The Best Top Handle Chainsaw [Reviews & Buying Guide 2021]

Perhaps you’re a professional arborist or a DIYer who needs to get some tree delimbing out of the way.

Or you need an easily maneuverable chainsaw for above-ground work that won’t wear you out with its weight.

Whatever the case, you can’t do it without the best top handle chainsaw.

Named for the handle placement, such professional chainsaws are ideal if you’re taking on a one-handed operation.

Plus, since most of them weigh only about 7 to 11 pounds, top handle chainsaws are much more lightweight than conventional models.

Well, your search for the right chainsaw has come to an end. Below, we’ve rounded up 5 of the best ones so you can make your decision easier.

Let’s go!

Preview
Top Pick
Makita XCU03PT1 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless...
Budget Friendly
SALEM MASTER Gas Chainsaw 25.4CC 2-Cycle Arborist chainsaw...
Runner Up
Chain Saw, Gas, 12 in. Bar, 26.9CC
Premium
Husqvarna 966997203 T435 Top Handle Saw, Mid Size, Orange
Good Quality
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch (CMCCS620M1)
Title
Makita XCU03PT1 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless...
SALEM MASTER Gas Chainsaw 25.4CC 2-Cycle Arborist chainsaw...
Chain Saw, Gas, 12 in. Bar, 26.9CC
Husqvarna 966997203 T435 Top Handle Saw, Mid Size, Orange
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch (CMCCS620M1)
Power Type
Battery Powered
Gas Powered
Gas Powered
Gas Powered
Battery Powered
Bar Size
14 Inch
12 Inch
12 Inch
12 Inch
12 Inch
Weight
21.83 Pounds
10.54 Pounds
11 Pounds
7.5 Pounds
9.9 Pounds
Features
Adjustable chain tension, Lock-off lever, Automatic power-off function
Vibration dampening springs, Auto oiler, Fast cutting
Anti-vibration handle, G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner, Clutch-driven oiler
Quick-release air filter, Adjustable oil pump, Low fuel consumption
Tool-free chain tensioning, Versa-Track wall organization system, Auto oiling
Prime Eligibility
-
Top Pick
Preview
Makita XCU03PT1 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless...
Title
Makita XCU03PT1 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless...
Power Type
Battery Powered
Bar Size
14 Inch
Weight
21.83 Pounds
Features
Adjustable chain tension, Lock-off lever, Automatic power-off function
Prime Eligibility
Price
Budget Friendly
Preview
SALEM MASTER Gas Chainsaw 25.4CC 2-Cycle Arborist chainsaw...
Title
SALEM MASTER Gas Chainsaw 25.4CC 2-Cycle Arborist chainsaw...
Power Type
Gas Powered
Bar Size
12 Inch
Weight
10.54 Pounds
Features
Vibration dampening springs, Auto oiler, Fast cutting
Prime Eligibility
Price
Runner Up
Preview
Chain Saw, Gas, 12 in. Bar, 26.9CC
Title
Chain Saw, Gas, 12 in. Bar, 26.9CC
Power Type
Gas Powered
Bar Size
12 Inch
Weight
11 Pounds
Features
Anti-vibration handle, G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner, Clutch-driven oiler
Prime Eligibility
-
Price
Premium
Preview
Husqvarna 966997203 T435 Top Handle Saw, Mid Size, Orange
Title
Husqvarna 966997203 T435 Top Handle Saw, Mid Size, Orange
Power Type
Gas Powered
Bar Size
12 Inch
Weight
7.5 Pounds
Features
Quick-release air filter, Adjustable oil pump, Low fuel consumption
Prime Eligibility
Price
Good Quality
Preview
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch (CMCCS620M1)
Title
CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch (CMCCS620M1)
Power Type
Battery Powered
Bar Size
12 Inch
Weight
9.9 Pounds
Features
Tool-free chain tensioning, Versa-Track wall organization system, Auto oiling
Prime Eligibility
Price

Why Choose Top Handle Chainsaw?

For professional arborist-related applications, a suitable top-handle chainsaw is a must-have to get the job done right!

What sets such a chainsaw apart from conventional models is relocating the rear handle to the top.

This allows the user to handle the chainsaw more efficiently with both hands or just one hand if needed.

Furthermore, because top-handle chainsaws are designed for arborists, they have lightweight and compact bodies that are much easier to wield and balance.

That’s what makes top-handle chainsaws ideal for tree delimbing at greater heights.

