STIHL MS 881 Chainsaw Review


Imagine a chainsaw so powerful and efficient that it redefines the standards of heavy-duty wood cutting. Enter the STIHL MS 881 – a true titan in the world of chainsaws. With its formidable power and innovative features, this chainsaw is not just a tool; it’s a game-changer for professionals tackling the most demanding forestry and wood-processing tasks. Let’s dive into what makes the MS 881 not just another chainsaw, but a powerhouse that commands respect in the world of professional logging and milling.

Stihl MS 881 Specifications

  • Power Source: Gas
  • Powerhead Weight: 21.8 lbs.
  • Recommended Guide Bar Length: 25 in.
  • OILOMATIC® Chain: 3/8″ RS3
  • Chain Oil Capacity: 23.7 oz.
  • Engine Power: 8.6 bhp
  • Fuel Capacity: 44 oz.
  • Displacement: 121.6 cc

STIHL MS 881 Performance and Power

Person using a STIHL MS 881 Magnum Chainsaw to cut a large, moss-covered log

The STIHL MS 881 stands as a testament to sheer power in the chainsaw market. With its impressive 6.4 kilowatts of power and 8-newton meters of torque, generated from a substantial 121.6 cc displacement, this chainsaw is a beast. It’s no surprise that it’s touted as the most powerful production chainsaw in the world. Its ability to handle a 41-inch bar with ease showcases its strength, making it ideal for professional forestry, tree maintenance, and heavy wood processing.

STIHL MS 881 Ease of Use

Chainsaw cutting through a large tree trunk

Despite its formidable power, the MS 881 has incorporated features that enhance user experience. The one-touch stop and automatic return of the stop switch to the run position simplify the startup process, reducing the risk of flooding the engine. This is a significant improvement, especially considering the saw’s size and power. However, some users have noted the air filter cover can be somewhat cumbersome to remove and replace, which is a minor inconvenience against the backdrop of its overall performance.

Key Design Choices

Person using a STIHL MS 881 Magnum Chainsaw to cut a large log

STIHL’s commitment to innovation and user-friendly design is evident in the MS 881. The integration of the HD2 filter is a standout feature, ensuring optimal performance by effectively filtering fine dust particles – a crucial aspect when used in milling operations. The diagnostic port is another thoughtful addition, allowing for easy maintenance and ensuring the saw runs optimally over time. The captive nuts on the sprocket cover are a small but significant design choice, enhancing the ease of maintenance without the worry of losing parts in the field.

Comparisons and Considerations

When delving into the comparison between the STIHL MS 881 and its predecessor, the MS 880, it’s clear that the MS 881 not only matches but also enhances the already robust features of the MS 880. The MS 881 maintains the formidable power and capacity that made the MS 880 a favorite among professionals, which is a significant feat considering the high standards set by its predecessor. However, where the MS 881 truly shines is in its advancements in environmental consciousness and efficiency. This model boasts improved emission compliance, aligning with more stringent environmental regulations without compromising on power. Moreover, it offers enhanced fuel efficiency, a critical factor in operational cost-effectiveness and environmental impact.

Person holding a STIHL MS 881 Magnum Chainsaw

While the MS 881 does weigh around 20 pounds, which might be considered hefty, this is a reasonable trade-off for the power and capabilities it offers. Such weight is expected in a chainsaw designed for the most demanding tasks, and it underscores the robustness and durability of the tool. This aspect, although a consideration for the user in terms of handling and fatigue, is a testament to the chainsaw’s heavy-duty design and functionality.

Evolution from Previous Models

The STIHL MS 881 represents a thoughtful and well-executed evolution from the MS 880. It’s not merely an incremental upgrade but a significant step forward, keeping what users loved about the MS 880 and building upon it. The introduction of the 2-mix engine is a standout improvement, showcasing STIHL’s commitment to combining power with environmentally friendly technology. This engine design notably reduces emissions, making the MS 881 a more responsible choice without sacrificing the power and performance that professionals need.


Another significant advancement is the incorporation of the new HD2 filter. This feature speaks to the reliability and durability of the chainsaw, ensuring that it performs optimally even in the most demanding and dust-laden environments. This improvement is particularly beneficial for professionals who rely on their equipment day in and day out, as it minimizes maintenance needs and maximizes uptime.

In summary, the STIHL MS 881 does not just follow in the footsteps of the MS 880; it strides ahead, bringing together the power and robustness expected of a top-tier chainsaw with modern advancements in engine technology and filtration, thus setting a new standard in the field of heavy-duty chainsaws.

