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From the (virtual) mail bin: “Have you seen or used the one-handed reciprocating saw? Home Depot and Lowe’s both have one, and I was wondering how well they work.” Indeed we have. Read on for details.

Much like the PS20 first exposed the masses to the idea that bigger wasn’t necessarily better when it comes to drill drivers, Milwaukee’s compact Hackzall carried the compact theme through to the recip line. We first , and I later wrote about it for Popular Science as well. We’ve loved the thing. In fact, we liked it so much that we named it one of our . Since then, Bosch followed suit with their own take, and now we see a variety of models in various form factors.

In many ways, the compact versions are entirely different tools than the standard recip. Like the Hackzall, they almost all feature shortened stroke length, usually somewhere around 1/2 inch versus a standard recip’s 3/4 to 1-1/4 inch. Around the time of the Hackzall launch, Milwaukee engineers told us that the prime reason for this was to increase battery life, as compact cordless models like the Hackzall and Bosch’s PS60 rely on small 10.8-12v batteries that don’t pack a lot of juice. But there’s a side benefit to short stroke, too: it makes the thing a whole lot easier to control. We had no problem using the Hackzall single-handed in a lot of situations, which we wouldn’t imagine trying with a full-size saw.

They also all feature much different shapes and grip profiles than their larger brethren. The Hackzall and Bosch both take a pistol-grip approach, with the saw jutting out at a vertical angle. This looks pretty odd at first, but it makes perfect sense when you pick up the saw to use it. When you hold it like a pistol, the angle of the saw matches the angle of your arm, so you can comfortably hold the saw while attacking workpieces horizontally or vertically. And the motor placement makes a kick-ass spot to put your other hand to stabilize the saw when you need to hold it in place or add a little force.

Newer corded saws, like the ones our reader saw from Ridgid and Kobalt, as well as the Craftsman (and others, we suspect) mimic the shape of oscillating saws, like the Ridgid JobMax, for example. They feature a barrel-type grip, which results in a longer but narrower tool. These saws, by the way, seem to have popularized the “one-handed” label which caught our reader’s eye.

Bottom line: Though we haven’t tried out the Ridgid or Kobalt tools specifically, we can attest to the functionality of the smaller, differently-shaped, shorter-stroked recip. The concept is definitely sound. And though we love the pistol-grip form factor, you should choose the shape that’s most comfortable for you when performing the tasks you perform most often. (And we’ll look into trying out some of these newer models for TM as well.)

Saws mentioned here:
Hackzall M12 Cordless Recip Saw [Milwaukee]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

PS60 12v Max Pocket Recip Saw [Bosch]

R3030 One-Handed Fuego Recip Saw [Ridgid]
Street Pricing [Google]

Kobalt 4-Amp Keyless Variable Speed Corded Recip Saw [Lowe’s]



25 Responses to Ask Toolmonger: What's Up With One-Handed Recip Saws?

  1. Pruitt says:

    Not sure it’s the same category, but I have the 12v LIon DeWalt with the folding handle. Completely possible to use one handed. Love that I have a baby recip in my tool bag.

    • Steve says:

      I have a warehouse application where we cut shipping tubes to the proper length when using them to ship irregular products. Many cuts per day. We had been using an 18v DeWalt, which is not meant to be a single hand saw. But we need a hand to hold the shipping tube in place. Using this saw is not ergonomically friendly. Today I purchased the Rigid one handed saw, but the 1/2″ stroke is to short to cut these thick cardboard tubes with the speed we need. Are there any single handed reciprocating saws with a long 1″ plus stroke??

  2. FavRami says:

    I own the ridgid one. Have had it for a few years now. Ever since I picked it up I have had no need to pick up my full size dewalt. Lighter, easier to control, built in light. Sure, not as aggressive but never had the need to tear something that the smaller unit couldn’t handle it.

  3. browndog77 says:

    These actual fall into 2 categories (3 if you include corded). I have the Bosch 12V model, which I would refer to as a mini-recip, and the Craftsman 19.2V which is a full sized barrel grip similar to the 4V corded unit listed above. I do have a traditional Milwaukee corded unit as well. The biggest benefit in the barrel design is the location of the cord. For flush cuts it is out of the way, which was always a pain with the Sawzall unless you chuck the blade in the opposite direction. That makes the tool really awkward!

