STIHL MS 261 C-M Chainsaw Review: Tested by Forestry


I know the importance of having a reliable and powerful chainsaw. The STIHL MS 261 C-M is one such chainsaw that has consistently impressed me. In this review, I’ll share my personal experience using the MS 261 C-M, along with its benefits, drawbacks, and how it compares to its competitors.


Product Specifications

  • Engine: The chainsaw is equipped with a powerful 2-stroke engine.
    • Displacement: 50.2 ccs (cubic centimeters)
    • Power Output: Approximately 4.0 horsepower (hp)
  • Ignition System: It features an electronic ignition system for reliable starting and smooth operation.
  • Decompression Valve: The chainsaw is equipped with a decompression valve that reduces the starting force required, making it easier to start the engine.
  • M-Tronic Engine Management System: The MS 261 C-M incorporates Stihl’s M-Tronic technology, which automatically adjusts the fuel-air mixture and ignition timing for optimal performance in different conditions.
  • Chain Lubrication: The chainsaw has an automatic chain lubrication system that ensures consistent lubrication to the cutting chain and guide bar.
  • Bar and Chain: The recommended bar length for the MS 261 C-M ranges from 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm). The actual length will depend on your specific configuration. It is compatible with various Stihl saw chains, including full chisel, semi-chisel, and skip tooth chains.
  • Anti-Vibration System: Stihl incorporates an advanced anti-vibration system into the chainsaw design, which reduces operator fatigue and enhances comfort during prolonged use.
  • Fuel Capacity: The chainsaw has a translucent fuel tank with a capacity of approximately 500 ml (16.9 oz).
  • Weight: Without the cutting attachment or fuel, the stihl ms 261 weighs around 5.2 kg (11.5 lbs).
  • Additional Features:
    • Side-Access Chain Tensioner: Allows for quick and easy chain tension adjustments.
    • HD2 Air Filter: Provides exceptional air filtration for improved engine performance and reduced maintenance intervals.
    • ElastoStart Handle: A special starter handle design that helps reduce the shock generated during engine starting.

First Impressions and Design


Right out of the box, the STIHL MS 261 C-M felt well-balanced and sturdy. Its ergonomic design and anti-vibration system made it comfortable to use, even for extended periods. The translucent fuel tank was a nice touch, allowing me to easily monitor the fuel level.

Performance and User Experience


The performance and user experience offered by the STIHL MS 261 C-M 20 are nothing short of exceptional. As someone who has used chainsaws in various professional contexts, I found the 50.2 cc engine delivering 4.0 horsepower to be more than capable of handling a wide range of cutting tasks, from felling trees to pruning large branches.

The M-Tronic™ engine management system was a game-changer in my experience, as it automatically adjusted the engine’s performance based on environmental conditions, ensuring optimal performance every single time I used the chainsaw. This feature made a noticeable difference in the overall efficiency and power of the MS 261 C-M 20, allowing me to complete tasks more quickly and with greater ease.

Another feature that stood out to me was the easy-start system, which made starting the chainsaw a breeze, even in cold weather. This made my work experience more enjoyable, as I didn’t have to waste time and energy struggling with a stubborn chainsaw. Additionally, the tool-free fuel and oil caps simplified the refueling and maintenance process, making it hassle-free and saving valuable time during my workday.

Overall, the STIHL MS 261 C-M 20 offers an exceptional combination of power, efficiency, and user-friendly features that make it a pleasure to use. As someone who has spent countless hours working with various chainsaws, I can confidently say that the MS 261 C-M 20 stands out as one of the best in its class, providing an outstanding user experience and impressive performance.

Comparison to Competitors

The MS 261 C-M holds its own against competitors like the Husqvarna 550 XP and the Echo CS-501P. While all three chainsaws have similar power and capabilities, the MS 261 C-M M-Tronic™ system, easy-start feature, and advanced anti-vibration system set it apart from the competition.

Husqvarna 550 XP

The Husqvarna 550 XP is a powerful chainsaw, featuring a 50.1 cc engine with 4.0 horsepower, making it a strong competitor to the MS 261 C-M. However, the 550 XP doesn’t have the M-Tronic™ engine management system that the MS 261 C-M boasts. While the 550 XP utilizes Husqvarna’s X-Torq® technology to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, it lacks the precise engine performance adjustments that the M-Tronic™ system provides. Additionally, the Husqvarna 550 XP has a good anti-vibration system, but it doesn’t quite match the advanced system of the MS 261 C-M, which offers greater comfort during extended use.

