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Most powerful battery chainsaw features at new products launch

Stihl announced significant new products for professional users at an exclusive UK press launch and demonstration. David Williams was there.


Stihl allowed those attending the event to try the new MSA 300 battery saw, and to compare it to the popular MS 261 C-M petrol model. Both saws had identical 16in bars, and professional users concluded that the battery model (right) had slightly more cutting power.

The event featured new hedgecutters, blowers, clearing saws and strimmers – all offering extra capability and performance over existing models – but the new MSA 300 battery-powered chainsaw was the star attraction.

Extra performance

Stihl’s previous top-of-the-range MSA 220 battery-powered chainsaw was featured in the January edition of Farmers Guide, after it had impressed users during extended trials on three Suffolk farms working with its recommended 14in bar. However, the new MSA 300 comfortably upstages the previous flagship model with significantly more power, and it can also challenge petrol saws in the more popular 16in bar class.

Despite having more power than the MSA 220, the MSA 300 can operate for 20–44 minutes between charges when partnered with the new AP 500 S battery – matching the available working time of the MSA 220 with the previous largest AP 300 S battery. With 3kW of power, the AP 500 S has 20% more capacity and provides 40% more output than the AP 300 S, and although it is recommended for the MSA 300 saw, it will also ensure optimum performance and the longest possible working times when powering any of Stihl’s other AP System cordless products.

Genuine 16in saw

The MSA 300 has 2.5kW of mechanical output, and weighs 5.4kg with a 16in bar and chain, but without the battery. It is recommended for use with Stihl’s Light 04 guide bar and 0.325in RS Pro chains, with bar lengths from 14–18in. Bar and chain options are identical to the popular MS 261 C-M 50.2cc petrol model.

Stihl rates the MSA 300 as a forestry, landscaping or arb saw for professional use, felling, delimbing and cutting wood to length. It has an effective anti-vibration system, and a comprehensive LED display showing chain brake position and the power setting as well as warning if the motor temperature becomes too high due to over-loading. If over-heating occurs, then the power reduces by 30%, allowing cutting to continue rather than cutting out altogether. Unlike the MSA 220, the new MSA 300 has adjustable power output in three stages, allowing the user to select maximum chain speeds to suit the application. Maximum speed is 30m/second, but standard speed is 24m/second, and a slower 20m/second setting maximises operating times between charges.

The new MSA 300 has a digital display just in front of the rear handle which confirms the selected power mode and operating status and displays overheat and maintenance warnings. The socket to the left of the rear handle is the connection point for Stihl’s Smart Connector 2A which links the saw to a mobile phone app for remote monitoring.

Professional use

As a forestry saw, the sprocket cover and chain tension are held by a pair of captive nuts rather than the more convenient thumb adjuster arrangement employed on Stihl’s smaller cordless saws. The chain oiler is adjustable and an integral air cleaner below the battery compartment ensures effective air circulation for cooling and requires checking and cleaning once per week.

Telematics option

The MSA 300 is supplied ready for use with Stihl’s Smart Connector 2A. The Smart Connector plugs directly into the saw’s control module and records working times, as well as operating mode and battery status. A smartphone app links to the Smart Connector by Bluetooth and provides a working history as well as warning when maintenance is due. When a smartphone isn’t connected, data is accumulated for down-loading later.

Head-to-head with battery equivalent

An opportunity to try out the new MSA 300 saw also allowed direct comparison with the equivalent MS 261 C-M petrol model, fitted with an identical bar and chain. Experienced arborists at the event were extremely impressed, and many commented that the battery model’s performance exceeded that of the petrol machine in terms of cutting rate and productivity. The saw is well balanced and easy to handle, and it performed equally well cutting small diameter logs or larger trunk sections.

Advantages compared to the petrol machine included reduced operating noise and vibration, reduced maintenance requirement and extra convenience with no fuel to mix or fill. The only complaint from those using the saw concerned an integral safety switch. Before using the saw the switch must be activated, then the user has three seconds to commence cutting otherwise the switch resets automatically. This works well, but there is less time available between cuts before the system re-enters safety mode if the lockout trigger isn’t held, which meant users were constantly resetting the system. It has to be safe, but for professional users the system was considered over-sensitive.


