When it comes to choosing a great chainsaw chain, you want the right mix of aggression and safety. It’s important to match the chain to the saw to avoid slips and kickback. You want a chain that will sink into trees like a hot knife into butter.
This guide will review the best 10 chainsaw chains on the market and go over everything you need to know to make the best decision.
It will teach you how to buy the right size and type of chain for your specific model of chainsaw.
- 1 Top 10 Best Chainsaw Chains
- 1.1 Oregon Advance Cut S56 Chain
- 1.2 Oregon Advance Cut S52 Chain
- 1.3 Oregon Advance Cut R34 Chain
- 1.4 Husqvarna 18 inch Model H30-72 Chain
- 1.5 Husqvarna 24 Inch Model H46 Chain
- 1.6 Oregon Advance Cut D70 Chain
- 1.7 Oregon Advance Cut S45 Chain
- 1.8 Husqvarna 20 inch Model H80-72 Chain
- 1.9 Husqvarna 14 inch Model H36 Chain
- 1.10 Stihl 26RS Rapid Super Chain
- 2 The Art of Choosing the Best Chainsaw Chain
- 3 When should you replace your chainsaw chain?
- 4 Tips to Make Your Chain Last Longer
- 5 Conclusion
Top 10 Best Chainsaw Chains
There are tons of chains on the market and everyone swears by their favorite. These chains vary in size and fit. While most power tools come with a base chain, the saw often outlasts the chain. It can be expensive to order replacement parts from the manufacturer.
Here are the 10 best chainsaw chains on the market, along with their strengths and weaknesses. This should help you pick the right one for your saw.
Oregon Advance Cut S56 Chain
The Oregon S56 chain is compatible with Husqvarna, Echo, Craftsman, Homelite, Dolmar, Jonsered, Mastercraft, Remington, Makita, and Poulan power tools. This product is 16 inches, 1.3 mm thick, and is a 3/8-inch low profile chain with 56 links.
- Easy to install and tighten
- Compatible with multiple brands
- Clean and consistent cuts
- Powerful and accurate cutting
- Dulls quicker than other chains
- Packaging tangles the chain; takes time to unravel the knot
This is a precision chain that cuts like butter, creating gorgeous chips. It’s smooth and fast and offers very little kickback thanks to the bumper drive ink. The chain is precision made and hand treated, using hard chrome. It’s also engineered for safety, quality, and performance. It should work for saw sizes up to 42 cc.
It uses twin corners for superior performance and the four way symmetrical tie straps make it really easy to join chain loops. It uses Chamfer chisel cutters to ensure a low chip flow. It is even weather-resistant!
Oregon Advance Cut S52 Chain
The Oregon S52 chain is compatible with Chicago, Craftsman, Echo, Homelite, Husqvarna, Makita, McCulloch, Poulan, and Worx saws. This chain is 14 inches, 1.3 mm thick, and has a 3/8-inch low profile chain with 52 links.
- Great value for your money.
- Powerful cutting strength.
- Eliminates kickback.
- Dulls quickly and doesn’t last as long as other chains between sharpening.
- Quality control seems to vary on these chains.
- Not as powerful when used to cut hardwood trees.
This chainsaw is powerful enough for difficult jobs but forgiving enough to be used by beginners. It holds up well, even with frequent use. This chain was made for Do It Yourself (DIY) homeowners. It is designed to be durable and solid.
The low kickback design is a great choice for tree maintenance and use after stormy weather. It’s also great to use to cut down threatening branches before bad weather incidents bring them down on your roof. It meets the performance requirements to be certified through ANSL B175.1-2012 and CSA Z62.3 standards.
The chain uses LubriTec oiling, which is designed to keep the lubrication where it is needed the most. This means that both your chain and bar will last longer. It’s also got a low vibration design to improve user comfort. This eliminates vibration-induced white finger (VWF) by creating a space between the chain and guide bar that can dissipate the shock energy before it reaches the operator’s hand.
The cutters are plated with chrome, keeping your chain sharp with a hard surface that resists wear and tear. The rivets are hardened and quenched so that the load-bearing surface is stronger and resists stretching. This allows for fewer adjustments over time.
Oregon Advance Cut R34 Chain
The Oregon R34 chain is compatible with Craftsman, Sears, Black & Decker, Poulan, Troy-Bilt, Remington, and Ryobi saws. It is 8 inches, .043 mm, and has a 3/8 profile with 34 links.
