Stihl MS261 Review

Stihl MS261 Review and Guide: What Can You Expect From This Model?

STIHL is a manufacturer that is no stranger to quality power tools. They are regarded as one of the best chainsaw makers globally, and the majority of their products get rave reviews. Today, we are focusing on one of their more compact offerings, the MS261.

In this STIHL MS261 review, we’ll be looking in detail at the MS261 and assessing whether or not it suits your needs. We’ll be analyzing its key features, looking at the pros and cons of using one, offering some of our own thoughts, and even advising on some potential alternatives.

But before we dive into it, let’s take a look at an overview of the Stihl MS 261’s core features.

Key Specifications of the Stihl MS261

Power 4 horsepower
Warranty 1 year domestic, 3 months professional
Weight 10.8 lbs
Power Source Gas
Cutting Arm Length 16 – 20-inch
Latest Price Check here for the latest price

Core Features of the Stihl MS 261

Core Features of the Stihl MS 261

The Stihl MS 261 chainsaw comes with many of the core features you would expect from a top-quality chainsaw. It’s perfect for completing domestic work around the home and is ideal for a certain level of professional work too. Felling small trees, thinning and pruning larger ones, and cutting up firewood quickly are just some of the tasks the MS261 excels at.

Compared with Sthil’s previous generation’s domestic saws, the MS 261 burns anywhere up to 20% less fuel and releases up to 50% fewer emissions into the atmosphere. This means it’s ideal for environmentally conscious users or those constrained by emissions regulations.

The chainsaw also includes useful features like Easy 2 Start technology, a quick chain adjuster, a master control lever, and reduced vibration technology. All of which all help to make this an easy-to-use saw packed with plenty of power.

Pre-separation Air Filtration System

STIHL has developed an excellent advanced air filtration system for its tools. It dramatically improves efficiency, performance, and the lifespan of the product.

Often a source of maintenance issues, this advanced design also reduces reliability problems faced by power tool users. It works by removing the build-up of larger dust and debris particles from the filter by injecting air into it. The cleared air is then directed into the intake via a pre-separator duct.

Anti-vibration System

The well-documented effect of vibrations on the blood vessels in the forearms is an issue faced by the manufacturers of all gas-powered machinery. Stihl has tackled this head-on by designing and implementing their patented anti-vibration system within this saw.

It works by isolating both the engine and the handle, helping to dramatically reduce the impact of oscillations on the user. This, in turn, allows the user to work for longer periods without experiencing physical fatigue.

Single-lever Master Control

A lot of time has been put into designing the controls of the MS 261, the results of which are uniquely simple. All major functions, including the throttle, starter, choke, and brake, are located in the same place and operated using a single lever. This makes for an incredibly easy-to-use tool, perfect for both domestic and professional use.

Ematic Chain Lubrication System

Lubrication is imperative for an efficient engine and cutting bar. Stihl’s ematic lubrication system not only keeps the engine oiled as needed but also lubricates the chain automatically as you cut.

This prevents any disruptive jamming and damage to the chain from occurring. When you use this chainsaw as recommended (with a Stihl Oilomatic chain), it provides ultimate lubrication and improved performance. Stihl even claims on their website that using this combination of chain and oil reduces consumption by almost 50%.


Stihl MS 261 Compensator

The MS 261 also benefits from a compensator, preventing the air and fuel mixture from getting too rich as this is when the air filter clogs. This intelligent design delivers the precise amount of fuel needed to the carburetor based on the quantity and quality of air being processed via the filter.

This keeps the air to fuel ratio constant and on track, allowing the engine to produce maximum power. You also won’t need to clean the filter until you experience a noticeable drop in power and performance, something that is bound to take some time.

Side Chain Tensioner

Adjustability is important when using any tool as it boosts overall performance and allows you to tailor it to your specific needs. Finding one with plenty of additional options is also a must.

Thankfully, the MS 261 comes with a tensioning screw situated on the outside of the casing that allows you to adjust chain tension to suit the task at hand. It also means users can avoid any unnecessary contact with the sharp and dangerous cutting chain.

Tool-free Filler Caps

Another way the ms261 aides use is through the addition of bespoke catches that are designed for use without any tools. These catches make it easy for any operator to access and open both the fuel and oil tanks without any specialist tools or fiddly latches. They can also be used with safety gloves on for added functionality.