The Stihl MSA 300 saw offers a genuine alternative to general-purpose petrol saws for general farm use and for firewood processing. Battery operating times are always a factor when considering changing from petrol to battery saws, and in most cases at least two batteries will be needed for working away from a mains supply for charging. Stihl’s AP System batteries are compatible with the company’s full range of cordless products – allowing maximum benefit to be gained from the investment. The new AP 500 S battery has an exclusive laminated plate design to store and provide the power, and it can be charged up to 2,400 times before any significant drop in performance – equivalent to over three years of professional use charged twice per day. Partial charging and discharging will not affect the
long-term performance.

The new MSA 300 saw is available from this month, and with a 16in bar it carries a recommended retail price of £590 + VAT and comes with a two-year professional use warranty.

A new HEXA chain was displayed for the first time. A specially designed hexagonal file is needed for sharpening which makes it easy to achieve the ideal tooth filing angle for maximum performance. Productivity up to 10% higher than standard chains is claimed.

Most powerful petrol saw

Other news regarding Stihl’s chainsaw line-up included the new MS 881. Launched last year, this is the world’s most powerful production petrol chainsaw. With a 121.6cc 2-Mix power unit rated at 8.7hp, the MS 881 is rated for use with Stihl’s 0.404in RS chain. The standard bar length is 36in, but recommended bars are from 30–41in.

Chain boosts performance

Getting the best from a chainsaw depends on the chain design and how well it is maintained. Stihl has introduced new HEXA chains for models from the MS 362 C-M to the MS 661 C-M designed to maximise productivity and to be easy to maintain.

Key features include a new angled cutting profile instead of the conventional curve, and a narrower top kerf plate which is said to improve efficiency and increase productivity by up to 10%. Maintaining the extra cutting performance is achieved by using a bespoke file.

The HEXA file can only be used in its correct orientation and has a smooth underside which rides on the chain links without causing wear. Attempts to sharpen the chain with the file held at incorrect angles proved unsuccessful at the demonstration, and even those with little chain sharpening experience should be able to achieve satisfactory results. Because only two sides of the file are used during sharpening, each file’s working life is limited, so Stihl recommends that, as a rough guide, files are replaced with every third chain fitted. However – the chain’s cutting design results in longer working times between sharpening so each chain’s working life is extended. The new HEXA chains come individually or in upgrade kits which include two chains and one HEXA file.

Backpack blower

A new backpack cordless blower for professional use was demonstrated. The BGA 300 features an innovative motor and fan design which reduces high-pitched operating noise and makes it much quieter than current professional specification blowers. With an AR 3000 L back-pack battery, operation for up to 2.5 hours between charges is possible. Blowing power is adjustable in three stages to extend operating time, and a boost mode provides additional power for tough clearing tasks. A curved nozzle is standard, and the tube length is adjustable to ensure an ideal operating angle. The BGA 300 will be available in time for autumn leaf clearing this year.

The SGA 85 cordless sprayer has a 17-litre tank and can operate continuously for up to 8.5 hours, powered by Stihl’s smallest AP 100 battery.

Backpack cordless sprayer

The new SGA 85 battery-powered backpack sprayer has a 17-litre tank and weighs only 6.2kg empty, making it ideal for localised agricultural and horticultural weed control. The battery-powered pump avoids the noise and vibration of petrol-engine versions. All the controls are easily accessible beneath a hinged cover.

Powerful petrol clearing saw

For heavy cutting conditions – the new FS 561 C-EM from Stihl is the most powerful clearing saw to date – with a 57.1cc 2 Mix petrol engine and a cutting head capable of accommodating blades up to 560mm cutting diameter. A chisel-tooth circular saw blade is supplied as standard.

Safe strimming

Stihl also announced its new RGA 140 cordless brushcutter at the event. This has a reciprocating blade, cutter head. At first glance the cutting head looks like a clearing saw, but it consists of a pair of toothed blades which operate with a reciprocating action. This reduces the risk of stones or other debris being thrown from the cutting area and allows use on gravel and against obstructions as well as in populated areas at distances down to only 5m from people and 3m from objects. Because the blades reciprocate; the front and side sections do most of the work, so the discs can be rotated periodically for maximum working life. The RGA 140 uses Stihl’s AP System batteries and has adjustable speed control with three settings allowing power to be matched to applications for maximum battery life.

The new RGA 140 cordless brushcutter features a reciprocating cutting head. Capable of cutting through dense vegetation, the reciprocating head can be used closer to people and vulnerable objects than conventional rotary heads without the risk of stones or other debris being thrown.

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