STIHL MS 300 and STIHL MS 261

STIHL MSA 300

STIHL MSA 300

The STIHL MSA 300 is the most powerful cordless chainsaw in the AP System. Designed and built for felling, cross-cutting, snedding and processing, it offers forestry professionals, arborists, and landscapers plenty of power for taking on larger cutting tasks.

Powered by the new AP 500 S battery, the MSA 300 is recommended with a 16” Light 04 guide bar and .325” RS Pro chain for fast cutting. This compact saw is well balanced and features STIHL’s anti-vibration system for comfortable working over long periods. Other features include a captive nut on the sprocket cover, an adjustable oil pump, durable die-cast magnesium components and an air filter to aid effective air cooling. Also featured in this model is an LED digital display for active user notifications, showing the operating mode in use, the status of the chain brake position, the on/off status and even temperature warnings to prevent overheating.

Three operating modes limit the maximum chain speed, helping to match the performance to the task at hand and extend the battery run-time. Eco mode limits the chain speed to 24 m/s and is ideal for cutting smaller logs, while the highest performing mode features a 30 m/s chain speed ideal for felling cuts and fast working.

“The MSA 300 chainsaw is the battery equivalent of the STIHL MS 241/261 petrol chainsaws – 42-50cc range. I tried the petrol saw first. There was a sawhorse with a 10” diameter hardwood length which the MS 261 cut through with ease. I cut four rings off the log in total two on a downward cut and two on the upward return cuts and averaged a count of four in my head for each cut.

I picked up the MSA 300 and switched on the main power, there is an added button to the left of the rear handle which you push once to operate the saw. If the saw is unused for more than three seconds, it must be pressed again as it switches itself off to prevent the battery from discharging. I didn’t find this a problem as it is easy to switch on with your thumb while your left hand is in position to work the trigger, I had thick chainsaw gloves on and found it extremely easy to use.

I liked this sturdy saw, the soft grip handles feel comfortable to hold. It is lightweight, 7.4kg with the battery in place, and is an ideal sized saw for felling first and second thinnings, snedding and brashing heavily branched trees. It does feel strange having no engine noise, but the advantages are that there are no vibrations during idling, no two-stroke fuel to carry around and no pull start.

or 30m/s. It can be used with a 14”, 16” or 18” guide bar. Power modes one and two worked well and would be ideal for cutting smaller diameter wood or for brashing lighter branched conifer trees while prolonging battery life where power mode three was more suited to the kind of work that I would use it for. On maximum power it cut the rings at roughly the same speed as the MS661.

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Power mode, type of work and the length of the guide bar and chain will decide the duration of the fully charged battery. The fastest AL 500 charger will restore the AP 500 S battery from 0-100% in just 45 minutes and can be charged using a power inverter on your vehicle. It costs around 5p to fully charge a battery using mains electricity, so if you compare that to the cost of fuel, the batteries won’t be long in paying for themselves.

There was a big pile of wood next to where I was trying the saw with large pieces of hard and soft wood, I checked with Reuben if it was ok to head over and give it a proper try-out. I cut through some oak limbs which were about 20” in diameter and the torque on this saw was amazing. No matter how hard I pushed down I couldn’t stall the chain – this isn’t something I would normally do when cutting firewood as the chain does the work and pulls itself through the wood, but for the purpose of the trial, it does give an indication of how much torque the saw really does have.

I found a few 12-14” diameter pieces of hardwoods about 3’ in length and stood them upright then ripped them in half, again this saw didn’t disappoint and ripped them easily. I had asked earlier if the saw would lose power as the battery discharges but Simon Hewitt, Head of Marketing at STIHL, explained that as the batteries volts decrease, the amps increase so that there is no difference in power output (2.5kw) up until the last turn of the chain.

You couldn’t help but be impressed with this saw, it did everything and more that I asked of it. This is a professional saw for professional users as it had a real bite when cutting and great balance for felling and snedding. It is user friendly, powerful, comfortable and quiet.

Rab Easton testing out the STIHL MSA 300
STIHL MSA 300

A couple of points worth mentioning is that whether you are charging the batteries from empty or just topping up, this will not affect the performance or the life of the batteries. Although the performance of STIHL’s batteries will improve with new technology, the type of fitting will not be altered so that older equipment can always be used with newer type batteries.

I did a few calculations in my head as a rough comparison between buying and running the MSA 300 – plus buying four batteries – and the MS 261, both working 5 days per week for 46 weeks.

I estimated a saving of £650 in year one with over £2,000 in year two. If both saws are replaced after one year the saving is even greater as the MSA 300 only requires the saw body at around £550 – no replacement batteries are needed as they have been used for less than half of their guaranteed charging cycles – whereas the MS 661 will cost around £700 to replace.

The only disadvantage I could see was that on a still, damp summers morning in the Trossachs or Argyll, when the midges are at their most ferocious you are unable to give the tuning screw a quarter turn to make the saw run with a richer mixture keeping them at bay while working.”

Forest Machine Magazine is written and edited by a forest professional with over 40 years hands on experience. We are dedicated to keeping you informed with all the latest news, views and reviews from our industry.

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