Stihl MS 261 vs MS 291 Comparison Review – Which One is Really For You?


Today, we’re going to talk about the Stihl MS 261 vs MS 291 chainsaws.

The Stihl MS 261 and MS 291 are very comparable saws as far as size but totally different in how they work and some of the features and benefits. Both run a 20-inch bar and chain.

The MS 261c is Stihl’s pro series saw and the MS 291 is Stihl’s farm and ranch sort of saw. The MS 291 would be great for the average firewood cutter who’s burning five or ten cords of wood a year and maybe has ten acres and has a tree blowdown here and there.

We’re going to talk about some of the features and then we’ll look at stepping up to the Stihl 261 and see the features and benefits that that one adds.

Related: Husqvarna 550xp Mark 2 vs Stihl MS 261 Side-by-Side Comparison

Stihl Ms 261 vs Ms 291

Fuel & Oil Caps


So, really quickly, something that I like is the fuel and oil caps. It’s just a quick flip up, half turn, pull out, and go. That’s both on the fuel and the oil.

So, both the Stihl 261 and the MS 291 have the same fuel and oil caps. I think some people don’t like them, but I think they work really well.

Related: How to Choose a Chainsaw



Stihl have what’s called their Elastostart. There’s kind of a little spring to this starter handle, which makes it for a smoother pull when you pull the rope.

Master Control Lever


On both Stihs, the master control lever is on the side. The way that Stihl has set it up it’s right in line with your thumb so you don’t have to take your hand off of the handle to do anything. It’s just all in line.

Stihl also added a compression release on the MS 291. So, when you go to start this machine, you’re going to push in on the compression release and it’s going to reduce the effort to pull the rope.

You need to pull faster to start this saw, but it’s much less stress on your joints as they get older.

MS 291

With the MS 291, you squeeze the trigger and pull the master control all the way down, that’s the choke.

This is where you’re going to pull the rope generally two or three times and this machine is going to fire and pop. It isn’t going to start, but it’s going to give you a little burp.

Now, you manually move the master control up one notch as soon as you hear that pop, this is the start position.

This is where it’s going to take off when you pull the rope and it’s going to be at a high speed. When you hit the trigger, it returns to idle. Then, all the way up is off.

Stihl MS 261

This is where you’re going to really like the Stihl 261 because the whole start thing has changed.

You just squeeze the trigger and put the master control lever down to start. This is where the MS 291 is always going to start. You’re going to pull the rope two or three times and it’s going to be running.

Contrary to the MS 291, you won’t have to worry about missing that burp or that little pop. Again, you just put it on start, pull the rope, and it’s going to start. Hit the trigger, it returns to idle, and you’re ready to go to work.

When you’re done and you want to move a log or want to refuel, you shut it off and it returns to run. This gets rid of that sort of pulling without it being on run.

Related: How Do Chainsaw Chaps Work?

Chain Tensioning


Stihl’s chain tightening is right through the side between the bar nuts. If you’ve run a chainsaw or if you haven’t run a chainsaw, chains stretch.

As that stretches, not only does it wear your chain out, it also increases the risk of the chain jumping off the bar and coming back and potentially doing some damage. So, you need to make sure you tension the chain every now and then.

Similar to the MS 291, you need to tension the chain on the MS 261 as well.

Related: How to Use an Oregon Chain Sharpener (Step by Step Guide with Pictures)

Bar Nuts

Something cool about the Stihl MS 261 C-M is the bar nut is captive and you can’t lose the nuts because they are part of the cover.

You wouldn’t believe how many bars nuts people buy over the years.

Related: Chainsaw PPE Safety Features – Personal Protective Equipment Explained

Outboard Sprocket

I also like the feature where the chain is sitting on the sprocket. It’s called an outboard sprocket. This nice feature allows you to easily install the chain on the sprocket without fighting behind the clutch like you would on a lot of products.

Air Filtration System


The air filtration system still uses what’s called the air injection where all of the burning air comes over the flywheel.

The flywheel spins and the heavy stuff is being pushed out and the clean air is being funneled up into the air filter.


The Stihl MS 291 is going to be about 3.74 horsepower, I believe.

The Stihl 261c goes up to 4 horsepower. So, with the MS 261, you’re gaining a quarter horse. That’s a big jump in power.


The Stihl MS 291 is 12lbs, whereas the MS 261 is about 2lbs lighter than the MS291. After half an hour of cutting wood, you’re definitely going to feel that reduction in weight.

So, there you have it. This is the Stihl MS 261 vs MS 291 comparison.

I think it’s worth jumping up to this MS 261 because it’s going to save you two pounds of weight, give you lots of features and benefits, and give me more power.

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