12.0Ah battery and charger)
Best Professional Chainsaw Chains
STIHL Chainsaw Chain
Steele is the only chainsaw manufacturer to produce its own guide bars and chains. They have a guide bar factory in Waiblingen, Germany and make saw chains in Switzerland. They also manufacture on their 83-acre Virginia Beach campus. The longer Stihl Rollomatic E Super Guide Bars have angled oil transfer holes for improved oil flow to the saw chain. All Stihl chains are pre-stretched at the factory.
We really can't recommend one chain for everyone. Depending on your goals, you have too many variables. Stihl has over a dozen different chain types, if that's any indication of how many options you have. If you know nothing, we love the Stihl Rapid Micro Comfort 3 chain. It combines low chatter and reduced kickback with smooth cutting and low vibration. Their Pico Duro chains feature carbide tip technology to stay sharper longer.
Lastly, if you want more speed and fewer sharp teeth, you can opt for one of their Rapid Micro blades. This is our go-to chain for basic felling.
Editor's Note: While we love the Stihl chain the most, you're probably more likely to come across bars and chains in Oregon. In that case, look for their SpeedCut and SpeedCut Nano for quick cuts with a medium duty saw. If you want a more versatile chain, try Versacut or ControlCut. Their PowerCut line has some great jump chains for recorders.
Test methods for professional chainsaws
After years of testing, we've made thousands of cuts on pine, cedar, oak and more. These include pruning small branches by felling trees up to 3 feet in diameter, and digging after the storm. We prefer to test chainsaws by crosscutting green (wet) lumber, as their chains are designed for them, rather than in dry construction lumber.
chainsaw cutting power
The size of the motor determines the huge power potential of the saw, but hands-on testing is really important. Our recommendations come from either our professionals' personal use of these saws, or a careful study of professionals giving us feedback on specific uses and experiences.
We've also seen power provided by smart systems that monitor fuel/oxygen levels and keep the saw running strong even when the filter becomes clogged with use. For this reason, some 55cc saws may outperform other brands with larger motors once the work begins.
The combination of the real world and controlled scene cuts really puts the sawtooth through its paces.
Match chains to reduce bias
When testing chainsaws head-to-head, we match the chains of all the saws to ensure we are not biased by comparing saws that use different types of chains. Depending on the type of chain you choose, you'll find the same differences in your own use. Chain type affects cutting speed (perceived power) and potential for chip removal, vibration and kickback.
The Best Professional Chainsaw Features We Look For
Unlike battery-operated chainsaws, professional gas chainsaws use a throttle and clutch to operate. In most cases, you will either let the chainsaw idle or run it at full speed. For small climbs, you might be able to smooth the throttle a bit, but overall we look for a trigger that feels responsive and is comfortable to pull and use.
easy to start
Professional chainsaws — most of them — run on dual-cycle fuel. This means we have to activate them. If the chainsaw starts slowly or takes a long time to start, we'd prefer to look elsewhere. In most cases, professionals have no problem with the quick start of these saws. However, for those who need to accelerate and decelerate without missing a beat, some EFI options offer a good solution — albeit at a cost.
The chainsaw blade needs to be adjusted almost every time the chainsaw is used. A new chain stretched out soon. When it breaks in, you need to snuggle it up at least a few times.
If your chain suddenly becomes tight, it usually means the handlebars are not fueled. Don't let go of the saw until you've made sure it's properly oiled.
Pro tip: Make it a habit to loosen your chain at the end of the day. Cold weather can cause it to tighten as it cools and damage parts.
Professional chainsaw poles require a screwdriver-wrench combination tool called a screncch. None of our Pro recommendations have tool-less tensioners — pros don't like them, and we don't like this use. They tend to be less effective or enduring in the long run.
Don't lose your nuts!
During normal use in the field, it is not uncommon for stick nuts to be lost. To prevent this from happening, some saws have the added feature of attaching (retaining) nuts so that they don't fall off the saw when you loosen them. Some Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws have these features, and the Echo tends to skip this handy feature. We always leave some marks on the truck and/or trailer.
Pro tip: Keep a spare nut on hand, as it's not uncommon to lose one in the wild.
bars and chains
Most chainsaw brands don't try to reinvent the wheel by making their own saw blades and chains. Except for Stihl, that's what they make themselves. Other brands often use Oregon Bars and Chains. Most chainsaws we tested use 3/8-inch pitch, 0.050-inch gauge chains. Some other saws may opt for a "faster" 0.325" pitch chain.
Bar and chain oil are the lifeblood of a professional chainsaw. Without it, your saw won't last very long. Throughout our testing, most saws were easily oiled, and we appreciate any saw with features that prevent or limit leaks.
