Choosing The Best Reciprocating Saw
We love a saw that packs a punch, and it is hard to argue with the power you’ll get from a reciprocating saw. Whether corded or cordless, they are geared to rip through things that would cause other saws to struggle.
A good saw can save you a lot of time, but the best reciprocating saw can be the first tool you turn to when trouble is at hand. Metal, wood, and plaster are no match for these beasts, and our guide will steer you towards the perfect choice regardless of your budget.
[table id=39 responsive=scroll /]
Considerations before buying
A reciprocating saw can run you anywhere from a couple of Jacksons to a few hundred bucks. While it’s great to have a price point for everyone, you still need to be cautious when you buy and heed a few simple tips.
Cordless or Corded
This is by far the most important question you need to ask, and it is also the first one. Before you can find the right reciprocating saw for your needs, you will have to decide between cordless or corded. While we have included both options in our reciprocating saw reviews, we are going to outline the pros and cons of each style.
Power and Speed
Power is measured in amps with this type of tool, and on average you can find models anywhere between 8 to 15 amps. A 10 amp saw will be able to cut through almost anything, but one with a 15 amp motor is a destructive device.
If you work in demolition, look for a saw with plenty of amps – you will not be sorry.
Speed is an acquired taste. By that, we mean not everyone has to have a saw capable of hitting 3,800 SPM although nobody is going to complain about a faster saw.
It all depends on what you will cut the most, and in most cases, it is not something to worry about at all. That’s because most saws have a built-in speed dial at a minimum. Trigger locks are another story, unfortunately.
Saws vibrate, that’s just how it is. It’s not an issue if you’re using a circular saw or even a jigsaw, but reciprocating saws are a different type of animal.
These beastly tools can literally wear you out between their overall weight and vibration. That’s only if you pick up a poorly made model however as we found in our reciprocating saw comparison. The top-tier saws have built-in systems that help to cut back on vibrations. This is helpful, even when you can’t do much about the weight.
Variable Speed Trigger
This is a universal feature of sorts in the tools world as you will find drills and many other tools with variable speed triggers.
Some have variable speed trigger as well if you want a full measure of control.
With saws, this feature allows you to start at a lower speed before going full throttle on a piece of wood or metal. It gives you finer control of your cut and is a great feature to have on hand.
Every reciprocating saw has a shoe, and it’s an integral part of the design. They are also all made of metal and can generally take a beating. All shoes are not created equal, however…
Some saws will have an adjustable show that pivots which allows for some interesting options. It’s common with better quality tools and sometimes found on budget models as well.
The stroke length of a reciprocating saw varies although most manufacturers have a sweet spot or range for their lineups.
The best Sawzall could have a stroke length of 1” while another top model may pan out at 3/4” or 1-1/4”. It varies, so check the manufacturer’s official specifications if you have a certain range in mind.
Orbital or Straight
This is a feature you’ll find on reciprocating saws of higher quality. By design, all saws of this kind have a straight “in and out” motion when it comes to the stroke length. Some add a little something extra into the mix with orbital motion while others play it straight.
If a saw has an orbital motion feature that means it uses a very “slight” circular motion when it cuts. This allows the blade to get through softer woods quicker, but it’s not a feature that will do you a bit of good with metal.
Weight and Build Quality
How strong are your arms? Do you have good wrists or do heavier tools put a strain on you throughout the day?
Reciprocating saws are heavy, so you will want to consider the weight if you have weak wrists or any underlying condition. Many are well over 10 pounds, which may be far heavier than you’re used to. If you are just using it for a short period, it shouldn’t be an issue.
The build quality can directly affect the weight as well, so it’s a fine line you have to walk between the two.
Every saw will utilize plenty of plastic in the build, but some have more metal under the hood. Those weigh more but will last longer than tools with a cheaper build.
Ease of Use
How familiar are you with tools in general?
If this is your first real power tool, you are in for quite the wild ride. These tools aren’t difficult to use, but there are a few features that make life a lot easier. It wasn’t always that way, just ask anyone who’s lost the key to a drill or reciprocating saw.
