STIHL MSA 200 C Chainsaw Review – Battery Powered

STIHL MSA 200 C Chainsaw Feature
PTR Review
  • Cutting Speed 9.5
  • Battery Efficiency 9.0
  • Ergonomics 10.0
  • Feature Set 9.5
  • Value 8.0

As the market leader with gas-powered chainsaws, STIHL keeps their stellar reputation with their MSA 200 C battery powered chainsaw. Smooth and fast, without the noise.

Overall Score 9.2 (out of 10)

I’m a logger, just up from Coos Bay, Oregon. Not really, but it makes me sound tough. While I may not be a logger, I have felled my share of trees. I even worked with my uncle, who was a real logger in South Alabama. On that subject, a small storm rolled through our town a few months back, the name was Irma, Hurricane Irma. One of the victims was a mature oak tree just outside one of our shops, struck by lightning during one of the many thunderstorms. This is perfect timing with the arrival of the STIHL MSA 200 C chainsaw. Let’s see how much real work this STIHL battery powered chainsaw can handle.

Picking up the box with the MSA 200 C chainsaw inside is a bit perplexing. You get the feeling of: Did they forget to put the saw in here? Sometimes we make the mistake of equating weight with quality. Sure enough, the STIHL MSA 200 C chainsaw was in there, sans bar, chain, and battery. Of course, picking this up from your local STIHL dealer, they will have all this assembled and ready for you. Included with our setup, but in separate packages, are the 14″ rollomatic mini bar, thin kerf blade, AP300 battery, and the charger.

Fell Timber - STIHL MSA 200 C
Fell Timber – STIHL MSA 200 C

Lightning Strikes Twice

Twin Oak Trees - Lightning Struck
Twin Oak Trees – Lightning Struck

Well, maybe there was just one lightning strike, but it killed two trees in one strike. To be honest, you may even regard this as one tree, but for all practical purposes, let’s call it two. This was a mature oak tree that had a common twenty-something-inch trunk for about two feet, after this, it separated into two ~18-inch trees. We’ll just call them twins. “Wait, you cut two 18-inch trees down with a 14-inch saw?” Yeah, we don’t recommend this, but we wanted to see what the STIHL MSA 200 C chainsaw could handle.

For felling larger trees, you might want to try something like the STIHL MS 441 Magnum.

Survey and Widowmakers

First, we did our safety survey of the tree and surroundings. This was a near-perfect opportunity since there no buildings lie within reach, just grass. We also made sure there were no widowmakers ready to strike. Finally, we assessed the lean of each tree to determine which way to fell them.

Pro Tip: In forestry, the term widowmaker (or fool killer) is a detached or broken limb lodged in a tree. If you’re not aware, these can become dislodged while felling and hurt or kill someone. Widowmakers are the cause for 11% of all fatal chainsaw accidents.

Bore Cut Method

MSA 200 Felling Oak Trees
Bore Cut Method

We like to use the bore cut method for felling a tree, so we started by making a face cut. This cut should only go about 1/3 the depth of the tree. The MSA 200 C had no problem cutting through the oak. In fact, the saw cuts very smoothly, mimicking the cut of gas-powered STIHLs, just not quite as fast.

Next, we used the STIHL battery powered chainsaw to plunge cut into the oak, just behind our face cut. Even plunging the 14-inch chain and bar into the oak was like butter. This STIHL MSA 200 C chainsaw never even struggled. Since the trees are wider than the bar, we did have to plunge from each side. The plunge cut should cut all the inside area of the tree, leaving about an inch behind the face cut. This ~one-inch area is the “hinge”, and this will determine which way the tree will fall. Furthermore, the plunge cut continues toward the opposite side, leaving an inch or two uncut (backstrap).

Next, we drove a couple wedges into the cuts, to ensure the tree falls in the correct direction. Our last cut was on the backstrap. A quick squeeze of the trigger on the MSA 200 C and the chain roared to life, making quick sawdust of the few remaining inches of the backstrap. Go ahead, say it: “timberrrrr!” Down went one, and then we repeated the process on the other. This STIHL battery powered chainsaw is powerful, nimble, and quiet.

Plunge Cut - Making the Hinge 2
Plunge Cut – Making the Hinge

STIHL MSA 200 C Chainsaw Features

Quick Chain Adjuster Internals
Quick Chain Adjuster Internals

Even with the lack of weight, it’s easy to recognize the quality of the STIHL MSA 200 C chainsaw when we assembled it and gave the saw a ‘once-over’. The MSA 200 C chainsaw weighs only 7.3 lbs by itself and only 11 lbs with the AP300 battery.  As for any consumer needs, there are no tools necessary. Removing the side cover for access to the bar and chain is simple, hence it requires no tools. Just flip the half-circle lever out on the side cover retainer and twist left to remove. This same access retainer is what is also loosened when adjusting the chain tension.

The STIHL battery powered chainsaws can be configured with a variety of bars and chains. We opted for the 14″ rollomatic mini, which is the largest bar and chain available for any STIHL battery powered chainsaws. The 1/4″ STIHL Picco chain is a thin kerf design, made to work with the Rollomatic E bar. The bumper spikes, some call bucking spikes, are made of metal providing another resemblance of a gas chainsaw.

