Stihl MSA 161 T: An Arbourist’s Dream Tool


For years, I’ve tested and reviewed a wide array of chainsaws, gaining a wealth of knowledge about these robust tools. Today, I want to focus on a tool that has gained a special place in my arsenal – the Stihl MSA 161 T. A battery-operated chainsaw, this nimble yet powerful tool was specifically designed with professional arborists in mind.

Product Specifications

  • Power Source: Battery (lithium-ion)
  • Bar Length: 10 inches (25 cm)
  • Chain Type: Stihl 1/4″ P chain
  • Weight (without battery): Approximately 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs)
  • Battery Voltage: 36 volts
  • Battery Capacity: Varies depending on the battery model used
  • Run Time: Varies depending on the battery and workload
  • Charging Time: Approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the charger and battery capacity)
  • Chain Speed: Approximately 16 m/s (52.5 ft/s)
  • Oil Tank Capacity: 105 ml (3.5 oz)
  • Sound Pressure Level: 84 dB(A)
  • Vibration Level: 3.2 m/s² (front handle), 3.2 m/s² (rear handle)

Experiencing the Stihl MSA 161 T

The day I got my hands on the Stihl MSA 161 T, I was faced with a challenging task – pruning a multitude of towering trees spread across a local park. Knowing the arduous nature of the job, I chose the MSA 161 T, confident that its compact design and superior power-to-weight ratio would enable me to navigate through the treetops effortlessly.

The MSA 161 T exceeded my expectations. Its ergonomics made it possible to handle the saw comfortably for extended periods, minimizing fatigue during the long hours of operation. The top-handle design offered a balanced grip, making the tool feel like a natural extension of my arm.

From the very first cut, the MSA 161 T’s superiority over its predecessor, the MSA 160 T, was glaringly evident. With a 40 percent higher cutting performance, I breezed through branches as thick as 12 inches in diameter. A task that would have been taxing with other saws felt surprisingly effortless with the MSA 161 T.

In addition to its remarkable cutting performance, the MSA 161 T also features an Ematic chain lubrication system. This efficient system delivers pinpoint lubrication of the saw chain links and guide bar rails, ensuring longer run times and less wear and tear. As a result, cuts were smoother, reducing the effort I needed to put in, and extending the life of the saw chain significantly.

In-Depth Analysis of Key Features and Improvements

As I spent more time using the MSA 161 T, a standout feature that consistently proved its worth was the Quick Chain Adjuster (QCA). This system allows users to adjust the chain tension without the need for any additional tools – a significant advantage, especially when you’re high up in a tree.

During a typical workday, I would have to adjust the chain tension several times, and with previous chainsaw models, this was a time-consuming process that required me to descend from the tree and fetch the necessary tools. The QCA eliminated this hassle. With just a few turns of a wheel conveniently located on the side of the chainsaw, I could adjust the chain tension quickly and effortlessly, even mid-task.

Such features, which show Stihl’s attention to detail and commitment to user feedback, play a crucial role in setting the MSA 161 T apart from its competitors.


In the battery-powered chainsaw market, several models stand out as rivals to the Stihl MSA 161 T. The Husqvarna T540i XP, for instance, is a strong competitor, offering a lightweight design, low noise levels, and excellent maneuverability—similar attributes to the MSA 161 T. However, the MSA 161 T edges out with superior cutting speed and longer battery life. Another contender is the Echo DCS-2500T. While it’s also compact, lightweight, and equipped with a solid chain speed, it might not match the MSA 161 T in terms of battery life and raw power. Lastly, there’s the Makita XCU03PT1, which stands out with its four-battery kit for extended run times and toolless chain adjustment for convenience. However, it is more suited for smaller tasks and may not hold up to heavy-duty tree work as efficiently as the MSA 161 T. In essence, each of these chainsaws brings strengths to the table, but for professional arborists or those tackling substantial tree work, the Stihl MSA 161 T—with its potent performance and exceptional battery life—might be the most fitting option.

Pros and Cons


  1. Powerful Performance: With a 40 percent increase in cutting performance over its predecessor, the MSA 161 T can handle thick branches and heavy-duty tasks effortlessly.
  2. Superior Battery Life: The MSA 161 T offers extended operation times on a single charge, allowing for longer uninterrupted work periods.
  3. User-friendly Features: The Quick Chain Adjuster (QCA) allows for rapid and tool-less chain tension adjustment, saving time and effort, especially when working at heights.
  4. Great Maneuverability: Its compact design and superior power-to-weight ratio makes it easy to handle and maneuver, particularly in tricky situations like treetop pruning.
  5. Environmentally Friendly: Being battery-operated, the MSA 161 T generates lower noise and zero emissions, making it a greener choice for the environment.


