When it comes to saws with versatility, reciprocating saws have always been at the top of the heap. But to increase their go-anywhere, cut-anything prowess, they’re available in battery-powered, cordless models. There’s not much these saws can’t do.
Whether it’s a construction project, a bit of yard cleanup, or just breaking down a pallet after a delivery, the best cordless reciprocating saw will be up to the task. Outfitted with the correct blades (which are quite easy to change), these saws are incredibly versatile, capable, and easy to use. Keep reading to learn more about choosing the best cordless reciprocating saw and see some top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: DEWALT 20V MAX Reciprocating Saw
- RUNNER-UP: Makita XRJ05Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Saw
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: SKIL PWR CORE 20 Compact Reciprocating Saw
- UPGRADE PICK: Makita XRJ06PT 18V x2 LXT Cordless Recipro Saw Kit
- BEST ONE-HAND: BOSCH GSA18V-083B 18 V Compact Reciprocating Saw
- BEST COMPACT: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Reciprocating Saw
- BEST SUBCOMPACT: Makita XRJ07ZB 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Sub-Compact Saw
Before You Buy a Cordless Reciprocating Saw
If there’s one area in which a cordless reciprocating saw does not excel, it’s precision. These saws have a lot of power, but the blades are long, relatively thin strips of metal that attach to the saw on just one end. As the saw pushes the blade back and forth, it will bow and bend similarly to a hand saw but at great speeds.
For this reason, it can be challenging to achieve consistent or square cuts on a stack of lumber, for example. You might be able to get each piece within ¼ inch of each other, but the deviation between pieces will likely make them unusable for building. The cut end will rarely be square.
If you need an accurate saw, it’s best to go with a circular or miter saw because their designs allow them to make consistent, repeatable cuts at specified angles. But for all those other jobs—even when on the go—you can’t beat the power, versatility, and small profile of a reciprocating saw.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Reciprocating Saw
The best cordless reciprocating saw can be an indispensable tool, as it can cut materials in a few seconds that otherwise take a few minutes to get through (or not be possible to cut at all). But there are a few factors to consider when shopping for these tools, and this section will point them out.
Standard vs. Compact/One-Handed
When cordless reciprocating saws first hit the market, they only came in large, dual-handed versions. Since then, manufacturers realized that there’s a market for compact or one-handed models, and many more options await DIYers.
- Standard cordless reciprocating saws feature two-handed designs with lots of power. They’re often almost 2 feet long, and they can weigh 10 pounds or more. Although they can be a bit of a handful, they provide excellent control.
- Compact and one-handed designs, as the names suggest, are smaller and easier to manipulate. They can be ideal for light-duty jobs since they often weigh less than 6 pounds. Compact models can produce just as much power as standard models, but they still require two hands to control safely. One-handed models aren’t as powerful, but users can easily manipulate them with one hand only.
Some of the earliest corded reciprocating saws had two modes: on or off. There weren’t any methods for controlling their speeds. Not only is this dangerous, but it can also make it harder to control the cut and will wear blades out faster. Luckily, today’s cordless models benefit from variable speeds.
Almost universally, cordless reciprocating saws have variable-speed triggers that allow the user to throttle the speed of the blade from just a few strokes per minute to full speed, which might be more than 2,500 strokes per minute. This variable speed allows the user to start the blade as accurately as possible and get the most life out of a blade or battery.
Most reciprocating saws use a back-and-forth stroke to gnaw through a material. The backward stroke cuts through the material, while the forward stroke resets the blade. This is usually more than sufficient, but when it comes to cutting through softer materials such as construction lumber, there’s a better way: orbital action.
Reciprocating saws with orbital action use a more circular blade path while cutting. On the blade’s backstroke, the blade also travels downward. On the forward stroke, the blade travels upward. This circular motion allows the blade to cut faster through softer materials like pine, cedar, and redwood, but it doesn’t do much else other than cause quite a chatter when cutting metal. Orbital action can be a feature on a cordless reciprocating saw but is not a common one.
Blade Type and Stroke
All reciprocating saws (corded or cordless) use interchangeable blades, and each type has a purpose for which it’s most suitable.
- Wood blades have large, aggressive teeth that rip through wood very quickly. They’re excellent for cutting through wood that’s free from nails or even for yard cleanup.
- Metal blades have small, fine teeth that remove small chunks of metal with each stroke. They’re best for cutting metal pipes, angle iron, and similar materials.
