Professional Tool Reviews for Pros
Having extensively reported on the best battery chainsaw via dozens of hands-on reviews, we wanted to turn to Pros. Picking from battery-powered tools proved helpful to some, but we also want to select our best professional chainsaw for those who need the power and runtime gas chainsaws provide. This includes professional arborists, tree cutters, foresters, landscape professionals, and more. Lithium Battery Mini Chainsaw
As always, we don’t want to waste any time. Having used, tested, and reviewed dozens of the top models, here are our picks for the best professional chainsaws.
The original MS 271 came out in 2011. But it wasn’t until Stihl awarded the coveted “BOSS” elevated status to the Stihl MS 271 Farm Boss chainsaw in 2015 that it officially replaced the highly-favored MS 270 chainsaw. The new MS 271 cut emissions in half while adding a pre-separation air filtration system. That would sound like so much marketing material except for the fact that it added 5X the life to the air filter.
Stihl continues to mess with their air filter systems, creating saws that can run for longer and with less a performance hit—even when the air filter gets significantly clogged up by work. Grab this saw for around $420.
This Echo CS-2511T top-handle chainsaw is the real deal. Sure, it’s small, but the 25.4cc 2-stroke engine really chews through wood quickly. We used it to remove 4–8″ limbs (which it did without breaking a sweat). We even tested it by cutting larger oak. This lightweight chainsaw chewed right through it. We definitely prefer the 12-inch bar, though you can go up to 14-inches.
In the end, we just love how this saw works. From the clutch-driven oiler to the oversized gas tank opening, it has excellent features to match its power. You can grab up our pick for the best lightweight chainsaw for around $430.
Husqvarna designed the T525 to be the company’s lightest gas-powered tree care saw. Designed, for full-time professional use, this 27cc top handle chainsaw really impressed us with just how much power you get out of this compact tool. The T525 uses Husqvarna’s low-emission X-Torq engine and it has an auto-return stop switch that resets to the ‘On’ position automatically for re-starting. We also love the quick-release air filter cover and spark plug accessibility.
This might be our favorite climbing saw. Priced around $520 (and difficult to find), grab this saw and you won’t look back.
The Stihl MS 261 C-M chainsaw is made in the USA. It mirrors the fuel efficiency and low exhaust features of the MS 261 but adds Stihl’s M-Tronic engine management system. This system uses a small computer to monitor and automatically adjust the fuel mix to deal with things like elevation, temperature, fuel quality, and (our favorite) dirty air filters.
We’ve tested the MS 261 C-M, and it amazingly maintains chains speed even when the air filter is nearly clogged. We don’t recommend you run the saw like that on purpose, but it provided a great testimony to the efficiency of the system.
You can find this saw on sale for under $600.
We tested the Echo Timber Wolf CS-590 chainsaw on everything from removing stumps to cutting pole barn beams in half. The saw starts extremely easily and without any hesitation. More importantly, it remained easy to start from the first pull until the tool was over 7-years young.
The 59.8 cc motor cuts smoothly and powerfully with an ease that makes it feel like a larger professional chainsaw. There was more than enough torque and no kickback whatsoever. The balance and weight of this saw work with you rather than against you. We’ve used more powerful saws, but none that feel quite as well-balanced in the hand. At around $419 this saw won’t come up against much it can’t handle. Decide on your preferred bar size (18- or 20-inches) and pick one up.
Editor’s Note: We can’t help but also mention the much larger Stihl MS 661 Magnum Series. These saws cost considerably more ($1280 to $1330), but we find them incredibly powerful and flexible. You can get them with bar sizes from 16- to 32-inches so they pick up where the Timber Wolf leaves off.
Can you find a chainsaw with a larger bar and more power? Sure, but the Stihl MS 881 Magnum chainsaw is currently the largest Stihl offers. It directly replaces the well-regarded MS 880 and reduces emissions. This saw boasts a 121.6cc engine and support for a 41-inch bar. While the MS 880 supported a bar up to 59-inches in length, Stihl no longer seems to offer that as a stock or build-to-order option.
