12V Recip Saw Showdown, Milwaukee v Bosch v DeWalt v Makita


As we had mentioned in this previous post, both DeWalt and Makita have just launched new 12 Volt reciprocating saws so we thought it was time for a little showdown to answer some questions we had. We matched them against the Bosch and Milwaukee units, which have some similarities to say the least, see this previous post. We took multiple cuts in the following materials until each battery was completely dead: pine 2×4”, pressure treated 2×2”, steel, steel pipe, copper tubing and threaded rod. We also looked at a variety of other important features from comfort to value to battery life.

We had a few tough decisions to make for the competition, one was do we use the provided blades (each came with a 4” wood and 4” metal) or do we set them all up with standardized blades in a more common 6” size. We decided to use the provided blades and let each manufacturer’s blade quality add/subtract to the complete package, as each will certainly recommend using their own accessories.

So let’s get right to the numbers then (see above). Each cut is in seconds and rounded to the closest whole second we also put together a video (see below) which plays at 500% speed so it could be condensed. The list is in the order of cuts made. Some of the inconsistent times come from a overload or slowdown of the tool and restart. Certainly if you own the tool and become comfortable with it you will learn the optimal pressure and be able to improve upon these speeds. We really tried to just use them as what felt right for the tool and be as objective as possible.

Overall Power

1 DeWalt, 2 Bosch, 2 Milwaukee, 3 Makita – The DeWalt really did well and seemed to take a lot more pressure to stall. The overall power was definitely there. While the Milwaukee and Bosch were a tie they did perform differently, the Bosch seemed to do better in wood, while the Milwaukee was better on metal (could be the blades however). The Bosch also seemed to overload more often but had very solid power until it kicked off, perhaps the Blue team was just a little more conservative in setting the overload.

Battery Life, Charging & Fuel Gauges

1 Milwaukee, 2 DeWalt, 2 Bosch, 3 Makita – All the competitors now use the higher 1.5 Ahr batteries except for the Makita which still has the 1.3 Ahr which explains the lower runtime. The Milwaukee definitely has the best fuel gauge, Bosch is the only other tool that even had a fuel gauge and still had 2 of 3 bars left when it no longer had enough juice for cutting pine (could be worse than no gauge at all in our book). The Milwaukee had 4 bars did a little better job of more accurately informing us of the time left.

Blade Changing & Shoes


1 Makita, 2 Bosch, 2 Milwaukee, 3 DeWalt – The Makita definitely had the best blade setup as the top switch locks open (no hands) for easy blade insertion, as well as spring loaded ejection of the blade so you are not touching hot blades. The DeWalt has a pretty nice blade changing lever on the side but still need to hold it open. While that alone would have put it ahead of the Bosch and Milwaukee we really were not happy with the shoe. The opening was much wider than the other 3 and gave much less control for making small cuts. It also has 2 notches (we are assuming to allow for more light from the LED to work surface) which we thought was not helpful and just got work pieces caught on. This is a shame too because it’s the only one with a pivoting shoe, just found the wider open to be very impactful on overall capability.

Comfort, Control and Operation

1 Makita, 2 Dewalt, 3 Bosch, 3 Milwaukee – Did it really take us this long in the article to talk about the two trigger controls on the Makita? Well we really did like, but teetered on the edge is it overkill, is this just a gimmick? We did all these cuts in a controlled situation, in the real world we could see how the different grips could come in handy. Also for light one handed work the top trigger is much better, more like a pneumatic recip saw. For two handed cutting the pistol trigger and front grip really is also nice.

The DeWalt also had a great set up with a multi-position that allows the saw to go from pistol grip to completely strait. Again for real world applications getting high overhead or into weird places this could come in handy. It also has the thinner grip handle (because the battery is a slide on at bottom) which I have not found to be more comfortable however I have huge gorilla paws so you may think differently.

It does kill me to put the Milwaukee and Bosch on the bottom because these handy saws really do have great feel and control. One handed we really like this design the best however using it 2 handed for more serious stationary cutting the other designs are a little more comfortable. This design is more compact so we could see the argument the point of the 12v cordless saw it compactness and to leave the stationary cutting to a corded Sawzall.

Out of the Box

1 Makita, 1 Bosch, 2 DeWalt, 2 Milwaukee – All included a 30 minute charger, canvas bag, (2x) 4” reciprocating blades however the Bosch and Makita both included 2 lithium ion batteries which is key for a tool that will most likely be out of juice every 30 minutes. Single battery kits obviously do keep the costs down and if you have other tools/batteries in the line is normally advantageous.

We were unhappy to see that the DeWalt charger was only a 12v charger (DCB100), for some reason we were under the impression all the new DeWalt chargers could charge both 12v & new 20v batteries. There is another DeWalt charger (DCB101) that does charge both but only comes with the 20v tools for some reason. That is disappointing, how much money does that save (I’m sure we would be surprised) but if all chargers did both wouldn’t that be a big selling point?

Bosch 12v Reciprocating Saw PS60-2A ($159, Ohio Power Tool), Milwaukee M12 Hackzall 2420-21 ($129, Ohio Power Tool), DeWalt 12v Reciprocating Saw DCS310S1 ($134, Amazon), Makita 12v Reciprocating Saw RJ01W ($147, Amazon).

Overall 12V Platforms

1 Milwaukee, 2 Bosch, 2 DeWalt, 3 Makita – Overall the Milwaukee M12 line tool line certainly has the most tool options, especially for professionals. They have also reinvested back into the line by upgrading the batteries to the higher amperage more versatile M12 Red Lithium line. Bosch was the originator of this whole 10.8v/12v category and has reinvested heavily in their core tool line with several improvements to drills (most powerful & compact currently), Impactors and batteries. However they have been very slow to add to the line with new innovative tools. DeWalt on the other hand was last to the party and just recently got into the 12V game at all but is gaining ground very fast. We expect to see them continue to add several new products each year. Makita does have some strong new innovative products (we really like the 12v circular saw, only one currently) but they really need to upg
rade the batteries to a higher amperage 1.5Ahr with the cold weather features if they want to compete and improve the performance on all their tools. We think this really would have helped them in this competition and just by switching the battery who know the Makita could outperform the rest.    

So Who is the Overall Winner

If we are going with our gut reaction we have got to go with DeWalt on this one. It just seemed to have the most power and really was difficult to overload which we respect out of just 12 tiny volts. With all 4 units sitting on the bench this would probably be the one we grabbed first. If we are thinking more practically as to which 12V system we are investing in, knowing the reciprocating saw is going to be a secondary tool it would probably make more sense to go with the Milwaukee. Clearly there are lots of factors to consider in making your decision; our hope is that hopefully this article is somewhat helpful when you go to make your decision. You can see all the testing photos in this Facebook album and if you would like to provide your feedback on this article please do so here



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