- Demolition/construction/combination blades can cut a mix of wood and metal. These blades’ primary purpose is to cut through wood but also slice through any embedded nails they might come across in the process.
Choosing the right blade allows the saw to cut most efficiently and ensures the blade and battery will last as long as possible.
It’s also worth noting that reciprocating saws have different stroke lengths. This refers to the back-and-forth distance that the blade travels. Compact models might have strokes under an inch, while larger models can easily exceed 1⅛ inches. The longer the stroke, the more teeth will pass over the material with each pass. But longer strokes can be a challenge in tighter locations, so keep that in mind.
Pro tip: Most reciprocating sawing occurs while cutting downward, but in some cases, upward pressure might be more efficient. In those cases, removing the blade and reinstalling it upside down allows the user to hold the saw comfortably while applying upward pressure.
In recent years, manufacturers have started designing both corded and cordless reciprocating saws with an eye toward ergonomics. While the original models work quite well, there are days when a pro or DIYer might spend several hours using a reciprocating saw, and the traditional grips and designs will show their shortcomings.
The ergonomic models have specially designed handles that allow the user to hold the saw at different positions depending on the angle at which they’re sawing. This adjustable handle allows users to find a comfortable position for their body instead of using a preset position or a compromised grip.
Also, vibration control via rubber grips is becoming more popular in these saws. The grips absorb some of the vibration associated with high-speed sawing, lessening the fatigue on the user’s hands, arms, shoulders, back, and neck.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about battery life when it comes to reciprocating saws. But know that the larger the amp-hour rating of the battery, the longer it will work for a particular saw. How long it will work depends on too many factors to nail down, including:
- Sawing speed
- Blade used
- Battery amp-hour rating
Cordless reciprocating saws with brushless motors will get more life out of a battery than the same model with a brushed motor, all other things being equal. If battery life is a priority, a brushless model is definitely the way to go. Remember to buy additional batteries for every model.
Our Top Picks
Adding the best cordless reciprocating saw to a tool chest might seem like a no-brainer, but choosing from among all the models on the market can be a challenge. The following list is a collection of some of the best cordless reciprocating saws available with many of these key considerations in mind.
When it comes to cordless reciprocating saws, this DEWALT model is a versatile and speedy choice. The 20V MAX reciprocating saw has a variable-speed trigger and runs at a top speed of 3,000 strokes per minute. With a stroke length of 1⅛ inches, it can handle almost any job. And, the rubber overmolded foregrip and handle combined with its 6-pound weight make this DEWALT reciprocating saw comfortable to use for hours.
This cordless reciprocating saw has more than just speed to offer. It uses DEWALT’s 20V MAX system batteries (though it does not come with one) to offer more runtime and power than its 18V competitors. It also features a toolless, four-position blade clamp so users can install the blade in the most useful orientation for a particular cut. This is a versatile and strong tool for pros and DIYers alike.
Makita’s XRJ05Z 18V is worth checking out for anyone hunting for a long blade stroke and plenty of speed control in a reciprocating saw. This tool features a two-speed transmission and a variable trigger that allow the user to choose from between 0 and 2,300 (low) and 0 and 3,000 (high) strokes per minute. It also features a brushless motor for making the most of a battery.
It’s not just the strokes per minute and brushless motor that allow this saw to cut quickly. This model also features a 1¼-inch blade stroke, which provides several more cutting teeth per stroke than shorter blades. The saw is 17¼ inches long and weighs only 5.7 pounds (8.2 pounds with a battery, which is not included). Its compact size can help a DIYer reach into tight spaces. When it’s time to switch out a blade, the XRJ05Z offers toolless blade changes.
Those looking for an affordable option for projects around the house might be interested in the SKIL PWR CORE 20 Compact Reciprocating Saw. This kit comes with a compact saw, a 2.0 Ah 20V lithium-ion battery, one blade, and a charger, allowing users to get to work straight away.
This compact reciprocating saw from Skil weighs just about 8 pounds with the battery attached. This model also features a variable trigger and a max speed of 3,000 strokes per minute. The stroke length is 1 inch, which isn’t aggressive but is typically more than enough for DIY projects. With toolless blade-change capability, switching between projects is easy. And should jobs occur in dark corners or dimly lit areas, the saw’s onboard LED work light helps.
