Best Reciprocating Saw
More than anything, reciprocating saws are demolition tools. There’s no finesse, no fine line of accuracy and most of all, no “finish cuts” with a reciprocating saw. On the other hand, when you need to take something down quick, a reciprocating saw will do it faster than anything else, except maybe a chain saw.
These saws are often referred to by their nickname, “Sawzall.” This is the name that Milwaukee Tools gave their first reciprocating saw, and it seems to have stuck pretty well. While Milwaukee is still the champ of the Sawzall, there are plenty of other contenders to look at.
Because these are a specialty saw, most do-it-yourselfers have a hard time justifying their purchase. In that case, you might want to consider looking at one of the budget models we have listed. While these are not as heavy duty as the professional models, for the homeowner who occasionally needs to take something apart or cut up a fallen tree limb, they’re plenty. I’ve cut up trailers, trees, fences and even part of a city bus frame with a low-dollar reciprocating saw. We’ve also included a helpful buyer’s guide below to take some of the guesswork out of your search.
Milwaukee 6538-21 15.0 Amp Super Sawzall Reciprocating Saw
Makita JR3070CT Reciprocating Saw
Bosch RS428 14 Amp Reciprocating Saw
Hitachi CR13VBY 12-Amp Reciprocating Saw with User Vibration Protection Technology
Porter-Cable PC85TRSOK 8.5 Amp Orbital Reciprocating Saw
Bosch 1651K, 36 Volt Reciprocating Saw Kit
Milwaukee 0719-22, M28 Sawzall Reciprocating Saw Kit
DeWalt DCS380M1, 20V Max Reciprocating Saw Kit
Hitachi CR18DL 18-Volt Li-Ion Reciprocating Saw Kit
Makita BJR181 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Reciprocating Saw Kit
DeWalt DW304PKR Heavy-Duty Reciprocating Saw Kit
Skil 9216-01 120V 9.0 Amp Reciprocating Saw
Black & Decker RS500 8.5 Amp Reciprocating Saw
Porter-Cable PC75TRS 7.5 Amp Reciprocating Saw
Chicago Electric 7.5 Amp Reciprocating Saw
With a 15 amp motor, it’s no wonder this saw is considered by many to be best-in-class as it’s the most powerful reciprocating saw on the market. Couples with the patented counter-balance system to reduce vibration and the clutch to protect the motor, you’ve got a real winner. The constant power technology ensures the saw will maintain consistent speed, even under load, for unmatched cutting performance. There’s also a speed dial, allowing you to return to the same speed quickly and easily for repeat cuts. The 15 amp motor is variable speed up to 2,800 strokes per minute with a 1-1/4” blade stroke. It’s also an orbital saw, helping keep the blade running cooler and cutting longer. Finally, it comes with a keyless quick change blade clamp.
This is the second 15 amp saw on this list. I’d be hard pressed to say whether Makita or Milwaukee makes better tools. I like both companies products but it seems to me Milwaukee always manages to get a little more power out of their motors. The variable speed on this saw runs up to 2,800 strokes per minute, providing a 1-1/4” stroke and like the Milwaukee saws, there’s a tool-less blade changing system. Makita claims this saw has only half the vibration of other competing sawzalls with their special anti-vibration technology. Like Milwaukee, Makita has provided an electronic speed control for maintaining constant speed, even under load. This saw is also an orbital saw with a four position setting for straight or orbital action. A built-in clutch reduces gear and motor damage, by disengaging the gears if the blade binds. The rubberized handle and foregrip make it easier to hold, especially for those long cuts. The blade clamp is tool-less, allowing for quick changes in the field.
With this model, Bosch gives you the best power to weight ratio with a 14 Amp motor and an overall tool weight of only 8 pounds; lighter than either the Hitachi or Porter Cable units while still providing more power. The RS428s’ combination of an innovative counterbalance technology, along with an anti-vibration handle reduces the vibration to about 1/3 of older models. If you’ve got to do a lot of cutting with your reciprocating saw, this model is going to be a lot more comfortable to work with. Electronic control circuitry maintains speed, even when under load and this tool provides an orbital cutting action, as well as reciprocating, allowing for improved wood-cutting efficiency.
This saw was Popular Mechanic’s 2007 Breakthrough Technology award winner. The 12 amp motor is counterbalanced against vibration while the motor provides up to 3,000 strokes per minute, with a 1-1/4” stroke length. This variable speed is controlled by both the trigger and a dial, allowing you to quickly return to the same cut speed. A unique feature about this saw is the “swing mode” for cutting which produces significantly less rebound effect compared to traditional orbital action. The unique ergonomic shape of the saw, especially the front end, makes it easier to hold. The front end was also made with a triple seal design to keep dust and water out when cutting. Like the other saws on our list, it has a quick change tool-less clamp.
