When it comes to home projects or demolition work, there are a number of tools you can use. Circular saws are great for precision cutting, but they can't cut in curves.
This is where reciprocating saws come in. From cutting pipes to fitting a window, reciprocating saws are incredibly versatile, which is why we put 14 of them, primarily cordless models, to the test.
After weeks of testing, the Milwaukee Fuel Sawzall(available at Amazon for $359.27) 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 and speed, 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.
These are the best reciprocating saws we tested, ranked in order:
Milwaukee 2720-21 M18 FUEL
Kobalt KRS 1824B-03
Ryobi One+ P514
Porter Cable PCC670B
Skil Pwrcore RS582902
Black & Decker BDCR20B 20V Max
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The Milwaukee 2720-21 M18 Fuel Sawzall was a standout. Not only does it come with the cordless reciprocating saw, battery, charger, reciprocating saw blades, and instruction manual, but 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 every other saw in terms of the sheer number of cuts made, and it came in second in terms of cuts per amp-hour (AH) of battery capacity.
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 a 2x4 over 150 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. Also, the saw was a little hard to clean, as it was spitting out sawdust for days after our final test. And, it was a bit rough on blades—during our metal-cutting test, we swapped to a new blade after the third set of cuts.
Not only did the Milwaukee Fuel Sawzall cut more 2x4 pieces, but it was also the most expensive saw on this list. However, we believe the price is offset by the included charger, battery, and hard-shell case, and the fact that this saw features a brushless motor, which is more efficient, powerful, and longer lasting than typical brushed motors.
If you expect to use a reciprocating saw for anything even remotely strenuous, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better quality tool. The Milwaukee Fuel Sawzall is the tool that I’ll be picking up for my own personal use after testing.
Sometimes you need to cut through more than a bunch of 2x4s to get the job done. If a battery powered saw isn't cutting it (ha), you may want to consider a corded reciprocating saw. The Bosch RS428 14 Amp Corded is of the corded variety, and boy, does it deliver.
This beast of a saw will happily destroy anything you put in front of it. The turning radius is especially impressive, and it turns on a dime, which is great for precision cutting.
The Bosch RS428 itself is comfortable to hold, even for long periods of time, 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 with vibration control. There's even a lock on the variable speed trigger 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 Bosch RS428’s 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 RS428 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.
When you’ve got a job that requires a reciprocating saw, you won’t find another tool that can do what it does. However, for the average person, the need for a reciprocating saw doesn’t often arise, and $300-plus for a tool you use once or twice a year might feel excessive. Fortunately, the affordable Porter Cable 20V Max Variable Speed Reciprocating Saw has everything the occasional-use homeowner needs in a saw, and it is our budget-friendly pick of the litter.
This Porter Cable 20V Max is light and portable, comfortable in two hands, but easily wieldable with one. It is a bit slower in cutting than some of the higher-end saws, but it cut smoothly and cleanly with a tighter turning radius than most of the other saws we tested. It has no bells and whistles, but on a tool built primarily for demolition, bells and whistles aren’t often needed.
Perhaps most impressive was its battery life. We tested with a 4AH battery, and as far as cuts per AH go, the Porter Cable was actually the top performer, and came in second overall in terms of cuts completed.
With a combination of price, performance, and battery capacity, this little saw is a solid choice for the budget-conscious, occasional-use homeowner.
Hi, I’m Jean Levasseur. I’m a former conveyor mechanic, current property manager, and a hobbyist woodworker, in addition to being a writing instructor at a local university. I come from a family of tool-users—my grandfather was a carpenter, my father owned an excavation company, and my mother was a mechanic.
Between growing up working for my family’s businesses and then moving onto my own projects, I’ve used most tools you’ve heard of and quite a few that you haven’t. I am particularly excited to be testing Sawzalls, since I’m in the market for a new one after my 10-year-old Craftsman bit the dust.
I completed a second round of testing, building off of initial research and testing from Adam Doud. Adam is a technology reviewer and podcast host of the Android Authority podcast and the DGiT Daily podcast. Growing up, his father was a general contractor, and he spent most of my formative years in his garage or on a job site helping out. After college, he worked with his father for three years as a general contractor and electrician.
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, we went out and purchased blades appropriate to the tasks: Diablo Demo Demon general purpose blades, Milwaukee general purpose blades, and Dewalt metal blades.
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. We 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:
I bought two pine 2x12 boards and glued them together using wood glue. Then I drove 10 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.
I bought several pine 2x4 boards and clamped them in a staggered fashion to my work table so that I could cut in a downward motion through three 2x4s 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 .75 inch OSB plywood, ripped down the center (to make two 2x8 boards). I drew a 2.5 inch-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-inch 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 a second time. Because we were testing saws with different battery capacities, we also calculated and considered how many cuts were made per amp-hour (AH) of battery capacity.