Purchasing a complete kit is often the best way to go, and Makita’s XRJ06PT is a prime example of the value an upgrade can bring. This kit includes the cordless reciprocating saw, the saw blade, two 5.0 Ah batteries for plenty of runtime, the charger, and a bag to stow it all in for quick work and easy transport.
This standard-size cordless reciprocating saw features a variable-speed trigger that can throttle between 0 and 3,000 strokes per minute. That speed, toolless blade changes, and its 1¼-inch stroke length combine to help this saw cut through most materials quickly. And while it measures about 18 inches long, the tool weighs just 10.2 pounds with batteries clipped in. The rubberized foregrip and handle add a bit of ergonomic comfort to the mix as well.
Pros and DIYers looking for a one-handed cordless reciprocating saw should take a look at Bosch’s GSA18V-083B 18 V Compact model. This model features a unique design that allows users to control it comfortably with one hand, and, given it weighs just under 4½ pounds, it’s easy to handle. This Bosch saw measures just 15¾ inches long, allowing it to fit in some tight spaces when necessary.
Since it’s designed to work in those close quarters, the saw has a reduced blade stroke length of just over ¾ inch. While the reduced blade stroke is ¼ inch shorter than many models, the variable-speed trigger allows users to choose between 0 and 3,050 strokes per minute to make up for it. It also features toolless blade changes, allowing users to swap out dull blades in seconds. This is a bare tool, requiring a separate battery purchase.
The balance between size and capability is often a tough one to strike, but DEWALT’s 20V MAX XR Reciprocating Saw does it. This cordless reciprocating saw features a brushless motor and a compact design that measures just 14½ inches long. That combination allows it to fit between floor joists and wall studs while still providing up to 2,900 strokes per minute via a variable-speed trigger.
There’s a lot more to know about this saw, like its minimal weight (just 5 pounds sans battery) and four-position blade clamp. This reciprocating saw also features a 1⅛-inch stroke length, and an onboard LED work light illuminates dark work spaces while cutting. Just beware that this is a tool-only purchase, but batteries are available separately.
There’s compact, and then there’s subcompact, the latter of which describes Makita’s XRJ07ZB 18V LXT Lithium-Ion cordless reciprocating saw. This saw’s focus is punching above its weight class, offering 3,000 strokes per minute while measuring just 12½ inches long and weighing only 5.7 pounds with a battery attached (though this is a tool-only purchase).
The XRJ07ZB features a brushless motor that’s both powerful and efficient. This unit has a purposely reduced stroke length of 13/16 inch. The rubberized soft-grip handle makes using the subcompact saw comfortable, even if it’s an all-day job. There is also an onboard LED work light to prevent dark, tight places from slowing the project down.
FAQs About Cordless Reciprocating Saws
Even with this extensive background on the best cordless reciprocating saws, you might have some additional questions. This section aims to answer them, as it’s a collection of some of the most frequently asked questions about cordless reciprocating saws.
Q. What is a reciprocating saw good for?
There are a lot of excellent uses for a reciprocating saw, and some examples include:
- Construction and demolition
- Cutting metal pipes
- Breaking down shipping pallets
- Yardwork (such as pruning large branches)
Q. Are reciprocating saws dangerous?
Reciprocating saws don’t have any safeties or guards in place that will keep them from cutting someone, so they can be very dangerous if used unsafely.
Q. Are reciprocating saw blades universal?
Some reciprocating saw blades have specific uses. Wood and metal blades are for cutting their respective materials, but construction or demolition blades offer a combination of both.
Q. Can I use a reciprocating saw to cut tree branches?
Yes, a cordless reciprocating saw fitted with a wood blade is an excellent tool for cutting tree branches.
Q. How do you use a reciprocating saw?
To use a reciprocating saw:
- Don your safety gear (gloves, safety glasses, and eye protection).
- With the battery disconnected, open the blade clamp and insert the appropriate blade.
- Connect a battery.
- Assuming a stable position, put one hand on the foregrip and one on the handle (for one-handed models, this might not be possible).
- Place the blade on the material you’re preparing to cut.
- Slowly squeeze the trigger, and allow it to cut a groove into the material.
- Slowly increase the speed.
- Release the trigger when you’ve cut through the material.
Q. How long will my reciprocating saw last?
Older corded reciprocating saws have been known to last for decades, but professionals can get several years out of cordless reciprocating saws.