2018 Best Reciprocating Saw Review: One-Handed Recip Saws

Recip Saws Laying on a Table | Construction Pro Tips

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Powerful, maneuverable and light-weight

One-handed reciprocating saws are becoming more popular, especially with plumbers and electricians. Because they’re designed to operate with one hand, the other hand is free to secure a pipe or conduit for cutting. Most major tool companies are producing their own 12-volt and 18-volt version of this handy, lightweight saw, and we thought we would put the 8-volt saws to a side-by-side comparison.

We recorded how fast they cut through PVC pipe, EMT (Electrical Metal Tubing) and wood. We all played around with each saw to see which felt better (subjective, we know). We tested for sound and heat. We also wanted to find out how long they would run on one charge. To keep things fair each test was conducted with the largest battery available for each platform, and fresh Lenox blades were used for each series of cuts.

A table with one-handed recip saw specs | Construction Pro Tips

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Meet the saws

Josh Cutting Through Two Boards Glued Together | Construction Pro Tips

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First Test

For our first test we used each saw to cut through two 2x8s that were glued together and embedded with ten nails. Plumbers and electricians typically use one-handed recip saws to cut up conduit and piping, but inevitably these saws are going to be used for a little demo work from time to time. We ran one test with the saw weighed down by a ten-pound weight. We also made a freehanded cut with each saw to get a more real-world result. Every saw has a sweet spot that can only be found by playing with the speed. Check out the next page for the results.

Chart showing speed through nail-embedded wood | Construction Pro Tips

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First Test Results:


Milwaukee dominated this first test. Both the freehand and weighted cutting times were under 30 seconds. The Bosch saw performed admirably, but only the Milwaukee managed to complete the cuts in less than one minute. The RIDGID cut out on the freehand test. We assume it has a shutdown feature that's activated after it reaches a certain temperature. Again, most of these saws were not designed to be abused like this. 

Josh cutting through PVC with weighted saw | Construction Pro Tips

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Second Test

The second test we ran was similar to the first, but instead of making one cut through nail-embedded 2”x10”s we made 5 cuts through 3” PVC pipe. We clamped the PVC down tight to avoid vibrations. Check out the next page for the results.

Chart Showing Speed Cutting Through PVC | Construction Pro Tips

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Second Test Results


For this test we recorded the total time it took each saw to make five cuts through the PVC. Once again, the Milwaukee saw posted the best cutting times and Bosch was a close second. The Metabo saw also did very well, posting consistent times of 41 seconds (weighted) and 37 seconds (freehand).

Saw Cutting Through EMT During a Test | Construction Pro Tips

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Third Test

The third material we used to test cutting speeds was ¾-in. EMT. This one is for you, sparkies. We sandwiched the tubing between two pieces of grooved wood to keep it from squirming around. Check out the next page for the results.

Chart Showing Speeds Cutting Through EMT | Construction Pro Tips

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Third Test Results

Milwaukee saw posted the fastest cutting times again. Sensing a theme here? Something that we noticed is that the saws that vibrated the least while cutting (Milwaukee, Bosch and Metabo) posted the quickest times. A slightly stranger trend occurred when for the second test in a row, Makita cut faster weighed down than it did when operated free hand, not sure why.

Repeatedly Cutting Through Wooden Post for Endurance Test | Construction Pro Tips

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Our fourth and final cutting test was built around a simple idea: How long would these saws run on a fully charged battery. To find out we cut through a 4x4 post, over and over, and over until the batteries ran out of juice. After the Milwaukee saw lasted (spoiler alert!) over 26 minutes and 27 cuts it became clear that this was not going to be a one-man operation. We all three took turns testing the other saws—our hands are still vibrating. Check out the next page for the results.


Chart showing results of endurance test | Construction Pro Tips

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Endurance Test Results

The Metabo, Bosch and Milwaukee saws kept cutting for more than twenty minutes. Of course if you have a job that requires that much cutting, a heavy duty, two-handed corded model is probably your best bet. The Makita only lasted for a little under 10 minutes, and the Ridgid, due to a built in fail-safe, shut off multiple times on the way to a 15-minute run time. All of these endurance tests were conducted with a 10-lb. weight on the saw.

Measuring saw temperature with heat gun | Construction Pro Tips

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Sound and Heat

We used a decibel meter to capture the maximum noise levels of each saw while in use. While most of the saws operated at around a 95-decibel noise level, the Makita model did not even crack 90-decibels.

We also used a FLIR infrared thermal imaging camera to track saw record max temperature during the five-minute-mark of our endurance test. The Milwaukee and Makita saws were by far the hottest, reaching temperatures of 229-deg. and 205-deg, respectively. The Bosch, Metabo and RIDGID saws were comparably much cooler, hovering around the 150-deg. mark.

One-handed Makita Recip Saw | Construction Pro Tips

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Makita XRJ01Z

Let's just start by saying that we love Makita here at CPT. They make a lot of great tools. Unfortunately, this recip saw is not one of them. It was just too light- weight for most of our tests and could not keep up with the other brands. We actually destroyed it during our endurance test. The motor started smoking and the sliding rod snapped off.

One-handed Metabo Recip Saw | Construction Pro Tips

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Metabo SSE18LTX

The Metabo SSE18LTX surprised us. We expected a good showing from Bosch and Milwaukee, and the Metabo was able to keep pace through most of the tests. It actually finished second overall in our endurance test, giving the Milwaukee saw a real run for its money. The Metabo also had the best overall "hand-feel". It was well-balanced and comfortable to hold, and its LED was the best out of all five saws. If you're already running on Metabo's battery platform and are thinking about buying a one-handed recip saw, Metabo SSE18LTX definitely holds its own.


One-handed RIDGID Recip Saw | Construction Pro Tips

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RIDGID R8223412

The RIDGID R8223412 is the most unique of the five saws we tested. It's a part of the JobMax platform, which means that the recip saw is just one of many potential head attachments that can attach to the tool's console. While the RIDGID saw was not the best performer of the five, the JobMax platform makes it a much more flexible option than any of the others. If you work in a trade that demands flexibility, and you don't want to carry around a handful of tools, this might be the way to go.


One-handed Bosch Reciprocating Saw | Construction Pro Tips

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Bosch GSA18V-083

This saw is a beast. It delivers on pretty much every performance-aspect you could want in a one-handed recip saw. It did not quite match the Milwaukee saw's performance during our tests, but most of the time the gap between the two was insignificant. If you are currently running other 18 volt Bosch tools, you can feel good about buying this saw.

One-handed Milwaukee Hackzall | Construction Pro Tips

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Milwaukee Hackzall 2719-20

Clearly, the Milwaukee Tool saw performed the best over the course of our tests. It powered through the 2x8, sliced up the EMT and PVC and lasted for nearly thirty minutes of continuous cutting through 4x4. The only thing we didn't particularly care for was the saw's LED light, which was ineffective and did not really provide any sort of substantial illumination. Other than that, though, we had almost no complaints.

To see more from these tests, check out the video below. For more information on how to master your recip saw, click here.