Professional Chainsaws: A Quick Intro

If you have a number of trees to fell or a lot of firewood to cut up, a good professional chainsaw is an essential piece of equipment. Professional chainsaws are typically more powerful than saws aimed at general homeowners. They also often feature a larger cutting bar to help you cut larger diameter logs.

While the industry has been dominated by Husqvarna and Stihl, there are actually plenty of options out there. In this review, we’ll take a look at some of the best options if you need a powerful professional chainsaw for commercial or home use. If you are only using your saw for light trimming work at home, you might want to consider an electric chainsaw instead.

Best Overall Choice

1. Husqvarna 20 Inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw

Key Features

Engine: 55cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 20”

Weight: 13.2lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Compact & Powerful All-rounder

⤍ Outstanding Value For A Professional Chainsaw

⤍ Low Vibration

⤍ Adjustable Chain Oil Pump

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Our Take

With an impressive combination of power, innovative features, and affordability, Husqvarna’s 455 Rancher is our clear best overall choice. With decades of experience making great outdoor tools – and chainsaws in particular – Husqvarna has continued to build on their reputation as the professional’s choice. Let’s take a look at this impressive professional chainsaw in more detail.

Equipped with a 55cc 3.5hp two-cycle motor, this saw isn’t short on power. Sure, it’s not the most powerful chainsaw around, but with power comes additional weight, so a balance needs to be struck. The engine features a number of Husqvarna’s latest technologies – including their X-Torq design which brings the saw in line with emissions standards.

Ease of use has been considered throughout the design – with the 455’s choke and engine stop lever combined into one to help avoid over choking. This theme continues with the easily accessible chain tensioners on the side and the easily removable air filter for quick cleaning. Chain oil distribution is automatic and adjustable, so you can tweak it to your cutting conditions.

You can choose different bar options for this saw – and we believe the 20-inch provides a nice balance. You have plenty of bar width to work with for all but the largest trees, and yet not so much that the saw becomes unwieldy for general cutting work. Weighing in at 13.2lbs this isn’t the lightest saw – but it is in line with the market broadly.

With hundreds of glowing buyers reviews and expert opinions online – it’s hard to find a better professional chainsaw than the 455 Rancher – you won’t be disappointed.

Best Performance

2. Makita EA6100PRGG 20 Inch Chainsaw

Key Features

Engine: 61cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 20”

Weight: 13.2lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Huge 4.6hp in a 13.2lb machine

⤍ Spring Assisted Easy Start

⤍ Lightweight Magnesium Frame

⤍ Easy-clean design

Our Rating

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Our Take

When it comes to all-out performance, the Makita EA6100PRGG is tough to match. When you think of high-performance chainsaws you typically think of the Scandinavian brands, but Makita and slowly and steadily established themselves as a compelling alternative. With a good presence in online stores, Makita is well-positioned to take leaps forward in the years to come.

The magic of this saw lies in the outstanding power to weight ratio – with a 61cc 4.6hp engine packed into a 13.2lb machine with a 20” bar. Impressive numbers, that give it real credentials as a true professional chainsaw. Makita’s spring-assisted starter makes the saw easy to fire up, and they have opted for a very durable heavy-duty cartridge-style air filter for long term reliability. Clearly, choices that didn’t negatively impact the power or weight of the saw!

Much of the weight saving actually comes from a magnesium housing, which has enabled Makita to keep frame weight down and add power to the saw. Manufactured in Germany – this level of attention to detail is apparent throughout the design, with impressive details everywhere.

All of the basic features you’d expect to find on a professional chainsaw are included – with chain tensioning found on the right-hand side of the saw. Cleaning is easy with a spacious and well-designed chain compartment causing limited wood chip build-up. 

Although not the cheapest saw in this test, the glowing reviews and impressive stats clearly show this saw is a powerhouse. If you’re faced with demanding jobs and need a powerful and reliable tool – the Makita EA6100PRGG is a great companion.

Best Value Choice

3. Ryobi 20 Inch 50cc Chainsaw

Key Features

Engine: 50cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 20”

Weight: 11lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Solid Chainsaw At An Impressive Price

⤍ Lightweight Design At 11lbs

⤍ Longer & Shorter Bars Available

⤍ Safe-T-tip Helps Prevent Accidents

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Our Take

For the more value-conscious buyer – the Ryobi 20” 50cc offering represents a very compelling package. While it doesn’t quite have the swagger of a Makita, Stihl or Husqvarna, this is nonetheless a powerful package at a very respectable price point. If you are a commercial buyer, we do always recommend investing in a tool, but for the less demanding residential buyer, a more affordable option is definitely appealing.

