Stihl MS461 Chainsaw Review: Specs, Price, Versions, Recall

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The Stihl MS461 is a top-of-the-line professional 76cc chainsaw for forestry, logging, and tree care.

It’s been described as “one of the best saws ever made” and “one of the legendary chainsaws.”

The 461 came onto the market in 2013, replacing the MS460. It exited the scene in 2018 and has now been replaced by the MS462. We’ll compare these 3 saws below.

While the MS461 is no longer being produced, NOS or NIB saws are not uncommon. There are still quite a few unused or barely used 461s out there that sell for between US$1300 – $1500.

Let’s find out why this saw is so popular…

Stihl MS 461 Versions

stihl ms 461 chain saw reviews

There are a number of different 461 versions that do not differ significantly from one another.

This includes:

  • Stihl MS 461
  • Stihl MS 461 VW – heated carb (V) and heated handles (W)
  • Stihl MS 461 R Rescue Saw – loop handle (R) and Depth Limiter on bar

The VW features are also known as an Arctic system and are good to have in cold climates.

Stihl describes the MS461 like this:

This powerful professional chain saw is the successor to the MS 460 and is ideal for users in the forestry, agricultural and arborist markets.

Equipped with heated handles and carburetor, it features a low emission stratified charge engine with delayed stratified scavenging, reduced fuel consumption by up to 20%, improved air filtration with HD2 filter element, excellent straight line control and extremely low vibration levels.

Experience the new generation of powerful, professional fuel efficient chain saws with reduced emissions from STIHL.

461 chainsaw
The MS461 R Rescue Saw

The Rescue Saw version has a different handle (3/4 wrap handle) that makes it more suitable for emergency work. It also has bigger felling dogs, a larger clutch cover, and a high-output oiler.

Firefighters, police, and other emergency personnel use it with a depth limiter for cutting doors, walls, and those types of things.

Stihl 461 rescue saw
461 with loop handle and depth limiter

The depth limiter covers most of the 20″ bar and can be slide adjusted to give more or less cutting area. It’s a great option for these alternative uses when you need power but not necessarily the length.

One comment about this saw being used in this context said:

The 461 just has so much heritage. It was/is the go-to saw for the Forest Service for wildland fire fighting.

There is a version for structural firefighting, loggers all over the world use it, and while the 462 and 500i are great saws they just don’t have the heritage the 461 has at this point.

That’s why I picked one up now before it’s too late.

There was a recall of 100,000 461 chainsaws due to “The fuel line can leak, posing fire and burn hazards.”

They shared:

This recall involves STIHL MS 461 gas-powered chainsaws, and the MS 461 R chainsaw with a wrap handle.

The model number is on the model plate, located on the starter cover. The chainsaws are gray and orange with “STIHL” on the engine cover.

Recalled chainsaws have a serial number between 173092800 and 181993952, under the front hand guard on the engine housing’s sprocket side.

These saws were called in for inspection and repairs.

Stihl MS461 Specs

stihl ms 461 specifications

As shared above, this is an excellent pro chainsaw for commercial work.

It’s popular for those in logging and forestry operations, arborists and landscapers, and farmers and other agricultural workers. It’s a great saw for those with firewood businesses, or, of course, just those guys who like powerful saws for personal use.

461 Specs:

  • Displacement (cc) 76.5
  • Power output (kW) 4.5
  • Weight (kg/lbs) 1) 6.7 / 14.8 (VW 6.8 / 15)
  • Guide Bar Lengths (Recommended ranges) 16″ – 32
  • Cylinder bore 2.05 in (52 mm)
  • Stroke 1.42 in (36 mm)
  • Idle speed 2,500 rpm
  • Max speed 13,500 rpm
  • Bosch WSR 6-F or NGK BPMR 7 A Spark plug
  • 0.02″ / 0.5 mm electrode gap
  • 27.1 fl oz (0.8 L) fuel tank capacity
  • 11 fl oz (0.325 L) bar oil tank capacity
  • Pitch 3/8″ chain

The saw is recommended by Stihl for use with 16 – 32″ bars and was sold with 16, 18, 20, 24, 28, and 32″ bars, including 28 and 32″ Lightweight bars.

MS 461 Review

The 461 is considered to be one of the best Stihl saws ever, in turn making it one of the best in the world of course!

I’ve seen some refer to it as “the new 200t” – the 200T is probably the most sought-after Stihl saw out there and is very difficult to find in good condition (a NOS example would be considered a unicorn). 

Here are some comments from the Stihl community:

  • It is a freaking awesome saw… the 461 is worth every penny.
  • 461 is the ultimate firewood saw for sure!
  • 046 was my first big boy saw and have owned 460s and now 2x 461s. They are great saws. All 461s are Magnums, the stickers just come off real easy.
  • In my opinion, it’s the best saw Stihl made.
  • It’s probably one of Stihls best saws ever made before the MTronic stuff came about.
  • Love my 461! Very reliable and light enough to run for hours with a 25-inch bar. It’s a versatile saw to say the least.
  • I just had a guy port and polish mine and a thing is amazing.

And Nicholas said:

I searched for quite a while and ended up finding a new 461R last year at the beginning of the season. I run both a 28 skip and 25 skip on it. Absolutely my favorite saw, it’s paid for itself many times over!!

The pros of this saw are obvious:

  • It’s a powerful, reliable chainsaw for the most demanding work
  • Power to weight ratio is very good
  • Suitable for short and long bars
  • Easy to work on, find parts for, and takes well to modification
  • Good resale value

The downsides are few and far between. Avoid picking up a model that was part of the recall (unless that problem has been dealth with), and/or just get something a bit bigger if that’s what you need.

460 Vs 461 Vs 462

Stihl MS 460 MS 461 MS 462
CCs 76.5 ccs 76.5 ccs 72.2 ccs
Horsepower 6 hp 6 hp 6 hp
kW 4.5 kW 4.5 kW 4.4 kW
Weight 14.6 lbs 14.6 lbs 13.2 lbs
Bar Length 16 – 32″ 16 – 32″ 25″

Most of the differences can be seen by comparing specs.

The 462 is newer, lighter, and revs higher. The 461 is older, heavier, and has lots of torque.

A couple of comments comparing the saw:

The 460 and 461 are both great saws.

460s went a bit harder in stock form but there’s not much in it. The 461 responds well to porting and goes to a whole new level from an already good saw.


The 462 is a way better saw and the 500i is better than them both. And I’ve run all 3 extensively, so how do you like that. Doesn’t change the fact I love the 461.


I love my 462 because of the weight but I ran a friend’s 461 and couldn’t really tell the weight difference.


460 goes a tad harder, 461 is smoother, but both excellent saws.

I just sold a near new 461 and kept my old 460, it just won’t wear out. Great hardwood saws, better then my 462 for this.

462 is awesome but it’s a different and a lighter duty saw.

Stihl MS 461 Chainsaw

The Stihl MS461 is one of the best Stihl chainsaws you can buy – if you can find it.

It holds good resale value and would not be a difficult saw to sell, even if it needs a bit of TLC. Well-used models still sell for $600+, while those in good condition easily fetch over $1000.

For those wanting something a bit bigger, the MS661 is a good step up, especially if you want to be running longer bars. The 500i is also comparable in power but a good bit lighter. 

The MS440 is a slightly smaller saw that is also very well-reviewed. And for those who don’t mind older and vintage saws, the 044 is worth checking out, along with the 056.


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