Reviews

This Battery Chainsaw Beat a Dozen Competitors During Testing

No pull starts, ample power and runtime, and amazing operator comfort make it one of the best electric chainsaws for the money.
Mark Wolfe Avatar
Someone removing the bar guard from the Stihl MSA electric chainsaw
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

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There are plenty of sound reasons to own a good chainsaw, and it needn’t be bulky, heavy, or difficult to operate. Battery electric chainsaws tackle a wide range of cutting projects without the stink and mess of gasoline, the hassle of pull starting, or the inconvenience of an extension cord. Even a small 12-inch model can prune tree branches, remove shrubs, clean up storm debris, trim the tops of fence posts, level the base of a fresh-cut Christmas tree, and much more. Stihl offers a few excellent options, including the Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V battery chainsaw.

As a century-old leader in outdoor power equipment, Stihl has arguably the best reputation and most loyal customer base in the industry. The German corporation built its brand by producing rugged and reliable chainsaws as well as string trimmers, hedge shears, leaf blowers, and other handheld lawn, landscape, and forestry tools. As the market pivots from gasoline to battery power, Stihl’s new battery-powered tool lineup indicates that it will continue to be a market leader into the future. In my backyard test of the best electric chainsaws for home use, the Stihl MSA 140 C-B battery electric chainsaw earned the top spot.

After vetting more than 40 electric chainsaws, I field-tested 12 battery and corded electric models from leading brands like DeWalt, Echo, Husqvarna, Oregon, Stihl, and others. Although the Stihl MSA 140 C-B was not equipped with the longest guide bar or the most cutting power of the group, it outperformed the field in terms of versatility and overall user experience. Read on for the details.

Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V Battery Chainsaw: At a Glance

Rating: 9.6/10

A close-up of the Stihl MSA electric chainsaw
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

PROS

  • Electric motor offers extremely low vibration, nearly zero maintenance, and quiet operation
  • Extended runtime per charge: up to 45 minutes with the included AK 30 battery
  • Weight-balanced design allows for easy maneuvering, even in confined cutting areas
  • Fast cutting action, even in seasoned hardwood

CONS

  • Premium price point for outstanding quality and comfort
  • Undersized for felling and bucking trees larger than about 10 inches in diameter
  • Slow 3-hour-plus recharge time on the included AL 101 battery charger

Get the Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V battery chainsaw at:

What is the Stihl MSA 140 C-B?

The Stihl MSA 140 B-C is a lightweight battery-powered chainsaw, ideally suited for general lawn and landscape tasks, like pruning and storm cleanup, as well as light-duty forestry work. The saw comes equipped with a 12-inch guide bar, bar sheath, narrow kerf saw chain, AK 30 36V battery, and AL 101 battery charger.

The quiet electric motor is great for working in noise-sensitive neighborhoods. It is engineered for high torque with low vibration for outstanding cutting performance and user comfort. A lightweight build and balanced design further improve comfort while boosting maneuverability. Fully assembled for work, the saw weighs in at just 8.6 pounds. The efficient motor and powerful battery combine to deliver smooth yet aggressive cutting performance for up to 45 minutes per charge.

I spent half a day limbing, trimming, and slicing rounds with this saw, and I have to say it was a pleasure. After 4 hours—pruning tree branches from waist to chest height, felling and bucking a small dead tree, and cutting a 10-inch-diameter oak log into dozens of discs—I was none the worse for wear. The blade moved fast, stayed sharp, and (notably) the saw used up two batteries and approximately 25 percent of a third.

My hands, shoulders, and back felt less stiff and fatigued after working with the MSA 140 C-B than they do after a similar workout with my small 340-cubic-centimeter two-cycle chainsaw, which weighs just a few ounces more. I liked that I didn’t need to wear earplugs, and I especially appreciated not having to pull start the saw. The Stihl MSA 140 C-B offers an excellent alternative to small gas chainsaws for general yard work, delivering equivalent power and performance with none of the maintenance associated with gas engines and greatly improved user comfort.

Product Specs

  • Power source: 36V Stihl AK 30 battery
  • Weight: 8.6 pounds (with battery installed)
  • Guide bar length: 12 inches
  • Chain: ¼-inch-pitch Oilomatic Stihl Picco PM3 chain
  • Bar oil capacity: 3.7 ounces
  • Runtime: 45 minutes (with AK 30 battery)
  • Charge time: 205 minutes (on AL 101 charger)
A person using the Stihl MSA electric chainsaw to saw the end off a log
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

Is the Stihl MSA 140 C-B chainsaw easy to use?

In my tests, the operation was simple and intuitive. The saw operated much like a gas model, but even more easily since I didn’t have to choke it during startup or pull start it after every pause in work. With the battery installed, I simply released the chain brake and squeezed the trigger to start cutting. Like any other chainsaw, it worked best when I avoided excess pressure and let the chain do its job.

