Best Reciprocating Saws – April 2020

Reciprocating saws are a great, versatile tool. They’re one of the most popular tools for contractors and DIY-ers alike. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a reciprocating saw, so we’ve put together a helpful buying guide, along with our top picks.

Table of Contents

Our Top Picks

Dewalt 20V Max XR Reciprocating Saw

Best Overall

BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Reciprocating Saw

Best Value

Milwaukee 6538 15-Amp Super Sawzall Reciprocating Saw

Best premium

What is a reciprocating saw and what do I use it for?

 

A reciprocating saw cuts using a push-pull motion. It uses a blade affixed on one end. It’s portable and maneuverable. This makes it ideal for demolition work, cutting small tree limbs and other jobs that are hard to reach.

Reciprocating saws are typically variable speed; this is controlled through a variable trigger or through a dial on the saw. We prefer those with a variable trigger, since it provides a more seamless experience.

Some reciprocating saws also include an orbital action. This moves the blade in a slightly circular motion during the push-pull stroke. Orbital reciprocating saws make quicker work of demolition jobs and cutting softer materials where accuracy isn’t of primary concern.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of demo work, orbital action is a great feature. That said, you don’t want to use orbital action when a precise cut is required; orbital reciprocating saws feature a dial or other selector that lets you choose when to use the orbital action.

What features are important?

 

Corded vs. battery-powered

Battery-powered saws are more maneuverable, since, well, they’re cordless. But that maneuverability comes with a cost. Battery-powered reciprocating saws are heavier and generally less powerful than their corded counterparts.

This is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself, since there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

A corded reciprocating saw requires a cord, which makes it less than ideal for heavily trafficked areas or remote outdoor locations. Of course, if you’re using a battery-powered recip saw, you’ll have to make sure it’s fully charged, and you’ll probably want to keep a spare battery or two handy. This can greatly increase the cost associated with your saw.

Ultimately, we prefer battery-powered reciprocating saws for their convenience, but it’s not something we’d use in an all-day demo job.

Power

The power of reciprocating saws is denoted in one of two ways: amperage for corded saws and voltage for battery-powered saws. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the more powerful the saw.

More power means the saw is less likely to get bogged down or overheat when cutting tough materials.

Strokes per minute

The speed at which a reciprocating saw moves back and forth is measured in strokes per minute (SPM).

It’s important to remember that speed does not equate to power. But, all things equal, a higher SPM will allow you to cut more quickly.

The average speed of reciprocating saws is around 3,000 SPM. The speed varies ±10% from this number; in our experience, it’s pretty difficult to tell the difference between 2,800 SPM and 3,200 SPM.

Size and weight

A standard reciprocating saw is around 18 inches long and weighs 6 to 8 lbs. It’s a relatively compact tool, considering how versatile and powerful it is.

But if you’re going to be working in tighter, or hard to reach, spaces, you should consider a compact model. These are typically battery-powered and come in around 14 inches. That extra four inches can make big difference if you’re trying to fit your saw between studs that are 16 inches on center.

Blades

Reciprocating saws can be used to cut wood, metal, tile and more. Because reciprocating saws are such a versatile tool, you can select from a wide array of blades for different jobs.

Gone are the days of carrying around a screwdriver or specialized tool to change the blade. Most saws now feature quick-change blade clamps, which allow you to change the blade without the need for any tools. Some saws even feature four-way blade clamps. These allow you to insert the blade in any of four orientations, which can come in handy in tight spaces.

Vibration dampening

Reciprocating saws can vibrate a lot. If this is going to bother you, consider purchasing a reciprocating saw with vibration dampening.

Vibration dampening is accomplished using an internal counterweight and other components. The counterweight moves in the opposite direction of the blade in order to reduce vibrations.

Saws with significant vibration reduction are heavier than their rattling counterparts, but this tradeoff is probably worth it for most users.

Dewalt 20V MAX* XR Brushless Compact Cordless Reciprocating Saw (Model DCS367B)

The Dewalt 20V Max XR reciprocating saw is the lightest and most compact reciprocating saw we reviewed. Its compact size, along with the 4-way blade clamp lets you work in areas you simply can’t reach with other recip saws. At only 14 ½ inches, it’s small enough to fit between studs that are 16 inches on center. Because of this, we consider this the most versatile saw we reviewed.

The compact size does come at a price, unfortunately. It seems Dewalt wasn’t able to implement very good (or any) vibration reduction. Some users complain that the saw vibrates too much, making it uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time. This, of course, depends on your tolerance and what you’re cutting. Despite this, it’s still our top pick among reciprocating saws.

We love the compact size, powerful battery system and 4-way blade clamp. It’s the most versatile saw we reviewed, and it’s our top pick among reciprocating saws.