Compact and Easy to Use

A compact chainsaw has to be both light and functional. Along with this, it needs to be easy to store and quick to set up. At just 4.5kg, the ms261 ticks all of these boxes, making it a great choice for both professional outfits looking for a supporting tool and for domestic users who perhaps only need a saw to use a few times a year.

How Does the Stihl MS 261 Perform?

How Does the Stihl MS 261 Perform?

Even before picking one of these tools up, you know what to expect simply because it is a Stihl, one of the best chainsaw manufacturers in the world. With the MS 261, Sthil has once again delivered on this top reputation and produced a product that is well suited to the vast majority of users looking for a compact saw.

It has high performance when completing tasks like felling small to medium trees, allowing you to cut them down and chop them into manageable pieces in no time. Although the MS261 excels when working on smaller and medium-sized logs, they are also very useful when it comes to large trees, playing a vital support role to heavy-duty saws like the Husqvarna 572xp, for example.

We found that its compact and lightweight design means it’s ideal for almost anyone to use. That includes those who may usually struggle with larger and heavier tools. Its ergonomic handles and simple operating systems also make it simple for those who don’t use chainsaws regularly to get their yard or forestry work done.

All of the features outlined as being core to the MS261 worked well during our testing. The anti-vibration mechanism, in particular, really delivered what Stihl claimed and helped generate a smooth cutting experience. This is an essential part of the power-tool operation to get right, thanks to the very real effect oscillations have on the user.

The revamped control system brings all of the necessary controls and switches together in one central place. The single lever system removes the need for any complicated controls and helps to make this chainsaw ideal for domestic use as even users with little experience can operate it.

Even though this is a more compact model, don’t let this fool you. It is still a highly powerful chainsaw that’s more than capable of completing professional work just as easily as domestic chores.

The overall feel of the saw is one of quality. The engine feels powerful but doesn’t produce stupid levels of vibration, the ergonomic handles make it feel nice to hold and provide a solid level of grip, and the cutting chain is razor-sharp, allowing you to cut through wood and other debris with ease.

Pros of the Stihl MS 261

Pros of the Stihl MS 261

This agile chainsaw is packed with features that make it great for use in a variety of scenarios. Here, we’ll take a closer look at how these features translate into positives that users benefit from while using the MS261.

Lightweight & Compact

A compact and lightweight build is the focal point for the MS261. Domestic users value these traits over raw power, and being able to store the unit easily is a must. At just 10.8 lbs, the majority of users will be able to hold the ms261 over extended periods if needed.

Although it does sacrifice some level of power for its agility, this doesn’t majorly affect its ability to tackle most jobs. There is a balance between power and agility that we think Stihl has done a great job with for the MS 261. This makes it a great fit for anyone in the market for a mid-sized chainsaw.

Features That Help You Work For Longer

There are several clever design features included that will help you work better for longer. For example, the anti-vibration tech not only helps to guard against long-term forearm problems but also fights one of the most common causes of fatigue when using power tools.

These vibrations generated by the engine cause the hands and forearms to get tired more quickly than the rest of your body.

The tool-free filler caps are another excellent example of Stihl helping to speed up your work and not having to mess around finding the correct tool to access the oil and fuel reserves. Instead, flick open the catch to access them. Wearing protective work gloves will also work to further speed the process up.

Extended Chain Life

Stihl’s lubricating ematic system keeps the cutting chain from ceasing up automatically, meaning you do not need to think about applying any lubricant yourself. If the saw is only being used occasionally, this can become a serious cause for malfunction and maintenance problems. By having the automatic system in place, there’s no need to worry.

Reduced Air Filter Maintenance

The upgraded air filtration system we mentioned earlier reduces the need for maintenance checks significantly. A very common issue with gas-powered engines is that air filters get clogged, starving them of oxygen and causing issues.

Thanks to this design feature, the MS 261 can remove the largest pieces of debris automatically, helping to save you both time and money when it comes to maintenance.

Cons of the Stihl MS 261

As with all products, there are a few downsides to consider before parting with your hard-earned cash.


The Stihl is by no means the most expensive chainsaw around, but it is up there. For just under a thousand dollars, it’s a serious bit of kit to be investing in. Despite it being one of the best mid-sized saws around, several competitors produce just as many chainsaws for less money.

This isn’t too much of an issue if you like the Stihl brand on your products, but for those looking for the best value, there is perhaps better out there.

Are There Any Alternatives?