Fitted with a 50cc 2-stroke motor, the Ryobi isn’t the most powerful saw in this review but has enough power on tap to take on large logs. The 20” bar is fitted with a safety tip to prevent accidents, which is a useful addition. It can be removed if required but forms some added protection in case the saw kicks back at you. Buyers who are looking to smaller and larger bars can also swap this out for aftermarket accessories to suit their needs.

At just 11lbs, this is a fairly lightweight saw when compared to other options in this review. Vibration damping is taken care of through anti-vibration handles – which buyers have reported work very well.

Although perhaps not a superstar – this is a decent chainsaw at an appealing price. Buyers will have the confidence to take on large jobs without worrying if the saw will let them down. In addition, this saw ships with a very attractive case included – to help you keep it nice and safe when not in use.

4. Stihl MS 261 C-M

Key Features

Engine: 50cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 16-20”

Weight: 10.8lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Impressive Power & Light Weight

⤍ M-Tronic Technology Improves Performance

⤍ Highly Reliable & Easy To Start

⤍ Not Widely Available Online

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Our Take

Although not widely available online, no professional chainsaw review would be credible without an offering from Stihl. Annoying, the company has opted to stay away from most online retailers, so you’ll need to locate a local dealer in order to track one down. Nevertheless, the MS 261 C-M is an incredibly impressive professional chainsaw from one of the most famous manufacturers in the industry.

In this, the C-M version of their popular MS 261 chainsaw, we gain the addition of the Stihl’s proprietary M-tronic engine management system. This clever computer technology is designed to tune the engine for optimal performance in a wide range of conditions. These included everything from altitude and humidity to the cleanliness of the air filter and fuel quality.

All that technology creates a powerful, reliable, and all-round impressive power plant in this chainsaw. The 50cc motor develops 4hp, which is right at the top end of saws in this size category. Stihl has also included a number of less technological innovations in this saw, including their Air separation air filter system, which helps to remove particles using centrifugal force before they enter the main filter system. This helps to cut down on maintenance and filter changes.

Thanks to Stihl’s decompression valve, this saw is very easy to start and also complies with all the emissions standards throughout the US. As you would expect from such a well-established company, the vibration damping is very effective too – making this saw an all-round delight to use. You can purchase it with a range of bar sizes – from 16” to 20” – and all are Stihl’s own proprietary and well-respected design.

The Stihl MS 261 C-M is a hugely impressive saw all round – and a clear challenger for the top performer in this review. Nevertheless, we did feel that a lack of online availability will annoy many buyers.

5. Husqvarna 24 Inch 460 Rancher

Key Features

Engine: 60cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 16-24”

Weight: 13.2lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Large 60cc High Torque Engine

⤍ Easy Start With Air Purge

⤍ Heavy & Bulky For Most Applications

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Our Take

Another offering from Husqvarna – the 460 Rancher is the bigger brother of the 455 Rancher we discussed earlier in the review. Equipped with a larger motor and cutting bar this machine is definitely aimed at the professional chainsaw market and will help you take on the most demanding applications.

Starting the 460 is easy thanks to the air purge system, which temporarily reduces air in the carburetor to make it easier to start. Interestingly, the large 60cc 2 stroke motor doesn’t produce a whole lot more power than the smaller model, however. That larger capacity does give you a little more torque though – which should help when dealing with hardwoods.

Like the 455, the 460 features all of Husqvarna’s latest engine tech – including a centrifugal air pre-filtration system very similar to Stihl’s design. These systems are very effective at reducing particles entering the main air filter system, and hence improving reliability. In addition, the included X-Torq technology helps to keep the saw in line with emissions guidelines for stress-free commercial use.

This is, however, a large and quite heavy saw. It can accommodate bars from 16” through 24” – but given the relatively heavyweight of 13.2lbs, we imagine it will be best suited to felling large trees. As a result, this saw might be a better choice for demanding buyers who are looking for a specialist felling saw, rather than the all-round performance you’ll find from other professional chainsaws in this review.

In summary, this is an impressive saw from a quality manufacturer. That said, it is bulky, so we consider it a bit of a specialist when compared with other options in this review.

6. Echo CS-590 20″ Timber Wolf

Key Features

Engine: 59.8cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 18-20”

Weight: 13.3lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Powerful 59cc Engine For Demanding Uses

⤍ Not Particularly Lightweight

⤍ Reliable, Durable Chainsaw

⤍ Different Bar Options Available

Our Rating

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Our Take

Echo has long been very well respected for their chainsaws and brush cutters, and the CS-590 Timber Wolf is no exception. Aimed at farm and ranch use this saw is built to be rugged and durable enough to withstand the most demanding applications.