This saw from Porter stands out thanks to its unique shoe design which has two positions allowing you to extend the shoe and utilize another part of the blade, saving you money on blade replacements. It also pivots for those times when the shoe just doesn’t fit in the normal position. The blade can also be installed upside down for cutting up (Rather than cutting down) without having to hold the saw upside-down. The 8.5 amp motor is a little light for a true professional reciprocating saw, but it’s electronically controlled for variable speeds form 0 to 3,200 SPM, while maintaining speed under load. It also allows both reciprocating, as well as orbital cutting for efficient wood cutting. The saws Blade stroke is 1-1/8 inches.
At 36 volts, the Bosch 1651K is the most powerful cordless reciprocating currently available on the market. One of the great things about all of Bosch’s reciprocating saws is their unique blade changer which quickly ejects old blades allowing you to change in a new one singlehandedly. When compared to other sawzalls models, this is feature is a major time-saving benefit. The shoe is “open toe” giving you a much better sight line to the cut along with two speed ranges allowing a maximum speed of 3,000 SPM and a blade stroke of 1-1/8”. The 36 volt battery used with this saw is 2.0 Ah, so it should run for quite a while without needing to be changed out. A rafter hook is also included, which Bosch claiming this is the only saw in its class which includes one. With an operator-friendly weight of 9.21 pounds rounding this tool out features, this saw is our lists clear winner.
Milwaukee is the original inventor of the reciprocating saw, (Which they dubbed the “Sawzall.”) If you want sheer power in a tool, Milwaukee is the company to go to as they always seem to get a little more muscle out of their tools than the competition and this 28 volt reciprocating saw is no exception. While not as high a voltage as the Bosch, an operator can probably get as much delivered power out of the 0719-22. The batteries which come with the saw are 3.0 Ah, giving them longer life than Bosch’s 36 volt batteries and Milwaukee claims the batteries in this saw will last twice as long as the ones on their 18 volt saws. The kit conveniently comes with two batteries, so you don’t need to rush out and buy another one. The gear protecting clutch is designed to protect the tool from impact, adding to its long life. A variable speed trigger, with two speed settings allows you to cut up to 3,000 SPM, with a 1-1/8” stroke.
Of all the reciprocating saws we’ve looked at, DeWalt’s entry is the lightest coming in at only 7.35 pounds. They have a unique 4 position blade clamp for flush cutting in any direction which allows you to have the blade perpendicular to the handle to make cutting easier in tricky positions. A 1-1/8” stroke and a maximum speed of 3,000 strokes per minute (SPM) ensures fast cutting through whatever material you need to cut apart. The shoe is pivoting, allowing depth of cut control, an uncommon feature on most reciprocating saws. The motor shaft has double oil seals for added protection against contaminants and increases the tool’s durability and lifespan.
Overall, Hitachi has accomplished a lot with their cordless power tool line, and the CR18DL reciprocating saw is no exception. The tool is an incredibly lightweight 7.5 pounds, making it among the lightest on our list. Like all Hitachi’s power tools, the CR18DL is shaped and balanced for an easy gripping which ensures operator comfort. It features a non-slip coating triple sealed against dust and water, a fan motor to extend the motors life and the foot is adjustable to a 1-1/8” stroke. As with most other Hitachi’s tools, the brushes on this unit are externally accessible for easy changing.
Although this tool comes with lithium-ion batteries, it also accepts either nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries with the included battery charger designed to handle both varieties. Backed by Hitachi’s 10 year power tool warranty, this is a really good tool to have in your kit. The one drawback with this saw is its maximum speed is 2,100 strokes per minute. The CR18DL comes with two lithium-ion batteries, the universal charger, an Allen wrench for the foot and a carrying case.
What makes Makita’s reciprocating saw so great is its long life and durability. Many professionals like this tool for its balance and reliability and every detail of this saw shows off Makita quality. This tool is a little bit heavier than its counterparts on this list, weighing in at 8.1 pounds but will run up to 2900 strokes per minute. The tool-less blade changer is one of the easiest to work with on the market.
Makita provides a fan cooled fast charger, allowing the batteries to be recharged in about 30 minutes. With the two batteries which come with the kit, you’ll never have to take a break from cutting. The trigger is extra-large ensuring a good grip in any position.
This DeWalt model is really a professional grade reciprocating saw, not one for homeowners. This saw has a powerful 10 amp motor, providing from zero to 2,800 strokes per minute (SPM) and up to 1-1/8” stroke. The blade clamp is lever action, instead of a collar, which makes for fast, easy blade changes. Instead of having the front-end of the saw swivel, they’ve made the blade clamp in such a way that you can install the blades in any of four directions. That’s actually easier to use, as you don’t have to change your grip at all.
Coming in at only at 9 amps, this is still a respectable saw. Skil has put a speed control knob on this model making it much easier to maintain cut speed than simply using the trigger. The gearing, counterbalance and comfort-grip have been designed to reduce vibration and cut down operator fatigue. A power-on indicator conveniently lets you know when the tool is plugged in and also includes on-board blade storage, a nice feature to have especially when a blade breaks in the middle of a project.
