Stihl MSA 300 C-O Battery Saw Review
- April 26, 2023
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Stihl MSA 300 C-O
When we compare the Stihl MSA 300 C-O with the classic Stihl MS 261, they seem quite similar in theory. Multiple tests were conducted to ensure that the comparison was accurate, and it’s safe to say that the Stihl MSA 300 C-O is one of the most powerful battery-powered chainsaws on the market in 2022.
Why having the right cutting equipment matters
The emergence of battery-powered chainsaws has made cutting equipment (chain and guide bar) more important than ever. This is because it’s easier to determine the power output of electric motors as compared to gas engines, and we have exact knowledge of the battery power. For instance, during tests on smaller battery saws like the Stihl MSA 220, there was a noticeable difference in performance with different cutting equipment. It was also interesting to see how manufacturers optimized power output for specific cutting systems.
Stihl opted for the trusted Light04 system for the MSA 300, the same system recommended for the Stihl MS 261. It uses a 0.325″ pitch chain and a 1.3 mm gauge. The test saw provided by Stihl came with a 14″ Light04 bar, and the chain used during testing was the RS PRO.
After conducting the test, the team found that the MSA 300 and Light04 combination worked extremely well. They found that the RS PRO chain had little kickback tendencies while still maintaining a good cutting capacity. They concluded that the Light04 bar with an RS PRO chain is an appropriate cutting system for the Stihl MSA 300.
Is the Stihl MSA 300 for you?
Who would be the primary users of a powerful battery saw that can be compared to a 50-cc gas-powered saw? Forest owners could be one target group, along with loggers who work shorter hours close to home. The elderly may also appreciate its easy-start function, and tech enthusiasts always want to have the latest gadgets.
While the Stihl MSA 300 C-O may not be the go-to saw for full-time professional loggers, it could serve as an all-purpose saw kept nearby on an ATV or tractor. It’s also a useful tool for various jobs around the farm.
In addition to arborists, professional loggers who work in urban and populated areas might also find the MSA 300 useful due to its quiet operation. However, the MSA 220, which is also battery-powered, presents tough competition for the MSA 300 as it is lighter and smoother, and its power is sufficient for thinning tasks. However, the MSA 220 has a downside with its throttle trigger lockout that needs to be pushed by the thumb, which may take some time to get used to.
AP 500 S
Stihl released a new battery called AP 500 S around the same time as the MSA 300. If you want to use the MSA 300 to its full capacity, you’ll need this battery. The AP 500 S is an improved version of the AP 300 S battery, with a 36V output and the same size and connections. However, the new battery has new cells, which Stihl claims provide more power while maintaining the same size as the previous battery. Additionally, the AP 500 S can withstand more charging cycles than the AP 300 S.
The AP 500 S battery from Stihl has a higher energy content of 337 Wh compared to the AP 300 S which has 281 Wh. This means the AP 500 S battery has about 20% more power. Interestingly, the new Stihl battery is on par with Husky’s BLi 300 battery in terms of energy content, as they both have 36 V and 337 Wh.
In the “RFF-test” (Ready For the Forest), the Stihl MSA 300 with a 14″ Light04 bar weighed 7.6 kg (16.7 lbs.). Without a battery, it weighed 5.65 kg (12.46 lbs.). To give some context, the Stihl MS 261 weighed 6.45 kg (14.22 lbs.) and the Husky 550 XP Mrk II weighed 7 kg (15.43 lbs.).
While the battery saw weighed 1.15 and 0.6 kg more than the corresponding gas saws in the test, the difference may not be a big deal for everyone. The test logger, Lars-Erik, didn’t seem bothered by it. However, compared to the Stihl MSA 220, the MSA 300 is around 40 percent heavier.
Looks and features MSA 300
The saw we tested from Stihl was a demo sample, most likely from a pre-series at the factory in Germany, but it’s expected to be the same as the one that will go into serial production. That could explain why the MSA 300 has such high quality, on par with other professional Stihl saws.
One positive difference from the Stihl MSA 220 is that the throttle trigger lockout is placed at the top of the rear handle, like normal chainsaws, instead of on the thumb side like the MSA 220. While the MSA 300 is longer and feels bigger, the balancing is good and our test operator, Lars-Erik, had no complaints.
MSA 300 vs Gas saws?
Simply put, the answer is yes, the MSA 300 can compete with the Stihl MS 261 and Husky 550 XP Mrk II. We conducted tests to compare their efficiency and made sure that the gas saws were fueled with the same Aspen fuel from a single can while the MSA 300 was powered by fossil-free electricity. All three saws were lubricated with chain oil from the same can. The saw chains on the MSA 300 and Husky 550 XP were new, while the Stihl MS 261 chain was slightly used. You can watch the video below to see that all tests were performed on the same logs.
