I know there are multiple power tool manufacturers in the marketplace that have battery-powered OPE tools such as chainsaws, but when it comes to chainsaws, the only two I am a fan of is the Ego and the Makita.
When Milwaukee announced they were coming out with a chainsaw, I was excited because I know they have the capability of making a great saw and I know they have the battery to produce a chainsaw that runs for a long time. The question was how will it compete against the Makita and Ego.
Back in June of 2018 we got our first look at the Milwaukee Chainsaw. It was at NPS18 and it was the first demonstration of the day. They paired the M18 Fuel Chainsaw up against a Stihl MS170, an entry level gas saw. And what do you know, the Milwaukee kicked the crap out of it. Now I’ve been a gas saw user for just about my whole life, I was instantly skeptic of the demo. My first thought was how I can replicate the demo using my own saws.
Fast forward almost a year and I’ve had plenty of time to use the Milwaukee chainsaw right along side my gas saws. What I’ve come to realize is that both kinds of saws have their place. It just depends on what kind of work you need to do.
Milwaukee Chainsaw Features and Specifications
What’s Great About The Milwaukee Chainsaw
First, it feels like a gas powered saw. It has a half wrap front handle and an extended back handle that is very usable even with gloves on. It has metal felling dogs unlike the plastic ones found on competitive battery powered saw. The chain brake works like a chain brake on a gas saw.
Second, the saw is a pretty quick little unit. It reaches full throttle in a second but that’s the nature of an electric motor. An electric motor has 100% of available torque at 0RPM. It also spins at 6,600 RPM. That’s the motor RPM, not the chain RPM.
Third, the saw also uses standard off the shelf bar and chain size. It uses a 16″ Oregon bar with an R56 chain. That means it is .043″ gauge semi-chisel with 56 drivers. I was able to find the R56 chain for $5 cheaper than the same Milwaukee packaged chain. This is also pretty much the same chain as the Stihl PMM3. If you’re having trouble sourcing a chain locally, have your Stihl dealer make you a PMM3 loop with 56 links.
Fourth and perhaps most important, the saw is compatible with any M18 battery. It can run on any of them but runs best with any of the new high-output batteries using the 21700 li-ion cells. The M18 is the power source of this saw meaning there is no gas/oil mix to keep fresh.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Chainsaw
Before shopping, consider a number of important factors common to all the best chainsaws, regardless of power source. This section also explores features relevant to selecting the best gas chainsaw for particular tasks, including intended use, motor, and chainsaw bars.
The two most common types of chainsaws are electric and gas. Electric chainsaws are powered by a cord or a battery. They’re lighter and more affordable than gas chainsaws, but they aren’t as powerful, working best for smaller projects, such as trimming tree limbs. A battery-powered model also has to be recharged periodically, and one with a cord is limited to how far that cord reaches. Gas chainsaws, on the other hand, are more powerful than electric chainsaws and are capable of cutting thick logs. However, they’re heavier, more expensive, more difficult to start, and more harmful to the environment.
Electric chainsaws are usually measured in volts, while gas chainsaws are measured in cubic centimeters (cc). The higher the number for both, the more powerful the chainsaw. Common maximum voltages for electric chainsaws, which measure the initial jolt of power when you turn them on, are 20 and 40. For gas chainsaws, a common cc range is 31–110.
This measurement refers to the usable part of the bar, which is the part that sticks out of the chainsaw’s casing. The bar length is the chainsaw’s full length, which is a few inches longer than its measurement because the first few inches are within the casing. Common measurements are 12, 16, 18, and 20 inches. A longer bar allows you to cut through thicker wood, but it also makes the machine heavier and more cumbersome.
A common safety feature on chainsaws is a chain brake. This feature stops the chain from moving if it encounters an abrupt impact. Because of the risk of injury from the chainsaw’s blade, you’ll want to ensure that your model has this feature.
There are a variety of features that will make using your chainsaw easier. For example, a chainsaw with an automatic oiling system oils the tool for you without you having to press a button, and a tool-less chain adjustment allows you to change the tension of the chain quickly and easily.
Different Types of Chainsaws
Today, we have far more options than that. With our electrical technology improving many times over, power tools have also gotten much better, faster, and quieter by implementing new electric motors. But that doesn’t always mean that electric chainsaws are the best choice, even though they do have many advantages over traditional gas chainsaws.
There are three main types of chainsaws to choose from: Corded electric, gas-powered, and battery-powered cordless electric. Each of them has distinct advantages and disadvantages that will make it easier to help you decide which is right for you.
Corded Electric Chainsaws
The big advantage that corded electric chainsaws have over gas and battery-powered saws is that they’ll never run out of juice. You can’t run out of gas or have a dead battery when you’re plugged into an outlet. But at the same time, that means you’ll always be tied to an extension cord and limited to its length.
Corded electric chainsaws can be pretty powerful, though they’re rarely as powerful as gas-powered saws. But they make up for that in ease of use. They have much less vibration and they’re nearly silent. Plus, electric chainsaws don’t need any maintenance that you’ll have to perform regularly with a gas saw.
