When it comes to home projects or demolition work, there are a number of tools you can use. While circular saws are great for precision cutting, they can't cut in curves. That's where reciprocating saws come in. From cutting pipes to fitting a window, reciprocating saws are incredibly versatile, which is why we put seven of them to the test.
After hours of testing, the Milwaukee Sawzall(available at Amazon) ended up being our top pick—not too surprising since reciprocating saws are often known as Sawzalls, after the Milwaukee brand. With its comfortable grip, included charger, and superior cutting power, we were impressed with its abilities to complete all our tests. Reciprocating saws can be pretty expensive, so it's important to find a good one to invest your money. Fortunately, we were largely satisfied with most of the saws we tested.
Here are the best reciprocating saws we tested ranked, in order:
Milwaukee 2720-21 M18 FUEL
Ryobi One+ P514
Black and Decker BDCR20B
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The Milwaukee 2720-20 M18 Fuel Sawzall was the standout favorite. Not only does it come with the saw, battery, charger, blades, and instruction manual, it has a stud hanger as well. If you've ever been at the top of a ladder and needed to set down a Sawzall, you know how important this feature is.
With a rubberized pistol grip in the back and a second-hand grip on the front, it's really comfortable to hold. It needs to be comfortable because, during our endurance test, this saw outperformed the other battery powered saws by over 2 ½ times. Whether that’s a function of superior battery or superior cutting—and this saw is a superior cutter—it’s hard to tell. That said, I was able to lop the end off of a 2x4 over a hundred times before the battery gave out.
As for downsides, it's worth mentioning that the levers that control the depth guard and blade changing mechanism are plastic. I'm not sure how these pieces will last in the long term. It’s also a little hard to clean, as it was spitting out sawdust for days after our final test.
Not only did this saw cut 2 ½ times more 2x4 pieces, but it also cost 2 ½ times more than the second most expensive saw on this list. However, we believe the price is offset by the included charger, battery, and hard shell case. Overall, if I had to pick a reciprocating saw, I'd certainly go with the Sawzall.
Sometimes you need to cut through more than a bunch of 2x4’s to get the job done. If a battery powered saw isn't cutting it (ha), you may want to consider a corded saw. The Bosch RS428 14 Amp Corded is of the corded variety and boy does it deliver. It's a beast of a saw and will happily destroy anything you care to put in front of it. The turning radius is especially impressive. It turns on a dime, which is great for precision cutting.
The saw itself is comfortable to hold, though I’d like to see more of a bump to rest on my hand between my thumb and pointer finger. My hand shimmied up the grip as I cut. Speaking of which, this saw did a great job at absorbing vibration. It was also comfortable to use for long periods of time. There's even a trigger lock that keeps the saw on. This is great since demolition jobs can go for a long time, but I would hate to think what would happen if you had the trigger lock feature on and you lost control of it.
There are a few drawbacks worth mentioning. The depth guard is a little finicky to move, and it's difficult to use the blade receptacle. You have to turn the black lock until it releases the blade and then hold it open while inserting a new one. Every other saw I tested had an easier way to change the blade. The Bosch also takes a second to rev up to speed—it’s a short delay, but noticeable. Once it’s going, it'll slice through just about anything fast.
Hi, my name is Adam Doud. I’m a technology reviewer and podcast host of the Android Authority podcast and the DGiT Daily podcast. Growing up, my father was a general contractor and I spent most of my formative years in his garage or on a job site helping out. I started with a broom and worked my way up from there. After college, I worked with my father for three years as a general contractor and electrician. All this makes me uniquely qualified to evaluate tools for Reviewed.
The testing process consisted of five different tests, but there were some variables we needed to consider first. Only one of the saws came with a metal cutting blade along with a wood/general use blade. To remedy this, I bought some Diablo Demo Demon general purpose blades for wood and metal cutting. We then tested five different cutting scenarios—Nail-embedded wood, 2x4 cutting, plywood cutting, metal cutting, and for our battery testing, we included an endurance test. I conducted all testing in the exact same order for each saw. The order was: nail embedded wood, 2x4 test, plywood cutting, endurance testing for battery-powered saws, and finally metal cutting. Here’s how we ran each test:
Nail Embedded Wood
I bought two pine 2x12 boards and glued them together using wood glue. Then I drove ten nails into the end of the wood, five into each board. After that, I clamped the wood to my work table and proceeded to cut in a downward stroke. I performed each cut four times. Twice, I held the saw and applied pressure with my second hand. Two other times, I hung a 10-pound weight on the saw near the controlling hand grip. I used my second hand just to guide the saw, letting gravity do the work. I recorded each of the four times and averaged both sets of times.
2 x 4 Wood
I bought several pine 2x4” boards and clamped them in a staggered fashion to my work table. The boards were staggered so that I could cut in a downward motion through three 2x4’s with space in between each board. I performed this test four times, twice by hand and twice with the 10-pound weight as described above. I recorded and averaged two sets of times for each test.
Plywood Obstacle Course
I used an 8x4’ sheet of ¾” OSB plywood, ripped down the center (to make 2-2x8’ boards). I drew a 2 ½” wide staircase pattern to test the saw’s agility in turns. I tested each saw twice, recording the times of the cuts and measuring the turning radius of each saw. I did not conduct this test with a 10-pound weight as that would have put undue stress on the cutting blade during the horizontal portion of the test.
