Milwaukee Chainsaw Review

Milwaukee Chainsaw Review

Back in June of 2018 we got our first look at the Milwaukee Chainsaw. It was at NPS18 and it was the first demonstration of the day. They paired the M18 Fuel Chainsaw up against a Stihl MS170, an entry level gas saw. And what do you know, the Milwaukee kicked the crap out of it. Now I’ve been a gas saw user for just about my whole life, I was instantly skeptic of the demo. My first thought was how I can replicate the demo using my own saws.Milwaukee Chainsaw -18

Fast forward almost a year and I’ve had plenty of time to use the Milwaukee chainsaw right along side my gas saws. What I’ve come to realize is that both kinds of saws have their place. It just depends on what kind of work you need to do.Milwaukee Chainsaw -10

Milwaukee Chainsaw Features and Specifications

Milwaukee Chainsaw -13

Small enough to fit in the cab of the skid loader

  • 16 in. Oregon Bar and Chain (R56)
  • POWERSTATE Brushless Motor provides the power and performance of a gas engine up to 40CC.
  • REDLITHIUM High Output HD 12.0 Ah Battery Pack: Provides 50% more power and runs 50% cooler versus standard REDLITHIUM HD packs
  • Variable speed trigger for full control
  • Dual-stud for improved bar and chain retention
  • Automatic oiler for proper chain lubrication and increased productivity
  • Onboard storage for included scrench
  • Compatible with 175+ M18 solutions
  • 3 year tool and 3 year battery warranty
  • Includes: (1) M18 FUEL 16 in. chainsaw, (1) REDLITHIUM high output HD12.0 battery pack, (1) M18 and M12 rapid charger, (1) 16 in. Oregon bar and chain, (1) scrunch

What’s Great About The Milwaukee Chainsaw

First, it feels like a gas powered saw. It has a half wrap front handle and an extended back handle that is very usable even with gloves on. It has metal felling dogs unlike the plastic ones found on competitive battery powered saw. The chain brake works like a chain brake on a gas saw.

Milwaukee looks and feels like a typical gas saw.

Second, the saw is a pretty quick little unit. It reaches full throttle in a second but that’s the nature of an electric motor. An electric motor has 100% of available torque at 0RPM. It also spins at 6,600 RPM. That’s the motor RPM, not the chain RPM.

Third, the saw also uses standard off the shelf bar and chain size. It uses a 16″ Oregon bar with an R56 chain. That means it is .043″ gauge semi-chisel with 56 drivers. I was able to find the R56 chain for $5 cheaper than the same Milwaukee packaged chain. This is also pretty much the same chain as the Stihl PMM3. If you’re having trouble sourcing a chain locally, have your Stihl dealer make you a PMM3 loop with 56 links.

Milwaukee Chainsaw -11

Standard Oregon Bar and Chain

Fourth and perhaps most important, the saw is compatible with any M18 battery. It can run on any of them but runs best with any of the new high-output batteries using the 21700 li-ion cells. The M18 is the power source of this saw meaning there is no gas/oil mix to keep fresh.

Things That Bug Me About This Saw

Corded, battery, and small gas saws pretty much all run a low profile, narrow kerf, low-kickback chain. They have to or they wouldn’t have enough power to be all that useful. With these small chains though, they are less forgiving of a pinch situation. I’ve pinched and thrown the chain on this saw more than I like to admit. When using a narrow chain, you really have to pay attention to the way the log or branch is going to fall/twist towards the end of the cut. If Milwaukee could get a little more juice out of this unit, enough to run a wider chain, this saw would have a broader appeal.

Milwaukee Chainsaw -8

Extremely narrow kerf chain. Metal chain catch for when you toss a chain.

The other thing that bugs me is the way the saw shuts down when overloaded. As a heavy gas saw user, I’m used to leveraging the saw into the wood and feeling for that bog down point. With a gas saw if I push too hard the chain may slow or stop but let off a little and it keeps right on cutting. With the Milwaukee if I push too hard, it shuts off and I have to pull the battery out and put it back in. It needs an audio or visual cue that I’m driving the spurs too hard.

Milwaukee Chainsaw Is A Home Run

So despite the things that bug me, this saw is a home run as long as it is in the right application. So what are some right applications? Utility work, small storm cleanup/light home use, urban tree trimming, and carpentry are where this saw really shines.