Cordless electric chainsaws, otherwise known as battery-powered, give you the portability of gas-powered saw with many of the advantages of a corded electric chainsaw. A cordless chainsaw runs off of batteries, so if the battery dies, your saw will too, and you can’t just fill back up like a gas saw. Keep in mind, some of these saws eat up batteries very quickly.
But cordless electric chainsaws are very quiet and tend to weigh less than gas saws as well, even though some of them are just as powerful as smaller gas-powered chainsaws. However, they’re still not as powerful as larger gas chainsaws, which are still the kings for heavy-duty wood cutting.
The big boys on the block, gas-powered chainsaws are the original and still the most heavy-duty chainsaws available. While some electric chainsaws may rival smaller gas saws in power, they still can’t touch the larger 60cc and up gas saws. If you need to fell large trees or cut up very large logs, you’re probably going to need a gas-powered chainsaw.
These saws have gobs of power that you can take anywhere. They don’t need to be recharged, and if you run out of gas, you can easily just add more.
However, they require regular maintenance. You’ll have to change the oil and spark plugs, check the filter, and empty the machine for the winter. Plus, they get temperamental trying to start them in the cold or heat.
Our Top Picks:
The milwaukee chainsaws in the top picks below were selected based on their notable features, including power source, size, and budget. These are some of the best tools that can both help manage a property’s trees, collect firewood, and more.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 16 in. Chainsaw delivers the power to cut hardwoods, cuts faster than gas, and delivers up to 150 cuts per charge. The unit is designed to meet the performance, durability and ergonomic needs of professional landscape maintenance and power utility. The POWERSTATE Brushless Motor maintains speed under heavy loads without bogging down to outperform small gas engines and higher voltage systems.
REDLINK PLUS intelligence ensures maximum performance and protection from overload, overheating and over discharge. When paired with the M18 REDLITHIUM HIGH OUTPUT HD 12.0 battery, the unit delivers unmatched run-time in all applications. M18 FUEL technology allows the unit to reach full throttle in under 1-second providing ultimate control and productivity.
The Milwaukee M12 FUEL HATCHET 6 in. Pruning Saw delivers unmatched control and access, has the power to cut 3 in. hardwoods and delivers up to 120 cuts per charge. This electric pruning saw is designed to meet the ergonomic, performance and durability needs of landscape maintenance professionals.
Weighing less than 5 lbs and featuring a compact design, the cordless pruning saw gives users increased control and maneuverability in tight access areas. The POWERSTATE Brushless Motor delivers the power to complete cuts in demanding hardwood materials. The REDLINK PLUS Intelligence enables full-circle communication between the tool and battery, providing users with unmatched levels of performance, protection and productivity.
The advanced electronic package also delivers an instant throttle response and a variable speed trigger for ultimate control over the power range. The M12 REDLITHIUM XC 4.0Ah Battery (sold separately) delivers best in class run-time and performance. This pruning saw features a full house chain, easy access chain tensioner, automatic oiler, metal bucking spikes and onboard storage for the scrench. The M12 FUEL HATCHET 6 in. Pruning Saw is part of the M12 System which is fully compatible with over 100 solutions. In addition to the Pruning Saw (2527-20), this product includes 1 Oregon 6 in. Bar and Chain, 1 Scabbard and 1 Scrench.
3. Milwaukee M18 FUEL 16 in. 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Battery Brushless Cordless Chainsaw Kit with 12Ah & 8Ah Batteries
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 16 in. cordless chainsaw delivers the power to cut hardwoods, cuts faster than gas-powered models and delivers up to 150 cuts per charge. The battery powered chainsaw is designed to meet the performance, durability and ergonomic needs of professional landscape maintenance, power utility and the installed M18 users.
M18 FUEL technology allows the unit to reach full throttle in under 1 second providing the ultimate control and productivity. The POWERSTATE Brushless Motor was purposely built for the M18 FUEL 16 in. Chainsaw to provide the power and performance of a gas engine up to 40 cc. Built-in REDLINK PLUS Intelligence ensures optimal tool performance and provides overload protection to prevent damage to the tool and battery during heavy applications while still maintaining compatibility across the entire M18 System.
The REDLITHIUM High Output XC 8.0 and HD12.0 Battery Pack provide 50% more power and run 50% cooler versus standard REDLITHIUM HD packs. Superior pack construction provides the industry’s best protection against jobsite weather and environmental conditions. In addition to the chainsaw, this kit comes with one M18 REDLITHIUM High Output HD12.0 battery pack (48-11-1812), one M18 REDLITHIUM High Output XC8.0 battery pack (48-11-1880), one M18/M12 multi-volt rapid charger (48-59-1808), one 16 in. Oregon bar and chain and 1 scrench.
4. Milwaukee M18 FUEL 16 in. 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Chainsaw and Blower Combo Kit (2-Tool)
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL 16 in. Chainsaw delivers the power to cut hardwoods, cuts faster than gas and delivers up to 150 cuts per charge. The unit is designed to meet the performance, durability and ergonomic needs of professional landscape maintenance and power utility. The POWERSTATE Brushless Motor maintains speed under heavy loads without bogging down to outperform small gas engines and higher voltage systems. REDLINK PLUS intelligence ensures maximum performance and protection from overload, overheating and over discharge. When paired with the M18 REDLITHIUM HIGH OUTPUT HD 12.0 battery, the unit delivers unmatched run-time in all applications.