From forestry to logging or milling, this saw brings both power and control. You can grab it for around $2020.
The Stihl MS 500i chainsaw provides tons of power with its 79cc (4.83 cu. in.) engine. What stands out to us, however, is the use of electronic fuel injection. They also use this technology on their TS 500i 14-inch brushless cut-off saw.
It gives this professional chainsaw quick acceleration while doing a better job of monitoring fuel consumption. How quickly does it ramp up? 0-62mph in a quarter second. That’s fast.
Pushing 6.7 bhp and weighing 13.9 lbs. without fuel, the Stihl MS 500i saw also has an excellent power-to-weight ratio. A chainsaw with no choke? Yes, please. Priced at around $1,350, this is a saw you can plan to use for well over a decade if you take care of it.
We love the Husqvarna 455 Rancher for its combination of power and value. You can pay a little more for the 545 Mark II. We honestly don’t think it makes sense since it trades off some engine size for Autotune and a magnesium crankcase. The 455 Rancher nets you a low-vibration 55cc saw that cuts through firewood like butter.
We like the stock 20-inch blade as a great size for cutting all manner of firewood. You can quickly adjust the chain tension with a single screw, and changing the air filter requires no tools. Retailing at $499, we can easily call this the best professional chainsaw for cutting firewood.
Pros have more options than ever before. Traditional professional brands Stihl and Husqvarna have outstanding models while cordless powerhouses such as Makita and Milwaukee have produced legitimate options themselves.
In the end, we chose Husqvarna’s 540i XP as the best battery-powered chainsaw for professionals. Though not as powerful as the Greenworks Commercial 82V, its balance of 40cc power and weight makes it an excellent all-rounder for gas-free tree cutting.
We also like the option to use a standard battery pack or switch over to a battery backpack for extended cutting. That’s a feature Stihl, Greenworks Commercial, and Makita have as well.
Price: $600 bare (14-inch bar), $610 bare (16-inch bar), $960 (kit w/9.4Ah battery)
Stihl is the only chainsaw manufacturer that produces its own guide bars and saw chains. They have a guide bar facility in Waiblingen, Germany, and they manufacture saw chains in Switzerland. They also manufacture products in their 83-acre Virginia Beach campus. Longer Stihl Rollomatic E Super Guide Bars feature an angled oil delivery hole that improves oil flow to the saw chain. All Stihl chains are pre-stretched before they leave the factory.
We can’t really recommend a single chain for everyone. You have too many variables depending upon your goals. Stihl has over a dozen different chain types if that’s any indication of how many options you have. If you don’t know anything, 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 chain features carbide-tipped technology and stay sharper longer.
Finally, you can choose one of their Rapid Micro skip-tooth blades if you want more speed and less teeth for sharpening. This is our preferred chain for basic felling.
Editor’s Note: While we like Stihl chain best, you may come across Oregon bars and chains more readily. In that case, look for their SpeedCut and SpeedCut Nano for fast cutting with mid-sized saws. If you want a more multi-purpose chain, try Versacut or ControlCut. Their PowerCut line has some great skip chains for loggers.
Over years of testing, we’ve made many thousands of cuts through pine, cedar, oaks, and much more. These range from limbing small branches through felling 3-foot diameter trees, and digging out after hurricanes. We prefer to test chainsaws by crosscutting in green (wet) wood like their chains were designed for, not in dried construction lumber.
The size of the motor determines a good amount of the power potential of a saw, but hands-on testing really matters. Our recommendations come from either personal use of these saws by our Pros or careful research into professionals giving us feedback on specific uses and experiences.
We also see power helped by smart systems that monitor fuel/oxygen levels and keep saws running strong even when filters get clogged from use. For this reason, some 55cc saws can outperform other brands with larger engines once the work gets underway.
The combination of real-world and controlled scenario cutting really puts a saw through its paces.
When doing head-to-head testing of chainsaws, we match the chains across all saws to ensure we aren’t biased by comparing saws using different types of chains. You’ll find the same differences in your own use depending upon what type of chain you choose. Chain type affects the speed of cut (perceived power) as well as chip clearing, vibration, and the potential for kickback.
