STIHL MS 261 Vs 391: Which Is The Better Chainsaw?

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What’s better, the STIHL MS 261c or MS 391?

This question is often asked because although both chainsaws are a similar price, the 391 is “more powerful.”

On Ace Hardware, the 261 is listed for $699.99, and the MS 391 is listed for $749.99. The 261 is 50.2 cc, while the 391 is 64.1 cc.

This is why most people who know anything about Stihl Chainsaws choose the MS 261 over the MS 391.

stihl ms 391 vs 261c

The big difference between the 261 and the 391 is that the 261 is a professional chainsaw, while the 391 is only homeowner-level.

This means the 261 is built better, performs better, and will likely outlast a 391. Also, you can put in more hours with it per day than with the 391.

You will also be interested to know that the 261 won polls on the BEST Stihl Chainsaw, and the 391 won them for the WORST Stihl Chainsaw.

which is best 261 391

This question gets asked in FB groups all the time:

Should I get a MS 261 or a 391?

For general use. Both can be bought for same price.

Opinions please.

Here are some replies in favor of the 261…

Reed said:

Get the 261, your back will thank you later!

Plus, resale will be better if you ever want rid of it.

Kevin said:

The MS391 is underpowered for its weight.

MS261 is a proven beast of a light weight saw.

John said:

261 all the way.

My boss has both. I ran them back and forth, and the chain was a little dull on the 391, but the 261 seemed faster with a 20-inch bar and lighter.

Tim said:

The 261 is a pro saw –  built with magnesium tanks compared to plastic. Plus it’s lighter.

Jason said:

The 391 is capable of running a bit more bar than the 261, but in more modest size bars (say, 18″ down), the 261 will outperform, outlast, and vastly underweigh it.

261 is a professional quality machine, the 391 a large homeowner/ranch machine.

What your cutting will matter. Do you often need more than 20″ of bar? If yes, 391. If no, 261 for DAYS.

Michael said:

261c is a great saw. 391 is a boat anchor. For a 20″ bar go with the 362c and you will never have to worry about anything in the 20″ class.

Albert said:

I would do the 261 all day, with a 20″ it does fine.

It can handle anything that you can do. It’s my all day saw anymore.

I mean the big saws are nice but I have no problem with the little 261.

Read more comments, both positive and negative, in our STIHL MS 261 review.

stihl ms 391 chainsaw vs 261c

Comments in favor of the 391…

Kyle said:

Everyone bashes the 391 because it’s heavier and not a pro saw. Well, I’ve had mine since I was 18 (now 28).

The 391 will out cut the 261 and the 362 easy and I run a 20in bar on my 391.

That was the only positive comment we could find comparing the two saws in several threads.

However, you can find many more pros (and cons) in our complete STIHL MS 391 review.

stihl MS 261 chainsaw price

This is how the specs compare.

  MS 261 MS 391
Engine 50.2 cc / 3.06 ci 64.1 cc / 3.9 ci
Power 3.9 hp / 2.9 kW 4.4 hp / 3.2 kW
Weight 11.5 lbs / 5.2 kg 14.1 lbs / 6.4 kg
Bar Length 16 – 20″ 16 – 24″

In another FB thread, Justin asked:

According to a poll the 391 is so far the worst saw made by stihl 🤷🏼‍♂️.

Other then the typical “clamshell case” stuff people talk about, or other then the fact it’s a strato charged motor that runs lean or pig rich, what are the problems some of you have been having?

Other then those stated so called “issues” mine had ran strong since I got it.

No issues yet at all and I run it hard, I cut around 8 cord a day with it, 6 sometimes 7 days a week and it stays wide open the whole time. I run it at

40:1, ditched the carb limiters and ditched the screen and it’s holder in the muffler.

I really find it hard to nit pick about this saw.

So as I’ve asked, can anybody else with this saw who’s had bad luck with it chime in and share their issues?

These are some of the responses.

Bryan said:

While I am not a fan of the 391, it is by no means their worst saw. It’s actually a rather solid saw overall. But not when compared to others in the price range.

All it really is is a ‘big bore’ clamshell saw. A heavier built homeowner saw. That said they seem to hold up well.

My buddy has an MS 270 that has cut more than many pro saws see in their respective lifetimes, but not because it’s better built. It’s just adequately built and not everyone needs a pro saw.

Matthew said:

When they are running, they are a great saw but It seems like most 391s end up eventually dying from a massive air leak caused by the cheap transfer port covers Stihl used on the side of the cylinder. They’re glued on and fail on all of them at some point it seems.

Ive been asked to fix a lot of 391s with this type of failure and almost every one, the piston is destroyed inside the cylinder. They are fine for homeowner use but they dont last too long commercially.

Chris said:

I find that people who spend big money on a pro saw tend to look after them better.

People who buy cheaper saws don’t tend to look after them as well.

Of course there are always exceptions to both. A lot of the issues I see with homeowner saws are from neglect and lack of care, no fault of the saws.

If you’re tossing up between the 391 and 261, hopefully, these comments from users give you something to go on.

Generally speaking, if you need a saw that runs a 20″ bar or bigger, and you’re only using it occasionally, the 391 will be best. If you only need to run a 20″, 18″, or 16″ bar, the 261 is far better.

If you’re buying used, also compare the 261c, 260, and 026. They’re all good saws, with the 261 being the best.


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