Quick change blade systems are common in all manner of saws today, including reciprocating saws. This involves a clasp or latch you lift which allows you to change a blade quickly. It’s a keyless system, and something you will find on any quality tool.
The other areas to consider would be grip and weight. We briefly touched on the latter, but grips can be comfortable or painful with these tools. Good anti-vibration technology helps regardless although it’s always better to have a handle with a rubber grip.
It’s softer than a hard plastic handle and provides a bit of comfort on those long shifts. Many models also have rubbery material on the body behind the shoe as that’s the most common place to steady the saw.
Reciprocating Saw Buying Guide
Knowing the right areas to look for when you’re shopping for a new reciprocating saw is important. There’s no doubt about that, but there is plenty of room for consumers to doubt themselves if they don’t use tools often.
Before we get to our top choices, we’re going to quickly discuss a few areas for beginners that have never experienced the power of a reciprocating saw before. If you’re picking up a replacement or already familiar with this tool, feel free to skip ahead to our picks for the best reciprocating saws.
How to use a Reciprocating Saw
When you get ready to put your saw into action for the first time, there is no need to be nervous.
Whirring blades may have that effect on beginners, but as long as you wear safety glasses and follow our tips, you’ll be just fine. The first thing you’ll want to do is consider the material you plan to cut and chose the proper blade.
You then need to consider speed, decide if you need orbital action, and then simply install the blade. The safety tips are simple as well. You can read more about those and pick up a few other tips in our guide to reciprocating saw usage.
What can you use a Reciprocating Saw for
Using this style of saw is simple, and while it can’t perform some tasks, you will be surprised by its versatility.
This tool is great for dealing with reclaimed wood or just cutting apart pallets. It can handle anything with nails and is your only option for tearing apart small structures sans an actual machine. They may be fun to use, but they are not cheap to rent.
With a reciprocating saw, you can cut through metal, wood, fiberglass and other materials like a knife through hot butter with enough power and a great blade.
Contractors keep this tool handy, and you will find it in plenty of toolboxes across the board. It can cut through pipes and get to spots where a circular saw or even a jigsaw cannot reach.
Reciprocating Saw vs Jigsaw: Which one do you need?
Do you need a reciprocating saw?
If you have made it this far, there’s a good chance you do, but jigsaws are worth considering as well. If you own both tools, it is important to know when to pull the right tool from your bag.
If you need to cut through things that would normally destroy another saw, pick up your reciprocating saw. Again, these are used on demolition sites and made for heavy-duty work. While there are some industrial style jigsaws, they are not as powerful.
A jigsaw is better suited for detailed work, curvy cuts and making shapes. It’s just as versatile as a reciprocating saw, but smaller, lighter and not quite as powerful. You can read more about the differences between the two in our tool shootout.
Reciprocating Saw Reviews
Best Reciprocating Saw Overall
[table id=39 responsive=scroll /]
It goes without saying, that most reciprocating saws are designed in the same fashion and serve the same general purpose. Occasionally, we see one that bucks the trend like the Milwaukee 2625-20. This is no ordinary reciprocating saw, and it’s hands down the most unique tool on our list.
The first thing we need to talk about with this one is the handle. As you can see, it has a traditional grip like you would find on a drill. The front curves upwards, however, which makes this one a one-handed tool.
It also cuts back on the overall size and gives you more leverage as well. In other words, it can do things a regular SAWZALL cannot, and it’s built like a tank.
The Milwaukee 2625-20 sports a dual-gear anti-vibration system which cuts down the dramatically cuts down on vibrations a durable shoe that’s just as unique as the tool itself. Need to change blades frequently? You can do it in seconds thanks to a QUIK-LOK blade system on the saw.
Remember where we said reciprocating saws were heavy? This one is not as it weighs a little over 5 pounds with the battery installed. This cordless wonder sips its power from an 18-volt battery which can’t replace a wall jack but provides plenty of juice.