At 8.5 amps, this Black & Decker model still has plenty of power. One nice thing about this saw is the rubber coated front end and ergonomic handle, making it easier on the hands and arms. If you’ve ever used a sawzall, you know they can make you feel like they’re trying to shake you apart after a while. The rubber coating helps to reduce this sensation and reduce operator fatigue. It’s not quite as fast as the DeWalt, but still a respectable 2,400 SPM. The stroke is 1-1/8” and the shoe is pivoting, providing three positions.
Porter-Cable has several reciprocating saws in their lineup, this being the lowest priced model available. At 7.5 amps, it’s not as powerful as the sawzalls I’ve listed above, but definitely the fastest saw on our list, variable up to 3,100 SPM, while still giving a full 1-1/8” cut stroke. The Porter-Cable Tradesman is also the only reciprocating saw on this list with an adjustable shoe option providing a way of limiting depth of cut.
While not as powerful as a professional saw, the Chicago Electric sawzall has been able to do everything I’ve ever asked of it. Even at this low price, this model has a quick-release chuck for tool free blade changes. The nose turns, allowing you to cut at any angle with variable speed adjustment, going up to 2500 SPM. Stroke length is 1”, so it might take another 30 seconds to cut through something but at this price, I’m certainly not complaining. There’s also a great safety feature in the form of a power indicator light which lets you know when it is plugged in. Overall a great saw for the price you’re paying.
Reciprocating Saw Buyer's Guide
When the Milwaukee Tool Company first brought out the Sawzall, they gave it an apt name that perfectly described their new reciprocating saw's capability. If there was ever a saw invented that could cut everything, the reciprocating saw was it. While other saws may cut certain things faster than a reciprocating saw can, they can't cut the same wide variety of materials.
Reciprocating saws are rough cutting saws, ideal for demolition work and for cutting larger pieces of wood such as laminated beams. Like the jigsaw, the reciprocating saw uses a floating blade that is held only at one end. This means that the blade can be easily bent to one side, simply by the pressure of the weight of the saw.
Unless the neatness of a finish cut is not needed, anything cut with a reciprocating saw may have to be re-cut or sanded to give it a nice edge. However, if the edge is to be hidden, this step is unnecessary.
The blade used with the reciprocating saw is extremely important. There are a variety of blades on the market for these saws, running up to 12 inches long. Both metal cutting and wood cutting blades are available as well as some specifically designed for demolition work.
What Type of Reciprocating Saw Do You Need?
Cordless varieties operate on the highest voltage batteries that tool manufacturers make. That's so they will have enough power. Keep in mind though, that when running continually, these saws will go through batteries rather quickly. If you do a lot of demolition cutting or other cutting where you would use a reciprocating saw, cordless might not be the way to go. There are a wider range of corded models available, than there are cordless ones. The corded ones eliminate the problem of batteries dying, and area also somewhat cheaper.
Cordless means that you don't need to have an electrical power source available to use one of these. There are certainly times when this might be needed, especially if you’re working construction or plan on taking your reciprocating saw to your cabin in the woods to cut firewood.
If you are a homeowner or do-it-yourselfer and only need to use a reciprocating saw from time to time, you can probably get by with a budget model. I have a budget one that I've used for a number of years now, mostly for cutting tree branches off and then cutting them up into firewood. It works as well as the day I bought it, even though the way I've been using it could be considered hard use.
The number one requirement in any reciprocating saw is sheer power. When you look at the saws we have listed, their motors range from 7.5 amp to 15.0 amp; exactly double. The higher power allows you to use the saw for heavier applications. I can cut through a 4" or 5" branch with my 7.5 amp reciprocating saw, but that's about its limit. If I go for anything bigger, it starts to bog down.
Cutting metal requires much more force than cutting wood, so if you are intending to cut a lot of metal, you'll want to have a high amperage saw. This will help ensure that the saw doesn't bog down while you are cutting; but I'll warn you, the saw may pull you back and forth if the blade gets bound up.
In addition to power, cutting metal requires a slower blade speed, so that the blade doesn't overheat. You'll want to make sure that you buy a saw with a variable speed trigger on it, so that you can slow it down. Otherwise, for wood, it's usually full speed ahead.
Quick Release Chuck
Pretty much all reciprocating saws now have a quick release chuck for the blades, eliminating the need to use tools for blade changes. This is a great convenience, as well as a time saver. Check if the chuck allows the blade to be mounted horizontally as well as vertically. This allows you to rotate the blade direction, without having to change your grip on the saw.
Some of these saws now have nosepieces that rotate. They may only rotate 90 degrees or a full 360 degrees. In either case, there will be stops every 90 degrees to lock the nosepiece in place. Having this capability or the ability to mount the blade at a different angle adds to the saw's ergonomics.
One other thing you want to look at in these saws is comfort. They are fairly heavy saws, which produce a lot of vibration. That adds to operator fatigue. Some manufacturers have added features to reduce vibration, as well as padded handles and rubber boots over the nose which is where most people hold the tool with their other hand.