Ultimate Chainsaw Chain Guide: Best Chainsaw Chain

Best Chainsaw Chain - Guide

Unless someone is a professional and has experience with handling a chain saw, it is very easy to be confused about the different types of chainsaw chains, and therefore, choose the best chainsaw chain for their needs.

Have you realized that your chain is dull and not cutting properly? In case you already tried (and read our chainsaw sharpener guide and reviews) or simply do not want to be messing around with sharpening, just buy yourself a new chain.

Same Brand vs Other Replacement chains

It’s a safe choice to get the same brand chain as your chainsaw, although it may be more expensive and even unnecessary. Chain manufacturers intend to produce chains for most of the chainsaw brands and as long as you get the size and type right, any chainsaw chain brand will do the job. Of course there may be quality differences, but the brands we picked for our best chainsaw guide are all long established, well reviewed and discussed in the retail and internet community.

Chainsaw Chain Guide – How to Find the Best Chainsaw Chain?

What to look for when buying a new chain? Of course it should have a size that fits the bar of your chainsaw, but there are other considerations as well, before you can get your hand on the best chainsaw chain on the market.

Chainsaw chain basics

Chain parts guide diagram - Stihl

  • Drive link, also called a driver, is shaped so that it fits around the chain saw sprocket and the sprocket at the end of the guide bar.
  • Cutter or Cutting Tooth, which makes contact with the wood and cuts the wood fibers
  • Tie Strap connects the driver and the cutter together
Chainsaw Chain Basics - Pitch and Gauge
Chainsaw chain pitch and gauge
  • Pitch: the average distance between two rivets. Typical pitches are: 0.250″ (1/4″), 0.325″, 0.375″ (3/8″) and 0.404″. The pitch of the chain must match the pitch of the drive sprocket and guide bar tip.
  • Gauge: the thickness of the drive links, dictated by the gauge of the bar. Usual gauges range between 0.043″ to 0.063 inch.
  • Length: is described by the number of drive links. This number is determined by the length and type of bar, the sprocket size and the overall configuration of the saw. For replacement purposes, simply count the drive links on the old chain

Chainsaw chain size on the guide bar

The chainsaw chain size information is usually written on the guide bar itself. It looks something like this:

Chainsaw bar chain sizes

In this case, Stihl was kind enough to use very clear markings for the bar length (18″), gauge (0.063″) and number of drive links (74). If you look closely,  pitch is written on the top too (0.325″). With these information you can easily replace the chain, just shop for the same measurements for your replacement chain.

Chainsaw chain size on the chain

No luck with chain measurements on the bar?

There may be indicators on the chain itself, like numbers stamped on the cutter or drive link, although these codes are brand-specific. We will run through these later when we list the best chainsaw chain per manufacturer.

Manual chain measurement steps

Step 1 – Pitch measurement

Chainsaw Chain Size - PitchThe pitch is the chain size describing how close the links are on the chain. It can read by measuring the distance between the middle points of any 3 rivets on the chain, also known as the distance between two drive links, then divide by 2.

 

Step 2 – Gauge measurement

Chainsaw Chain Size - GaugeTo simply put, gauge is the thickness of drive links that fit into the chainsaw guide bar. If you get a replacement chain with bigger gauge than necessary, the chain won’t fit the bar, while choosing a smaller gauge measurement means the chain will be loose.

It is best to take the gauge size by a caliper. Without such a tool, you can use the following trick: get some coins, and try to fit them into the guide bar groove. Sizes are as this: dime (0.050″), penny (0.058″), quarter (0.063″).

Best Husqvarna chainsaw chains

Husqvarna chainsaw parts and chains

Husqvarna is a well known brand founded in 1689, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. It is a global leading producer of outdoor power products and innovative solutions for forest, park and garden care. They’ve produced chainsaws since 1959 and built a great reputation in this period. 