I replaced the blades in the saws with Diablo metal cutting blades. I clamped a 1-inch diameter steel pipe, a .75 inch diameter steel pipe, and a piece of .25 inch rebar (note: measure the rebar) to a table in a horizontal fashion. I cut approximately 1 inch 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. We also ran through this with a 10-pound weight hanging from the saw. This test did ruin a few of the metal blades we used, so new blades were swapped in as needed, but we did make a note of which saws were roughest on blades.
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 on 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 tool box 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.
What to Know About Batteries
One of the sometimes-overlooked decisions in buying a power tool is the battery. There are two battery numbers that matter when buying any power tool: voltage and amp-hours (AH). Generally speaking, voltage is the power rating of the saw—the higher the voltage, the more powerful the saw, at least theoretically.
Of course, a well-engineered, lower-voltage tool can still outperform a higher-voltage tool, as we saw with the 18-volt Milwaukee Fuel outperforming the 24-volt Kobalt. But voltage gives you at least a good starting place.
Amp-hours, on the other hand, refers to the battery’s capacity, or how long the battery will run before it needs to be recharged. Again, the more amp-hours the battery has, the longer the battery should power the tool, though we saw examples of lower AH batteries outperforming some that were rated higher on paper.
When choosing a saw, you want to get the largest battery capacity that fits your budget, but I wouldn’t recommend going below 3AH. Purchasing a second battery will also save you a lot of frustration down the road, particularly if the saw you pick comes with a lower AH battery. There is nothing worse than having to put a project on hold while you wait for a battery to charge.
One-Handed vs. Two-Handed Reciprocating Saws
I first saw a one-handed reciprocating saw when a plumber pulled it out of his toolbag to cut a pipe under my sink. However, I’d never personally used one, so I was excited at the opportunity to put a couple to the test.
Unfortunately, all three one-handed saws we put through these tests disappointed.
While lightweight and easy enough to control with one hand, they simply lack the power for even medium-duty work. Cutting through basic 2x4s was a struggle. Most of the tasks I put them through required me to use two hands on the saw anyway.
While they could be used with two hands, doing so was uncomfortable as my second hand was right on top of the heat exhaust fan. And, if I had to use two hands anyway, there were lightweight two-handed saws (like the Porter Cable) that dramatically outperformed any of the one-handed saws.
If you have a specific use case where a lower-power, one-handed saw would be useful, like cutting PVC in awkward spaces, then by all means, pick up the 24-volt, one-handed Kobalt. For the rest of you, just get a two-handed saw. You’ll be able to do far more in far less time.
Other Reciprocating Saws We Tested
Kobalt KRS 1824B-03
At 24 volts, the Kobalt KRS 1824B-03 was the most powerful battery-operated saw we tested, at least on paper. It held its own against the Milwaukee Fuel through most of the tests, and it even outperformed on a few. Overall, this saw was a beast. It performed near the top in all of our tasks, cutting easily and cleanly through everything we put in front of it.
As a heavier-duty, more expensive saw, the Kobalt also has some nice bells and whistles: a built-in work light, an extendable shoe, a battery charge indicator, and even two different cutting modes (straight and orbital). Though, frankly, I didn’t notice a significant difference in performance between the two cutting modes. This is a workhorse that gets the job done.
That said, there were a few issues with the Kobalt KRS 1824B-03 that were enough to put it behind the Milwaukee. While it turned easily enough while cutting, it did have a much larger turning radius than some of the other saws, which could be limiting in some more precision cutting applications.
It also vibrated a great deal, even for a reciprocating saw, enough to be uncomfortable to use after a while. The second hand grip, while it fit my hand well enough, seemed to be covered in loose, flimsy rubber that I could anticipate coming off relatively quickly. And, perhaps most detrimentally, it ruined several blades during our metal-cutting test.
If you’re committed to the Kobalt line already, this is a quality product, but it just didn’t perform quite as well as the Milwaukee.
While we weren’t disappointed by the saw's overall performance, we weren’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 of saws we tested. When you open the level to remove the blade, it locks 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 its longevity and grip make it harder to use than I'd like.
The younger brother of our ultimate winner, the regular Milwaukee M18 Sawzall is an impressive tool in and of itself. Though it was slower than our top performers, it still breezed through all of our tests without a stutter. Like the Fuel, the Milwaukee M18 made it through our plywood obstacle course in half the time of the next fastest saw. This is another saw that would make a fine addition to anyone’s toolbox.
That said, given that it’s not that much cheaper than the Fuel once the battery, charger, and case are factored in, the lack of additional features like a light, extendable shoe, hanging hook, and the fact that it doesn’t have a brushless motor are a real detriment to this saw.
