Stihl MS 271 Review: My First Love

Stihl MS 271 Review: My First Love

A.J. Kilpatrick

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.

Review Stihl MS 271

Stihl MS 271: a reliable performer

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.

The Numbers

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).

Patented Single Lever Control Switch Stihl MS 271 Review

Stihl Patented Single Lever Control Switch on the Stihl MS 271

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.

Air filter Stihl MS 271 Review

Snug fitting air filter on the Stihl MS 271

Performance

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.

Bottom Line

 

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.

15 thoughts on “Stihl MS 271 Review: My First Love

  1. Pingback: Review Echo CS 590 - adventuresinchainsawingadventuresinchainsawing

  2. I purchased an MS-271 chainsaw about a month ago and have used it to remove some smaller hardwood trees (<6" diameter) on my property. I’ve run about 2-3 tanks of gas (w/Stihl 2 stroke oil) through the system along with a tank of bar oil. A few days ago I had trouble starting it and noticed the chain was spinning while the engine was idling. Eventually I couldn't get the saw started and returned it to the dealer for service. The shop informed me that the oil pump and clutch were damaged and had to be replaced. Of course the parts have to be ordered and will take several days to arrive (if I'm lucky). Then a few more days will be needed to put the saw back together and checked out.

    I called the factory to ask if they would replace the saw as it was only ~ 1 month old. I was told no, they would not offer me a new unit as this was a 'fluke' and they would instead repair the machine. I am quite disappointed that after spending ~$450 my saw is now in the shop after only light use. I was also in the middle of a job that has been put on hold until they can complete the repair.

    The dealer has been great and the saw's poor quality is no reflection on their customer service or technical abilities. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this repair facility again in the future.

    I had a Troy Bilt for 10 years that cost half as much and never had to be repaired. I now regret trading in my old reliable chainsaw for a unit that clearly cannot be trusted.

    Given Stihl's excellent reputation, I'm dismayed that they refused to step up and do the right thing by offering to replace a clearly defective saw.

    • PharmDoc,

      If I had your experience, I would be disappointed as well. I understand your frustration. I would like to know how your MS 271 is performing now that it has been repaired (although having to repair a brand new saw would be a poor introduction to any brand and model).

      A.J. Kilpatrick

    • My Sthil ms 271 has a blown motor. Dealership says that the motor overheated because the chain was dull. Guess what? 3 months out of warranty. Very disappointed. My Craftsman chain saw ran for 8 years. My MS 271 had only a gallon of pre-mixed fuel run through the machine. Not impressed with Sthil or the Sthil dealership.

      • Sorry for the slow response, but I am stuck in renovation hell. So far, my MS 271 is working well, but I would be quite displeased and soured on the brand if a similar thing happened to me. A dull chain seems to be a weak excuse for engine failure. Unless you kept sawing for an extended period of time with the chain not cutting at all and smoke pouring from the cut, a new saw should survive a dull chain. How dull was the chain? The engine would overheat if you kept chewing away for a prolonged time, but most people would check to see why the saw was no longer cutting. I feel for you. Let us know what brand you go with for the next saw, and how the new saw performs.

  3. I’ve read most of the reviews, kind of surprised of the troubles people are having. I use this saw all the time at work, and it takes a s$@t kicking. And I don’t use it in a normal environment. It’s buried in mud, water, not at all being used what it was truly meant for, and it keeps on ticking. Dull chains and all. We have about 10 or so of them at work, and I’ve never had a problem with one of them. I’ve bought one for personal use and haven’t looked back. Wish others have had better luck, but I would highly recommend this saw.

    • So far, I have also found it to be a reliable and tough saw. It’s biggest flaw so far is it is a little heavier, but at its price point, it is hard to beat.

    • I guess that the ms 271 uses oil twenty percent slower than fuel. Depending on how hard you’re pushing the saw. The oiler does seem a bit prone to vapor locking, especially if you over fill the reservoir.

  4. Have had my 271 w/20′ bar, for 6 months now. Finally broke down and bought a good!!!!! dependable saw. With 19 acres of woods to manage (wind & dead falls) I was tired of wearing out home owner grade saws, 5 in 10 years. So far no problems, once I figured out the correct starting procedure, which is quite different than previous saws. Like posted earlier, cold start, full choke until it coughs, then 1/2 choke for no more than 2 pulls. Warm starts, first pull almost every time and so far no more than 2 pulls which only happens if I don’t get a full pull. I’ve cut size from 2″ to 32″ with out any problems. Yes, I’ll agree with others here, it’s a little on the heavy side after 3-4 hours of cutting

  5. I am glad I found this post. I am a carpenter in need of a better/newer saw than my thirty plus year old pair of Poulons for a couple of timber projects and have been trying to decide between the Stihl ms271, ms291 and the Husky 455 rancher, and the husky 450. All with twenty inch bars. The saw will only see light use once these projects are through and I am wondering if the MS271 is a good choice to handle this work.
    1: ongoing project timber deck and siding. Logs felled and processed on sight with Prazi, chainsaw, and Wood Meizer.

    2: Cut and process beetle kill into planks as raw material for building furniture.

    3: square four 16 inch square by twenty four foot douglas fir timbers on site with chainsaw.

    I

    • Hi John. The Ms 271 is a great saw, but the ripping cuts would be asking a lot of it. I have pushed the 271 to do similar tasks and it did it without too much trouble, but I wouldn’t want to do it a lot or for extended periods of time. The MS 291 is the same saw with more displacement, but, as they say, “There is no replacement for engine displacement.” The Husky 455 would offer a little more than the 450 for the same reason (the 460 being better again). In this price range, I would urge you to give the Echo CS 590 Timber Wolf a look. It has a little more displacement, more torque, and some pro features like a vertically split magnesium crank case for the same money. I have used to the Timber Wolf for some light milling work and it handled it with out any trouble.

      Of course the 70 cc pro saws from Stihl and Husqvarna would be the best choice, but at over double the money. The Husqvarna 555 might be the best compromise between the extremes (although still a hefty jump in price, but you would get a lot more for it).

      However it goes, be sure to let us know which saw you decide on (and how it does).

  6. any advice would be helpful. i am looking at buying a ms 271 farm boss but not sure if i want to go with the 18” or 20” bar for power reasons. has anyone noticed a lack of power with the 20″ bar over the 18″ bar when cutting larger trees? thanks for the help

    • I have not used the MS 271 with any bar bigger than an 18″, but I did not notice a difference between the 16″ and the 18″. Richard, in the comments above seems to like the 271 with a 20″ bar. How much power loss you experience would depend on how big, and what type of wood, the trees you will be cutting are.

      Depending on the pricing in your area, maybe the MS 291 would be a better option for running a 20″ bar. If the price difference is close to the cost of a new bar and chain, it might be worth upgrading to the MS 291 rather than deciding on changing the bar and chain set up on the MS 271 if you find you do not running it with a 20″ bar setup. The added power of the 291 should, in theory, offset the added bar length. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  7. Uh Stihl has been doing side tensioners since the very early 90’s if not late 80’s and the inertia chain brake since probably around that time too.

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