Best Husqvarna chains

* Pixel: A low kickback, low-vibration chain developed to meet the specific needs of today’s lightweight chainsaws. It cuts a narrow kerf and requires less power from the saw than standard cutting systems. Not recommended for heavy duty work, e.g. storm damaged forests. Recommended for use on 35cc to 55cc saws.

Best Husqvarna Chainsaw ChainsBar sizeDrive linksPitchGaugeType 
Husqvarna 531308147 90SG-56 Lo-Pro Saw Chain16"560.375 (3/8)0.043Micro LiteLearn more
Husqvarna 531300446 H37-56 (91VG) Lo-Pro Saw Chain16"560.375 (3/8)0.050Low profile
Low vibration
Learn more
Husqvarna 531300437 H30-66 (95VP) Pixel Saw Chain16"660.3250.050Pixel*Learn more
Husqvarna 531300439 H30-72 (95VP) Pixel Saw Chain18"720.3250.050Pixel*Learn More
Husqvarna 531300441 H80-72 (72V) Saw Chain20"720.375 (3/8)0.050ChiselLearn more
Husqvarna H46-84 Saw Replacement Chain24"840.375 (3/8)0.050ChiselLearn more
X-CUT Husqvarna SP33G Saw Chain16"660.3250.050Pixel - Semi Chisel
X-Cut
Learn more

Best Oregon chainsaw chains

Oregon chainsaw parts and chains

In 1947, the Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing Corporation was founded with four employees and one product. Today, the Oregon brand is part of Blount Inc, a corporation with more than 3,000 employees and thousands of products.

Oregon, still headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is well known for their huge selection of chainsaw accessorize, chainsaw parts and chains.

Best Oregon chains

If you have an Oregon chainsaw look no further. Nevertheless, Oregon produces chainsaws themselves, but they are more renown for manufacturing chainsaw chain replacement for other brands, like Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Husqvarna, John Deere, Makita, McCulloch, Poulan, Remington and others, even Stihl.

Best Oregon Chainsaw ChainsBar sizeDrive linksPitchGaugeType 
Oregon R34 Micro Lite Chain Saw Chain8"340.375 (3/8)0.043Micro LiteLearn more
Oregon S52 Chain Saw Chain14"520.375 (3/8)0.050Chamfer chiselLearn more
Oregon S56 Semi Chisel Chain Saw Chain16"560.375 (3/8)0.050Semi-chiselLearn more
Oregon S63 AdvanceCut Saw Chain18"630.375 (3/8)0.050Chamfer chisel Learn more
Oregon D70 Vanguard Chain Saw Chain20"700.375 (3/8)0.050Full-chiselLearn more
Oregon L81 Pro Guard Replacement Saw Chain for Stihl20"810.3250.063Micro-chiselLearn more

* Chamfer chisel – Variation of the semi-chisel chain is “Chamfer chisel” chains made by Oregon. They are similar to semi-chisel design but have a small 45 degree chamfer between the plates rather than a radius. 

* Micro-Lite is the name for the lean, mean narrow-kerf chains at Oregon. The advantage of using a leaner narrow-kerf cutting system is that it requires less power from the saw to make the same length of cut. 

* Micro Chisel cutters, according to Oregon, have small-radius working corners for fast cutting and easy sharpening.

Best Stihl chainsaw chains

Stihl chainsaw parts and chains

When it comes to chainsaws, Stihl, founded in 1926, is the ultimate go-to brand. Stihl claims to be the world’s best-selling brand of chain saws, and the only chain saw manufacturer to make its own saw chains and guide bars with excellent quality. 

* Picco Micro Mini – Low-vibration saw chain by STIHL. Reduced kickback, low-profile saw chain for use on lightweight chain saws is for universal use. Ideal for occasional users or for wood carving. 

