Stihl MS 271 Review: My First Love
Looking for a new saw in the 50 cc range, but don’t want to sink the kid’s dreams of being a doctor? The Stihl MS 271 is a durable performer that can be relied on. It offers good value in its class, and as an added bonus slinging it through the daily sawing chores will pump up those stringy biceps and forearms.
In earlier posts, I went into some detail concerning the what factors need to be considered before choosing which chainsaw to purchase. This is a complicated decision as one decide on the power source (gas, battery electric, or electric), the size of the power head, and to a lesser extent, the size of the bar, as well as the manufacturer and model. This decision is also complicated by other, extenuating factors: what makes/models are available in your geographical area, what dealers are in the area, as well the pricing of the various brands and models at the time you are making your purchase.
When it came time for me to bite the bullet and make my purchase, I chose the Stihl MS 271. My reasons for choosing the MS 271 were simple: it offered me the best value in terms of power, reliability/durability, and build quality in my budget. There are many people who will strongly advocate different brands and models, and I do not dispute that there are other saws that are superior to the MS 271, but that superiority comes at significant increase in cost. At the time I made my purchase, I believe the MS 271 was the best saw I could purchase in my area at the price I paid.
According to www.stihl.ca, the MS 271 specs in with:
Engine displacement: 50.2 cc
Power output: 2.6kW/3.5 bhp
Powerhead dry weight: 5.6kg/12.3 lb’s (the weight of the saw excluding gas, oil, bar, or chain).
Like all manufacturers Stihl lists the dry weight of their powerhead instead of the actual weight in the field. They do this to allow for the variances in bar/ chain combos, but it is misleading in that chainsaws weigh substantially more in the field than their specs. In my MS 271’s case, it weighs 17 lb’s with an 18″ Stihl bar running Stihl Rapid Super chain. This is a 38% discrepancy. Because powerhead’s can be fitted with a great variety of bar/chain combinations, there is a great range of weights involved, and it would be unfair to label this practice as intentionally deceptive, but one should be aware of this discrepancy. This is a great example that one should hold prospective saws in their hands at a dealers whenever possible in order to get a true feel for their weights and balance.
Other Features of Note
The MS 271 also comes with side chain tensioning, most newer saws have this feature, but it is definitely something you want on your saw (unless you enjoy scraping your knuckles adjusting chain tension from the front). This saw has very good air filtration and the pre-cleaning of the air does seem to work quite well. The air filter fits quite snugly and is durable. To access the air filter you do need to use the included scrench or a flat head or torx screw driver. Since you need to carry your scrench with you to adjust the chain, this isn’t a huge ordeal, but not needing a tool to check the filter is a nice feature. The single lever control switch is also a nice feature that is quite handy if you follow proper starting procedures. The switch is protected by a ridge of plastic that makes it difficult to accidently turn off the saw with a stray twig. the Stihl MS 271 also incorporates an inertia activated weighted chain brake, but that is another feature that is quite standard on newer saws (which shouldn’t detract from its value).
Overall, the saw is quite well engineered and everything is where you would expect/need it to be. The rear hand guard is quite wide, but the handle is a little small for those who prefer starting with the toe of their boot in the handle. I prefer to step over the saw and hold it in place with my heel firmly on the hand guard. I find that this gives me better ergonomics and leverage with the added bonus of keeping my toe away from the throttle.
The Stihl MS 271 starts quite easily every time if you follow the correct starting procedure: 2-3 strong pulls with the single starting lever in the full choke position produced the starting “burp” every time when cold. One more pull in the half choke position consistently brings this beast to life. Once warmed up, I have not had any trouble restarting this saw with one good pull with the starting lever in the half-choke position. The MS 271 has proven a reliable starter for me every time thus far.
My 271 was very reliable from the start, but there was a definite “break-in” period of three to four tankful’s of fuel. After the forth tankful’s of fuel, my 271 really seemed to wake-up in that there was a definite increase in power. The saw was a little “boggy” during the first couple of tanks. It was much easier to bog down when the bar buried in the wood or under pressure. After the break-in period, the saw displayed much better torque, and it performed very well for a 50 c.c saw.
After the initial break-in, my 271 was an extremely fast cutter. It easily handled the medium sized trees that the East Coast has to offer. With the Rapid Super chain that comes stock here in Canada, the Stihl MS 271 bored and felled trees without issue. This saw proved very reliable which was an essential quality for this inexperienced sawyer felling trees that left little room for error and required a saw I could count on once I was committed to the fall.
The Stihl MS 271 feels quite solid and well balanced in your hands. The build quality is quite high. Much of the housing and handles are made of a ballistic plastic, but the plastic seems to be quite strong and rugged. The MS 271 is a very capable saw that cuts extremely well when paired with Stihl Rapid Super chain on a Stihl Rollomatic E bar. This chain is the “pro” version chain and is an aggressive full chisel chain that performs extremely well. Although the 271 is an incredible saw, it has one drawback: it is quite heavy. Fully fueled with an 18″ bar, my 271 weighs around 17 pounds. This extra weight can be helpful if you are cutting firewood, but it is going to tire you if you must use it for a prolonged period of time. Since I rarely use it for more than an hour or two at a time, it is not a huge issue for me, but one should remember that this is a “rancher” class saw and not a “pro” grade saw. You will save a few hundred bucks off the purchase price compared to the pro grade Stihl MS 260, but that savings comes at a price in increased weight.
At the end of the day, I am quite satisfied with my purchase. The Stihl MS 271 is a great saw in the 50 cc range. It offers good balance, great reliability, and exceptional cutting performance in its price bracket. So far, the saw feels quite rugged (it has survived a smaller tree falling on its case with no discernible effect). The MS 271’s main drawback is its weight which would be an issue for someone planning on using it on a full time basis, but, let’s be honest, most of its target audience will not be using it for hours on end very often. I would highly recommend it as a contender for the homeowner who plans on dealing a fair amount of cutting on a semi-regular basis.