Unlike battery-powered chainsaws, professional gas chainsaws use a throttle and clutch to operate. For the most part, you either let a chainsaw idle or you run it at full-throttle. You might feather the throttle a little for small climbing actions, but in general, we look for a trigger that feels responsive and is comfortable to pull and use.
Professional chainsaws—for the most part—use two-cycle fuel. That means we have to pull-start them. If a chainsaw starts slowly or requires a drawn-out process to start, we prefer going elsewhere. For the most part, professionals don’t have issues with these saws starting up quickly. For those who need to ramp up and down without missing a beat, however, some of the EFI options present a nice solution—albeit one that costs money.
Chainsaw bars need to be adjusted nearly every time you use the saw. A new chain stretches out pretty quickly. You need to snug it up at least a few times as it breaks in.
If your chain gets tight rather suddenly, it usually means the bar is not getting oil. Don’t loosen it until you make sure the saw is oiling properly.
Pro Tip: Get into the habit of loosening your chain at the end of the day. Cold weather can cause it to tighten as it cools and damage parts.
Professional chainsaw bars require a screwdriver-wrench combination tool called a scrench. None of our Pro recommendations feature tool-free tensioners—professionals don’t like them and neither do we for this type of use. They don’t tend to work as well or hold up over the long term.
Lost bar nuts are a frequent occurrence during regular use in the field. To prevent this, some saws have the added feature of captive (retained) nuts that won’t fall off the saw when you loosen them. Several Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws feature these while Echo tends to skip this handy feature. We always keep a few screnches in the truck and/or trailer.
Pro Tip: Keep a spare nut on hand as it’s not unusual to lose one in the field.
Most chainsaw brands don’t try to reinvent the wheel by making their own bars and chains. Except for Stihl, that is—who make their own. Other brands typically use an Oregon bar and chain. Most of the chainsaws we test use 3/8″ pitch, 0.050″ gauge chains. Some other saws might opt for “faster” .325-inch pitch chains.
Bar and chain oil is the lifeblood of a professional chainsaw. Your saw won’t last very long without it. Throughout our testing, most of the saws oiled readily, and we appreciated any saws with features to prevent or limit leaks.
We also checked oil visibility. For the most part, Pros just maintain a regular schedule for oiling. Even the best translucent oil windows quickly get dirty quickly—making it difficult to use them for their intended purpose. This goes double for the ones that look like they were an afterthought—far too small to be practical.
Since we add oil a lot to our professional chainsaw, the size of the oil reservoir and the ease of adding new oil matter. It makes a regular task much easier. We don’t like having oily fingers, so being able to fill the tank while leaving our work gloves on is our preference. Look for oil caps with lugs that are easy to turn with gloves on and/or flip-up tabs that provide an even better grip.
Another cause of spills in professional chainsaws is an oil tank with a filler neck that is too narrow. Bar and chain oil is thick and tacky. It can pour like molasses in the cold, so it easily “piles up” and overflows in a narrow neck.
While filling most chainsaws proves passable, some designs have a narrow neck or sit at an angle that makes the target even smaller.
Providing another challenge, plastic filters at the inlet of its tank can constrict the diameter. Finally, caps that cross-thread easily can also make the oil-fill process more of a chore.
Here’s a tip—only poke a little hole in the foil sealing your quart or gallon oil bottle so you can pour a skinny stream. Or dispense your oil from a syrup bottle that has a tapered, pull-to-open tip. It works like a charm, and you can push the tip against the inside of the filler neck to stop the flow for one-handed control when your other hand is steadying the saw.
Just make sure you clean out the bottle first (you may have to eat a whole lot of pancakes).
Chainsaws often leak oil while sitting because daily heating and cooling shrinks and expands a plastic tank like a rudimentary pump. Some saws are messier than others.
We want an easy-to-use chain brake that works well. Most manufacturers have this down to a science at this point, so we encounter very few issues here. Most extend high enough to offer easy activation during a kickback event.