Best Stihl chains

Best Stihl Chainsaw ChainsBar sizeDrive linksPitchGaugeType 
STIHL OILOMATIC 61 PMM3 50 Chain Saw Chain14"500.375 (3/8)0.043Picco Micro MiniLearn more
STIHL OILOMATIC 23 RS 66 Chain Saw Chain16"660.3250.050Rapid Super (Full-chisel)Learn more
Stihl 26 RS 74 Rapid Super Chainsaw Chain 18"740.3250.063Rapid Super (Full-chisel)Learn more
Stihl 33 RS3 72 Chainsaw Chain 20"720.375 (3/8)0.050Rapid Super (Full-chisel)Learn more
STIHL 26RS 81 Rapid Super Chainsaw Chain20"810.3250.063Rapid Super (Full-chisel)Learn more

Stilh chain gude

STIHL uses a Marketing Number System in addition to the part number. This allows easy identification of any chain. For example, chain with a 33 RS3 has the following properties:

PitchGaugeTypeShapeSpecial
33RS3
0.375" (3/8")0.050"STIHL RAPID™SuperSingle-Humped Drive Link

Pitch (Marked on cutter)
1 = 1/4″
2 = .325″
3 = 3/8″
4 = .404″
6 = STIHL PICCO™ (3/8″ Extended)
7 = STIHL PICCO™ (1/4″ Extended)

Cutter Type
R = STIHL RAPID™
P = STIHL PICCO™

Cutter Shape
S = Super (Full Chisel)
M = Micro™ (Semi Chisel)
D = Duro (Carbide Tip)
R = Rescue (RDR chain, especially designed for MS 460 R STIHL Magnum® Rescue carbide segment)

Gauge (on drive link)
1 = .043″ (1.1 mm)
3 = .050″ (1.3 mm)
5 = .058″ (1.5 mm)
6 = .063″ (1.6 mm)
0 = .080″ (2.0 mm) Harvester Chain Only

Special
1 = Triple-humped Tie Strap on PM chain
2 = Triple-humped Tie Strap on RM chain
3 = Single-Humped Drive Link
F = Full Skip
H = Semi Skip (Half-Skip) or Harvester (i.e. on .404″ RMH)
K = Classic Cutter Design
L = Square Ground Chisel
M = Mini
MM = Mini Micro™
N = Narrow (PMN)
S = Special

Other things to consider

Low kickback chain

Kickback may occur when the moving chain at the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Tip or bar nose contact can, in some cases, cause a lightning-fast reverse reaction, kicking the guide bar up and back toward the operator. This can happen even to the best chainsaw chain, regardless of brand.  

Most chainsaw chains for homeowners are designed to lower the chances of a kickback. These tend to be semi chisel chain, meaning that the outside edge and working corner are rounded versus the squared corner of a chisel chain. 

Our advice is always look for the “low kickback” mark or labeling, unless you know what you are doing. 

Low vibration chain

There are two kinds of vibration sources when using a chainsaw, engine and cutting vibration. The latter is caused by the action of the cutter teeth as it cuts and severs wood. Chain manufacturers try to produce chain that vibrates less than average. For your comfort, a low vibration chain may be a good idea when shopping for a new chainsaw chain.

Read our Ultimate Chainsaw Buying Guide for 2018!

Best chainsaw chain – Conclusion

What is the best chainsaw chain? As we have seen, there is no such thing as best chainsaw chain at all. The most important advice is to follow the manufacturers instruction and get the right size and therefore the best chain for the chainsaw. 

Modern chainsaw chain types include chains made of steel alloys, designed for extremely cold conditions, while chains with tungsten carbide teeth, being twice as strong as steel, mostly used for rescue work and other demanding situations. Interesting fact: tungsten carbide is used for armor piercing ammunition, mining drill bits, surgical instruments among others. 

However, a low kickback or low profile standard chain is best for home owners with no experience, and if you are looking for something specific, such as chipper chains, ripping chains, do your own research and make it thoroughly. It’s never a bad idea to ask an expert.

When it comes to brands, Stihl chainsaw chains are considered as best by most, however considering budget, a reliable and trusted third party chain brand such as Oregon might be just as good.