The Reciprocating Saw or Sawzall is the most popular cordless cutting tool because they are so handy and very versatile. For demo or rough work this is often the best option but even in cutting pipe, other metals or even precision work these tools can pinch hit extremely well, if you’ve got the right accessories. At this point 18V lithium batteries are more than adequate to power these types of saws for extended periods which is why it is so surprising we don’t see more brushless recip saws for the professional heavy duty use.
We have seen several manufacturers launch compact recip solutions recently, brushed motors and at lower price points. These are great tools and certainly have a place for DIY and Pro users but should compliment a full size reciprocating saw solution. We selected the most powerful recip saws these pro brands offer and put them with 5.0 Ah (5.5Ah Metabo) batteries (listed as bare tools): Bosch 18V CRS180BN ($129), Dewalt 20V DCS380B ($129), Makita 18V XRJ03Z ($169), Metabo 18V ASE18 LTX ($179), Milwaukee M18 Brushless 2720-20 ($199).
*** Added 11/27/2015 Results from Hilti 18V WSR 18-A Recip Saw 18V Cordless
Of course there is something to be said about tool usability, feel and features. The Dewalt is the only saw of the 5 you can actually insert the blade either vertically or horizontally. All have tool-free blade change and while the Bosch was our least favorite for putting blade in as you have to rotate the collet (others have a level on side) it was our preferred option for removing blades as it ejects the blades, very handy when dealing with hot overworked blades. While these recip saws are all 2 handed use, tool weight can be an important consideration for user fatigue: Bosch 7.60 lbs, Dewalt 6.60 lbs, Makita 7.9 lbs, Metabo 8.70 lbs, Milwaukee 9.15 lbs
To get a good look at “real world” performance in various cutting applications we added some different wood and metal challenges. For testing top end power and speed we made 5 cuts into ¼” angle steel and measure the time each took to make all 5 cuts. Each saw got a fresh Freud Carbide Blade 6” DS0608CF and at end all 5 blades were inspected, all carbide was intact and looked in good condition. POWER/SPEED: Bosch 2:40, Dewalt 1:26, Makita 1:59, Metabo 2:28, Milwaukee 1:16
All the saws were able to handle the challenge relatively easily and the results of this test were as follows. Milwaukee M18 FUEL Sawzall finishing the fastest. The Dewalt did very respectable for a brushed recip saw not too far behind. Makita, Metabo and Bosch trailing behind respectively in this test. Unfortunately there are no good power stats for recip saws (like torque for hammer drills) and this is just one example of one application. In our previous hammer drill challenge using the Metabo LiHD with their brushless hammer drill we were able to see signs of the tool we’d expect to perform with its pears actually perform better than expect. Possibly because of the new battery technology, since we didn’t have an expectation here it’s tough to tell if there was any performance boost with the different battery.
Next we made 30 cuts in EMT Conduit with fresh Freud Carbide Blades 4” DS0408CF again all blades were inspected, all carbide was intact and looked in good condition. We expected all the saws to make it through this challenge and they did no problem. We were hoping to get a little better feel in this test for usability but the material might as well been soft butter as they all zipped right through this test.
Finally we lined up 2×4” pine and made cuts until the batteries completely died, again using the same battery from the first 2 tests without charging. By doing 3 tests, in 3 different materials we feel it balances out any performance edge one tool might have in a specific material/test. We used fresh Freud Carbide blades DS0606CWS for wood cutting again all blades were inspected, all carbide was intact and looked in good condition. BATTERY LIFE (conduit/2×4): Bosch 103 (30 conduit/73 2×4), Dewalt 115 (30 conduit/85 2×4), Makita 113 (30 conduit/83 2×4), Metabo 121 (30 conduit/91 2×4), Milwaukee 155 (30 conduit/125 2×4)
Again we were not too surprised by these outcomes, the Milwaukee FUEL using the only brushless motor in this test was able to get 125 in 2×4” lumber. We have been told by all these tool brands that brushless motors are more efficient so runtime is expected to be much longer, case in point. The Metabo 5.5 Ah LiHd we saw really shine in the cordless hammer drill and brushless grinder challenge while didn’t look to provide any power boost did add battery life with 91 cuts in wood. Dewalt, Makita and Bosch trailing respectively behind.
Bosch 18V Reciprocating Saw CRS180BN ($129)
The Bosch cordless 18V recip saw has remained unchanged since Bosch launched their 18V lithium platform several years back. We would love to see an updated model for this platform, ideal 2 new recip options with a compact and heavy duty brushless saw.
Dewalt 20V Max Reciprocating Saw DCS380B ($119)
We were most surprised by the Dewalt’s performance in this test, it was more recent addition as the 20V Max platform has only been around a few years so perhaps it should not be a surprise. A solid brushed model, very capable for the price but if Dewalt hoped to keep their share of the pro users they will need to have a brushless model soon.
Makita 18V Reciprocating Saw XRJ03Z ($169)
Most surprising is that we have not seen a brushless Makita recip in 18V or 18Vx2 platform which has been growing very rapidly in popularity. They have recently launched a compact recip saw so we’d hope a heavy duty brushless AVT recip saw for the pros is coming soon.
Metabo 18V Reciprocating Saw ASE18 LTX ($179)
The Metabo has recently because an aggressive campaign to overhaul their cordless line up, starting with what might be the most advanced battery platform currently on the market with 5.5Ah and 6.2Ah LiHD batteries. We have seen a lot of promise in their 4.5” brushless grinder and coming in 2016 we could see a cordless table saw, SDS-Max hammer and 9” grinders which is very promising. Hopefully some of that love gets put towards a new brushless recip saw as well, but as of yet no definitive word.
Milwaukee M18 FUEL Sawzall 2720-20 ($199)
Since Milwaukee invented the Sawzall obviously this was one of the first tools they raced to build a brushless motor powerful enough to provide corded power to a cordless tool. They do also have a less expensive brushed M18 Sawzall to hit the lower price point (overhauled in 2014 to line up with Dewalt brushed recip) as well as the one handed compact M18 Hackzall which is the number one request we hear for Milwaukee to make their next Brushless FUEL tool. Also launching in January 2016 is the 9.0Ah battery in an effort to make runtime concerns a thing of the past.
Not very surprisingly to us the Milwaukee FUEL Sawzall 2720-20, as the only brushless saw in the competition, was the clear winner in speed and battery life. By investing in a high performance brushless motor for their reciprocating saw they are able to build a very high performance tool which is what many professional need. Hopefully we will see all 4 of the other brands step up soon and add their own high performance recip saws to their cordless platforms. We do understand the trend recently for more compact recip saw options and we will be the first to say compact recip saws are awesome! Very handy and you’ll be surprised how much you use them however every professional cordless tool line also needs a heavy duty recip saw option as well.
**** Coptool testing disclaimer ****
We are not a testing laboratory, we are not considering long term performance and while we try very hard to remove user error there are many variable (accessories, people, materials, etc) that affect each tests outcome. We deliberately do several test on the same battery to average high and low load performance for what we consider better real world conditions. Our findings are just our personal thoughts and opinions and do not represent any recommendations on products.