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Until today, I’d never cut with a barrel grip jigsaw. Granted, most of my experience was with relatively inexpensive jigsaws, which pretty much universally means top grip. But I hear that “experienced” users — and almost everyone in Europe — love the barrel grip, so I jumped at the chance to give one a go.

My experience was quite positive. It’s a little different at first, but after just a minute or two I felt like I had great control of it. And with my hand behind (for the most part) instead of between me and my work, I had a much better view of the cut.

But what do you think? I’m sure some of you have spent far more than my quick five minutes with one. Are you a fan of the barrel grip, or do you like the old-fashioned top grip? And far more importantly: Why?


19 Responses to Jigsaws: Top Grip Or Barrel Grip?

  1. David says:

    100% barrel grip fan here — it has better control of the cut and is easier to keep the blade perpendicular — lower center of gravity or something like that. I just used my barrel grip Makita a couple of days ago and was reminded again that with any jig saw you should go slow and not “push” the saw — it’s reproducing the motion of a hand saw rather than spinning teeth in a 7 and 1/4 inch circle at 3500 RPM.

  2. fred says:

    I have been using Bosch barrel grip jigsaws for years and I’m a big fan of what I think is better control. We had several Bosch in-line (body-grip) jig saws too – that are now getting pretty long in the tooth – and are no longer made. They were good for cabinet intallations – reaching in to do outlet cutouts etc. I think that their closest current “cousin” is the Ridgid Fuego inline reciprocating saw – but it lacks the finesse of using jigsaw blades with the older Bosch. I’ve heard some folks say that if you have smaller hands – you might not like a barrel grip saw – but my hands are not overly large and it suits me fine.

  3. fred says:

    Just another observation:
    We’ve acquired some Makita LXT top-handled cordless jigsaws – and find them handy – but I’ve never seen a barrel-grip cordless – unless I’ve missed one.

    On another question for toolmongers with experience with Festool products – is their jigsaw worth about 2x the price of the Bosch ?

  4. Extremeframer says:

    “On another question for toolmongers with experience with Festool products – is their jigsaw worth about 2x the price of the Bosch ?”

    Absolutely not. They on par with Bosch, but not better. Their dust collection feature requires the plastic “window” to be installed….and then you cannot see the blade. I have one and I bought a Bosch because it at least BLOWS the dust from the cut (so I can see it).

  5. PutnamEco says:

    I feel that you really need both styles, A barrel grip for coping and other fine work and top handle for working in odd spaces. I do prefer barrel grip though.

    Re: fred says:
    I’ve never seen a barrel-grip cordless.

    Festool has one in the works, called the Carvex[already available overseas(http://www.festool.co.uk/Products/Pages/Product-Detail.aspx?pid=561404&name=Pendulum-jigsaw-CARVEX-PSC-400-Li-15-PSC-400-EB-Set-Li-15-GB)]
    Are they better than the Bosch? The jigsaws that I’ve tried no, Some of there other stuff,is marginally better alone, as a system, there are benefits, especially when it come to dust collection. Is it worth what they charge? No, don’t buy it unless you have money to burn. While it is nice having that little bit of extra refinement, it is not that much better from what the other brands offer. I would hate to think what would befall my Festool tools should they be used by someone without any mechanical sympathy, as they don’t tolerate abuse well.
    I wish Festool would bring in their ProTool (http://www.protool-online.com/) line of tools to the USA. If you can navigate the German side of their website check out their line of Sägen (saws)and Zimmereimaschinen (carpentry tools) The Australian side of the site is in English but the Australian line is not as extensive as their native German line.

  6. browndog77 says:

    I use the Bosch top grip for the sole reason of having better control of the variable speed switch. At least it seemed important when I bought it, LOL. Truth be told, it runs at full speed for the vast majority of jobs I use it on. One other thought. When cutting a line parallel to a wall & close to it (necessary for many sinks, cooktops, etc.), your hand doesn’t have to be between the saw & the wall.

  7. justsomeguy says:

    “Their dust collection feature requires the plastic “window” to be installed….and then you cannot see the blade.”

    I’ve read this on several forums and I just have to say What?!?!?

    I’ve owned a Festool jigsaw for a year an a half now and I don’t have any problem seeing the cut with the window in place.

    Oh by the way, barrel grip definitely. I loved my old Bosch barrel grip saws and I love my Festool.

  8. Neil Bruce says:

    Bosch recently released their GST150 in the UK with a CE version (barrel grip) and a BCE version (bow handle grip) and I can say that Toolstop have shipped out far more of the bow handle model than the barrel grip to Europe.
    Speaking to experienced tradesmen though it seems they mainly concur with what people are saying here, that they get more control with the bow handle model.
    The GST150 is a new 150mm depth of cut, 780 watt, variable speed up to 3100rpm mid range jigsaw which is doing very well over here.

  9. Alex C. says:

    Love the barrel grip Bosch. In the early 90’s I worked as an car audio installer and must of cut a thousand speaker holes one summer with a Bosch barrel grip over a green garbage can. Once you get used to it you can fly through the work.

  10. Blair says:

    browndog77 brings up a good point. If you do a lot of cabinet installation work, the top handle is better suited (at least in my opinion). I bought a Porter Cable top handle just for that reason about 15 years ago, and after innumerable cutouts for everything from sinks, to drop in ranges/grills, I don’t regret my choice, As an aside, because we used them all the time, they became the “go to” saws, even for longer straight cuts, we rarely even loaded a circ saw on the truck unless we knew there was a lot of ripping to be done.

  11. paganwonder says:

    Barrel grip Bosch is THE jig saw- have used one for decades, current saw has only lasted 15 years and still behaves as new.

  12. fred says:

    We still have some old PC 548 top handle jigsaws – that were the first professional quality jigsaw I ever used. I thought that their bayonet style (sometimes called hook style blades) were far superior to the U style sawblades – but we converted to the Bosch barrel grip saws with Tang (T) style with quick changing blades (has gotten progressingly better with newer models). I hear what Blair says – but except for using Makita cordless saws – I don’t see anyone in our crews fetching out the top handled PC saws – even though we probably have some stock of bayaonet blades.

  13. dreamcatcher says:

    I think the difference is in the intended use of the saw. While Handy Andy and Homeowner Joe just use a jigsaw to cut dog silhouettes out of plywood laying on a garbage can, a professional like myself use them to cut electrical holes in the backs of cabinets, scribe fillers, and cope crown (use upside down and backwards). I can tell you outright and sure that coping upside down is easier with a barrel grip saw – as is plunge cutting or any work in tight/cumbersome areas.

  14. paganwonder says:

    Agree with dreamcatcher- any saw that can be used up-side down and backwards to great effect must be the preferred saw.

  15. fred says:


    We have a few older Bosch barrel-grip saws each fitted with Collins coping foot. I’m not sure that all of our guys like these – but they do seem to get pulled out of the tool room often. I also think that I heard that this foot will not fit on all Bosch saws.


  16. Alex C. says:

    What’s wrong with a using a green garbage can? What is it that using one makes you “un-professional”?
    Used with a barrel grip jigsaw, the can makes a decent worktable that stabilizes the work. It catches over 95% of the sawdust and it doesn’t use any electricity to do it, so it’s “green” too. It’s an automatic cutout catcher in the sense that once I finish the cut, it just falls into the can. It keeps my work area clean and safe since I won’t trip over those cutouts. Plus, I can drag it anywhere I need it AND at the end of the day I have very little to sweep up. It’s a bargain at $20.

  17. Furnival says:

    Barrel grip – hold the jig saw under the work and cut upside down! Just watch blade. No dust.

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