This saw also seemed to have several noticeable drops in power as the battery began to diminish. Add this and the lack of features to the somewhat reduced performance, and it doesn’t seem like a great buy. It’ll do the job, but others will do it better.
The Skil Pwrcore RS582902 is another of the saws that was good, but not great. It completed all of our tests in reasonable, though not stellar, times. It didn’t hiccup or complain about any of them, and it was easy enough to use.
The Skil had arguably its best performance on our plywood obstacle course, where it had the tightest turning radius of any of the saws that I tested, and a respectable time. It was light in the hand, easy to control, and comfortable to use over a longer period of time.
That said, this is another saw without a ton of extra features to make up for lesser performance. And, while it does have the ability to change the blade depth, doing so requires the use of a hex key.
Skil does provide that hex key, but the storage slot they built into the saw so you don’t lose it isn’t tight enough. The key kept vibrating out of place and falling, which just means you’re probably going to lose it. To whit, at some point I didn’t notice it fall out, and I lost it.
Another decent performer, but the Porter Cable is simply a better machine at a comparable size.
The best feature of the Bosch CRS180-B 18V 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 performers.
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 cut wood and other materials very well. But, similar to the Ryobi, there just isn't much to brag about.
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.
If you’re committed to buying a one-handed reciprocating saw, this is probably the one that you should get. It didn’t perform that much worse than some of the middle-tier two-handed saws, and dramatically outperformed the other one-handed saws that we tested. If you are cutting lighter-weight material like PVC, this will do the job. There is something to be said for the ease of using a saw with one hand.
However, most of the tasks that we put the saws through required me to use two hands to complete, which was not comfortable at all using the Kobalt 24V. The struggle was most challenging on the metal cutting and nail-embedded wood tests.
The two-handed saws each cut through the nails without much sign that the material had changed. The Kobalt had a noticeable drop in performance through every single nail. It’s simply not a saw meant for heavy-duty cutting.
Which is fine—use the tool that’s right for the job. If you’re planning to cut a lot of PCV, then this one-handed Kobalt might be right for you. If not, pick a two-handed saw.
Not only is the Black & Decker BDCR20B one of the lightest saws 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 some of the fewest cuts during our endurance testing. It also vibrated pretty heavily throughout the testing, making it uncomfortable to wield for an extended period of time. That said, it's not a bad saw.
If you’re looking for a lightweight saw, then this is a decent option. Unlike the other battery-powered saws, which all had a base unit that the battery slid into to charge, the Black & Decker charger is a small plastic piece that slides into the battery to charge it. It's one of the least expensive saws we tested, too.
My table saw is a Dewalt. My favorite clamps are Dewalt. Most of the tools I used as a conveyor mechanic were Dewalt. I’ve been a fan of Dewalt tools for a long time, and I was excited to get my hands on the brand’s one-handed reciprocating saw.
Unfortunately, I was immediately disappointed.
This saw simply didn’t have the power to make it through our tests. It took forever to cut through anything even remotely strenuous, to the point that I almost gave up on the testing a few times. It took twice as long as the next slowest saw to make it through our nail-embedded wood and metal tests, and that was with me using my second hand. The only positive comment that I have is that it didn’t vibrate that much.
As I’ve said already, don’t buy a one-handed reciprocating saw unless you know you need one. And if you do need one, then get the Kobalt.
Hart is the new brand of power tools launched in late 2019 by Walmart, and I was curious to see how the reciprocating saw would stand up to the competition. This was one of the least expensive saws that we tested, but unfortunately it seems to be a case of getting what you pay for.
The Hart HPRS01 failed a few tests. It couldn’t make it through the metal cutting without recharging, and had the lowest number of cuts per AH of capacity of any saw that we tested. When it came time for the nail embedded wood test with the 10-pound weight, the Hart never finished a full cut.
I tried three times with a full charge, and the battery died every time. This is an underpowered, slow saw. The only positives about it were that it didn’t vibrate too much, and it cut smoothly and cleanly—when it actually finished the task.
Even the pivoting shoe extension feature was marked by cheapness. The shoe extends with a hex key, much like the Skil, but Hart doesn’t even provide the key to do it.
There were several other saws at a similar price point in this test, all of which performed better. Pick one of them up instead.
Unfortunately, this saw failed all of our tests. It didn't cut well and then it ended up shorting out.
Like the Black & Decker saw, this compact reciprocating saw is 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.
Jean Levasseur became a professional writer over a decade-long career in marketing, public relations, and technical writing. After leaving that career to stay home to care for his twin boys, Jean has continued to write in a variety of freelance roles, as well as teaching academic writing at a local university. When he's not reviewing tools or chasing toddlers around the house, he's also an avid fiction writer and a growing woodworker.
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.