Using a pine 2x4” board, I held down the trigger of the saw and cut downward, cutting off approximately 1” of wood at a time. When the battery died, I recorded the number of cuts made. During testing, I had one outlier in the data, so I performed the test with that saw a second time.
Metal Cutting Test
I replaced the blades in the saws with Diablo metal cutting blades. I clamped a 1” diameter steel pipe, a ¾” diameter steel pipe, and a piece of ¼” rebar (note: measure the rebar) to a table in a horizontal fashion. I cut approximately 1” off the end of each piece of metal in succession, adding up the times it took to cut through all three pieces of metal (and not including the time moving from piece to piece). I conducted this test twice and averaged the times together.
What is a Reciprocating Saw?
The “reciprocating” part of the saw’s name refers to the motion of the blade—it goes in and out just like a normal hand saw. This is just a mechanical hand that moves at thousands of strokes per minute. It’s shaped a little like a nerf gun with a pistol grip one end, but on the other side instead of soft darts, you’ll find a blade.
Reciprocating saws are generally used in demolition work when you need something to go away. It might be a wall, it might be a door, it might be a metal pipe. Reciprocating saws don’t care. If you've heard the phrase "using a scalpel instead of a broadsword," a reciprocating saw is the broadsword in this analogy.
The bottom line is that they're handy and good at doing what they do. They’re not necessarily part of an essential DIY repairman’s toolbox unless your projects involve a lot of demolition work. They're not accurate. They are powerful machines and mishandling one can lead to a very bad day.
Other Reciprocating Saws We Tested
Ryobi One+ P514
Late in my father’s career—I learned everything I know from him—he became a Ryobi man. When it came time to put this list together, Ryobi was one of the first brands I picked up. While I wasn't disappointed by the saw's overall performance, I wasn’t terribly impressed either.
The cool thing about this saw is that it has a straight mode (the blade moves in and out) and an orbital mode (the blade moves in a circular motion)—though I confess I didn’t notice much of a difference between the two. The integrated light is nice because it makes cutting in low light a breeze. It also has the nicest blade changing mechanism of the bunch. When you open the level to remove the blade, it'll lock open until you close it. The batteries are easy to change, too.
The grip didn’t have enough of a dip up near the trigger, so during long cutting sessions, my hand slipped off the top of the saw. It also can’t turn to save its life. I was able to turn the saw in our obstacle test, but it ran off the course in doing so. It's a nice saw, for sure, but it's not the best. Longevity and grip make it harder to use than I'd like.
Our next runner up is the Bosch CRS180-B 18V. The standout feature is the blade changing mechanism. When it snaps shut the blade is locked in tight, which is good. However, you have to push the blade down to get it to snap shut. It also performed well during cutting and endurance testing, falling short only to our top pick.
It falls a little short of its brother’s rank largely due to the poor turning radius in the plywood test, and the lack of bells and whistles. There's no light at the end of the saw and the depth gauge isn't adjustable. There's not much grip on the saw, and it doesn’t absorb vibration well.
At the end of the day, it's a good saw, as it cuts very well. But similar to the Ryobi, there just isn't much to brag about. It’ll get the job done, for sure, but it’s not the best we've seen.
This DEWALT is a good middle-of-the-pack option. The grip on the saw is decent, but there's hardly any shock absorption when cutting. The saw had a middling turning radius during our plywood test and it consistently performed near the bottom of the rankings during our timed tests. It definitely cuts, but it just doesn’t cut particularly well.
There's some weirdness going on with the depth guard. It's not adjustable, but there's more to the story here. It's actually a steel piece attached to the end of the rubberized grip on the saw. It looks like DEWALT designed a reciprocating saw, but forgot to include a depth guard, so it cobbled one together from extra parts.
The front grip is comfortable but it narrows considerably near the nose of the saw—if you don’t count that extra depth guard. The blade changing lever is made of plastic, so I question its long-term durability. It's an OK saw. If anything, it's pretty inexpensive.
Not only is the Black and Decker BDCR20B the lightest saw of the bunch, but it's also one of the most maneuverable. It performed well during the plywood obstacle course, as it had a tight turning radius. However, it made the fewest cuts during our endurance testing. That said, it's not a bad saw.
If you’re looking for a lightweight saw, then this is a good option. Unlike the other battery powered saws, which all had a base unit that the battery slid into to charge, the Black and Decker charger is a small plastic piece that slides into the battery to charge it. It's the least expensive saw we tested, too.
Unfortunately, this saw failed all our tests. It didn't cut well and then it ended up shorting out. We're unsure if we have a defective product, so we've reached out to Rigid. We'll update this article after we receive a response.
Like the Black and Decker saw, it's incredibly small and lightweight. It also has an orbital mode (this allows the blade to move in a circular motion), which helps the saw cut through different materials. But the unique thing about this saw is that you can use it with one hand.
It's light and the trigger is large and easy to squeeze, which is all well and good. But if you’re doing demolition work, this saw probably won't give you the leverage you need, as there’s no other place to put your free hand. It's also a straight saw with no pistol grip. That means you have to bend your wrist at an awkward angle to cut anything above waist level.
This saw seems to have been intentionally designed for the carpenter on-the-go. We like that idea in theory, but the execution is a little off, as it's kind of awkward to use in most circumstances. The fact that it doesn't cut very well simply exacerbated the experience.
Adam has been a reviewer in mobile technology and consumer electronics for six years. He is a podcast producer who hosts the DGiT Daily podcast and the Android Authority podcast. When he's not testing products or speaking into a microphone, he's biking, geocaching, or shooting video.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.