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Stihl MS 261 Review

Post in 'The Gear' started by Manitoulin Maples, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. Manitoulin Maples

    Manitoulin Maples Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2011
    Messages:
    104
    Loc:
    Manitoulin Island, Ontario
    Sitting here looking at my stacks I cut this winter with the MS 261 and figured a quick review was in order. Many of you helped me with the purchase of this saw and that thread is here http://www.hearth.com/talk/threads/chainsaw-advice-please-update-with-pics.73703/

    I don't have a pile of experience with chainsaws so take that into account but here's my .02 cents and hopefully this will help others making a decision if they are considering this model.

    - the weight is awesome and was a big factor when I was handling different models at the dealer. I spent a few days this winter cutting all day and the saw was never cumbersome.
    - the pro anti vibe works great and a nice touch when you're cutting for long periods.
    - it's dead simple to operate and clean.
    - maintenance is super easy and this was something I never considered when looking at saws but after doing routine work on the saw it's now something that I hold in high regard. everything is laid out really well and it's easy to tear down and re assemble. and the captive bar nuts are awesome! the first time I had to adjust the chain in the field in deep snow i had a big grin on my face. no need to remove your gloves and no missing nuts you find in the spring when the snow melts.
    - the new air filter works as advertised....love this feature and it's really easy to tap it clean.
    - this winter I cut maple, ironwood, oak, ash, elm, basswood, poplar, spruce and cedar with no issues. it eats up everything i've thrown at it. of course it won't rip through a big chunk of hardwood as fast as you can with softwood but i expect that's the case with most saws. I'm also not that concerned with the whole ripping cookies thing off a log at light speed. i just want it to cut firewood plain and simple. it dig bog down a bit one afternoon in some big elm but i was pushing the saw hard and it needed to be sharpened. it was one of those times when you know you should sharpen the chain but you just have a few more cuts left and your done!
    - it's seemingly built really well and everything works as it should - never had any issues with it
    - gas and oil seem to last a long time. actually i was really impressed with how long a tank of gas would last. and now that i think about it, the transparent gas tank is another nice feature, the adjustable oiler was handy in cold temps and the adjustable summer/winter carb switch worked well too.

    I suppose in the end I got what I paid for. I was skeptical about spending the extra $$$ for the pro features and now I can say that this was money well spent. If, like me, you're shopping new saws for landscaping and firewood duty then I'd highly recommend it over Stihl's 270, 280 or 290 type saws. That's not to say those other models are inherently bad or have faults, it's just that the feature set on the 261 is indeed worth the upgrade in price.

    I was actually finding things to cut some days just because I liked using it so much!

    Action pics!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Drvn4wood, smokinj, n6crv and 5 others like this.

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  2. DMZX

    DMZX Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Messages:
    211
    Loc:
    NE. Oregon
    When I bought my 290, that was the saw I really wanted, but just did not have the money at the time. I like the 290 just fine, but some day I am going to sell it and upgrade to a 261.
  3. bogydave

    bogydave Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2009
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    8,426
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    So Cent ALASKA
    Makes cutting fire wood allot more fun with a good saw.
    You'll get many more years of work out of the MS261.
    I bet it was easier & faster to cut & buck the tree than it was to load it in a sled & drag it to the pile :)
  4. Manitoulin Maples

    Manitoulin Maples Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2011
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    104
    Loc:
    Manitoulin Island, Ontario
    Good eye on the sled! I have access to a neighbours ATV that I can skid logs out of the bush with but in that location it was just easier to haul out rounds by hand in the sled. My house is barely visible in the background and the splitting area is closer still so I didn't really have that far to haul it.
  5. Clyde S. Dale

    Clyde S. Dale Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2010
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    266
    Loc:
    SE PA
    I sold my MS290 a few weeks back and have been selling other things on Craigslist to get the $$$ to purchase the MS261. I expect this week will be the week and my BIL has some logs waiting for me to break it in on. With the cooler temps around here this week I'll be able to get a tank through it before the summer heat and then can pick things back up in the fall. Thanks for the write up - it reinforces the decision I've already made.
  6. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Anderson, Indiana
    Wow that gear is bright!
  7. mecreature

    mecreature Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2010
    Messages:
    807
    Loc:
    indiana
    Nice saw. Nice looking wood you are cutting there.
    I have run a side by side with my 280 vs a 290.
    I would love to do a side by side with a 261.
  8. SmokeyCity

    SmokeyCity Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2011
    Messages:
    413
    Loc:
    Western Pa
    Manitoulin Maples:

    I'm about to squeeze off on a MS 261. Does it have enough juice for an 18" bar ?