Husqvarna 550 XP

Echo CS-501P

The Echo CS-501P is another formidable chainsaw, with a 50.2 cc engine delivering 4.0 horsepower. While it shares a similar power output with the MS 261 C-M, it doesn’t come with an engine management system like the M-Tronic™. As a result, the CS-501P may not deliver the same level of optimal performance in varying environmental conditions. The CS-501P does have an easy-start system, but it is not as smooth or efficient as the one found in the MS 261 C-M. Furthermore, the anti-vibration system in the Echo CS-501P is not as advanced as the one in the MS 261 C-M, making it less comfortable during prolonged use.

Echo CS-501P

Comparison Table

Chainsaw ModelEngine DisplacementHorsepowerEngine Management SystemAnti-vibration SystemEasy-start SystemEstimated Price
STIHL MS 261 C-M50.2 cc4.0 hpM-Tronic™AdvancedYes$600-$650
Husqvarna 550 XP50.1 cc4.0 hpX-Torq®GoodYes$550-$600
Echo CS-501P50.2 cc4.0 hpNoneStandardYes$500-$550

*Please note that the prices listed in the table are rough estimates and may vary depending on the retailer and current promotions. It is recommended to check with your local dealer or online retailer for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing.

Benefits and Drawbacks

In terms of user-friendly features, the MS 261 C-M is designed with operator comfort in mind. Its anti-vibration system minimizes fatigue during prolonged use, allowing you to work more efficiently and comfortably. Additionally, the easy-start system takes the hassle out of getting your chainsaw running, saving you time and effort.

Pros and Cons


  • The STIHL MS 261 C-M boasts a robust engine, making it perfect for tackling demanding tasks with ease.
  • This feature ensures optimal performance and fuel efficiency, providing a smooth and reliable experience in various conditions.
  • The MS 261 C-M is designed to minimize fatigue during prolonged use, allowing for greater comfort and efficiency.
  • This user-friendly feature simplifies the process of getting the chainsaw up and running, saving time and effort.
  • The STIHL MS 261 C-M is known for its exceptional build quality, ensuring a long-lasting and reliable tool.
  • With its power and advanced features, the MS 261 C-M is suitable for both professional and personal use, making it a versatile choice for various applications.


  • The STIHL MS 261 C-M is slightly more expensive than some of its competitors, which might be a deterrent for potential buyers.
  • Depending on your location, it might be challenging to find STIHL products, as they are typically sold through authorized dealers rather than big-box stores.
  • While the MS 261 C-M is designed for comfort, it might still be heavier than other chainsaws in its class, which could be a concern for some users.

Evolution from Previous Models


As a long-time user of STIHL chainsaws, I’ve seen the evolution of their products first-hand. The MS 261 C-M is a prime example of how the company has refined and improved its chainsaws over the years. Upgrading from the previous MS 261 model, the MS 261 C-M boasts the addition of the M-Tronic™ engine management system, which has significantly enhanced the chainsaw’s performance and efficiency.

The M-Tronic™ system takes into account various factors, such as temperature, altitude, and fuel quality, to deliver optimal engine performance under all conditions. This makes starting and operating the chainsaw an even more seamless and enjoyable experience for users. I’ve personally noticed a difference in the consistency of the MS 261 C-M’s power output compared to the older model, making it easier to tackle demanding tasks with confidence.

Moreover, the addition of the M-Tronic™ system allows for better fuel efficiency, ultimately leading to cost savings over time. As someone who regularly uses chainsaws, I appreciate the improved fuel consumption and the positive impact it has on both my wallet and the environment.

Beyond the M-Tronic™ system, the MS 261 C-M also benefits from various design improvements that further enhance the user experience. These include the advanced anti-vibration system, which reduces operator fatigue, and the easy-start system, which makes starting the chainsaw simpler and quicker.

The evolution from the MS 261 to the MS 261 C-M has brought about significant advancements in performance, efficiency, and user comfort. As someone who has experienced both models, I can confidently say that the MS 261 C-M is a worthy successor to the older model, and it is an excellent choice for anyone in need of a reliable and powerful chainsaw.



