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[Image Source - John Hammond on Flickr]

Best STIHL Chainsaw for Homeowners and Professionals Alike

Stihl is undoubtedly the world's top-selling brand in the chainsaw industry, as well as the largest and oldest: Andreas Stihl made his first chainsaw back in 1926. The company is highly reputed for several good reasons- from reliable performance and dependable & durable designs to easy-starting technology and simple maintenance. Stihl makes chainsaws for every conceivable need, whether home or professional use. With a plethora of options from the acclaimed brand, how do you find the best Stihl chainsaw?

Stihl chainsaws are renowned for their tremendous power, unmatched reliability, superb comfort while in use and notable value for money. More so, the brand also stands out from others for including a couple of nifty quirks in their chainsaws focused on the user -it's no wonder they have fortified the top spot. Therefore, we have compiled an exhaustive guide of the best Stihl chainsaws to help you find the one that's most suitable for you:

1. STIHL MSA 140 C-BQ

According to several of the best Stihl chainsaw reviews, the MSA 140 C-BQ is a top-rated battery-powered chainsaw that unsurprisingly seems to punch way above its weight, considering its compact size with a mere weight of 8.19 lbs. It's pretty effective for light tasks such as pruning, climbing, firewood cutting and even bucking a few trees. It's worth noting this is a smaller chainsaw with 10-14 inches guide bars, meaning it's only capable of handling up to a 12-inch bar. It's definitely not the best choice for cutting down thick hardwood trees.

It packs a 36V battery, hence it's much quieter in operation than gas-powered models. The MSA 140 C-BQ lasts about 45 minutes on a full charge, although the battery drains faster if you're cutting through thicker trunks. If you buy this as a sole tool, you'll also have to buy the battery and charger separately, which can be pretty expensive. More so, the chain isn't as resilient as others, so you might have to sharpen the teeth or replace the chain frequently. That said, this Stihl chainsaw comes backed by a notable 3-year warranty.

Pros:

  • Cuts with ease
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Quiet operation
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Necessary extras are quite expensive.
  • The chain is a tad weak.

2. STIHL MS 251 C-BE

This classic gas-powered chainsaw is a lightweight and powerful option that can easily take to a 16-18-inch bar. It features an easy start-up, plus it's fairly easy to remove and replace the gas and oil cap. Unlike more recent models, it also sports a chain-tightener, ensuring you don't have to use a separate tool. Not to mention it's quite portable since it only weighs 11.9 lbs.

The 45.6cc engine has impressively low emissions, making it more environmentally friendly. It also has reduced vibration so that the user can use it comfortably for a significantly longer while -without the annoying yet characteristic uncomfortable shakes associated with using power tools for extended periods. On the flip side, the chainsaw guzzles fuel down like it's insatiably thirsty. Despite the higher price point, it's only backed by a 1-year warranty. However, if maintained properly, you can use the Stihl MS 251 C-BE for several years.

Pros:

  • Easy to start
  • Powerful
  • Reliable
  • Tension adjuster
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Fuel guzzler
  • The easy start-up doesn't work sometimes and may cause flooding.

3. STIHL MS 271 Farm Boss

This chainsaw's name speaks for itself. The Stihl MS 271 Farm Boss is a powerful gas-powered chainsaw that can take up everything thrown at it on a farm or ranch. It features a 50.2 cc engine capable of holding a 16-20-inch bar, meaning it's more than well-equipped for all tasks on your land. Furthermore, it comes with an air filtration system to ensure the chainsaw stays clean and runs smoothly.

Weighing 12.3 lbs, the MS 271 Farm Boss is slightly heavier, but that's expected with a relatively larger engine for optimal power to weight ratio. It also features the easy-start feature, although this can be a bit challenging to start for some users. It's also relatively more expensive than most ranch saws from general stores, but you do get a 1-year warranty. If you're looking for immense power for heavy jobs on your land, this is arguably the best Stihl chainsaw you can get your hands on.

Pros:

  • Decently sized
  • Powerful
  • Air filters
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Harder to start

4. STIHL MS 461

Most people might never need a professional-grade chainsaw, but if you fall into the category, the MS 461 is the best Stihl has to offer. It's an upgrade from previous Stihl power horses, reportedly up to 20% more efficient than its predecessors. In fact, it's one of the top-reviewed Stihl chainsaws, mostly by satisfied professional users.

This-powered chainsaw is quite weighty, but it has to be to hold up a 32-inch bar. It comes with several handy features, including easy start-up and decompression. The whopping 76.5cc engine is more than capable of handling most jobs, demanding or otherwise. The only significant drawback is perhaps the cost, and the chain often slips out and requires regular tightening.

Pros:

  • Easy to start
  • Powerful
  • Reliable
  • Easy to use
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • The chain requires frequent adjustment.
  • Expensive

5. STIHL MSE 170 C-BQ

It would be remiss to list the best Stihl chainsaws without reviewing the MSE 170 C-BQ. This electric chainsaw is a small model designed mostly for light-duty tasks around the house since it's only capable of holding up to a 12-16-inch bar. It's lightweight (8.4 lbs), fairly easy to use, even for a beginner power tool user, featuring an easy start-up, requires no gas or oil (apart from oil for the bar and chain) and is also pretty easy to maintain. You only 13.1 amps of power, and you'll be good to go.

The MSE 170 C-BQ is exceptionally safe, featuring an additional chain braking system that stops the chain instantly in the case of an emergency. It also sports a tension adjuster with a knob to tighten the chain with ease instead of using other tools. It comes with a 1-year warranty. And since it's an electric chainsaw, you'll have to plug it into a power outlet for use.