We also checked the visibility of the oil. For the most part, the pros just keep oiling on a regular basis. Even the best translucent oil windows get dirty quickly, making it difficult to use them for their intended purpose. That goes double for something that seems like an afterthought—too small to be practical.
Easy to fill in
Since we oil our professional chainsaws a lot, the size of the oil tank and how easy it is to add new oil is important. It makes routine tasks much easier. We don't like greasy fingers, so we prefer to fill up the gas tank without wearing work gloves. Look for oil caps with lugs that turn easily with gloves on and/or flap tabs that provide a better grip.
overflow and more overflow
Another cause of professional chainsaw spillage is that the fuel tank's filler opening is too narrow. Bar and chain oil is thick. It can be poured in the cold like molasses, so it's easy to "pile up" and overflow a narrow neck.
While stuffing most chainsaws is proven passable, some designs have a narrow neck or are placed at an angle that makes the target smaller.
Another challenge is the reduced diameter of the plastic filter at the tank inlet. Finally, caps that are prone to misfits can also make the refueling process more cumbersome.
Tips for Avoiding Oil Spills or Spills
Here's a tip – just poke a small hole in the foil that seals the quart or gallon oil bottle so you can pour a thin stream. Or dispense oil from a syrup bottle with tapered pull-open tip. It works like a charm, and while your other hand stabilizes the saw, you can push the tip to the inside of the filler neck to stop the flow for one-handed control.
Just make sure to clean out the bottle first (you'll probably have to eat a lot of pancakes).
Chainsaws often leak oil while sitting because the daily heating and cooling causes the plastic tank to shrink and expand like the primary pump. Some saws are messier than others.
Chain gates and other safety features
We wanted a chain brake that was easy to use and worked well. Most manufacturers have it down to a science at this point, so we've had very few issues here. Most extensions are high enough to provide easy activation during kickback events.
We wanted a safety trigger lock that was easy to use and out of the way. Stihl, Husqvarna and Echo put them on the back of the handlebars. These work fine – until they don't. For the most part, we're just looking for position and feel – making sure we don't have to move our hands from their natural position when grabbing the saw. It's worth noting that the Echo offers the easiest trigger locks to replace…we're not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
We also check the chain lock pins and position of the fingerguards – but most manufacturers boil this down to a science.
To propel the saw through wood more efficiently, chainsaws are equipped with bent spikes (aka bumper spikes, felling spikes, or dogs). These spikes rest against the saw body next to the blade and hold the saw in place as the blade pivots through the cut.
The spikes allow you to use the lifting motion of the back hand instead of pushing down. With the saw firmly attached to the wood, the motor can do its best pulling power. This avoids some cutting vibration, especially the jerking that is common when holding the saw away from your work.
Applying leverage to the spikes adds control, but take it easy and listen to the tune of the motor. Applying too much pressure can even stall a gas chain saw.
While tool comfort and feel are largely subjective, some designs do work better than others. Most professionals and experienced homeowners can tell the difference right away. I believe that thoughtful design intent and execution do help most users.
The best professional chainsaws will feel balanced in your hand. It should cut straight without introducing twisting motion, and you shouldn't feel too much backhand or front grip when cutting. When cutting larger trunks, you want to be able to easily rock the saw back and forth over curved spikes.
Holding the saw on the front handle in front of you with your left hand should balance the saw fairly evenly. A little front weight is okay, but a rear weight saw will lift the cutting end of the saw towards you, requiring more effort and vigilance to use and carry safely.
Determining a good felling feel when holding a chainsaw sideways is more about comfort with applying force to the front and rear handles when grasping them from the side, and how easy it is to operate the trigger sideways. We try and test all orientations when using both top handle and rear handle saws
In general, chainsaws with thicker handles are more comfortable to hold in use, as their wider rounded edges help soften contact with the hand. Of course, the rubber handle surfaces help too, not just for padding, but to increase the grip they provide.
In fact, the grip of the Stihl, Husqvarna and Echo pro chainsaws is very similar. Husqvarna offers almost no rubber overmolding. The Echo gives you some texture on the side of the plastic handle. Steele has provided some overmolding on the back, which we like.
They and Husqvarna also provide a stop to keep you from sliding up on the detached part of the handlebar where the vibration control happens. On the Echo chainsaw, they detach most of the rear handle to control vibration.
Most professional chainsaw triggers are large enough for two fingers to rest on. Some have extra long triggers with more room to vary your grip for comfort. The best feel is when the trigger retracts flush with the handle, rather than leaving a raised bump against which your finger has to rest.
The dry weight of the best professional chainsaws can range from as little as 6 pounds to over 16 pounds. Experience has shown that the weight of the saw is not as important as proper balance of the whole as you will only feel the full weight when you are not cutting.
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