MSA 200 C Battery Powered 36V Chainsaw Assembly

Tool-less - Quick Chain Adjuster
Tool-less – Quick Chain Adjuster

As mentioned earlier, you will probably pick up your saw from the STIHL dealer completely ready to use. However, many Pros service and maintain their chainsaws, so the following would apply. The quick chain adjuster internal mechanism needs to be fastened to the bar, before installing the bar and chain. This is very simple, but mistakes can be made if you don’t pay attention. One straight-slotted screw holds the adjuster to the bar. There are two (2) holes in the bar and adjuster, seeming that there should be two (2) screws. However, after careful observation of the saw, I realized that only one screw is used, on the bottom hole of the bar and adjuster. I used a drop of Loctite on the threads to ensure the screw stays put.

STIHL MSA 200 C Disassembled
STIHL MSA 200 C Disassembled

Be careful with the new chain, they are very sharp. These smaller Picco thin-kerf chains seem even sharper than their larger cousins. We placed the chain on the bar and then moved the adjuster all the way in. Holding the chain stationary on the bar, we put the slack of the chain around the sprocket and placed the bar (and chain) over the adjuster stud. Make sure the screw, holding the adjuster to the bar, is facing towards the saw. The quick change adjuster will face outward.

Batteries and Power

43 Cuts on 10-inch Oak
43 Cuts on 10-inch Oak

Our setup included the STIHL AP 300 battery. This is their 36-volt lithium ion, 6.0 Ah battery. STIHL claims a 45-minute runtime with this saw and battery, but it’s hard to equate what runtime minutes mean with a chainsaw. We want to know how many cuts we can make. We found a large section of the oak tree that had a consistent branch diameter of roughly 10-inches. Now, with a fresh battery, we made 43 coasters from the oak limb. It was actually 42-7/8 cuts, but I’m hoping that we can agree to call it 43. Keep in mind, this after felling two trees and cutting them up for firewood. While the STIHL chain stayed pretty sharp, it was by no means a brand new chain at this point.

STIHL MSA 200 C Smooth Cutting

No Mess – No Tools

Tool-less - Bar Oil Tank
Tool-less – Bar Oil Tank

One of our pet peeves is a chainsaw that leaves a trail. You know, that puddle of bar oil that’s left when the chainsaw is picked up. We saw no trace of bar oil leaking from the MSA 200 C tank or auto oiler. The chain stays lubricated, but very little residual can be found. There’s not even enough residual to puddle or drip. Topping off the bar oil is very easy and requires no tools. Just like the side cover, the oil cap has a flip-out half-circle. A quick quarter-turn and the cap is off, ready to be filled.

Balanced and Easy to Handle

Handling the STIHL is almost like an extension of your arm or hand. With the AP 300 battery attached, this saw is very balanced on the handle. Whether you’re cutting with the bar vertical (pruning and cross-cutting fallen limbs) or horizontal (felling trees), the rubber overmolded handle is comfortable and functional. Furthermore, the throttle trigger is easy to engage, once the safety button is depressed. The user’s thumb (for right-handed people) autonomously depresses the throttle lockout button when the rear handle is grasped. This allows the throttle to now be engaged.

The simplicity of the MSA 200 C is a feature in itself. Many battery powered saws we have tested have too many electronic processes, detracting from the sawability (that’s my new word). On this STIHL battery powered chainsaw, there is no button or switch to turn on the saw. If the battery is engaged, just depress the lock button and squeeze the trigger.

Final Thoughts

It can’t be a secret, from our positive outcome above, that I highly recommend the STIHL MSA 200 C chainsaw for anyone looking for a high-performance battery operated saw. At the same time, make no mistake, I don’t see this as a replacement for a gas saw when felling trees. To be fair, STIHL doesn’t claim this either. In fact, I think STIHL is making this statement by offering a 14″ bar for their largest option. For felling small trees, pruning, and brush-cutting, this is a great choice.

Power is ample on the battery-powered MSA 200 C for any cutting in its 14-inch capacity. In addition, the cut is clean and smooth, much like the STIHL gas-powered cousins. I would like to see a 16-inch bar and chain offered, to give a bit more cutting capacity. Also, the price is pretty steep when compared to the others on the market. Arguably, this stands as one of the best in its class, and the quality is typical of STIHL. Even with the higher price, the build quality and performance still make this a great buy.

For more information: STIHL 36V MSA 200 C Chainsaw

Crosscutting Branches

STIHL MSA 200 C Chainsaw Specifications

  • Powerhead Weight: 7.3 lbs. w/o battery
  • Weight: 11.0 lbs. w/AP 300 battery
  • Guide Bar Lengths: 10″ to 14″ Rollomatic E Mini
  • Chain Oil Capacity: 210 cc (7.4 oz.)
  • Run Time: Up to 45 Minutes (w/ AP 300)
  • Chain: Oilomatic 1/4″ STIHL Picco
  • Power Source: AP 300, 36-volt Lithium-Ion, 6.0 Ah (227 Wh)
  • MSRP: ~$600 (MSA 200 C, AP 300 battery, Charger, 14″ Rollomatic Bar, and Picco Chain)

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