We feel that the Milwaukee 2625-20 is the best reciprocating saw overall due to its unique design and the affordable price tag. It’s a nice hybrid tool of sorts that would be great for beginners as well. Especially those that have never used a regular reciprocating saw.
At 3,000 SPM, it has plenty of pop although the stroke length is rather short at 3/4”. It’s a fast cutting saw, and it comes with a solid 5-year warranty straight out of the box. You will need to pick up a battery and charger however unless you already have on that will work with this kit.
The DeWalt DWE304 is a saw with more traditional sensibilities when it comes to the overall design. There is no pistol grip, and there is plenty of length to hold onto as you rip through things. It’s powerful at 10-amps and the type of saw that will last for years to come.
DeWalt’s saw is a great choice for contractors and homeowners alike. It has a 4-position blade clamp which allows you to swap blades out quickly and cinch them down tight. You will also get a variable speed system with the DWE304 for total control.
This saw is of average size and weight so your arms will stay fresh. Unfortunately, DeWalt skimped on the comfort a bit, so there are no rubberized grips around the palm area. You will want gloves with this particular model.
Overall, this is a great option if you don’t like our somewhat funky top choice, and they perform in a similar fashion although this one has a longer stroke length at 1-1/8”. It’s rated between 0-2,800 SPM and comes with a 3-year warranty from DeWalt.
We’ve given you “interesting,” and we also gave you an affordable option as well. Now it’s time to take a look at a heavy-duty model built for the job site in the Milwaukee 2720-20.
The Milwaukee 2720-20 is another battery-powered saw that runs off an 18-volt lithium-ion juice box. It utilizes the company’s REDLITHIUM tech so that you will get more power and battery life per charge. That’s definitely a perk.
It’s an optimized system that works alongside the REDLINK PLUS components. The motor and battery communicate with each other to give you the power you need when you need it. Despite being cordless, you will have a consistent amount of power at all times from the brushless motor.
If you’d like to learn more about the Milwaukee 2720-20, be sure to check out our full review of the saw.
It’s a bit more expensive than other options on our list, but a tool that is built to withstand daily use in any condition.
Best Reciprocating Saw for the Money
Shopping for tools can get expensive, and it’s been known to cause more than a few arguments around the house. If you want the best reciprocating saw, but have to pinch your pennies, consider these saws…
Top pick: SKIL 9216-01
You don’t have to spend have your paycheck on a tool, especially not a reciprocating saw. As we’ve said before, it comes down to what you need. If your budget is tight, you’ll want to give the SKIL 9216-01 a look.
The SKIL 9216-01 may look familiar. That’s because it was one of the top options in our best corded reciprocating saw review. While it is cheap and made from an ample amount of plastic, the company made sure to include a heavy-duty metal gear housing for increased durability. It’s budget-friendly but does not feel cheap in the hand.
There is no additional padding on this saw, but it does have a tool-less blade changing system and a strong 9-amp motor. Other features to note include a pivoting foot and a power indicator light built into the frame.
You can buy three of these for the price of one Milwaukee 2720-20 – just let that sink in for a minute. Does that mean it’s poorly made or underpowered? Not, not by any means. It can cut through the same type of material with the right blade; it will just take longer. If budget is a concern for you at the moment, it won’t be with the SKIL 9216-01.
Runner-up: Porter-Cable PC75TRS
Our first tool from Porter-Cable is built for light to medium-duty use. It can definitely save you some time on a job site, but the main draw of the Porter-Cable PC75TRS in our eyes is its ease of use.
Changing out blades is easy with a clamp system, but Porter-Cable decided to up the ante. They have a “twist lock” system in place that works like a chuck on a drill. It is different, and so is the shoe as it’s considerably longer than usual.
Blade changes aside, you will appreciate the ergonomic handle on the Porter-Cable PC75TRS. It’s covered in rubber to cut back on vibrations and keep your hands fresh. The trigger is also nice and large with a solid action. The tool is corded and weighs in at around 8 pounds which is about average.