Fitted with a 59cc engine, the Timber Wolf is equipped with one of the largest motors in the Echo range. The 2-stroke motor features a digital ignition and develops a very respectable 3.89hp. Torque is also plentiful, thanks to the larger engine, and will help buyers looking for a professional chainsaw to get through the toughest hardwoods.

Like the Husqvarna and Stihl machines, the Timber Wolf features an effective decompression valve for easy starting. This helps greatly in getting the machine up and running quickly and is almost essential on modern chainsaws. Like other similar saws, it also features a centrifugal pre-filtration system on the air filter to remove heavy particles before they enter the main system.

An adjustable automatic oiling system helps to maintain the correct level of chain oil under different cutting conditions – helping to prolong chain life. Echo has also kept the process chain adjustment nice and easy, with tensioning adjustments located on the right side of the bar. In terms of weight – this isn’t a light saw – weighing in at 13.3lbs.

Summing up, this is a durable and heavy-duty saw for demanding landowners. While it doesn’t quite have the power to weight ratio of some of the top performers in this test – it’s a solid choice and will serve any potential buyer well.

7. Remington Outlaw RM4620

Key Features

Engine: 46cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 20”

Weight: 15lbs

CARB Compliant: Yes

 

⤍ Solid Affordable Chainsaw

⤍ Reliable Starting & Decent Motor

⤍ Heavy Compared to Other Saws

⤍ Slightly Underpowered For Hardwood

Our Rating

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Our Take

Remington’s RM4620 Outlaw is another saw pitched at the affordable end of the market and has picked up some praise from owners. Although not well suited to demanding or commercial use – this unit proves that you can pick up a decent saw at a lower price point.

Equipped with a 46cc motor, the RM4620 has one of the smallest capacity motors in this test. That said, paired up with a 20 Inch bar there is definitely some cutting power on tap with this machine. You should expect lower torques than the larger motors, however – which will mean the saw won’t work as well in tough hardwood cutting.

The unit is fitted with a spring-assist starter for easy starting – something we like to see on all higher-grade chainsaws these days. Few owners report problems with engine reliability, and you can count on this unit to start when required.

Oiling is taken care of with an automatic oiler with a manual option on it as well – which helps to give the saw a top-up when it is running dry. Tension can be adjusted on the side of the saw using the usual bolt and tool mechanism that is reliable over time. Generally, we much prefer to see a simpler system like this on a gas chainsaw, rather than the tool-free systems which tend to break over time.

To sum up, this is a good option if you are looking for a general-purpose chainsaw for residential yard work. It might not have enough power to be a true professional chainsaw – and if you need to cut dense wood like oak, we recommend looking for a saw with a larger motor.

8. Poulan Pro PR5020 20 Inch 50cc Chainsaw

Key Features

Engine: 51cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 20”

Weight: 17lbs

CARB Compliant: No

 

⤍ Affordable Priced Chainsaw

⤍ Some Owners Report Engine Trouble

⤍ Heavy Compared to Other Saws

⤍ Some Owners Reported Idle Issues

Our Rating

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Our Take

The PR5020 sits at the top of Poulan Pro’s range of chainsaws – their most powerful offering. While they don’t have the same loyal following as Husqvarna or Stihl – they are a popular choice with homeowners for affordable garden power tools.

As a 50cc saw, this is one of the mid-powered saws in this review, and very much aimed at the residential market compared to the large 60cc workhorse chainsaws. The Poulan Pro’s motor takes advantage of many of the technologies we’ve mentioned earlier in this review – such as decompression switches and spring assist starters.

It’s worth noting however that quite a few owners have reported that this saw can be hard to start because it is very easy to flood the motor. Where other brands have taken steps to make this harder to do, it seems to be very easy with the PR5020. Owners have also reported issues with the idle – which frequently causes the saw to cut out unexpectedly. This can be particularly frustrating if you put the saw down for a moment to adjust a log, only to find the motor cuts out.

Engine problems aside, this is a 20” bar chainsaw and is actually quite bulky for a saw of this size. Weighing in at 17lbs it’s the heaviest in the review, but only offers a mid-size bar and a mid-sized motor.

While the price is quite competitive, we’d hesitate before taking the plunge on this machine as there are so many great saws on the market at the moment. A gas chainsaw should be an investment, and you don’t want to be stuck with a machine that could cause problems later down the line.