- Great value for money – eliminates need for sharpening because replacement is cheaper in many cases
- Cuts like butter
- Very quick and easy to install
- Hard to fit onto chainsaws
- Dulls quickly
- Rusts if exposed to bad weather
This chain is classified by the UL as a low kickback saw chain. It’s made in the USA at an ISO certified facility using advanced technology that creates sharp edges that smoothly cut through tough jobs. Like other models in the line, it uses LubriTec oiling, reduces vibrations by 25% or more over comparable brands, and comes with chrome-plated cutters and hardened rivets.
Oregon has been making outdoor equipment for nearly a century. They’ve learned how to make durable and lasting products for a fraction of the cost of other brands. This line of products was designed for home users rather than professionals, but it is still tough enough to handle professional jobs. In fact, a lot of domestic landscape professionals use this chain.
Husqvarna 18 inch Model H30-72 Chain
The Husqvarna H30 is a professional’s chain. It’s 18 inches, with a .325 pitch, .05-inch gauge, and 3/16-inch file size.
- Easy to start and restart
- Cuts through the full tank of gas without stalling
- Excellent quality chain makes cutting smooth
- Must be sharpened before every use
- Inconsistent cutting ability within product line
- The chain gets damaged easily
Make sure that you are buying the right chain size for your blade’s needs because a lot of people buy this size by mistake. That being said, if this is the right size for you then it’s a great choice.
Husqvarna manufactures mostly commercial grade products at affordable prices for home consumers. Their products keep the user in mind and strive to be unmatched in terms of performance.
Note: According to the manufacturer, this chain will fit the Husqvarna 445, but the package doesn’t list this model as compatible with this chain.
This blade can be used for ripping bigger trees, but it does make bigger cuts than smaller saws and chains. It was designed for cutting across the grain, so ripping would also dull it much more quickly unless you file your teeth to a different angle for ripping. It was manufactured in Canada, where they know the importance of maintaining your trees.
Husqvarna 24 Inch Model H46 Chain
The Husqvarna H46 chain fits a variety of their chainsaw models. It has 84 drive links, a 3/8-inch pitch, a .05 gauge, and a 7/32 (5.5 mm) file size.
- Extremely durable chain that will often outlive the saws
- Can go a long time between sharpening.
- Can be used for brushing, limbing, bucking, and felling.
- Fast and powerful cutting
- More expensive than comparable models.
- Frequently ordered by mistake – Husqvarna product labeling can be confusing.
This is a low-kickback, reduced-vibration chainsaw developed by a Canadian company to meet the expectations of lightweight chainsaw users. It offers powerful performance and bore cutting. This chain was designed to optimize your chainsaw’s performance on every job from pruning to chopping firewood.
A lot of users frequently purchase the wrong type of Husqvarna chain because they have so many varieties. The key things to look for are listed on your saw’s bar: pitch, gauge, and the number of drive links. This chain has a 3/8 pitch, a .05 gauge, and 84 drive links. Match all three numbers to the ones stamped into your saw’s bar and you will be buying a chain that fits.
Each blade has a line guide to help you sharpen to the ideal specifications and angles. The ideal for this blade is 7/32 inch.
Oregon Advance Cut D70 Chain
The Oregon D70 model chain is compatible with Craftsman, Sears, Echo, Homelite, McCulloch, and Poulan saws. It is 20 inches, .05 (or 1.3 mm) thick, and is 3/8 inch in profile with 70 links.
- Extremely easy to install.
- Cuts very powerfully.
- Extremely sharp blades.
- Sharpening guide marks included on every tooth.
- Very low kickback.
- Dulls very quickly. Needs re-sharpening after every one or two cords of firewood, more regularly if cutting into hard trees.
- Occasionally ships with 72 links instead of 70. Be sure to buy directly from Amazon or a trusted seller.
- Chain carries oil out of the bar chamber; needs to have plenty of oil in the reservoir.
The major weakness with this chain is that it does dull quickly. To avoid getting caught with a dull saw, give each blade a few quick file strokes every time you refill the gas.
This chain uses LubriTec to lower friction and prolong chainsaw life, filing marks to make sharpening extremely accurate, a precision cutting chain with heat-treated and hard chrome covered links, and a unique design to offer smooth and rapid cutting power.