Again, if you want something that can take a car apart, you may want a saw with a more powerful motor. The 7-amp motor will get the job done for most folks, however, and the built quality combined with the price makes this one a winner.
Best Small Reciprocating Saw
Good things come in small packages, or so the saying goes. Well, it’s true in this case as these saws pack a punch and won’t take up much space in your tool bag.
Top pick: Milwaukee 2625-20
Remember the Milwaukee 2625-20? Well, it was our choice for the best overall reciprocating saw for several great reasons. It’s also the top option if you need a compact saw as long as you can get by with its unique design.
This is what’s referred to as a “bare” tool which may sound odd if you’re not familiar with marketing terms in the tool world. That means it doesn’t come with anything, so you need a charger and battery straight out of the box.
The Milwaukee 2625-20 is a bare tool, but one with some serious power. With an 18-volt battery installed, it can tear through lumber and wood with ease. The design also allows you to get a bite at some interesting angles that would be impossible with a regular reciprocating saw.
There’s a lot to like about the Milwaukee 2625-20 and only a few minor drawbacks as it has everything you would want from a top-quality tool. Battery-powered tools aren’t for everyone, so that may rule it out for some if constant power is required.
On the flipside, it is the lightest saw we’ve come across that can still deliver power and a tool we think you’ll be thrilled with once you put it into action.
Runner-up: DeWalt DCS367B
If you were not overly impressed with our first choice from DeWalt, we have a feeling this one will win you over. It is an amazing saw…
The DeWalt DCS367B is a mean little beast that’s best described as “stubby” when compared to similar models. It’s considerably shorter than most reciprocating saws, and more powerful as well thanks to a 20-volt battery.
A brushless motor certainly helps, while the variable speed trigger gives you total control while you cut. As you would expect, this model has a pivoting shoe, and we think you’ll be thrilled with the handy LED light. It is a small, but handy feature to have.
This saw has a range between 0-2900 SPM and is very comfortable to use. It will not weigh you down throughout the day, and there is an ample amount of rubber on both the grip and top of the saw. Throw in a 3-year warranty, and you have a solid tool that will outlast others in its class.
Most Powerful Sawzall
Power can come from many places, but with reciprocating saws, it starts with the engine. Whether corded or cordless, saws of this nature have to have a motor that can produce a lot of SPM.
Top pick: Milwaukee 6538-21
This is another reciprocating saw that’s ideal for construction or other jobs that require a heavy-duty tool. The Milwaukee 6538-21 is corded, so power will never be an issue and you can say the same about horsepower.
We’ve shown you saws with 7-amp motors and ones that can tear through steel with ease at only 12-amps. The Milwaukee 6538-21 has a 15-amp motor which is top of the line. It’s packed full of useful tech to keep the saw running in optimal condition as well including protection from heat and overloading.
Worried about the saw locking up in a piece of metal or becoming bound at the wrong time? It’s bound to happen, but the direct effect won’t be as severe with the Milwaukee 6538-21. It has a gear-protecting clutch to prevent damage from such situations, and we think you’ll be thrilled with its vibration-dampening properties as well.
When you want something powerful, you generally have to pay more for it. That’s no exception with the Milwaukee 6538-21 as it’s the most expensive tool on our list. That said, it is worth every penny considering the size of the motor, the features, and the fact it has a variable speed system.
We also like the fact this particular model is made in the states. That’s a perk, and so is the 5-year warranty.
Runner-up: Makita JR3070CT
Makita may have only made our list once, but we saved the best for last. Well, that’s if you want a powerful saw with some interesting features that is. The Makita JR3070CT AVT is capable of demolishing anything in your path including metal, tile or ordinary wood.
It doesn’t matter if you need to cut a 4” tree branch or a 1/2” piece of metal – the Makita JR3070CT AVT can do it all. Its anti-vibration tech cuts the shakes back more than x2 compared to other brands, and it has a long 1-1/4” stroke to boot.