9. Blue Max 20 In. 52cc Gas Chainsaw

Key Features

Engine: 52cc 2-cycle

Cutting Bar: 20”

Weight: 15lbs

CARB Compliant: No

 

⤍ Affordable Priced Chainsaw

⤍ Engine Difficult To Start

⤍ Heavy Compared to Other Saws

⤍ Some Plastic Components Are Fragile

Our Rating

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Our Take

The Blue Max 52cc Gas Chainsaw is another saw positioned at the affordable end of the market – for buyers who still want the power of a larger engine. While Blue Max isn’t the most widely known name, the saws are available at Home Depot so are relatively easy to find.

The motor is always one of the key elements to a good professional chainsaw, and looking down the spec sheet the Blue Max features many of the key elements we expect to see on a saw of this size. There are, however, some tell-tale signs of a cheaper saw: you won’t see the centrifugal air pre-filter on this machine, and it is not CARB compliant. That second point is definitely something for owners to consider with tightening emissions regulations on the horizon in many states.

Owners have reported some issues with this saw, ranging from starting problems to parts breaking. That isn’t a good sign, and given that you could get a better saw from a few bucks more – it is problematic. The most common theme appears to be starting the saw – which is a common problem across cheaper saws. This can occasionally be the result of the owner’s over priming or over choking the saw, but it is cause for concern.

Considering other parts of the saw, it is worth noting that this machine is heavy at 15lbs, and certainly a lot more so that other professional chainsaws with similar motors. That can certainly weigh on your arms during extended use. Blue Max has also experimented with a tool-free chain adjustment system – which you don’t often see on chainsaws of this level. It is however not the most durable system and appears fairly fragile.

All in all – if you are looking to pick up a cheaper gas chainsaw, the Ryobi or Remington is probably your best shot. For very little extra money you can pick up a machine that seems much more reliable. If you are more demanding on your saws – then take a look at the Husqvarna.

What To Consider When Buying A Professional Chainsaw

There are so many things to consider when buying a professional chainsaw – so what are the most important? It can be daunting, but in this section, we discuss the elements we think are most important to think about when choosing a professional chainsaw.

Engine Size

In our view, engine size is one of the elements that help a chainsaw be considered a “professional” grade. We drew the line at 46cc – and suggest that anything below that will be noticeably underpowered in certain situations.

Sure, you can save money when opting for a smaller motor. In fact, some of the top brands do offer great quality chainsaws with smaller engines. If you are a residential owner looking for a good chainsaw, then those might be a better choice than a cheap professional machine.

For commercial use however, a machine with 50cc+ is a must have, because you need to be able to deal with anything the job throws at you. Some saws in this review have 60+cc engines – which can be good for certain jobs, but perhaps aren’t the best all-round chainsaws. You might look to one of those as a second saw for heavy duty work.

Cutting Bar Size

The first thing to say is many saws in this review come with various cutting bar options – typically from 16”-20”. Larger cutting bars help you cut through larger diameter trees without having to rotate the log. We consider that for most professional chainsaws, a 20” bar is a good choice.

It is worth considering a saw that allows easy bar changes. 20” bars are great for felling trees, but they are a bit cumbersome when it comes to removing small brush. Many of the top manufacturers will allow this option.

Ease of Starting

If there’s one single thing that frustrates owners – it’s chainsaws that are hard to start. It also really separates a quality chainsaw from a bad one.

Manufacturers have put a ton of effort into making their machines easy to start – adding spring assist starters to decompression switches as well. We believe both of these tools really do help – but the key thing to avoid is over choking your chainsaws and gumming the carburetor. That is common on cheap chainsaws, and many better brands like Stihl and Husqvarna make it quite hard to do.

Those quality brands have also included enhanced air filtration systems which further extend engine life and reliability. The most common is the centrifugal pre-filtration of air, which helps remove particles prior to the filter. We think it makes a huge difference and sets the top saws ahead of the competition.

CARB Compliance

Wherever you are working, emissions compliance is a key consideration. For CA residents, CARB compliance is what they need to look out for, but you should also check any other regulations that apply to your local area. It is worth noting that an electric chainsaw will always comply with CARB, but with less power.

Weight

Given you are holding a chainsaw when you use it – weight is clearly a paramount concern. Normally, it is a trade-off with motor power and size – as larger chainsaws will naturally weigh more. Occasionally there are outliers, however, and the Makita saw in this review packs in huge power for its weight.

For a professional chainsaw of 50cc, we generally consider 13lbs to be a reasonable weight. Anything below that we consider to be quite light, assuming a 50cc+ motor and anything above is heavy. You will notice that the more affordable saws tend to be 15lbs+ as they are unable to use more expensive materials and manufacturing keep the weight down. A wheelbarrow or trolly can be useful for carrying it to the job site if needed.