STIHL MS 881 Pros and Cons

  • The STIHL MS 881 is a true powerhouse, boasting unmatched power and torque. This makes it an ideal tool for tackling the most challenging and demanding jobs, where lesser chainsaws might falter.
  • Remarkably, despite its power, the MS 881 is designed with fuel efficiency in mind. This efficiency, coupled with its compliance with stringent emission regulations, makes it a more sustainable and cost-effective option for professional use.
  • The chainsaw includes features such as a one-touch stop and a diagnostic port. These contribute to ease of use and maintenance, making the chainsaw more accessible and simpler to manage, even for those with less technical expertise.
  • The inclusion of the HD2 filter is a significant advantage, particularly for work in environments with a lot of dust and debris. This filter ensures that the chainsaw maintains optimal performance, even in less-than-ideal conditions.
  • Built to last, the MS 881 is a reliable companion for long-term use. Its sturdy construction and high-quality components mean it can withstand the rigors of heavy use over time.
  • Weighing around 20 pounds, the MS 881 might be challenging for some users, particularly for extended periods of use. This factor is essential to consider for those who may not be accustomed to handling such heavy equipment.
  • Some users have found the air filter cover a bit tricky to handle. While this is a minor issue compared to the chainsaw’s overall performance, it can be a small inconvenience during maintenance.
  • At $2,209.99, the MS 881 is undoubtedly an investment. This pricing positions it more towards professionals who would frequently utilize its capabilities, rather than casual or infrequent users.

Maintenance of STIHL MS 881

Maintaining the STIHL MS 881 Chainsaw is crucial for ensuring its longevity, optimal performance, and safety. Here is a detailed guide on how to maintain this powerful tool:

Regular Maintenance
  1. Air Filter Maintenance:
    • Daily: Clean the air filter regularly to prevent dust and debris from entering the engine. Remove the filter and gently tap it to remove loose dirt. If it’s very dirty, wash it in warm soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and let it dry completely before reinstallation.
    • Monthly: Replace the air filter if it shows signs of wear or damage.
  2. Spark Plug:
    • Every 50 hours of operation: Remove and inspect the spark plug. Clean any deposits with a wire brush and check the electrode gap. Replace the spark plug if it’s worn or damaged.
  3. Fuel Filter:
    • Every 3 months: Check and replace the fuel filter located in the fuel tank if it is clogged or damaged. This ensures smooth fuel flow and efficient engine operation.
  4. Chain Lubrication:
    • Before each use: Ensure the oil reservoir is filled with the appropriate STIHL bar and chain oil. Regularly check that the oil is being distributed onto the chain during operation.
  5. Bar Maintenance:
    • Regularly: Clean the guide bar groove and oil holes. Flip the bar at regular intervals to ensure even wear.
  6. Chain Sharpness:
    • Regularly: Check the sharpness of the chain. A dull chain makes cutting inefficient and increases the risk of kickback. Sharpen or replace the chain as needed.
Periodic Maintenance
  1. Chain Tension:
    • Before each use and after every refueling: Adjust the chain tension. It should be snug against the bar but still able to be turned by hand.
  2. Sprocket:
    • Every few months: Check the condition of the sprocket and replace it if worn.
  3. Clutch and Clutch Drum:
    • Every 6 months: Inspect the clutch and clutch drum for wear or damage. Replace parts as necessary.
  4. Muffler and Spark Arresting Screen:
    • Every 6 months: Inspect and clean the muffler and spark arresting screen to ensure unobstructed exhaust flow.
  5. Cooling System:
    • Regularly: Clean the cooling fins on the cylinder and check for any obstructions. This is crucial for preventing overheating.
  6. Antivibration System:
    • Annually: Check for any loose or damaged antivibration elements. Replace if necessary to reduce the risk of vibration-related fatigue.
Long-Term Storage
  1. If storing the chainsaw for an extended period, drain the fuel from the tank and run the engine until it stops. This prevents gum deposits from forming in the carburetor.
  2. Thoroughly clean the entire saw, paying particular attention to the bar, chain, and sprocket area.
  3. Apply a thin layer of oil on the metal surfaces to prevent rust.
  4. Store the chainsaw in a dry, secure place away from children and pets.
Safety Checks
  • Perform a quick safety check. Ensure that the chain brake is functioning correctly, the throttle trigger and lockout are working, and there are no loose or damaged parts. Inspect the chain for proper tension and sharpness, and confirm that all guards and handles are secure.
  • Check for any damage or wear on the handles and control mechanisms. Ensure they are secure and functioning properly.
  • Look for any fuel or oil leaks. Any leak needs immediate attention as it can be a fire hazard and also affect the chainsaw’s performance.
  • Regularly tighten any loose nuts, bolts, or screws to ensure the chainsaw remains structurally sound and safe to use.
Additional Tips
  • Always refer to the STIHL MS 881 user manual for specific maintenance instructions and safety guidelines. The manual provides detailed information tailored to your specific model.
  • For replacements, use genuine STIHL parts to ensure compatibility and maintain optimal performance.
  • Consider having your chainsaw serviced by a professional annually, especially if you use it extensively. They can perform a more thorough inspection and maintenance, including carburetor adjustment and internal engine checks.
  • If you’re new to using a chainsaw of this caliber, consider receiving training or guidance from a professional. Proper handling and maintenance knowledge are essential for safety and efficiency.