Pros:

  • No fumes
  • Easy to start
  • Tension adjuster
  • Chain brake
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Needs a power outlet
  • Expensive

Why Should You Buy A STIHL Chainsaw

There's a compelling reason why you'll never find Stihl chainsaws on mainstream shopping websites or the five-and-dime stores. Stihl prefers to keep sales, service and warranties local and personal, only selling their products through authorized dealers. This means there's always a knowledgeable Stihl dealer to serve you, even when your chainsaw has issues in the future, certainly making it one of the biggest draws to potential and preexisting customers.

On top of offering high-quality chainsaws for just about any situation you might stumble into, here are a couple more reasons why you should choose the Stihl brand:

1. Variety of Choices

Stihl doesn't have one specific type of target customer. On the contrary, the company manufactures different chainsaws for various types of jobs. For instance, they have monster-sized chainsaws for cutting through thick tree trunks all day long and smaller models for occasional use, suchlike trimming trees around the house. You'll also come across Stihl saws that meld power and user-friendliness to deliver a more general-purpose chainsaw.

2. Multiple Power Sources

Power sources equally vary on Stihl chainsaws. Their lineup consists of machines that run on gas, batteries and even direct electric current. As you would expect, different power sources deliver different performance levels. Nevertheless, all Stihl products can be relied on to perform and get the job done remarkably well.

3. Great Value

The truth is, Stihl chainsaws aren't particularly the cheapest out there, but their products are undoubtedly full value for your money. In fact, it would be unsurprising if your desired Stihl chainsaw exceeds the expectations of how much you bought it for. For context, a mid-range Stihl chainsaw can easily outperform a premium product from its competitors.

That said, the price points shouldn't scare you off. You can always find a budget Stihl chainsaw for an affordable price. And just like the more pricy models, it'll still perform as if it cost twice its price point.

4. Continuous Innovation

Despite finding themselves at the pinnacle of the chainsaw industry, Stihl continues to make progressive innovations in chainsaw technology. Several of these advancements are focused on making their products more powerful and easier to use -mainly aimed at increasing value to the customer. When you choose Stihl, you can always look forward to new and better products.

How to Choose the Best STIHL Chainsaw

Consistent with the company's ethos, the Stihl website has an interactive product selector that helps you find the best chainsaw to meet your needs. It asks four pretty straightforward questions on the frequency of use, your preferred power source, the kind of cutting tasks you have and the largest size of wood you intend to cut. This narrows down your choices to a few specific models, which you can also compare on the website to get a better idea of what you're looking for exactly.

These are the 7 categories of chainsaws that Stihl offers:

1. Homeowner Chainsaws

Homeowner saws are designed for cleanups around your home and cutting firewood. Most of these models feature anti-vibration technology to minimize vibrations as well as reduce fatigue. Plenty of them also include the proprietary STIHL Quickstop Chain Brake for extra safety and a Master Control Lever for easy start-up.

As you would expect, homeowner needs vary from one person to the other. For this reason, Stihl makes a variety of saws in this category. Smaller models, such as the MS 170, are excellent for fallen limbs, light cutting and pruning. Mid-range saws, like the MS 251, are superb for felling trees, cutting firewood and home cleanups.

2. Farm & Ranch Chainsaws

These are more powerful chainsaws designed to handle more heavy-duty tasks. Farm and ranch saws have similar capabilities as the mid-range homeowner saws, the only difference being they are built for more frequent use, day in and day out. This line-up is well suited to homeowners who have plenty of firewood to cut or trees to fall and professionals who don't necessarily need the more powerful professional-grade saws.

3. Professional Chainsaws

Professional saws are tough machines designed to handle extensive and frequent heavy-duty tasks. This makes them ideal for logging, land clearing, farming, big firewood cutting jobs and tree service. If you're looking for enough power and reliable cutting performance for large demanding jobs, a Stihl professional chainsaw is the best choice for you.

4. Electric & Battery-Powered Chainsaws

Stihl's battery-powered and electric saws offer quieter operation with no engine emissions. While they might not pack as much power as professional-grade gasoline-powered chainsaws, these saws are still an excellent choice for lighter cutting tasks at home, or professional in-tree work, especially the top-handle battery-powered saw.

Generally, electric chainsaws are more lightweight, comfortable and still impressively tough. They are ideal for trimming jobs and cutting firewood as long as there's a power outlet nearby. Battery saws are the best option if you're looking for cordless power. Stihl's battery-powered saws are effectively portable and lightweight and will still offer strong, consistent power, thanks to the 36V Lithium-Ion technology.

5. Gas-Powered Chainsaws

Stihl also offers various gas-powered chainsaws. In fact, they're some of the best-selling products. These are targeted at thousands of professionals and consumers who want the additional power and portability of a gas-powered tool. And just like other Stihl products, these are also manufactured to the highest of quality and tend to last for years to come.

6. In-Tree Chainsaws

In-tree chainsaws are a lightweight yet powerful option for cutting while elevated high above the ground. Also known as arborist saws or top-handle saws, they are specifically engineered for professionals who need to use a chainsaw for in-tree cutting off the ground. This makes in-tree saws especially ideal for tree service and surgery, public maintenance projects and landscaping.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on STIHL Chainsaws

1. What is the minimum compression of a Stihl chainsaw?

Typically, the minimum compression of a Stihl chainsaw is 110 lbs. However, this varies by model, meaning compression readings on their own aren't sufficient to ascertain the condition of the engine.

2. How often should a Stihl chainsaw be tuned up?

As far as tuning goes, Stihl highly recommends referring to the Maintenance Schedule featured in the instruction manual.

3. What file size should I use to sharpen the saw chain?

There are three main options:

  • A 5/32" round file for the 3/8” PICCO chain.
  • A 3/16" round file for the .325” chain.
  • A 13/64" round file for the 3/8" chain.