We want a safety trigger lock that’s easy to use without getting in the way. Stihl, Husqvarna, and Echo put theirs on the back of the handle. These work well—until they don’t. For the most part, we’re simply looking for placement and feel—ensuring we don’t have to move our hand from a natural position when grasping the saw to use it. Notably, Echo provides the easiest to replace trigger lock…we’re not sure if that’s a good or bad sign.
We also check the chain catch pin and position of the hand guards—but most manufacturers have this down to a science.
For pushing a saw through wood more efficiently, chainsaws come fitted with bucking spikes (a.k.a. bumper spikes, felling spikes, or dogs). These spikes sit against the body of the saw alongside the bar and anchor the saw in place while the bar pivots through the cut.
The spikes allow you to apply a lifting motion of the rear hand instead of pushing downward. Holding the saw tight to the wood, the motor can exert its maximum pulling power. This saves you from some of the cutting vibrations and especially the jerking common to holding a saw away from your work.
Applying leverage with spikes adds control, but go easy and listen to the pitch of the motor. You can stall even a gas chainsaw by applying too much pressure.
While it’s true that the comfort and feel of a tool are largely subjective, it’s also true that some designs work better than others. Most Pros and experienced homeowners can immediately tell. I believe that thoughtful design intention and execution do come through for the majority of users.
The best professional chainsaws will feel balanced in your hands. It should cut straight without introducing a twisting motion and you should not feel like either the back hand or your front grip are overly stressed when making a cut. You want to be able to easily rock the saw forward and back on the bucking spikes when cutting through larger trunks.
Holding a saw with your left hand on the front handle in front of you should have the saw balancing fairly flat. Being a bit front-heavy is okay, but a rear-heavy saw lifts the cutting end of the saw up towards you and requires more effort and vigilance to use and carry safely.
Determining a good feel for felling cuts while holding the chainsaw sideways is more about the comfort of applying force to the front and rear handles as you grasp it from the side, and also the ease of operating the trigger while sideways. We try and test all directions when using both top-handle and rear-handle saws
In general, chainsaws with thicker handles are more comfortable to grasp in use because their broader radiused edges serve to soften the contact with your hand. Of course, rubber handle surfaces help too, not only for padding but also for the increased grip they provide.
In actuality, it’s remarkable just how similar the grip is on Stihl, Husqvarna, and Echo professional chainsaws. Husqvarna provides little to no rubber overmold. Echo gives you some texture on the side of their plastic handle. Stihl gives some overmold on the back, which we like.
They and Husqvarna also provide a stop to keep you from sliding up in the decoupled portion of the handle where the vibration control occurs. On an Echo chainsaw, they decouple a larger portion of the rear handle to control vibration.
Most professional chainsaw triggers are large enough for two fingers to fit on them. Some have an extra-long trigger with more room to vary your grip stance for comfort. The best feeling triggers retract flush with the handle instead of leaving a raised bump your fingers have to push against.
The dry weight of the best professional chainsaws can be as low as 6 pounds to well over 16 pounds. Experience shows that a saw’s weight is less important than proper balance overall as you only feel the full weight when you’re NOT cutting.
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I am a professional arborist/faller. This list is full of saw’s that very few professionals would use. First of all get rid of anything boss, rancher and echo. Here’s my list, I’m only going to include currently available and newest saws.
Top Handle – Stihl MS201 TC-M Small Wood – Stihl MS261 CM Medium/All Round – Stihl 550i, Stihl MS462 CM Big Wood – Stihl MS661 CM, Husqvarna 595 XP Huge Wood/Milling – Stihl MS881, Husqvarna 3120 XP
MS271 is a great farm and ranch saw, but I wouldn’t call it a professional saw. For “Best Professional Chainsaw Overall”, I think the kudos has to go to MS261. Same size 50cc motor, but ~15% more power (4.0hp vs 3.49hp) and ~12% lighter (10.8lbs vs. 12.3lbs). That’s 2.7 lbs per hp for the 261 and 3.5 lbs per hp for the 271. For a pro using a saw all day, that weight matters.
Again, 271 is a great farm saw (hence its Farm Boss name), but 261 for the pro.
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