Unfortunately, the Husky 550 XP broke down during the test. It was an older saw belonging to someone on the test team and obviously needed service. It started cold but refused to start when it was warm.
You can see the result of the cookie-cutting test in the chart below.
|Cut No (species)||Time sec MSA 300||Time sec 550 XP Mrk II||Time sec 550 XP Mrk II|
On the field test
When the MSA 300 was tested and compared in the forest, the results were similar to the gas saws in terms of felling, delimbing, and bucking. However, this is a subjective assessment and you can form your own opinion by watching the video below. In the video, Lars-Erik can be seen working with both smaller and larger trees.
MSA 300 battery
Stihl claims that the MSA 300 can produce a maximum power of 3 kW and reach a maximum chain speed of 30 meters per second. Our test confirmed that it can keep up with the other two saws in the test. We tested the different power modes during the cookie-cutting test and were impressed that the saw did not overheat once during testing, even though the air temperature was around 18 degrees Celsius (64o F).
The battery did get hot, but the saw continued to run without any issues. Delivering a large amount of energy quickly from a battery is a challenge, but Stihl seems to have succeeded. However, it’s worth noting that intensive cookie-cutting, like what we did in the test, is not a regular chainsaw routine.
Managing Charging and Power Usage
After intensive use of the MSA 300 at its highest power mode, we had to wait a little while for the battery charger to detect a low enough temperature for recharging. Besides that, everything else went well, and recharging took approximately 35 minutes.
Regarding power consumption, the MSA 300 was able to cut 45 “cookies” at maximum power mode and 65 at ECO mode. These tests were done with an average log diameter of 20 centimeters. This performance is in line with what we found in our previous tests of the Husky 540i, Stihl MSA 220, and Echo DCS 1600.
In terms of running time in the forest, our personal experience indicates that the MSA 300’s battery life is similar to a gas tank on a comparable gas-powered saw, as shown in the video below. This means you need to bring enough batteries with you, depending on how many hours you work and what power mode you use. If you opt for the ECO mode, you’ll need fewer batteries, but it won’t be comparable to a 50-cc gas saw.
Impact in Economy
When it comes to comparing battery-powered and gas-powered chainsaws, it’s a hotly debated topic within the logging community. You either love the battery saw or hate it, and it’s not easy to combine the two depending on the job at hand.
While a battery saw can be expensive to purchase, it’s important to consider that you’re investing in a system that will last you for the entire lifecycle of a gas-powered saw. So, when comparing the two, it’s crucial to consider the economics over the saw’s lifetime.
In terms of cost, the price for the saw itself is about the same for both battery and gas-powered options, and the wear on guide bars, chains, and chain oil consumption is also the same. So, these factors don’t need to be taken into account when making an economic comparison.
Our test revealed that a fully charged battery in the Stihl MSA 300 lasted roughly the same amount of time as a gas tank in the Stihl MS 261. So, if you typically use six tanks of gas per day in the forest, you’ll need six batteries and six chargers for overnight charging.
When comparing costs, you’ll need to take into account the cost of batteries, chargers, and gas, as well as how many hours you’ll be using the saw per day and how many years you’ll be using it for.
While I won’t provide specific cost figures here, it’s worth noting that according to Fredrik’s calculations for a full-time logger using a chainsaw for three years, the battery saw (Stihl MSA 300) would be around $100 cheaper per month compared to the corresponding gas saw (Stihl MS 261).
Ultimately, companies with many chainsaws in their fleet can save a significant amount of money on electricity by investing in battery-powered saws. However, it’s important to keep in mind that gas and electricity prices vary greatly between countries, so it’s crucial to do your research and compare costs in your local area.
The battery saw industry is rapidly developing, and the Stihl MSA 300 and the Husky 540i are already on par with professional gas saws in the 50-cc class. It seems like battery saws will eventually become the norm.
During our test, logger Lars-Erik fell trees of various sizes using the MSA 300 in an area of summer houses. The saw’s quiet operation made it a hit among the locals, proving that it’s suitable for use in populated areas.
It can take some time to get used to the unique features of a battery saw, such as the MSA 300’s safety function that turns off the saw after being stationary for a while. But it’s no big deal and easy to learn. However, Lars-Erik, being an experienced logger, did have a slightly embarrassing moment when he repeatedly reached for the non-existent starter grip, much to the amusement of the onlookers.
The release date of the Stihl MSA 300 in different countries is unclear, so keep an eye out for updates from your local dealer.