Moreover, they let you access hard-to-reach spots, which is very difficult to achieve with a rear handle chainsaw.

In fact, you should never use a rear handle chainsaw at a height; it’s even illegal to do so in some places!

So, to summarize, if you’re taking on a delimbing tree project, you need a top handle chainsaw.

But for other yard or gardening-related tasks, you might be better off with traditional chainsaws, especially if you’ll be cutting trees.

5 Best Top Handle Chainsaw - Reviews 2021

1. Makita XCU03PT1

The first chainsaw we’ve selected for your consideration today is available from Makita. 

Outfitted with a highly efficient brushless motor and with several functionality features, this is a top-handle chainsaw that is easily recognized as best for arborists.

This battery-powered chainsaw comes with a high maximum chain speed of 3940 FPM.

If you’re a professional, you’ll definitely appreciate the benefits of that. You also have the option to easily adjust the speed using the speed trigger according to your needs.

Speaking of adjustments, you’re bound to love the tool-less chain tensioning adjustment, which not only allows you to tackle your tasks with ease but reduces maintenance downtime.

Plus, there’s an in-built lock-off lever to guard against accidental chain starting.

But what truly makes this chainsaw unique is that it comes with a rear handle and a top one.

So if you’re looking for ultimate maneuverability and comfortable usage with more power, your search has come to an end.

But, of course, it goes without saying that this is the best arborist chainsaw we’ve found.

Features & Benefits of Makita XCU03PT1

Features

Benefits

Brushless motor

For dependable high power; perfect for heavy-duty arborist applications.

Adjustable chain tension

For an easier workflow and low maintenance.

Dual handle system

With both rear and top handles, this is one of the most easily maneuverable top handle chainsaws.

Lock-off lever

Prevents the chain from accidentally starting.

Automatic power-off function

Enhances battery life and ensures safety.

Pros

  • High chain speed
  • Variable speed trigger
  • LED illuminated on/off switch with auto power-off function
  • Tool-less chain tension adjustment for your convenience

Cons

  • Costly

2. SALEM MASTER Gas Chainsaw

Our next pick in top handle chainsaws, available from Salem Master, is the best for budget buyers that we’ve found.

Equipped with a powerful 25.44cc 1.2hp engine and offering a maximum engine speed of 8500 RPM, this chainsaw supplies dependable power for low to mid-level tasks.

Weighing only 10lbs., this is one of the easiest chainsaws we have come across.

Plus, Salem Master has made sure to include the necessary safety features: a low kickback bar and a quick-stop chain brake.

What’s more, it also comes with a front guard to allow for emergency braking in case your hand is in danger way.

A closer look at the details of this 12-inch guide bar chainsaw shows the manufacturer’s dedication to your convenience: there’s a small eyelet for attaching the machine to your belt, an anti-vibration system with dampening springs, and a primer bulb that allows for faster oil absorption.

This budget-friendly chainsaw is clearly designed for efficiency and is easily one of the best gas models.

Features & Benefits of SALEM MASTER 25.4CC Gas Chainsaw

Features

Benefits

Maximum 8500 RPM chain speed

Lets you tackle a wide variety of tasks with ease.

Weighs 10.5 pounds

Lightweight and compact body enhance maneuverability.

Ergonomic top handle design

For reduced hand fatigue.

Vibration dampening springs

Reduces discomfort and enhances safety as you work.

25.4cc engine

An efficient and powerful engine lets you get more done.

Pros

  • Fuel tank level visible keeps you in the loop
  • An automatic oiler keeps the chainsaw running smoothly
  • Effortless chain and bar adjustment
  • Integrated springs reduce vibration levels for a steady hold

Cons

  • It might be dangerous for beginners to use

3. ECHO CS-271T 

This 12-inch gas-powered arborist chainsaw from ECHO is next on our list, and it’s the ideal choice if you’re looking for a chainsaw that is best for forest operation.

The number of features and capabilities this device has could easily be considered the runner-up to the Makita we reviewed earlier for beginners and novices.

Boasting a powerful 26.9cc engine, this machine will appeal especially to those of you who will be engaging in pruning work or other similar yard-related tasks.

In addition, it’s built with adequate safety features, including an inertia-activated chain brake to ensure that no unwanted accidents occur.

Additionally, anyone who has had to face the difficulty of handling an unwieldy chainsaw will undoubtedly appreciate the anti-vibration handle.

One of the most impressive features of this chainsaw is its G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner system.