Husqvarna 450

Husqvarna 450

A similar-sized chainsaw from one of Stihl’s biggest rivals. The Husqvarna 450 is another of the most popular chainsaws on the market and, although slightly older than the MS261, is still a fine tool. It comes with an X-Torq engine that outputs 3.2 horsepower, as well as a 20” cutting arm, included as standard.

Much like the MS261, it can be used both professionally and domestically, offering plenty of cutting power.

Husqvarna 20 Inch 450 Rancher II Gas Chainsaw | Amazon

The new lightweight & efficient 450E series chainsaw is an all-round saw, ideal for those looking for a chainsaw that is exceptionally easy to start & maneuver. Featuring X-Torq engine for lower fuel consumption & reduced emission levels.

Buy at
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
07/19/2024 05:35 am GMT

Check out our detailed Husqvarna 450 review to find out more.

Husqvarna 240

Husqvarna 240

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a smaller saw, then there are few better than Husqvarna’s 240. The cutting arm on this saw sits at just 16 inches long, and it weighs 10lbs, making it perfect for domestic chores or semi-regular use on larger projects.

Husqvarna’s 240 | Amazon

The Husqvarna 240 Chainsaw is ideal for jobs like pruning, lighter cutting tasks and hobby work. Easy to start and operate, thanks to built-in Husqvarna features like ergonomic design, facilitating technology and a powerful X-Torq engine with low emissions.

Buy at
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/07/2024 10:43 pm GMT

If you think this sounds like it could be suitable for you, read our latest Husqvarna 240 review and guide.


Question: What Protective Clothing is Needed When Using a Stihl?

Answer: Protecting against accidents and injuries is important when using any chainsaw. Be sure to wear the appropriate gear: protective gloves and glasses, tight-fitting clothing, long sleeves, sturdy footwear, and full-length pants.

Question: Where Do I Find the Serial Number on my Ms261?

Answer: STIHL serial numbers are located on the motor housing or crankcase. They are situated to the right or left of the muffler as you look down on the unit, and it is a nine-digit code you’re looking for. It will begin with either a 1, 2, or 5.

Question: Why Does my Chainsaw Engine Flood?

Answer: Engine flooding is a common issue faced by gas-powered tools, particularly when the user is less experienced. It occurs when too many attempts are made to start the machine with a choke engaged.
Make sure you follow the starting procedure correctly to ensure you are looking after your MS261 properly. Remember that more gas and less air in the combustion chamber will give you a better chance of the engine firing.

Question: Does the Ms261 Chainsaw Offer Low Exhaust Emissions?

Answer: Compared with a conventional Stihl 2-stroke engine, the ms261 produces up to 50% fewer exhaust emissions. It does this thanks to Stihl’s 2-MIX technology that combines a cylinder with four-port tech and stratified scavenging. This also helps produce higher torque over a broader range of speeds and cut fuel consumption by up to 20%.

Question: Does the Ms261 Come with an Anti-vibration System?

Answer: The ms261 has been designed with one of the leading anti-vibration systems on the market. As a result, it is noticeably quieter than previous models and includes Cellasto anti-vibration elements with specialist springs situated between the engine block and handles. The resulting buffer zones dampen vibrations from both the engine and cutting chain.

Question: How is the Fuel Consumption for the Ms261?

Answer: Thanks to Stihl’s 2-MIX technology that helps reduce emissions, fuel consumption is also greatly improved. When compared with conventional 2-stroke engines, the ms261 uses up to 20% less fuel when working.

Question: Does the Stihl Ms261 Have High Fuel Efficiency?

Answer: Yes, due to Stihl’s development of their 2-MIX engine, the ms261 has high fuel efficiency. As outlined, it is up to 20% more efficient when compared with older models that do not feature this technology.

The Final Say: Is the Stihl MS261 a Good Domestic Chainsaw?

The MS261 has been proven to be one of the top-rated mid-sized saws on the market, unsurprising when it comes from such a well-respected manufacturer.

It blends power, agility, and usability well, and the result is a highly versatile saw suitable for a wide range of users, from domestic owners who want to cut down a few trees in the yard to professionals who need to chop trees into logs.

While it won’t suffice as a stand-alone tool for those wanting to fell the biggest of trees, this is still a very capable tool and one that we think you’ll enjoy using as you go.

However, it is always a good idea to shop around and see what else is available. Their competitors Husqvarna, for example, also offer brilliant saws. The 450 is a direct alternative to the MS261 and offers similar cutting capacity and features where the 240 offers a more compact and lightweight option.

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