Sometimes referred to as a “Sawzall,” reciprocating saws are handheld tools designed primarily for demolition, and they’re extraordinarily good at it. Their straight, extended blade moves rapidly back and forth — reciprocating — and allows them to quickly chew through wood, plastic, and metal materials with minimal user effort.
Their ergonomic design allows you to wield them in practically any position or angle you need to get the job done, making them ideal for getting into those tight or awkward areas. Whether you’re a professional tradesperson or a casual DIY-er, a reciprocating saw is a valuable part of a well-rounded tool collection.
Types of Reciprocating Saws
All reciprocating saws are used in the same way, the user grasps the handle and neck of the reciprocating saw firmly with both hands, if you’re using a two-handed model, and the protruding blade cuts through construction materials like plywood. When it comes to the different types of reciprocating saws, the most notable differences are their sizes, weights, and the type of power that is used to run them.
Corded reciprocating saws offer the most power out of all the different types of reciprocating saw. This is because they’re plugged into an electrical outlet and can be used for hours at a time with no breaks. However, there is a downside to corded tools. The user has to attach a heavy-duty extension cord if they have to use the saw far away from the outlet. This is something most will have to do because job sites usually don’t have a lot of outlets. On top of the annoyance of having to deal with a cord, this also causes a tripping hazard.
Cordless reciprocating saws have enough power to cut through metal and wood, however, they can’t sustain the power over long periods of time. When choosing between a corded sawzall and a cordless sawzall, you’ll need to consider the environment you’ll be working in. A corded model will offer you the most power but a cordless model provides the ability to use the saw in areas where there are no electrical outlets available.
Compact also known as one-handed reciprocating saws operate in a very similar way to their larger, two-handed cousins. However, lighter in weight and smaller in size. A regular reciprocating saw can weigh as much as 10 pounds and measure up to 2 feet in length. This is not including the blade. A compact saw usually weighs about 4 pounds and 12 inches in length. Compact reciprocating saws are best for when you need to cut in tighter areas or when you need to cut over your head because their lighter weight will reduce hand and arm fatigue. I would like to note that they’re not quite as powerful as the full-sized models. Many compact recip saws are battery-operated but there are corded models as well.
What to Use a Reciprocating Saw For
Available in a range of styles and uses, reciprocating saws can come in useful for many different industries and professions. An important tool for woodworkers, recip saws can cut down big pieces of wood in a fraction of the time and even trim and shape smaller items. Gardeners can use these saws to cut trees, limbs, and branches, with some reciprocating saws having pruning blades, and even metalworkers and mechanics can find these types of saws useful, especially for slicing through sheet metal.
But it doesn’t end there; these tools can be found in the toolbags of emergency services, window fitters, landscapers, and construction workers too for demo work and other heavy-duty tasks. Various types of reciprocating saw blades are available for purchase depending on the saw’s intended use, i.e. there are different reciprocating saw blades for wood, metal, composites, and drywall. Typically, cordless reciprocating saws are best for smaller jobs like garden work and pruning, whereas, for heavy-duty cutting tasks and demolition work, a corded-electric version would be better suited.
Our Top Picks
Adding the best 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.
Bosch’s GSA reciprocating saw has two speed settings, which is plenty for most uses of this type of tool. While reciprocating saws don’t tend to have extra handles, this design has an ergonomic soft grip handle on the front, making it a comfortable tool to use.
As well as an electric break to make it safer to use, this model has features that help to protect the motor and cells, ensuring it lasts a long time as well as not overheating as much during use.
Like most cordless reciprocating saws, the Bosch GSA is sold bare, but compatible with the brand’s cordless battery range.
The most eye-catching feature of Metabo’s ASE18 LTX is its adjustable saw head, which can be rotated 180°, ensuring that the tool can be safely used overhead without an awkward positioning.
While this saw is at the heavier end of the scale when it comes to cordless reciprocating saws, it’s still lightweight enough for easy use.
Blades can be changed quickly without needing tools, and the adjustable shoe works as a depth guide, helping to make cuts to more accurate depths where the work requires it. You will, however, need to buy the batteries separately.
Milwaukee’s M18 BSX-0 is a tough and powerful reciprocating saw. It’s perfect for easily cutting through the likes of thin pipes or errant nails and screws hidden in timber.
While it can cut wood to a greater thickness than many other reciprocating saws, its tolerance for metals, especially steel, is on the lower side at 20mm.
A quick release blade change is a definite plus, as is the multi-position shoe, which helps this tool’s versatility.
Flex came out of the shoot with a fwell-rounded 24V cordless reciprocating saw designed to replace your 12 or 13-amp corded model using a 1 1/4-inch stroke length and 3000 strokes per minute. The addition of orbital action helps your speed when cutting wood and the rafter hook is certainly welcome.