Oregon Advance Cut S45 Chain
The Oregon S45 chain is compatible with Craftsman, Sears, Echo, Husqvarna, McCulloch, Poulan, and Remington saws. It is 12 inches, .05 inches (1.3 mm), has a 3/8-inch profile, and contains 45 links.
- Cuts very powerfully, often upgrading power of many saws.
- One of the best value chains available.
- Dulls quickly on hardwood and shrubs
- Frequent issues with fitting to chainsaw bars.
This chain cuts through wood like a knife through butter. It can be used with saws up to 42cc in size. The low kickback design meets the performance standards for CSA Z62.3 and ANSI B175.1-2012 when tested. This makes it a great choice for domestic users who want to maintain their homesteads.
The chain features the LubriTec oiling system that Oregon is known for, which keeps your bar and chain oil evenly distributed in the chain pieces that need it most. It’s also got chrome-plated cutters to easily bite through tough jobs and hardened rivets to prolong the lifetime of the chain and saw by improving strength and protecting against wear. It also means you don’t have to constantly adjust the tension due to stretching.
Husqvarna 20 inch Model H80-72 Chain
The Husqvarna H80 chain works on a wide variety of saws across multiple brands. It has a drive link of 72, a pitch of 3/8 inch, and a gauge of .05 inch with a 7/32 (or 5.5 mm) file size.
- Safety chain makes it friendly for inexperienced chainsaw users.
- Great value for the money.
- Durable, long-lasting, and sharp out of the package.
- Wears and stretches more easily than original saw chains.
- Not as user-friendly as comparable models.
- Dulls immediately upon contact with dirt.
This chain is not immediately friendly to beginner users. You will need to follow their instructions carefully for installation and keep them close. After its first use, the chain will need to be adjusted again due to stretching. If you do not follow the directions, you will ruin the chain by getting it bound.
This is a safety chain, so it is great for home use. It will be much slower than standard chains, and far less aggressive than what professionals are accustomed to. The reason for that is that it drastically reduces kickback, making it far easier for inexperienced users to handle. This also means that your rakers will be pretty large, which makes it much more difficult to properly file and sharpen.
That being said, this is a very durable, high-quality chain. It performs extremely well provided that you keep the chain away from dust and rocks. It will cut through nearly all types of wood very easily.
Husqvarna 14 inch Model H36 Chain
The Husqvarna H36 is a great fit for a small range of their saws. This chain is 14 inches; with 52 drive links, a 3.8-inch pitch, and a .05 gauge. The file size is 5.32 (4 mm).
- Sharp and powerful cutting power.
- Regularly cuts better than the original chains on the chainsaw models.
- Fewer cutting teeth compared to OEM chain that comes with saw.
- Dulls quickly.
Be mindful that the H36 and H37 chains are often confused with each other but perform very differently. The H37 model chain is for quick cutting of softwood. This model, the H36, is for dead wood and stumps. It cuts slower but holds up a little better if accidental contact is made with dirt.
This chain cuts through wood like a hot knife through butter, sending beautiful chips flying. It is a professional grade chain for use in demanding conditions. It offers high performance with low vibration.
Stihl 26RS Rapid Super Chain
The Stihl 26 RS chain works very well with the Bar Farm Boss Series and also fits other models. It is 20 inches, has an 8.25 mm (.325 inch) pitch, has a .063-inch (1.6 mm) gauge, and contains 81 links. This chain is not recommended for beginners because it will have loads of kickback.
- Chain stays sharp for a long time.
- Cuts hardwood like a precision laser.
- Aggressive model chain with a sharper and more powerful bite.
- Not a safety model, so kickback is a major concern.
- Several complaints of aftermarket chains so be sure to buy directly from Stihl through Amazon.
Use caution when purchasing this chain through Amazon and buy directly through Stihl’s online store. A lot of third-party sellers have been purchasing larger Stihl chains then cutting them apart and creating inferior products that they sell as Stihl chains.
This product should come with a yellow caution triangle somewhere on the chain. If there’s no color, or green color, then yours is not legitimate.
This saw throws off major wood chips instead of leaving tons and tons of sawdust. The chain grabs hard and goes deep. It is a big-boy chain that has serious cutting power and is not recommended for beginners. It can stand up to any tough task, making very quick word of turning trees into chips.