Pros

  • 3-year warranty
  • Compact – only 14 ½ inches
  • Lightweight – only 5 pounds (tool only – battery adds more weight)
  • Keyless 4-position blade clamp
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Onboard LED light illuminates dark works areas

Cons

  • Pricier than most models
  • Tool only – doesn’t include blades, battery, charger or carrying case
  • Some users say it vibrates too much

Milwaukee 6538 15-amp Super Sawzall

The Milwaukee 6538 is the most powerful reciprocating saw we reviewed. It can handle pretty much anything you want to cut with it. But all that power makes this the heaviest model we reviewed, as well. If you don’t need quite so much power, you should probably opt for something lighter and cheaper, like the Dewalt DWE305.

We love the patented counter-balanced mechanism, which does a great job at reducing vibrations. And Milwaukee’s 5-year limited warranty inspires confidence that this is a tool that will last for years to come.

If you’re looking for the beefiest reciprocating saw you can find, look no further.

Pros

  • 5-year limited warranty
  • Most powerful reciprocating saw we reviewed
  • Great vibration reduction
  • Keyless blade change
  • Variable speed trigger and dial speed control
  • Extremely durable
  • Orbital function
  • Carrying case included

Cons

  • Heavy – 9.8 pounds
  • Price – most expensive corded reciprocating saw we reviewed
  • Blades not included
  • No onboard LED

Milwaukee 2720 M18 Fuel Cordless Sawzall

The Milwaukee 2720-20 M18 Sawzall is a great battery-powered reciprocating saw that’s built to last. Backed by a 5-year limited warranty, you should be able to count on this saw for years to come.

The 2720 features a brushless motor for faster cuts, reduced heat and extended motor life. It also makes use of advanced REDLINK PLUS circuitry to optimize battery life and prevent overloads. We love the onboard LED light, which is great for illuminating dark work spaces.

This is a great purchase for anyone looking for a reliable, powerful cordless reciprocating saw.

Pros

  • Great vibration reduction
  • Brushless motor for faster cuts & extended life
  • Keyless blade change
  • Onboard LED light illuminates dark works areas

Cons

  • Tool only – doesn’t include blades, battery, charger or carrying case
  • Price – expensive after purchasing battery, charger and blades

Dewalt 12-Amp Corded Reciprocating Saw (Model DWE305)

DEWALT delivers a great saw for the price. If you’re not bothered by the cord, this saw packs plenty of power for most jobs. And it includes a 4-way blade clamp, which provides some much needed flexibility when cutting in tight spaces. Unfortunately, the shoe doesn’t pivot, which can make it more difficult to cut oddly shaped objects. Overall, the saw is a fantastic purchase for the price.

Pros

  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Variable speed trigger
  • 4-position Keyless blade clamp
  • Price – great value for a dependable saw
  • Optional bundle includes up to 10 saw blades

Cons

  • Lack of additional speed dial reduces precision of speed control
  • No onboard LED
  • Fixed shoe

BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Reciprocating Saw (Model BDCR20C)

BLACK+DECKER has succeeded in making a very affordable battery-powered recip saw. It’s perfect for the casual user who only needs to trim small limbs or use it for light jobs around the house. There’s even a blade included, but you’ll probably want to upgrade that pretty soon. Keep in mind, there’s no need to use only BLACK+DECKER blades with your saw.

There’s no vibration dampening, and many users report relatively short battery life, so this isn’t the saw for you if you’re looking to do some all-day demolition work.

Pros

  • Price
  • Includes 20V battery, charger and one blade
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Keyless blade change
  • 3,000 strokes per minute
  • Variable speed trigger

Cons

  • Suitable for light work only
  • No vibration dampening
  • Included blade is low-quality

SKIL 9-Amp Reciprocating Saw (Model 9216-01)

While a 9-amp saw might seem wimpy compared to the 15 amp motor of the Milwaukee Super Sawzall, this saw comes in at a fraction of the price. It’s a great option for the casual DIY-er who only needs to cut a few lightweight things on occasion. It has great features for its price point, boasting variable speed, keyless blade change and a pivoting shoe. There is a 7.5-amp model available, as well, but we’d recommend spending the extra few bucks for the 20% power increase.

Pros

  • Price – the cheapest reciprocating saw we reviewed
  • Keyless blade change
  • Variable speed dial

Cons

  • 9-amp motor suitable for light work only
  • No vibration dampening
  • Only 1-year limited warranty
  • No storage case
  • Trigger isn’t variable speed – speed controlled by dial only

Conclusion

A reciprocating saw is one of the most versatile saws you can purchase, so it’s OK to splurge a little here. We’re confident you won’t regret it. If versatility and portability are important to you, we highly recommend the Dewalt 20V Max* XR. 

If all-out power is more your thing, you can’t go wrong with the amped up Milwaukee 6538 15-Amp Sawzall. It is the go-to reciprocating saw brand, after all. Just keep in mind all that power makes for a fairly weighty saw. 

Finally, if you’re on a budget or just want a reciprocating saw for a few light tasks, such as trimming branches, then we suggest the BLACK+DECKER 20V Max. It includes everything you need to get started, though you might want to upgrade your blade to get the best results.

Dewalt 20V Max XR Reciprocating Saw

Best Overall

BLACK+DECKER 20V Max Reciprocating Saw

Best Value

Milwaukee 6538 15-Amp Super Sawzall Reciprocating Saw

Best premium