As a safety precaution to prevent accidental starting, the battery clicked into a holding position when first installed. In this position, the battery stayed in place but the motor would not start. A second push clicked the battery into the operating position. While operating, the manual chain brake and thumb-activated safety switch served as safety stops.

The toolless blade tensioner system was conveniently positioned above the guide bar retainer for quick adjustments and minimal work stoppage. A sign of Stihl’s saw-chain quality was that, after initially setting up the saw for testing, I only had to adjust the tension one additional time.

The estimated “45 minutes of runtime per charge” seemed to be an estimate of nonstop triggering. In actual working conditions, when a 5- to 10-second cut was followed by 5 to 30 seconds of blade stoppage, I estimate battery life lasted closer to 1.5 hours.

Since I was testing several other tools from the Stihl AK battery series at the same time, I was fortunate to start with a stable of fully charged batteries and swap them out as needed. Otherwise, I would have had to wait about 3 hours and 25 minutes to completely recharge the depleted AK 30 battery. For faster charging, I recommend upgrading to the AL 300 rapid charger to replenish the AK 30 battery in one hour.

A person using the Stihl MSA electric chainsaw to saw the end off a log
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

Is the Stihl MSA 140 C-B battery chainsaw good for tree work?

Overall, the Stihl MSA1 40 C-B seemed to be an ideal fit for most general homeowner needs as well as light tree work. Those who cut firewood will find that it’s too small to safely fell even moderately sized trees, but it is very useful for working in the crown of a downed tree. The compact size and lightweight build make it safe and easy to maneuver within dense branch growth. The 12-inch bar is ideally suited for cutting branches up to 8 inches in diameter, and occasional branches up to 11 inches.

The MSA 140 C-B’s cutting operation felt significantly smoother, with much less vibration than either my gas saw or the other battery saws I tested. Yet it cut easily, and with good aggression for a compact saw. This is due—in part, at least—to the saw’s narrow kerf (width of material removed in the cut), optimally sized ¼-inch chain pitch, and efficient chain oiler; however, the smooth-running motor has to get a fair share of the credit here as well.

Another nice difference between this saw and many of the others I tested was its relatively narrow powerhead. The narrower saw body placed its center of gravity closer to my body, which seemed to have a positive effect on overall balance. It was comfortably maneuverable in areas where safe operating space was limited and where caution was required while thinning densely spaced branches.

Someone adding oil to the Stihl MSA electric chainsaw
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila

Is the Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V battery chainsaw worth the money? 

To determine the real value of this saw and how it compares to the competition, I started by researching the prices of 12-inch gas, electric, and battery chainsaws. Prices for gas-powered models range from about $150 to $450, corded electric chainsaws from $50 to $150, and battery chainsaws were priced similarly to gas at $150 to $400. At a regular price of $369.99, the Stihl MSA 140 C-B trends toward the top of the price range for 12-inch chainsaws—so it’s fair to ask if it’s worth the money.

As a premium tool from a legacy brand, buyers can expect to get their money’s worth from this saw. To begin with, it comes equipped with everything needed to start working; keep in mind that some low-priced saws may be sold without a battery or charger, or may not include a protective bar sheath. But this saw really shines in side-by-side operating comparison with other 12-inch chainsaws.

Battery chainsaws in general offer low noise, convenient starting, and zero engine maintenance as definitive advantages over gas or corded electric competitors. But many battery chainsaws are not as well built as this one. In my backyard tests, the MSA 140 C-B offered the best combination of cutting power and user comfort among a dozen models from top tool brands. For that reason, I think the above-average price point is warranted.

Should you buy the Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V battery chainsaw?

The Stihl MSA 140 C-B battery chainsaw is one of the best battery chainsaws around. The compact, lightweight saw is an excellent choice for those in need of a dependable tool for pruning and general yard cleanup. The short bar and narrow body make it highly maneuverable, especially for more confined work areas. It also holds its own as a secondary saw for light forestry work. The quiet electric motor should not disturb the neighbors, and it cuts fast with very little vibration. The long-lasting battery delivers excellent running time to maximize production.

This little saw does not require very much storage space either. It is small enough to transport in a truck tool box or, since it doesn’t use gas, even inside the vehicle if needed. And going gas-free makes tons of sense for occasional users. The saw will happily sit in the garage with no maintenance for months on end, yet remain ready to work at a moment’s notice. No need to worry about stale fuel, dirty filters, or carburetor problems. Insert a charged battery and it’s ready to go for 45 minutes or longer. Although the MSA 140 C-B is not the cheapest chainsaw around, it is highly capable, easy to operate, and built for a long, dependable working life.

Where to Buy the Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V Battery Chainsaw

Get the Stihl MSA 140 C-B 36V battery chainsaw at:

Meet the Tester

Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years, he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor living goods.

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Mark Wolfe

Staff Writer

Mark Wolfe is a second-career freelance writer based in Georgia and has an extensive background in the horticulture industry. Since 2020, he has contributed numerous gardening and home improvement articles to BobVila.com, along with a variety of consumer product reviews.

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