The Art of Choosing the Best Chainsaw Chain
These saw chains have different shapes, sizes, gauges, and depths. How do you know which one is right for you? This guide will answer some of your questions.
The brand matters a little less than you might think, but it is important to note. Some brands, like Oregon, manufacture chains that are compatible with a lot of different saws. Others, like Husqvarna, specialize in their own brand of saws.
The safest choice is to buy a Husqvarna, Oregon, or Stihl chain. These three brands are recognized as the top of the line in terms of both quality and value.
Finding the right size chain for your chainsaw comes down to knowing three important measurements: pitch, gauge, and drive link. All three measurements need to match the specifications that have been stamped into your saw’s bar.
Pitch is a measurement of the distance between the links on your chain. To find this yourself, measure the distance between any 3 rivets on your chainsaw and divide by 2. The most common pitch is 3/8, or .375.
The gauge requires calipers to determine because it is such a small measurement. This is how wide your lugs are – or a measurement of the part of the chain that fits into the guide bar. The most common measurement for this is .050.
The drive link is the easiest measurement to take. This is a count of how many links are on your chain.
There are several different types of chains and they serve different purposes. Each chain is specialized for a different job, so using a chainsaw regularly may require several different chains.
Full skip chains are extremely efficient cutters. There are fewer teeth but each set takes a bigger chunk out of the wood for speedy cutting. It’s rough and meant for taking out giant chunks of wood from fallen trees.
Semi-skip chains can’t tear through wood quickly, but they are still powerful. It’s the chain a lot of professionals use for a balance between power and efficiency. It offers a cleaner finish.
Which is the best chain for cutting hardwood?
Full chisel cutters have square corners and their teeth are very sharp cutters. This chain is great for cutting hardwood, and makes quick work of cutting limbs and trees down. Unfortunately, it is also nowhere near as durable as other chain types and can’t handle dirty wood. It is also inclined to kick back because it removes some safety elements to improve sharpness.
Which is the best chain for cutting firewood?
Semi-chisel cutters have round corners. A semi-chisel is slower than a full chisel chain, but handles every type of softwood available. It is also a far more reliable chain than any other type, staying efficient even when handling dirty and frozen woods. It is useful for nearly any job. This chain is also far less likely to have any kickback. This is the most popular chain type because it’s well balanced enough to tackle most jobs but durable enough for novice users.
Low profile cutters are the best chains for commercial users. They are reliable, sturdy chains but they are built for safety. This chain includes safety elements between the teeth that prevent kickback while you use the chainsaw. This kind of chain needs to be sharpened far more frequently than the other chains, so it may be less durable, but it is well worth it to help beginners acclimate to chainsaw use.
When should you replace your chainsaw chain?
If your chain is dull, then it needs to be replaced. You will know it is dull if it stops cutting into what you need without a massive amount of applied force.
If your chain rattles or bounces, then it probably needs to be replaced, sharpened, or adjusted. If you see smoke when you cut, but you know that your tension is right and your oiler works, then it is another indication that your chain needs to be replaced.
If your saw is missing teeth, broken, damaged, or off-center, then you need to replace the chain. Sharpening won’t fix it.
Tips to Make Your Chain Last Longer
There are several ways to prolong the length of your chain. First, follow the best practices when it comes to sharpening and adjusting your chain as it stretches and dulls.
The fastest way to kill your chain is to let it touch any rock or dirt. Both of these surfaces will immediately ruin your blade and no amount of sharpening will fix it. Avoid these at all costs, or use a spare chain that you don’t mind wasting if you must make contact with them during your work.
Take care of surrounding parts. Rotating your chainsaw bar will help keep a more even wear. Cleaning the groove and ensuring proper lubrication will prolong the life of both your bar and your chain. Making sure your starter has clean air intakes and is in working condition will prevent your chain from getting bound or slipping off the bar too. Replace your drive sprocket if it is noticeably worn.
Make sure to clean and maintain your chainsaw. Check the anti-vibration elements, lubricate regularly, clean all of the little parts of the chainsaw, wipe the fins, and check the chain brake band.
To maximize your chainsaw lifespan, make sure that you purchase the right chain. This means knowing what sort of job you want to do and checking to ensure that the specifications and fit are correct.
Make adjustments as your chain becomes dulled, loose, or stretched to prolong its lifespan. Following these best practices will have you slicing and dicing whatever you need to cut.