The best chain saws can make storm cleanup easier

In our tests, some models cleared faster than others

Published: August 2013
Testers gauge how quickly a saw cuts through a dense 10x10-inch oak beam.

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If all chain saws were to cut quickly, safely, and easily, you could simply buy what’s left on the shelves after the next big storm. But the 20 gas and electric models in our chain saw reviews found that some clear driveway-blocking branches much more briskly than others. Weeks of slicing through dense oak beams also show that certain saws are more likely to kick back toward the operator—a major contributor to the about 30,000 chain-saw injuries each year. The details:

Two gas saws are top values. Gas-­powered saws cut quickest and work during a power failure. Speed and balance help make one $230 Stihl model a CR Best Buy and our top saw overall. Also good for less: a $150 Craftsman, which gives up some speed for a much lower price.

Corded electric beats cordless. Electric saws spare you from fueling, pull-starting, and tuneups. A $100 corded Worz model sawed as quickly as some gas models. Battery-powered saws add the mobility of a gas model. But a $400 Oregon and a $200 Ryobi were the slowest we tested. They’re also expensive for their performance. Neither got through more than eight cuts of our 10x10-inch beam before needing a recharge.

Some kick back. All of these saws have the narrow-tipped bar and less-aggressive chain teeth that most consumer models use to help keep the saw from kicking up and back toward the operator while cutting. A Poulan and and Remington, both gas models, snapped back more than the others when we rammed their tips into an oak beam to measure kickback. But like most we tested, both have a brake that stops the chain from spinning if kickback occurs.

Editor's Note:

This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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