The motor is rated at 15-amps with speeds between 0-2,800 SPM. That’s par for the course in this class, and an electronic speed control ensures you’ll get a steady stream of juice from start to finish. Other standout features include a built-in clutch, tool-less blade system, a 4-positional orbital switch, and a lock button.
You can buy this saw by itself or with a 6-pack of blades if you want to be ready to rock right away. We really like the “two-finger” trigger on the Makita JR3070CT AVT, and it’s only 10 pounds despite its size and power.
Best Reciprocating Saw Blades
Did you find the perfect reciprocating saw on our list?
Whether you found one or are still looking, you still have to consider blades. Unlike table or band saws, this style of saw generally does not come with a blade. If you are lucky enough to get one, it’s not going to be the best unless you’re picking up a bundle that comes with a pack.
In our search to find the best reciprocating saw blades, we came across dozens of contenders. There are blades built to deal with reclaimed lumber and blades with a high number of teeth per inch for things like sheet metal.
Before you get can choose a style of blade, you must first understand the materials they are made from. The most popular options are high-speed steel, carbon steel, and bi-metal blades. The latter is a combination blade that’s a step about HSS while carbon ones are generally the cheapest.
If you need to cut through special materials like ceramic, glass or masonry, a different type of blade will be required. Diamond and blades tipped with exotic alloys are common but can be quite expensive.
With TPI measurements, the higher the number of teeth in the blade, the finer the final cut will be. For things like sheet metal, you would want a blade with plenty of teeth as well. Other areas to consider include the length and thickness of the blade.
Best Cordless Reciprocating Saw
When you need to stay portable or will work in an area without electricity, you want to consider a cordless reciprocating saw.
The obvious drawback is the fact that you can’t use your tool once the battery goes dead unless you have a backup battery on hand. While newer chargers can juice a battery back to 100% in 30 to 45 minutes, nobody wants to stay shut down that long. It can cost you money if you’re on the job.
A huge advantage would be the fact you can get into some spots with a cordless tool that you could not with a corded one. Cords also tend to snag on things which isn’t something you want to deal with when using a sharp, moving blade.
If you’re on the fence, but prefer to keep your tools cordless, there are hundreds of options on the market. While we have touched on a few of them, buyers should be wary of several areas when they plan to cut that cord.
For the most part, the same buying tips apply when you are looking for the best cordless reciprocating saw. That means you have to consider the size of the motor for the task at hand, and your budget of course.
If you plan on using the tool daily, you will want something durable but lightweight and with a long warranty.
That’s because cordless tools have more parts that can break down. Even if you keep the saw in top condition, the battery could eventually go bad. The same can be said of the chargers, so there are two additional areas you have to consider.
As for our top choices, you can check them out in our full guide although we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the DeWalt DCS388B.
It is an absolute beast, with a brushless motor and it works on the company’s MAX platform. Not their 20-volt lineup, but their 60-volt FLEX system. It’s a chainsaw disguised as a SAWZALL and a top choice if you need a whole lot of power.
Best Corded Reciprocating Saw
Corded saws are the classic style, and they’ve been around for decades for a good reason. They work as expected and provide you with unlimited access to power. That’s provided you have a power source close by or a long extension cord of course.
Saws of this nature can be lighter than their cordless counterparts. While batteries can range between 12 and 20-volts, they do add weight to the tool.
They are generally more powerful than cordless saws as well. That’s because you’re not limited by those portable cells, which makes this style better suited for industrial uses… or anything else.
Our top corded model is the Milwaukee 6538-21, a 15-amp saw with lots of clever technology built in. It was an option as our most powerful corded model, but you can find the rest of our choices in our full corded reciprocating saw guide.
They may seem a little scary at first, but trust us when we say you’ll appreciate what a reciprocating saw can do.
Both styles allow you to tackle projects you wouldn’t dare touch otherwise, and we don’t know of too many handheld tools that can cut cars apart. They’ve been used in scrap yards for decades for a good reason.
Whatever style of saw you decide to go with, be sure to keep several blades on hand at all times. Also remember to keep your eyes protected, and gloves are a good idea more often than not.