Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw Head-to-Head Review
12V reciprocating saws (or Sawzalls, Milwaukee’s proprietary name) are incredibly useful when space is tight or you just don’t want to wield a heavy-duty model. We set out to discover who makes the best 12V cordless reciprocating saw, keeping in mind that these aren’t going to be used for the same kind of cuts as their 18V and corded cousins.
Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hackzall
Milwaukee scored consistently high across the board to take the overall win. There’s simply no weak spot in its armor. As impressive as it is, the M12 Fuel Hackzall had some fierce competition from Hilti, just 1 point behind.
Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw Cutting Speed
Hilti 12V Reciprocating Saw
Hilti cruised to the win in overall cutting speed tests by taking 1st place in each one. There was some competition rising up from Milwaukee, but Hilti dropped the rest of the field comfortably.
Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw Vibration Control
Hilti 12V Reciprocating Saw
Some designs are better than others when it comes to vibration control on a reciprocating saw. While some models felt like it was an afterthought, Hilti did a really nice job reining vibration in for a comfortable cutting experience. Milwaukee was just 5 points behind and presented Hilti’s only real challenger in this test.
Most Compact 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw
Bosch 12V Max Pocket Reciprocating Saw
In a group of super-compact reciprocating saws, Bosch’s PS60 comes away as both the smallest and lightest weight. You’ll give up some runtime using the kitted 2.0Ah battery, but it’s less than 3 pounds with that battery.
Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw Value
Skil 12V Brushless Reciprocating Saw
Skil offers one of just three 12V reciprocating saws we tested with a brushless motor (the M12 Fuel Hackzall and Hilti SR 2-A12 are the others). It rides that motor to solid cutting performance with an impressive design that’s less than $80 with a battery and charger. That’s $40 less than the next closest kit price.
Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw: How We Tested and Full Results
12V reciprocating saws definitely aren’t your go-to choice for wood cutting (although we do use a woodcutting test for baseline comparisons to other classes). With electrical, plumbing, and irrigation in its wheelhouse, we measured cutting speed in a couple of different tests. For both tests, we strung a 5-pound weight around the saw to give it consistent downforce.
First up was cutting 3/4″ EMT. For this one, we turned to Lenox Lazer 18 TPI medium metal bi-metal blades for 1/16″ – 1/4″ cutting. The blades’ taller cutting profiles make more stable cuts and Power Blast design increases the overall life of the blade by increasing its strength. They’re available in 6″, 9″, or 12″ lengths.
In this test, Hilti maintains a comfortable lead over Milwaukee with the rest of the group falling well behind.
Sticking with Lenox Lazer 18 TPI blades, we also tested average cutting speed in 3″ PVC. This time around, Hilti is still in the lead, but it’s much slimmer. Milwaukee is just 0.23 seconds behind.
Our vibration test was more subjective. Tom Gaige, Clint DeBoer, and I went out one at a time and cut to heart’s content before ranking each saw on a 1 – 4 scale. Once each of us had our results without the influence of the rest, we averaged them out.
Note these are vibration control ratings—the higher the value the better it is.
Continuing its high-performance trend, Hilti does the best in vibration control with Milwaukee right behind it. Skil creeps close to the 80-point mark before the rest of the class falls away.
Generally speaking, 12V reciprocating saws aren’t huge on features. Despite their more basic designs, here’s what we look for across the board and which models have them:
- Milwaukee 2520
- Skil RS582802
- Hilti SR 2-A12
Variable Speed Dial
- None, though all models have a variable speed trigger
Pivoting, Tool-Free Adjustable Shoe
- DeWalt DSC310: Pivoting only
- Makita RJ03: Adjustable, tool required
- Skil RS582802: Pivoting only
Lever Blade Release (Not a Shaft Twist Lock)
- DeWalt DSC310
Rafter Hook/Belt Hook
- None (Hilti SR 2-A12 is optional)
- All models have an LED light
Spring Blade Ejection
- Makita RJ03
Additional Design Notes
DeWalt uses a pivoting handle to shift between an inline design and a pistol design. When you need to shorten up your length even more, this is the only model that offers that kind of extra flexibility.
The Makita RJ03 doesn’t look anything like most of the 12V models that mirror the 18V one-handed class. Its inline foundation angles down to shorten the length while its combination of triggers gives you a ton of flexibility in how you use it. We greatly prefer the “choked up” one-handed position closer to the blade.
Nearly identical to its 18V cousin, it’s tough to release the safety and engage the trigger on the main handle with one hand.
Size and Weight
Whether you’re looking for the smallest or lightest 12V reciprocating saw, we have you covered. For length, Bosch gets you into the tightest spaces, needing just 10″ plus the length of your blade. DeWalt is only 0.3″ longer in its pistol grip orientation.
Bosch wins the weight war as well at only 2.7 pounds with its 2.0Ah battery. Makita joins it as the only other 12V reciprocating saw to come in under 3 pounds with a battery.
*Note: we used the battery kitted or recommended by each manufacturer.
Value is much more than just a list from lowest to highest price. We take price along with the performance, features, warranty, depth of line and more to come up with our ratings.
Skil cruises to the win for value thanks to solid performance and kit price under $80. While Hilti and Milwaukee will both give you better performance, you’ll pay quite a bit more for them.
Price List (at the time of writing)
- Bosch PS60: $89.99 bare, $89 kit with 2.0Ah battery (Buy it on Amazon)
- DeWalt DSC310: $131.19 kit with 1.5Ah battery, no bare tool option (Buy it on Amazon)
- Hilti SR 2-A12: $119 bare, $189 with 4.0Ah battery (Buy it direct from Hilti)
- Makita RJ03: $72.92 bare, $119 with two 2.0Ah batteries (Buy it on Amazon)
- Milwaukee 2520: $149 bare, $159 with one 4.0Ah battery (Buy it at Acme Tools)
- Skil RS582802: $69.99 bare, $79.99 with one 2.0Ah battery (Buy it on Amazon)
Best 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saw Final Rankings and Recommendations
- Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hackzall: Excellent cutting speed and vibration control with good size and value.
- Hilti 12V Reciprocating Saw: Top cutting speed and vibration control with good size and value.
- Skil 12V Brushless Reciprocating Saw: Good vibration control, feature set, and size with top value rating.
- Bosch 12V Max Pocket Reciprocating Saw: Top choice for compact size and light weight, good value. Struggles in vibration control and has the weakest feature set.
- DeWalt 12V Max Pivot Reciprocating Saw: Excellent size and weight. Struggles in vibration control and value.
- Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw: Good value for what you get with a decent feature set. Struggles in cutting speed and vibration control.
Milwaukee and Hilti are separated by just over 1 point in their final rankings. They’re so close, it’s virtually a tie. Hilti has an advantage in cutting speed and vibration control. Milwaukee stays close enough in those categories that its advantage in feature set and size do just enough to push it to the top. Both models are excellent options for this class.
Why 12V Cordless Reciprocating Saws?
Many 12V tools are “80%ers” that can do a lot of the work that their full-size 18V/20V max brethren can do. That’s not so much the case with 12V reciprocating saws, though. These are light-duty, tight space specialists. Stroke lengths and shorter and stroke rates are slower, making them good choices for thin materials like EMT, PVC, and drywall. We only use them to cut wood in a pinch, even if it’s thin wood.
Despite their more limited cutting capabilities, it’s their size that’s so appealing. It’s not unusual for reciprocating saws in this class to be the only option that keeps a Pro from returning to a hacksaw. Electricians and plumbers can work around other equipment, existing installs, closets, and cabinets much easier. They make quick work on smaller diameter PVC for irrigation installs and repairs.
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