For years, we swore by corded recip saws. Our go-to was a Makita JR3050T. Then three years ago, we were sent a Milwaukee Fuel cordless recip to try out—and we have not used a corded one since. Recently, Milwaukee sent me its updated cordless Fuel recip for review, and we’ve been using that for a few months. (By the way, locally if I say recip saw, no one knows what I’m talking about. Everyone uses the term Sawzall, even though that is Milwaukee’s label and not a tool classification.)
This recip saw shipped with two M18 XC 5.0-Ah batteries and a charger (and a box to store the kit). An LED light illuminates the blade and cutting area; the blade clamp is tool-free (called “Quick-Lok Universal”); and the tool hook is a good, large one (see photo, bottom left). The tool also has a brake on the blade. The adjustable shoe is a nice addition to sort of “set the depth.” I use it only occasionally but appreciate it when I do.
This latest Milwaukee is driven by the company’s Powerstate Brushless Motor, which, according to Milwaukee, provides more torque, longer motor life, and longer runtime.
Performance. I’m not going to get into how many 2x4s I could cut on a charge. For me, those numbers are meaningless. I judge a tool on how it performs for me on site, and I listen to guys on my crew and consider their comments in the review. How many 2x4s it cuts depends on a lot of variables—the blade, the temperature outside, the material—that will differ from site to site. Generally, I never completely drain a battery’s charge, because I change batteries before that happens; in the course of my work flow, I always need to go get nails or something, and while I’m at it, I swap batteries.
This recip is a step up from the first M18 Fuel and is a better recip than any corded model I’ve tried. I find that it cuts very quickly, but at the same time, I have a lot of control over the cutting. We recently had a customer decide to add five windows after we’d finished sheathing 2x6 walls. We were able to cut all five openings in less than 30 minutes total. And the cuts were so clean that if you didn’t know it had been a remodel situation, you couldn’t tell.
The saw has all the power I need as a framer and a remodeler, with the added convenience of not having a cord to drag around. The hook lets me hang it off a ladder when I’m doing work up high. And another thing I like about this tool is that it has low vibration, which for me means less fatigue.
One-Key. The One-Key app from Milwaukee allows me to inventory all my Milwaukee One-Key compatible tools, track their location (with some restrictions), and even report a tool stolen.
The real beauty, though, of using this app with this tool is that I can change cutting speed, start speed (for instance, soft start), start duration, and cutting brake. Then I can save the settings and assign them a number from 1 to 4 on the tool as profiles. For common materials and cutting, I can save the profile in the app and just hit the corresponding button on the tool. Even the work-light duration can be set. Using the slow-start feature allows me to cut threaded rod without damaging the threading. A separate setting allows me to cut wood quickly.
Bottom line. I recommend this tool with no reservations. There is nothing for me to complain about, not even any nitpicky things to mention. It is a solid tool that is a pleasure to use. It is fast but very controllable. Faster means we get our work done more quickly, and clean means our work looks good.
At $450 with two 5.0-Ah batteries or $550 with two 9.0-Ah batteries, the kits aren’t cheap, but I think they are worth it. We don’t have any complaints with the 5.0-Ah batteries; the 9.0-Ah batteries run longer but add a little weight. What this translates to for us is fewer chargers out. Or you can buy the tool bare for $250, if you already have enough batteries.
For our crew, we stay cordless 80% of the time now; we only roll power out to a beam-cutting saw and run one cord to either a light or a radio (sometimes both).
Last summer, DeWalt released its new line of FlexVolt batteries and tools to a lot of fanfare. I was looking forward to the release because of how much the company had been hyping the new offerings. Most of the tools DeWalt has been releasing in the FlexVolt line aren’t of interest to me as a framer—I don’t want a blade-right cordless saw as an everyday saw, don’t need a heavy-duty grinder, table saw, or sliding compound miter saw. However, its FlexVolt reciprocating saw with a brushless motor looked interesting.
What is FlexVolt? The FlexVolt tools are designed to run on one or two 60V Max FlexVolt batteries, which also convert automatically to 20V Max when mounted in a 20V tool. Since different tools have different power demands, DeWalt is trying to cover them all with one battery system that is flexible to the tool. In a 60V FlexVolt tool, the battery has less runtime than it does in a 20V Max tool. There’s a lot to read about it in tool blogs covering FlexVolt.
Features. One feature that I like and that’s becoming ubiquitous in cordless tools is an LED light that illuminates the work being done. DeWalt has included one in this recip saw. The blade change is keyless, and the trigger is variable speed. The shoe is not adjustable beyond pivoting; I don’t use adjustable shoes on other recip saws that often, but it’s a nice feature when I need it. Most of the saw has a rubber overmold, which I found very grippy and comfortable to use. It doesn’t have a rafter hook, which was disappointing.
Performance. I was excited to use this tool and figured it would have loads of power and just tear through wood like the Milwaukee M18 Fuel we had been using for a few years. I had mixed results. At first I thought that this recip might be slower than our first Milwaukee M18 Fuel, and then we received the new one for review. The new M18 Sawzall seemed to be much faster than this DeWalt.
We set up two tests to see if the speed difference was real or perceived. In the first test, we cut 2x6 stock on edge one-handed. One guy had the DeWalt and one guy had the new Milwaukee recip. They raced, then switched so that each saw was run by both guys. Both times, the Milwaukee beat the DeWalt by a large margin.
For a second test, we tried the same arrangement, except we cut 4x4 stock. This time, the DeWalt won both times. In all these tests, the recips had exactly the same brand-new Diablo blades. Though the tests were not completely scientific, I learned that my initial feelings weren’t correct. The DeWalt does cut very fast under certain conditions—namely, it cuts faster in thicker material where there is more consistent blade friction.
As I used the saw, I found the FlexVolt battery to be large and heavy, although not a nuisance. I had a lot of control while cutting, and I didn’t feel much vibration. I couldn’t get the blade to stop in anything; it had plenty of muscle.
Worth changing platform? Personally, I wouldn’t switch to DeWalt’s ecosystem just for this recip saw, but if you are already heading in that direction, you won’t be disappointed. For me and for the work that I do, the Milwaukee is a better option. If I didn’t have a huge investment into either battery platform and was looking to buy my first cordless reciprocating saw, I would buy the Milwaukee.
You can buy this tool, one 60V Max battery, a blade, a 20V/60V fast charger, and a bag for $300.
Good battery life
Rubber overmold provides a comfortable grip
Nonadjustable shoe (length)
No rafter hook
Comes with one battery (replacements cost
$150 to $200)