  1. Price: The MSA 161 T comes with a higher price tag compared to other chainsaws in the market, which may make it less accessible for budget-conscious users.
  2. No Instant Power: Like other battery-operated chainsaws, the MSA 161 T doesn’t provide the instant power surge that a gas-powered chainsaw does, which could be a drawback for some specific tasks.
  3. Battery and Charger Sold Separately: Unless bought as a package, the battery and charger for the MSA 161 T often have to be purchased separately, which could add to the initial cost.

Making the Purchase Decision

Let’s address the elephant in the room: the Stihl MSA 161 T is not cheap. Its price tag is noticeably higher than many other chainsaws in the market. However, for professionals and serious DIY enthusiasts who frequently engage in tree work, the MSA 161 T is an investment that is worth every penny.

Why? It offers an unmatched blend of performance, efficiency, and user-friendly features. Its power allows it to tackle demanding tasks with ease, while its efficiency – in terms of both fuel consumption and task completion speed – ensures that the work gets done quickly and economically. Its user-friendly features, like the QCA, make it a joy to work with, reducing the hassles and complications often associated with chainsaw operation.

Concluding Thoughts

After using the Stihl MSA 161 T in various challenging environments, from dense forests to urban parks, I am convinced that it is one of the best battery-powered chainsaws currently available. It consistently delivered exceptional performance, from its power and efficiency to its maneuverability and durability.

Whether I was cutting through thick branches or delicately trimming foliage, the MSA 161 T proved to be a reliable companion, effortlessly handling every task I threw at it. If you are looking for a chainsaw that will stand by you through thick and thin, consistently delivering top-notch performance, the Stihl MSA 161 T should be at the top of your list.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the power source of the Stihl MSA 161 T chainsaw?
    The Stihl MSA 161 T is a battery-powered chainsaw. It uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery to operate.
  2. What is the battery life of the Stihl MSA 161 T?
    The battery life of the Stihl MSA 161 T chainsaw depends on various factors, such as the type of battery used and the intensity of the workload. Typically, the chainsaw can provide several hours of continuous cutting on a fully charged battery.
  3. How long does it take to charge the battery?
    The charging time for the battery of the Stihl MSA 161 T chainsaw can vary depending on the charger used and the battery’s capacity. Generally, it takes around 30 minutes to 1 hour to fully charge the battery.
  4. What is the bar length and chain type of the Stihl MSA 161 T?
    The Stihl MSA 161 T comes with a 10-inch (25 cm) guide bar. It uses a specialized Stihl 1/4″ P chain, designed for high-performance cutting in professional tree care applications.
  5. Is the Stihl MSA 161 T suitable for professional use?
    Yes, the Stihl MSA 161 T is designed for professional use, particularly in tree care and arborist applications. It’s compact size and lightweight design make it ideal for climbing and maneuvering in tight spaces.
  6. What is the weight of the Stihl MSA 161 T chainsaw?
    The Stihl MSA 161 T weighs approximately 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs) without the battery. The overall weight may vary slightly depending on the battery model used.
  7. Does the Stihl MSA 161 T have any safety features? Yes, the Stihl MSA 161 T is equipped with several safety features, including a chain brake, which activates in the event of kickback or other sudden movements, and a handguard to protect the user’s hand from debris.
  8. Can the Stihl MSA 161 T be used for pruning and limbing? Absolutely! The Stihl MSA 161 T is specifically designed for pruning and limbing tasks. Its lightweight and compact design, combined with high-cutting performance, make it well-suited for these applications.
  9. Are there any special maintenance requirements for the Stihl MSA 161 T? Like any chainsaw, regular maintenance is important for optimal performance and longevity. This includes cleaning the air filter, sharpening the chain, and inspecting the guide bar for wear. Following the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance is recommended.
  10. What are the advantages of using a battery-powered chainsaw like the Stihl MSA 161 T? Battery-powered chainsaws offer several advantages, including lower noise levels, zero emissions, and reduced vibration compared to their gasoline-powered counterparts. They also eliminate the need for fuel mixing and provide an instant start-up with the push of a button.
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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