Chain Oiling

For almost all professional chainsaws, chain oiling will now be automatic. There are, however, some systems that are better than others.

The simplest is just automatic and you cannot adjust them further. Those work ok, and just dispense oil onto the chain continuously. The problem is you will sometimes find yourself using more or less oil depending on the conditions – particularly air temperature and humidity.

Better systems have adjustable automatic oilers, that enable you to adjust the setting to keep the right amount of chain oil on the chain at all times. For buyers operating in very cold or hot settings, we highly recommend these approaches. If you are buying on a lower budget and are a basic home user, you probably don’t need to worry.

Professional Chainsaw Buyers Guide Questions

We’ve seen a number of questions about professional chainsaws over the years, so we have tried to summarize the most common.

What’s the best professional chainsaw?

Like any tool, the best professional chainsaws is the one that is best suited to your needs. The best choice for one buyer isn’t always the best choice for another buyer who has different requirements. We aim to help everyone find a great professional chainsaw – so let’s take a look at the most common buyer requirements.

For all-out power, we highly recommend the Makita EA6100PRGG 20” Chainsaw. Not only does this machine have a massive 61cc motor, but it also produces a whopping 4.6hp which is the most of all the chainsaws in this test. Incredibly, this machine still only weighs in at just over 13lbs, which is impressive for that power. If you are a demanding commercial buyer, looking for a saw to cut big hardwood trees like oak, this is a great choice.

For an all-round professional chainsaw, we recommend the Husqvarna 455 Rancher. This chainsaw doesn’t have quite as much power as the Makita, but it’s slightly cheaper and still plenty powerful. Husqvarna does have a more powerful version, but that comes in a bit heavier. The 455 is very well suited to demanding all-round applications – everything from logging to general yard work.

For the more price-conscious buyer, take a look at the 50cc Ryobi. This saw packs more power than most affordable gas chainsaws but doesn’t break the bank. It probably isn’t up to demanding commercial work – but if you are a homeowner it should be fine.

Who makes the best commercial chainsaw?

For commercial chainsaws, you are really looking at Husqvarna, Stihl, and these days Makita as well.

Stihl has a huge amount of heritage in chainsaw manufacture, and certainly continue to make some of the world’s best professional chainsaws. One downside, however, is that they aren’t often available for purchase online, and work only within a very tight dealer network. For commercial purposes that might not be an issue, but for busy residential buyers, it is inconvenient. That said, the same dealer network provides solid after-sales support.

Husqvarna is another very established name, and make exceptionally good commercial chainsaws, as well as great backpack leaf blowers. Some rate them to be better than Stihl, others worse. We believe that these days both make great chainsaws aimed at commercial work, and you won’t go far wrong with either. Both also have very strong after-sales support.

Finally, Makita has recently produced some exceptionally good chainsaws, which we have covered in this review. Although they don’t have the history of the two former brands – they are renowned for making very high-quality tools for commercial use, and everything suggests their chainsaws are no different.

What is the best heavy duty chainsaw?

There are three saws we’ve covered in this review that we would consider to be heavy-duty chainsaws. For us, that means a chainsaw with a 60cc+ motor. These large motors offer huge power, and work very well on hardwood and demanding commercial logging. The trade-off comes with weight and price when compared to more all-round chainsaws.

Our top choice for heavy-duty chainsaws is the Makita EA6100PRGG, which is an exceptional chainsaw. This machine is light and extremely powerful. If you need all outperformance, then this is the chainsaw we recommend.

The next is the Husqvarna 460 Rancher, which is also a very strong option. Not quite as powerful as the Makita, it is still a very good quality chainsaw, and among the most powerful out there. A great choice too.

Finally, there is the Echo Timber Wolf – which is a 59cc machine. Slightly more affordable than the previous two saws we mentioned, Echo nonetheless has a strong heritage. This is a good quality heavy duty chainsaw, although not quite as good as the two mentioned above.

What’s better Stihl or Husqvarna?

Stihl and Husqvarna both make very good quality chainsaws. Both have a huge heritage in the industry and are both highly regarded by amateur homeowners and professionals alike. Both have exceptional after-sales support and a strong dealer network.

What separates them? Honestly, not a huge amount. The only comment we do have is that Stihl does not sell their chainsaws widely online. We do think this is a bit short-sighted and hope it will change in the future. Busy homeowners often don’t have the time to visit dealers, so buying online is much more convenient. In our view that tilts our preference slightly toward Husqvarna.

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