In conclusion, as someone who has spent countless hours working with chainsaws in a professional capacity, I can confidently say that the STIHL MS 261 C-M is an outstanding choice for anyone in need of a powerful, reliable, and user-friendly chainsaw. Its advanced features, such as the M-Tronic™ engine management system, the easy-start mechanism, and the advanced anti-vibration system, truly set it apart from other chainsaws on the market.

Having tested the MS 261 C-M in various cutting scenarios, I’ve consistently experienced its impressive performance, making short work of even the most demanding tasks. Furthermore, the comfortable design of the MS 261 C-M has allowed me to work for extended periods with minimal fatigue, which is crucial for anyone using a chainsaw regularly.

So, if you’re in search of a chainsaw that can tackle the toughest jobs with ease while offering a comfortable and efficient user experience, look no further than the STIHL MS 261 C-M. As a seasoned professional, I wholeheartedly recommend this exceptional chainsaw to serious users who demand the best in performance, reliability, and comfort.

Watch STIHL MS 261 C-M | Experience the M-Tronic (M) Engine Management in Action

Where to buy

Upgrade your chainsaw game with the STIHL MS 261 C-M! Click on the product name and experience M-Tronic engine management and top performance now!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the STIHL MS 261 C-M Chainsaw?
    The STIHL MS 261 C-M is a powerful and reliable professional-grade chainsaw designed for heavy-duty cutting tasks.
  2. What type of engine does it have?
    The STIHL MS 261 C-M is equipped with a high-performance two-stroke engine that runs on a mixture of gasoline and two-stroke engine oil.
  3. What is M-Tronic™ technology?
    M-Tronic™ is a sophisticated engine management system that automatically adjusts the engine’s fuel mixture and ignition timing for optimal performance in all conditions.
  4. How does the pre-separation air filtration system work?
    The pre-separation air filtration system helps to extend the life of the air filter by removing large debris before it reaches the main filter, ensuring better engine protection and longer maintenance intervals.
  5. Is it easy to maintain?
    Yes, the STIHL MS 261 C-M Chainsaw is designed for easy maintenance with toolless fuel and oil caps, making refueling and chain lubrication quick and straightforward.
  6. Can I use it for professional purposes?
    Absolutely! The STIHL MS 261 C-M is part of the professional series and is suitable for a wide range of professional cutting applications.
  7. How do I start the chainsaw?
    To start the STIHL MS 261 C-M, set the master control lever to the cold start position, engage the decompression valve, pull the starter cord until you feel resistance, and then give a strong, smooth pull to start the engine.
  8. What safety features does it have?
    The chainsaw comes with various safety features, including chain brake, throttle interlock, and a front handguard, ensuring safe and controlled operation.
Kevin Lallab
Kevin Lallab
Forestry Author

Snow and land management isn't just a profession for me; it's a calling. My aim is to make life safer and more comfortable for those in my community while ensuring that our environment remains healthy and vibrant. Whether you need advice on snow removal, chimney maintenance, wood stoves, or land management, I'm here to help. Together, we can create a safer and more sustainable future.


I have 261cm powerful great little saw 16in bar chain best size .very fast smooth cutting saw

Daniel Adams
Eric mercer
April 28, 2024 11:18 pm

Seems you overlooked the fact that the Husqvarna 550XP has Autotune, Husky’s version of Mtronic. I’ve owned both and the 261CM is a great saw but I give the Husky a slight edge. I think the bottom line is which brand has the best dealer support in your area.

Daniel Adams
May 12, 2023 2:03 pm

It should be noted the 261 is way lighter than the othe 4hp saws.

Daniel Adams
May 9, 2023 12:10 am

Love this saw , it is my all around , go to saw for all size trees , weather it be spruce , birch or red oak , it handles anything you put through it. The only complaint i have is the very limited amount of upgrades and or accessories available for this particular model . I mainly cut red oak in an area with a lot of oak wilt and would love to have a full wrap handle bar for it during the occasional left handed cuts . Also would like to upgrade to a better professional or larger air filter and maybe a full skid plate . Im not sure how a muffler mod would work with the carb not being able to adjust anything but find the performance is exceptional . I just like being heard out in the woods , and show off a little to cutting buddies . Other than that , its by far the best saw in my collection of 63 saws and growing !!!

Daniel Adams
Jeremy Himango
May 8, 2023 7:00 am

I have 261CM,excellent chainsaw !

Daniel Adams
May 8, 2023 1:56 am

Leave your comment

Please enter your name.
Please provide a valid email address.
Please type your comment.