By adhering to these maintenance practices, you can significantly extend the life of your STIHL MS 881 Chainsaw, maintain its performance at peak levels, and ensure safe operation during every use.


The STIHL MS 881 is a powerhouse, perfectly suited for professional applications requiring the utmost in power and durability. While it carries a significant price tag and is on the heavier side, these aspects are in line with its professional-grade capabilities. For those requiring a heavy-duty, reliable, and efficient chainsaw for the toughest jobs, the MS 881 is an excellent choice. However, for casual or less demanding tasks, a lighter and less powerful model might be more appropriate and cost-effective.


  1. What sets the MS 881 apart from other professional chainsaws in terms of power and performance?
    The Stihl MS 881 is one of the most powerful chainsaws on the market, designed specifically for heavy-duty tasks like large tree felling and milling. Its engine power and cutting speed are tailored for professional users requiring maximum performance.
  2. How does the anti-vibration system in the MS 881 enhance user comfort and safety?
    Stihl’s advanced anti-vibration system significantly reduces vibrations from the engine and cutting equipment. This not only makes long periods of operation more comfortable but also reduces user fatigue and the risk of vibration-related injuries.
  3. Can the MS 881 be used for precision tasks, or is it solely for heavy-duty work?
    While the MS 881 is primarily designed for heavy-duty tasks, its precision is notable. Users often report that despite its size and power, it can be maneuvered for more delicate cuts when needed, thanks to its ergonomic design and balanced weight distribution.
  4. What advancements in emissions technology are incorporated in the MS 881?
    The MS 881 includes Stihl’s advanced 2-MIX engine technology, which reduces emissions significantly compared to older models. This technology also enhances fuel efficiency, making it more environmentally friendly and cost-effective to operate.
  5. How does the MS 881’s maintenance compare to other chainsaws in its class?
    The MS 881 is designed with ease of maintenance in mind. It features tool-free fuel and oil caps, a side-access chain tensioner, and an air filtration system that extends the cleaning intervals, making maintenance simpler and less frequent compared to other models.
  6. What are the recommended safety gear and accessories when operating the MS 881?
    Safety is paramount when operating any chainsaw. For the MS 881, recommended gear includes a chainsaw helmet with face shield and ear protection, cut-resistant gloves, chainsaw chaps or pants, steel-toed boots, and a first aid kit. Additionally, using anti-vibration gloves can further reduce the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome.
  7. Is the MS 881 suitable for use in extreme weather conditions?
    This model is designed to withstand various weather conditions. However, extreme cold or heat may impact its performance. Users in very cold climates often appreciate the ElastoStart handle and decompression valve which make starting the chainsaw easier in cold temperatures.
  8. What are the unique features of the ‘R’ handle design in the MS 881?
    The ‘R’ in the model name indicates a wrap-around handle. This design offers an additional gripping area, making it easier to maneuver the chainsaw in different positions, especially useful for tree felling and limbing.
  9. How does the Stihl MS 881 compare in terms of cost-effectiveness for professional loggers and arborists?
    While the upfront cost is higher compared to some other models, its durability, low maintenance requirements, and fuel efficiency make it a cost-effective choice for professionals who use chainsaws extensively.
  10. Are there any specific storage recommendations for the MS 881 to prolong its lifespan?
    Proper storage is crucial. It should be cleaned, dried, and stored in a cool, dry place. The chain should be slightly loosened, and the fuel tank emptied if it’s going to be stored for an extended period. Additionally, applying a light coat of oil to metal parts can prevent rust.

Join the discussion below by sharing your experiences, tips, or reviews. Your contributions help others make informed decisions and navigate their chainsaw choices with confidence.

David Murray
David Murray
Forestry Author

I'm David Murry, a forestry equipment specialist with a focus on chainsaw operation. With over 13 years of experience, I've honed my skills in operating and maintaining a wide range of machinery, from chainsaws to log splitters. My passion for the outdoors and commitment to sustainable forestry drive my work, which emphasizes safety, efficiency, and staying updated with industry advancements. Additionally, I'm dedicated to sharing my expertise and promoting environmental awareness within the forestry community.


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