You don’t get a lever-action blade clamp release or variable speed dial, but that’s easily forgiven when you look at the price tag. With a 5.0Ah battery and fast charger, the kit is just $249 and backed by a 5-year warranty.
Depending on the scope of the project and what material you’re working with (wood, metal, drywall, piping, or nails), you might need to adjust your blades. For cutting through wood, using a blade with large teeth spaced apart will work better than small teeth close together. You’ll also need a strong motor to power the blades. For the perfect combination of wide teeth and a powerful motor, we recommend the Ryobi P517 Brushless Reciprocating Saw.
The Ryobi P517 Brushless Reciprocating Saw is cordless and compatible with Ryobi 18-volt batteries. This lightweight, 5.6-pound tool has an efficient brushless motor that can run up to 2,900 spm with a variable speed trigger. When you purchase the Ryobi P517, you also are getting an anti-vibration handle, tool-less blade replacement, and a great pivoting shoe for any surface. This reciprocating saw is ideal for chomping through the wood, but, of course, you can fit it with the right blade and devour other materials as well.
Sometimes big jobs require small saws. The Milwaukee Hackzall Cordless Reciprocating Saw is the little brother of the better-known Sawzall and the perfect option for effective cutting in small spaces. This compact tool uses a 12-volt battery to power the 3,000-strokes-per-minute motor to slice through PVC, drywall, wood, and more.
The Hackzall has a small stroke length at 0.5 inch, but it has plenty of features like Quik-Lok tool-less blade changing, an LED light, and a battery fuel gauge. This tool can use any M12 battery and uses either Hackzall or Sawzall blades. At only 11 inches in length and 2.6 pounds, this compact tool is easy to store in any work bag, toolbox, or truck cab.
If you’re not a contractor, you probably don’t need to spend hundreds on a reciprocating saw. The Black+Decker 20V MAX Lithium Reciprocating Saw is a compact, cordless, affordable tool that you can use around the house for countless projects.
The recognizable orange and black saw features a 20-volt lithium battery part of the 20-volt Max Black+Decker Max system. With this saw, you get a variable speed trigger and a pivoting shoe, both of which improve control for your cuts. The blade speed runs anywhere between 0 and 3,000 strokes per minute (spm), with a stroke length of nearly 1 inch. The blade allows for tool-free changes and one-button unlocking. This budget-friendly reciprocating saw comes with the blade, battery, and charger—rare in most sets.
A one-handed option that won’t break the bank, this 12-volt tool is a versatile choice for those who don’t really have a specific job in mind, but frequently need a saw for a variety of quick cutting jobs.
Even if you’re not remodeling or demo-ing anything, it could be a great landscaping tool to have on hand for pruning and cutting down oversized branches. Its bright LED work light is perfect for working underneath sinks or in crawl spaces, and the extensive rubber casing surrounding the tool gives you a good grip, and adds to its overall durability.
What to Consider
When considering a reciprocating saw, it’s important to think about what types of projects you’ll be using it for. For large-scale demo work, you’ll probably want to go with the most powerful option you can get, and pay less attention to size or mobility. But if you’re doing plumbing or working with conduit pipe, you’ll probably benefit more from the smaller, more maneuverable, one-handed models. If you decide to go with a battery-powered option, consider purchasing one that is the same brand as your existing power tools — that way you’ll have a supply of extra batteries ready, and won’t be limited as much by running time.
How We Selected
Since reciprocal saws come in several different sizes, we included a wide variety, from small models that can be operated one-handed, medium-sized options that offer maximum versatility, and heavy-duty models for large-scale projects. We also focused on picks from popular brands, so you’ll be able to supplement your saw with any existing batteries. For those who are primarily interested in lumber demolition, we also included several options that feature an orbital action setting. This setting adds a slight circular motion to the stroke of the blade, which allows it to move considerably faster when chewing through soft material like wood. Here are the best reciprocating saws worth buying.
What makes a cordless sawzall last long?
The operational duration of a sawzall relies highly on battery power. So, the higher the mAh of a battery, the longer a cordless sawzall will function.
How do I take care of my sawzall?
Sawzalls don’t require much maintenance practice. Just ensure that you store it in a cool, dry place, avoid dropping it on solid surfaces or in liquid, lubricate it regularly, and remove dust and debris from its vents.
How does a sawzall work?
Sawzalls cut through solid materials like wood, metal, and plaster through a back and forth or orbital cutting motion. All you have to do is control the movement with your hands.
What does anti-vibration mean on a sawzall?
Anti-vibration in a sawzall can be a phenomenon or tech that reduces the vibrations generated by the machine.