DeWalt 20V MAX compact recip saw
Doug Mahoney DeWalt 20V MAX compact recip saw
Size matters. in this case, shorter is better.
Doug Mahoney Size matters. in this case, shorter is better.
The 4-way blade clamp allows the user to mount the blade with the teeth facing up, down, left, or right. This cut could be made with a standard blade clamp but it would mean using a long blade and bowing it under the plate.
DeWalt The 4-way blade clamp allows the user to mount the blade with the teeth facing up, down, left, or right. This cut could be made with a standard blade clamp but it would mean using a long blade and bowing it under the plate.

One of the latest additions to DeWalt’s line of 20V MAX cordless tools is the DCS387P1 Compact Reciprocating Saw. As the name implies, it’s small and portable, and while it’s unlikely to be a primary recip saw, it fills in nicely for use in tight quarters or for making quick cuts where a cord would be a hassle.

To reduce the tool’s length, DeWalt re-oriented the motor into the D-grip of the handle. The result is a saw that is 14 ¾ inches long with battery, so when cocked at an angle it will easily fit into a 16-inch o.c. framing bay.

The small size of the saw makes it ideal for tight, crawl-space cutting. With less tool between your front and rear hand, steadying the saw and blade isn’t as hard as with a traditional recip. This closer gripping pattern makes it easier for me to lean into a cut. The saw is compact enough for me to stuff it into a Cargo Tote for the quick trip from truck to site.

Because it’s designed for cramped spots, DeWalt has included a single LED at the nose of the tool that shines up at the blade. When the trigger is released, the light stays active for 20 seconds, so it can be used as a quick and dirty flashlight. It’s not the brightest light I’ve seen, but it’ll do in a pinch.

As for power, the DeWalt is really solid. I compared it to my corded recips with a timed test through a 2x4 and the DeWalt cut faster (11 seconds) than my older 10 amp Milwaukee (16 seconds) but not as fast as my 15-amp Makita (7 seconds).

The compact recip saw’s ergonomics are excellent. The handle is extremely comfortable and the overall balance of the tool is spot on. There is rubber overmold up where the second hand grips the tool and the slight bulge of the motor fits the hand perfectly.

And good ergonomics are needed, because the DeWalt has a pretty aggressive vibration to it. My experience is that all cordless recips vibrate and your arms and hands will tire if you use them for long. If I’m going to use a recip saw for an extended period of time, I almost always go with a corded model.

The blade clamp on the DeWalt is good and bad. I like that it has four way positioning; the blade can be inserted vertically (blade up, blade down) or horizontally (blade left, blade right). What I don’t care for is the mechanism that locks the blade in the tool. In use, recip blades can get wedged into the chuck. Because DeWalt’s clamp doesn’t have a spring-loaded release, I frequently have to pull the blade free. I much prefer the twist lock variety used by other manufacturers, which automatically eject the hot blade.

I like DeWalt’s compact cordless saw a lot and am not bothered by the fixed shoe or the lack of orbital action—and am fine with only having those features on my larger corded saw.

DeWalt DCS387P1 Compact Reciprocating Saw Specs
Speed: 0-2,900 SPM
Stroke length: 1-?-inch
Weight: 6.4 pounds (w battery)
Adjustable shoe: no
Country of origin: Mexico
Kit includes: saw, one 5.0 Ah battery, charger, soft case
Price: $250 (kit); $120 (bare)