Stihl MS 261 C-M chainsaw

Stihl MS 261 C-M- image: HW
Stihl MS 261 C-M- image: HW

Last time we looked at the Stihl 261 it had just gone M-Tronic. We are looking at it again because further upgrading has made it lighter and just a bit more powerful. The new saw also has the long-life air system with HD2 filter, so it requires only occasional cleaning.

Making it M-Tronic meant the saw became self-tuning so no matter what the conditions, altitude or timber, it always works at its best with no need to adjust the carburettor and the engine is less vulnerable to fuel grade. Because the saw can distinguish between cold and warm starts, it only needs one start position on the combi-lever. The exact level of fuel for each type of start is provided automatically.

Now the 261 has lost weight - 300g, in fact - and power is increased by 0.1kW, giving the unit a much better power-to-weight ratio. The improvements have been achieved by redesigning the cylinder head, sprocket cover and bumper spikes. It is the sprocket cover we notice first. "Looks like the cover has shrunk," Cullen observes.

The 261 is Prangley's favourite on the day. "It's simple to use and feels so dependable," she explains. Thanks to its cutting precision and powerful torque, the older version of the 261 became a legend among users. The upgraded model will no doubt remain just as popular for those undertaking forestry work and harvesting small-to-medium stands.

Engine displacement: 50.2cc
Power output: 3kW
Chain speed at max power: 25.6m/s
Idling speed: 2,800rpm
Fuel tank capacity: 0.5 litres
Oil tank capacity: 0.27 litres
Recommended bar max/min: 45cm/32cm
Chain pitch: 0.325in
Sound pressure level at operator's ears: 104dB(A)
Sound power level, guaranteed (LWA): 116dB(A)
Vibration levels: 3.5m/s2 front, 3.5m/s2 rear
Weight excluding cutting equipment: 4.9kg
Price: From £696 including VAT
Tel: Stihl - 01276 20202

Tested This Issue
- Husqvarna 536Li XP
- Husqvarna 545
- Stihl MS 261 C-M
- Husqvarna 560 XP
- Husqvarna 450
- Husqvarna T540 XP II
- Stihl MSA 160 C-BQ & MSA 200 C-BQ

Review Panel

Darren Chambers, arboriculture teacher and apprenticeship assessor, Bridgwater College; Claire Prangley, gardener, Cannington Campus and Walled Gardens; Jim Doble, Sedgemoor Tree Services; Joe Taylor, Mendip Trees & Landscapes; Mike Cullen, head of arboriculture, Bridgwater College.

Perhaps more than any other power tool, the chainsaw is a matter of personal preference. Depending on the task, different users may want a compact, powerful, top-handled or even battery saw. But with so much choice available, there should be something for everybody.

We put a wide range to test at Bridgwater College's arboriculture department. We look at the Stihl 261 C-M, a popular machine recently improved. Four petrol models from Husqvarna include updated units and the Mark II top handle. Then we consider rear-handled battery chainsaws from Husqvarna and Stihl.

Conditions on the day were warm and sunny. Note: the Mark II T540 XP is for use by professional arborists only and should not be used on the ground. Lacking time to rig up, we gave it a thorough inspection but hope to run it on another occasion.

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