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.
We have reviewed chainsaw chains based on compatibility, type, performance, design, quality and public reviews. After thorough investigation, we produced a list of the top 3 chainsaw chains that are the best on the market today.
We have also compiled a list of replacement chains of the most popular brands: Oregon, Stihl and Husqvarna.
Please read through the guide below that explains how to find the best replacement chain, what to look out for and all the factors to consider.
Then feel free to check the lists and look for more information following the links. You will surely be able to find the chainsaw chain that’s perfect for your and your chainsaw’s needs.
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 pitch and gauge
Typically, it does not matter whether you have a gas powered chainsaw, a modern classic corded electric chainsaw or a latest lithium-ion cordless chainsaw, their chains all have the usual properties and specifications.
The only odd category could be the small or mini chainsaws where specific extra-short chains are needed. For example, the LP1000 Alligator Lopper by Black & Decker needs a 6-Inch saw chain.
The chainsaw chain size information is usually written on the guide bar itself. It looks something like this:
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.
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.
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″).
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.
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.
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 Chains||Bar size||Drive links||Pitch||Gauge||Type|
|Husqvarna 531308147 90SG-56 Lo-Pro Saw Chain||16"||56||0.375|
|0.043||Micro Lite||Check price|
|Husqvarna 531300446 H37-56 (91VG) Lo-Pro Saw Chain||16"||56||0.375|
|Husqvarna 531300437 H30-66 (95VP) Pixel Saw Chain||16"||66||0.325||0.050||Pixel||Check price|
|Husqvarna 531300439 H30-72 (95VP) Pixel Saw Chain||18"||72||0.325||0.050||Pixel||Check price|
|Husqvarna 531300441 H80-72 (72V) Saw Chain||20"||72||0.375|
|Husqvarna H46-84 Saw Replacement Chain||24"||84||0.375|
|X-CUT Husqvarna SP33G Saw Chain||16"||66||0.325||0.050||Pixel|
Oregon, still headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is well known for their huge selection of chainsaw accessorize, chainsaw parts and 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 Chains||Bar size||Drive links||Pitch||Gauge||Type|
|Oregon R34 Micro Lite Chain Saw Chain||8"||34||0.375|
|0.043||Micro Lite||Check price|
|Oregon S52 Chain Saw Chain||14"||52||0.375|
|0.050||Chamfer chisel||Check price|
|Oregon S56 Semi Chisel Chainsaw Chain||16"||56||0.375|
|Oregon S63 AdvanceCut Saw Chain||18"||63||0.375|
|0.050||Chamfer chisel||Check price|
|Oregon D70 Vanguard Chain Saw Chain||20"||70||0.375|
|Oregon L81 Pro Guard Replacement Saw Chain for Stihl||20"||81||0.325||0.063||Micro-chisel||Check price|
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.
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.
|Best Stihl Chainsaw Chains||Bar size||Drive links||Pitch||Gauge||Type|
|STIHL OILOMATIC 61 PMM3 50 Chain Saw Chain||14"||50||0.375|
|0.043||Picco Micro Mini||Check price|
|STIHL OILOMATIC 23 RS 66 Chain Saw Chain||16"||66||0.325||0.050||Rapid Super|
|Stihl 26 RS 74 Rapid Super Chainsaw Chain||18"||74||0.325||0.063||Rapid Super|
|Stihl 33 RS3 72 Chainsaw Chain||20"||72||0.375|
|STIHL 26RS 81 Rapid Super Chainsaw Chain||20"||81||0.325||0.063||Rapid Super|
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.
See below the chain size chart for Stihl chainsaws:
|0.375" (3/8")||0.050"||STIHL RAPID™||Super||Single-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)
R = STIHL RAPID™
P = STIHL PICCO™
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
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
The Oregon S56 chain is one of the best overall chains available today, compatible with Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Poulan, Remington and other brands.
This budget pack of chains is compatible with many Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Husqvarna, McCulloch, Poulan and shindaiwa chainsaw models.
It offers chromed cutters for fast and safer cutting, including a certified low kickback design.
Self lubricating technology is supposed to keep it functional for longer, similar to premium brands.
The Husqvarna 531300437 H30-66 Pixel Saw Chain is a brilliant choice for Husqvarna owners. Works great with hardwood and promises low kickback designed for modern lightweight chainsaws.
It is ideal for arborists, commercial cutters and occasional home users alike.
It is important to choose the best chainsaw chain for hardwood cutting. Choosing the wrong chain will only end up costing you a lot of money in the long run. There are several different chains available on the market, but you have to find the one that is best for you.
Hardwoods are the best wood of choice to heat a house, fueling a stove or a fireplace.
Hardwood trees, such as oak, teak, walnut, beech or maple, are tough but with the right chainsaw chain it should not be too hard to saw through the logs with ease.
There are cutter chains that are designed specifically for hardwood. With minimal effort, these heavy-duty chains can rip through hardwood easily.
In general, semi chisel chains are reasonably easy to handle, safe and can work on hardwood well, but can be slow.
Professionals swear on full chisel cutters that are much more agressive and can deal with hardwood with increased speed. On the other hand, they are not as durable and cannot handle dirty wood and surfaces.
It is also worth mentioning that full chisel chains might kick back more, especially when used on hardwood.
Firewood has two categories, hardood and softwood.
Hardwoods, discussed in the previous section, are generally denser than softwood, meaning they may burn for longer and produce more heat.
Softwood trees are like cedar, pine, redwood and spruce, season very quickly and are lighter and lower in density. They ignite faster but produce more smoke, hence better to use outdoors. They are also great fire starters in a fireplace or stove.
Avoid green wood, such as freshly cut wood as they tend to have high sap and moisture content.
In terms of chains to use, a safe bet would be to use a semi-chisel chain that handles well and last longer.
After a chainsaw is sold you are often asked, How long does a chainsaw chain last? How to tell if the item you purchased is still in perfect working order is not easy.
In the past, the amount of wear and tear to a chainsaw were not well understood by the public.
There is no definite answer to how long a chain lasts as it depends on many factors. These factors include the quality of the original chain, how often and what kind of wood is being cut, as well as the technique the chainsaw is used with.
You can improve the longevity of the chain if the cutting surface is cleaned beforehand, as well as the material should not contain any debris or bark. These, especially bark, can dull even a brand new chain.
Try to avoid cutting into hard materials or anything that is not intended to be cut by the chainsaw. For example, hitting the ground or rocks will certainly damage your chain.
As mentioned in the introduction, sharpening the chain should be a regular chore and it is not at all difficult to do. With some practice, and with the right sharpening tools, it should be fairly easy.
How often should you sharpen the chain is again, down to how the chain is being used. Some like to resharpen the chains after every tank of gas, but this may take away too much of the materials and for normal consumers, it should be based on the following signs.
When the chain stops making large chips and instead starts throwing sawdust, as well as the effort cutting through is increased, it may be the time.
Sharpening should be simple as most chainsaw sharpening kits will have instruction guides that should be easily followed.
If you don’t have a sharpening tool and need to get the job done quickly, it may be best to turn to your local maintenance shop where the sharpening or replacement will be carried out professionally.
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.
This is highly dangerous, therefore it is most recommended to wear safety gear.
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.
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 2019!
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.