This is the best application for this saw. Milwaukee already makes a ton of tools, cordless and hand, that are designed for Utility and linemen. Mount a scabbard to the side of the cherry picker bucket and this saw will always be right where it’s most useful. I have a friend who is a purchaser for the local electric co-op and he was outfitting every truck with one of these saws just for trimming utility poles.Milwaukee Chainsaw -17

Small Storm Cleanup/Light Home Use

This saw is perfect for the infrequent chainsaw user. Need to clean up some limbs or small trees that blew down in a storm? This is your saw. Is your gas saw always in for service because you don’t use it frequently enough to keep the gas fresh? This is your saw. One battery probably won’t cut it though unless you don’t have much work to do.Milwaukee Chainsaw -3

Urban Tree Trimming

One of the best things about a cordless saw is that they are so quiet. This is important in an urban setting. This saw isn’t for a tree removal service but for someone who does trimming and pruning. For example, a city employee who shapes and prunes the trees in the city parks would find this saw perfect for their work.


A chainsaw isn’t an everyday tool on a construction site. For instance, it is used for cutting timber framing, TJIs, shoring timbers, and other things that need a depth of cut larger than a circular saw. The Milwaukee chainsaw is perfect for these tasks because it uses the same M18 battery that a lot of other job site tools use and its just grab and go.

Final Thoughts

While the gas saws will dominate the woods for the foreseeable future, there is still a huge place for battery powered saws like the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Chainsaw. Milwaukee’s first attempt at a cordless chainsaw produced a very useful, very compatible, and very fast saw. Many chainsaw users will find this saw extremely useful for their work.Milwaukee Chainsaw -2



About the author

Jeff Williams

Contributing Editor Jeff Williams is a carpenter for a commercial General Contractor specializing in concrete, steel, and wood buildings. Jeff comes from a long line of contractors. His parents started a commercial General Contracting firm many years ago and it has afforded him life-long, hands-on learning opportunities from rough and fine carpentry all the way to structural steel and concrete. Jeff has a Construction Management degree and loves the thrill of coordinating and successfully managing large jobs from start to finish. Inspired by the difficulties sometimes encountered to complete punch lists his motto is, "Work hard until the job is done."


All posts by Jeff »


  1. Frustrated

    Almost no one is doing comparisons of Makita 36v vs Milwaukee 12ah tools, this is extremely frustrating. It would be nice if someone would FINALLY do a few reviews with those two and maybe throw in dewalt with its 12ah.

    1. Darth1970

      I’m surprised we haven’t seen a shootout with these saws. Somebody needs to jump on it.

  2. Ted Bashinski

    I bought one and it failed miserably. The chain would not stay on. Within the first full battery charge of the 12AH battery I had to reinstall the chain no less than 20 times. I was careful for pinching with small limbs too because I am well aware of this tendency with these small chains. Finally the chain bolt started spinning when trying to back the nut off one time to put the chain back on. Nothing I could do from that point so I turned it in for warranty. Milwaukee denied the warranty claiming user error. What?? $350 for a chainsaw to use 30 minutes??? Milwaukee didn’t want to return the saw either. I pitched raised can so they finally shipped it to me but it was in pieces. What I found when i got it back was that the bar bolts have a small head inside set into a small plastic hex for backup and the plastic had stripped out. Bad design. Small plastic hex on a bolt? How many times have we seen this mistake over the years? I’ll never buy another Milwaukee tool again because of this. Makita makes great stuff I have since found.

    1. Curtis

      I’ve had similar results with my saw. It cuts well enough and the 12ah batteries last a long time, but I’ve already thrown the chain at least half a dozen times on the first tank of bar oil and I’m thinking I’ll return it. I’ve got about a dozen chainsaws and I know how to set chain tension and also my 40v ryobi doesn’t throw chains like this. Sorry to say, I’m disappointed with this saw.

  3. James Fredrick Fleck

    I was an early purchaser of this saw and use it almost daily in the summer. We live on three acres and most of it is woodlot so lots of clean up, pruning, and we do burn wood. I am more than happy with the performance and convenience of a quiet battery saw and it compliments my Husky 61 when I have heavy cutting to do. I do however have two complaints. The bar mounting studs are fragile and risk pulling out if torqued the least bit too much and, secondly , it consumes far too much chain oil. It uses more chain oil than my Husky with a 20 inch bar.

  4. BT

    My big question is can you/should you and would replacing the 16″ with a 14″ bar help the performance?

    1. Jeff Williams

      Just this last week they released the same saw but now offered with a 14” bar.

      1. BT

        Good to know, really happy with the Milwaukee pole saw and invested in the M18 system so,,,

    2. James Fredrick Fleck

      Since my previous post I have had my saw rebuilt to repair the stud pullout problem. The tech at the repair centre said the repair required new improved parts from Milwaukee and pretty much a complete disassembly. The repair was done for free.
      On the subject of bar and chain combos, I bought 4 16″ loops of Stihl semi chisel 43 guage chain that really improves cutting. I also bought an Oregon 14 inch 140GPEA041 50guage bar but have yet to mount it and try it out.

  5. yes no wheel

    I love the Milwaukee Chainsaw Review – Tool Box Buzz! I’m always looking for new ways to improve my home workshop and this article has given me some great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

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