M18 FUEL technology allows the unit to reach full throttle in under 1-second providing ultimate control and productivity. The M18 FUEL Blower has the power to clear from 15 ft. gets to full throttle in under 1-second and is up to 4 lbs. lighter than competitors. The blower features a variable speed trigger and high/low speed settings for increased control.
5. M18 FUEL 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless QUIK-LOK String Trimmer Combo Kit with Blower and Chainsaw (6-Tool)
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL QUIK-LOK String Trimmer Combo Kit with 6 tools, designed for landscape maintenance professionals, provides users with the power to clear thick brush, reaches full throttle in under 1-second and features a balanced design which increases user control. The cordless string trimmer is made up of 2 components the M18 FUEL Power Head with QUIK-LOK and QUIK-LOK String Trimmer Attachment.
M18 FUEL 16 in. Chainsaw delivers the power to cut hardwoods, cuts faster than gas and delivers up to 150 cuts per charge. The unit is designed to meet the performance, durability and ergonomic needs of professional landscape maintenance and power utility. M18 FUEL Blower has the power to clear from 15 ft. gets to full throttle in under 1 second and is up to 4 lbs. lighter than competitors. Designed to meet landscape maintenance professional needs. M18 FUEL Hedge Trimmer has the power to cut 3/4 in. branches, cuts up to 30% faster and provides up to 2-hours of run time per charge. M18 FUEL QUIK-LOK Edger Attachment is powered by the M18 FUEL Power Head with QUIK-LOK and is compatible with the QUIK-LOK Attachment System. The unit features an 8 in. blade and high strength guard for increased durability.
M18 FUEL QUIK-LOK 10 in. Pole Saw Attachment is powered by the M18 FUEL Power Head and with QUIK-LOK is compatible with the QUIK-LOK Attachment System. The unit features a 10 in. Oregon bar and chain which provides users with smooth and fast cuts with minimal kickback.
How We Test Chainsaws
To evaluate chainsaws, we consider how well they cut, how easy they are to handle, and how safe they are to operate.
Using 10-inch-thick oak beams, we time how long it takes for each saw to work its way through the wood. We use oak because it’s one of the hardest woods most users will encounter on their property, and it makes for a particularly demanding test that reveals differences among models. Those that cut fastest earn a higher rating for cutting speed.
We assess how each saw handles, considering its weight and how easy it is to make horizontal and vertical cuts, and checking for any vibration.
For ease of use, we look at a number of factors, including how simple it is to start, adjust, and maintain a saw. We also size up safety features, check for any kickback during the course of cutting, and assess whether a model’s exhaust parts, like the muffler, get hot, which can pose a burn hazard.
We’ve also added ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, which reflect what more than 11,000 CR members told us about their experiences with more than 13,000 chainsaws purchased new between 2010 and 2020. Specifically, they reported whether their chainsaws ever broke or stopped working properly over the first five years of ownership, as well as whether they are extremely likely to recommend their chainsaw to a friend or family member.
Where are Milwaukee chainsaws made?
The company is foreign-owned but headquartered in Milwaukee. All of its production plants are in either Mississippi or Wisconsin.
Are Chainsaw Blades Interchangeable?
You can swap chainsaw guide bars and chains for different sizes so long as the parts match the machine. Different saws have different designs, so you must ensure that the guide and chain are designed to work in your saw. Many saws, however, power a specific guide and chain, so sizing up is not always the best option. A smaller chainsaw motor might not give you the drive you need to run a large bar on a taxing project.
It’s always best to check the specific capabilities of your saw to ensure you’re getting the best use out of your tools if you opt for a change.
Do Chainsaws Leak Oil?
All chainsaws need to be oiled regularly. While many models come with auto-oil systems and convenient infrastructure for filling and refilling, spills and leaks can and will happen. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you’re following the instructions that come with your new saw. Make sure you’re properly cleaning your machine to identify any wear that could be causing leaks.
A suspected leak is often just the result of residual oil in the oiling mechanism or on the guide or chain. To minimize these phantom “leaks,” you should disassemble and clean your equipment when you’re finished using it. If you think your saw is actually leaking – and not just siphoning out through the oiler mechanism – again, disassemble and clean the saw. Make sure to flush out the oil reservoir. You can then refill with oil and sit it out on a dry piece of cardboard. This way, it should be fairly easy to tell if your saw is leaking and from where.
Does a Chainsaw Need Oil?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Even the best chainsaws need lots of oil. Although electric chainsaws don’t need oil to run, proper lubrication of both your gas and electric chainsaws will keep them running smoothly, reducing overheating and wear over time. Most saws come with auto-lubrication systems. As long as you make sure you have plenty of oil in the tank and regularly clean your equipment, you should maximize your chainsaw’s lifespan.