It automatically clears the chainsaw’s interior and keeps maintenance to a low level.

Although the lack of tool-less chain tensioning might be a deal-breaker for some, this chainsaw certainly shines compared to many others in its price range.

Features & Benefits of ECHO CS-271T

Features

Benefits

Anti-vibration handle

Helps to reduce vibration levels and hand fatigue.

G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner

Reduces maintenance costs and extends the chainsaw’s life.

Clutch-driven oiler

Lowers excessive fuel consumption while keeping the chainsaw adequately lubricated.

Inertia activated chain brake

Ensures your safety while on the job.

Pros

  • Inertia activated chain brake
  • Clutch-driven oiling system
  • Well suited to pruning operations
  • Self-cleaning air supply thanks to G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner

Cons

  • Lacks tool-free chain adjustment capability

4. Husqvarna T435 Top Handle Saw

Husqvarna is a brand that needs no introduction. With many a coveted power tool to their name, it’s no surprise they’ve produced a chainsaw that has become quite famous to seasoned arborists.

Many users swear it is the absolute best for yard cleanup.

If you love the environment, you’ll love this chainsaw. Fitted with Husqvarna’s widely known X-Torq engine, this is one of the most powerful chainsaws you’ll come across with lower fuel consumption.

And thanks to its low exhaust emission, you’ll be closer to achieving zero emissions.

And yet, its power is nearly unmatched, thanks to the inclusion of Husqvarna’s X-cut chain and X-force chain bar, which combine to produce a smooth and reliable cutting experience.

Using this device is also very comfortable thanks to a dedicated and efficient anti-vibration system that reduces the user’s hand fatigue and ensures a long life for the machine.

The rope attachment feature is another example of Husqvarna’s thoughtfulness, as it allows you to lift the saw up to heights easily.

Finally, although this chainsaw does not have tool-free adjustment capabilities, it does have a side chain tensioning port for quick chain adjustments.

Features & Benefits of Husqvarna T435

Features

Benefits

Weight: 7.5lbs

Compact design and lightweight build allow for easy maneuverability.

Quick-release air filter

Makes maintenance and/or replacement a walk in the park

Adjustable oil pump

Let's manipulate oil flow according to your needs.

Consumes less fuel

Sustainable for both you and the environment.

Pros

  • Low fuel consumption and low exhaust emissions
  • Adjustable oil pump
  • Integrated quick-release air filter
  • Highly suitable for completing yard work

Cons

  • Does not have tool-less chain adjustment capabilities
  • Expensive

5. CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Chainsaw

If you’re looking for an arborist chainsaw that is best for tree climbing, our final pick from Craftsman will stand out to you.

It’s lightweight, fast, efficient, and packed with features that you’ll love.

This cordless electric chainsaw has an impressive runtime starting with a high capacity 4.0 Ah battery pack; you can expect to get 60 cuts out of this thing per charge.

Equipped with a 12-inch bar and chain, this machine is the ideal tree delimbing or pruning companion.

In addition, it comes with a bubble level system that allows you to find the perfect alignment and level for your horizontal cuts

What’s more, the machine’s auto oiling capabilities also reduce downtime for you and keep the device running for longer.

Not to mention the tool-free chain tensioning adjustment, which is a feature that significantly enhances workflow and allows you to enjoy more control as you work. Oh, and this lightweight chainsaw weighs less than 10 pounds, so if you’re not keen on handling a great weighty beast, then this is the right choice.

Features & Benefits of CRAFTSMAN V20

Features

Benefits

Weight: 9.9lbs

Compact and lightweight build for easy maneuverability

Tool-free chain tensioning adjustment

Lets you make adjustments uninterrupted

Powerful 4.0Ah battery

Produces up to 60 cuts per charge

Versa-Track wall organization system

Great for those with existing Husqvarna equipment

Pros

  • Compact 12-inch bar and chain for effortless pruning and delimbing
  • Comes with a bubble level to help you align your horizontal cuts perfectly
  • Fitted with a highly capable 4.0Ah battery pack for longer runtime and long life
  • Tool-free tensioning makes your life easier

Cons

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty applications, best for occasional work

Best Top Handle Chainsaw Buying Guide

Like all power tools, buying a top handle chainsaw costs quite a lot of money. So before you make your purchase final, remember to keep the following factors in mind.