    The STIHL website says a 16" bar is the recommended size but the options list shows an 18" and 20" option.
  9. Boog

    Boog Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2012
    Messages:
    592
    Loc:
    NE Ohio
    Man, your boots, pants, shirt, gloves, hard hat, and saw are just way too clean for serious working ......... I think you're just staging photos there .......;)

    You picked a great saw, I'm sure you will enjoy it for many years to come!
  10. SmokeyCity

    SmokeyCity Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2011
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    413
    Loc:
    Western Pa

    Nah.... He just didn't want to give the Safety Nazis any reason to pile on.
  11. Boog

    Boog Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2012
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    592
    Loc:
    NE Ohio
    I have an 18" on my 026 (16" of .325 chain showing) Only had it a short while but it seems to cut really nice. The 261 is slightly more powerful in displacement, but the non-epa features might give me the edge in actual power, very slightly! Not sure how a 20" would do, but the 18" should be just fine.
  12. Bigg_Redd

    Bigg_Redd Minister of Fire

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    Shelton, WA
    They must have changed their site - it used to say recommended bar lengths 16"-20"
  13. Clyde S. Dale

    Clyde S. Dale Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
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    SE PA
    It has more than enough power for an 18" bar. I have not tried 20" yet, but run 18" w/ a yellow chain and it cuts like a champ. The 261 will put a smile on your face everytime you cut. I'm still in the "gets stronger with every tank of gas phase". Good Luck!
  14. speedyvt

    speedyvt Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2011
    Messages:
    13
    Loc:
    Southern Vermont
    I just purchased the MS261 last week to buck a log load that was just delivered. I know its not a apples to apples comparison but it destroyed my 55 rancher. And I knew it would being that it is a pro saw. I have a 20" bar on it and it had no trouble pulling it. It is easy to start good on gas and oil plus it just falls through the hard wood. Just let the saw and chain do the work. My Husky treated me great for the last few years but I had no idea what I was missing. So much faster.. Love the toolless oil and gas cap.
  15. glennm

    glennm Burning Hunk

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2010
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    Loc:
    S Ontario
    I have an 026 and my son has a 261. His saw outperforms the 26. Higher rpm and much longer time per tank of gas. Seems to have more power as well. Maybe I need to tune mine up a bit but this is what we have noticed when working together with the two saws.
  16. Researcher1

    Researcher1 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2011
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    Loc:
    Pittsburgh PA
    My ms261 will outcut my dad's 026 everyday of the week. It is slightly heavier but the power difference is noticeable.
  17. lukem

    lukem Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    3,687
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    Indiana
    Cutting wood with a sharp good quality saw is FUN. Cutting wood with an cheap/dull/underpowered saw is WORK.

    Looks like fun to me.
    mecreature likes this.
  18. AJS56

    AJS56 Burning Hunk

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    Mar 5, 2012
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    Loc:
    Central Lower Mich
    Thanks for your review, very much appreciated, and I agree with your findings. I just got a 261 and have run about 5 tanks thru it. Cutting ash, oak, a little maple and some ironwood. I love the light weight and it has enough power for me for cutting firewood. I also have a 16 in bar on mine. Very happy with it.
  19. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    West Friendship, Maryland
    Yeah, all that side by side stuff isn't the best comparison in my book because the conditions are not static.

    I own a 261 and was cutting wood with somebody that has a 290. I got my bar pinched in a pretty big log and picked up the 290 to cut it out. All I can say is that the 290 felt like an anchor and it felt like it was a lot bulkier. If memory serves me correctly, the two saws have about the same amount of power. Yep, I do not regret the extra money I spent on the 261, but money has not been that much of an issue for me for a while now. I mean it is always an issue, but I don't find myself addiing up items before taking them to the checkout register like I was doing 15 to 20 years ago. Plus, an extra $150 for something I am going to have for 20+ years isn't that big a deal when amortized over 20 to 30 years (i.e., $5 to $10 more a year). With that said, if money was tight the 290 would still get the job done and save you money in the long run too.

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