Power Source

The first step is choosing between battery-powered and gas-powered chainsaws. There are several advantages and drawbacks for both kinds:

Electric (Battery-Powered)

If you prioritize buying a lightweight chainsaw with a compact shape, you should consider getting a battery-powered chainsaw.

Battery-powered saws are best suited to light to medium duty applications, so if you're DIYing a delimbing tree project, this is the ideal choice.

Maintenance is also easier as there is no fuel to replace. However, because they're battery-powered, electric chainsaws do have a runtime limit.

Gas Powered

Because maneuverability is one of the main priorities in designing a successful top-handle chainsaw, most of them come with batteries built into them.

However, gas-powered saws with top handles are not uncommon and should definitely be considered by users mainly concerned with speed.

However, because a mixture of gas and oil powers them, you must consider whether you can afford fuel costs.

Furthermore, gas-powered chainsaws do tend to be louder, and maintaining them is more complicated.

Safety

Because top-handle chainsaws are meant to be used at heights away from the ground, it’s crucial to check that the chainsaw you’re choosing has dependable safety features.

The most important of these is the automatic chain brake, which, when activated, prevents the chainsaw chain from rotating.

The chain brake is an essential safety feature, and a chainsaw without a chain brake should not be considered.

Next, look for anti-kickback capabilities. Kickback is the phenomenon that occurs when the blade comes into contact with an obstacle and is forced to double back, which might cause a backward thrust of the chainsaw onto the user.

So, the best top handle chainsaw will always be one that comes with an automatic anti-kickback mechanism.

Additionally, a handguard can also be immensely helpful in keeping you safe as you work, particularly if you’re prone to being clumsy.

Guide Bar Length

At the heart of the chainsaw is its guide bar. The distance at which the guide bar tip extends must correspond with your intended use of the chainsaw.

Most top handle chainsaws have a guide bar length measuring between 10 and 20 inches.

However, we would recommend going for a more extended guide bar only if you have prior experience using top handle chainsaws, as a greater length might be harder to climb.

This brings us to our next point.

Maneuverability

One of the discerning characteristics of top-handled chainsaws is how easier they are to handle than a rear-handled chainsaw.

Even so, some poorly designed models might be excessively weighed down by the chainsaw’s battery, so be careful about which brand you trust with your money.

However, with that being said, any chainsaw with a top handle weighing less than 10 pounds should also be avoided as a certain amount of heft actually enhances maneuverability.

Automatic Chain Oiler

If you’re willing to spend a little more money or hate spending time on tool maintenance, consider investing in a chainsaw with an automatic chain oiler mechanism for enhanced performance and durability.

This feature keeps your chainsaw chain running fast and smooth and extends the chainsaw’s life significantly.

Comfort

Consideration for user comfort is one of the pillars of good design.

We're not kidding; hand fatigue is a very real problem encountered by professional users of top handle chainsaws.

As such, it's essential to look into models that come with ergonomic handgrips to reduce user fatigue.

And, of course, the machine's weight also determines how comfortable it will be to handle. So you might also look for a model with a palm rest.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Rear handle or top handle, which is best for tree climbing?

Definitely top handle and no other power tool, as they are designed for that purpose.

2. What are the advantages of a top handle chainsaw?

Top handle chainsaws are well-balanced, lightweight, and compact, allowing professional users to work with more control at a height and easily reach remote spots.

3. Are top handle chainsaws dangerous?

All chainsaws are dangerous, and top-handle chainsaws can be even more perilous if you’re inexperienced or attempting to use them with only one hand.

4. Can you use a top handle chainsaw on the ground?

You can, but you shouldn't. Most chainsaws of this kind are designed specifically for tree maintenance and tree surgery. Therefore, when used on the ground, there is a higher risk of danger or loss of control.

5. Can I use a top handle chainsaw with one hand?

Once again, technically, you can. However, adequate experience is required for doing so as it can be pretty dangerous.

In addition, proper positioning is of crucial importance when using a top handle chainsaw one-handed.

6. Who uses top handle chainsaws the most?

These chainsaws were mainly designed for use by professional arborists (tree surgeons) and other professionals.

Because they’re meant to be used at tall heights, top-handle chainsaws must only be used by confident climbers.

Final Words

Although we don’t like to play favorites, we’d be lying if we didn’t name the Makita XCU03PT1 the best top handle chainsaw (and overall one of the best arborist chainsaws) we’ve come across in terms of performance, functionality, and durability.

On the other hand, this selection from Salem Master is ideal for most arborists on a budget.

Good luck, and happy cutting!