    • fred says:

      When we bought our first Hackzall – were a bit skeptical about its application – but now have one on every plumbing truck. While not as compact as an “imp” pipe cutter, the Hackzall can get into spaces (e.g. under sinks) that would defy using a full-sized reciprocating saw.

      We also bought a Ridgid inline saw – much for the reason cited by Browndog . The in-line design and cord placement gives it applications where you need to reach into a space with one hand. We have a couple of old Bosch in-line jig saws (3294EVS) that are no longer made – but still much loved by our installers.

  4. Michael W says:

    I bought the Ridgid a few years ago when they first came out. I needed a recip to cut over my head in a basement for a job. I chose the Ridgid over a traditional recip because I wanted to see if I could keep from re-injuring my shoulder (torn rotator cuff). I’ve used it so much since then that I have to replace the carbon brushes. Very controllable little unit. I’m still pleased with my decision.

  5. pete says:

    i have the fuego, love the two finger grip, something the larger saws should have too. with one of the tiny blades, i’ve fit this underneath an installed bath tub – vertically – to cut a new drain hole.

    i also have to comment on the wire guard, its very compact so its not in the way. its all i think about when im forced to use a dewalt sawsall at work with its ginormous steel box thats always in the way : )

  6. russ says:

    Great idea for the lighter work. You don’t always need the power of the regular size reciprocating saw.

  7. Justin says:

    One of the BIGGEST advantages to the one-handed Hackzalls is when cutting non-rigid materials (long/lightweight PVC, small branches, small or plastic quarter rounds, etc.) BECAUSE you need a second hand to hold the material steady else it’ll tend to vibrate really fast with the blade rather than against it event when pressing the blade shoe guard solidly against it. If you havent a way to clamp-down or hand-steady the material being cut youd need nearly 5 to 10 times to blade speed to cut such light flexible materials (like an oscillating multitool, router/zip-tool, or these one-handed hackzalls).

  8. A. Crush says:

    I’d been wanting a mini-recip for YEARS before they ever came out with them. Getting into tight corners when doing bodywork on vehicles and cutting out old rusted parts would have been a lot easier with a tiny electric saw to do the work instead of having to make do with a blade and handle because a full size saw wouldn’t fit.

    I was actually going to do it with a jigsaw though, for super-precise small cuts in wood and metal, but the current saws with small blades do ok with a blade adapter.

    Still, I’m waiting for an even smaller saw that uses the same designs, but with a jigsaw blade.

  9. Robert says:

    I have the cordless version of the Rigid one-hander and my wife loves to grab it for trimming tree branches. It is a lot easier for her to control than my old Porter Cable cordless recip saw. I’ve used it on a few plumbing tasks and it is able to get into much tighter spaces.

  10. Daniel Hitac says:

    Hi Chuck

    I have used the Ridgid R3030 (don’t own it, but use it regularly). I was very close to ordering a much larger one but ultimately decided on this smaller model.

    It obviously takes a bit more time to finish the job with a one-handed model, but it works perfectly. I had to take down the roof in a barn once and it took me less than 2 hours to do it with the Ridgid. Great for cutting branches as well, especially for people who have some medical issues that make it difficult to use a regular hand saw.

    Plus, the blade is surprisingly durable and doesn’t need replacing nearly as often as I had thought it would.

    Overall, it I’d recommend these tools.

  11. Michael says:

    I think a primary use would be small DIY jobs around the house. It’s always a pain getting out the full-size reciprocating saws to cut a single piece of ply board. A small, yet powerful tool is easier to handle and saves space. Good article!

  12. kurt says:

    I bought my Makita 9v years ago and use it often. Works great for plastic plumbing and electrical flextubing.

  13. Anna V. Wilkerson says:

    I really like it when some power tools goes compact. Not only are they easier to handle but also they become more portable. They may be smaller in size but still they pack the same power. Thanks for sharing this blog.

  14. I am working on reciprocating saw. Milwaukee one handed reciprocating saw is called Hackzall saw. I am curious to know about air saw. Air saw very light in weight and very cheap in price. So there must be differences between the air saw and hackzall saw. Could you please tell me the differences between the air saw and hackzall saw?

  15. Garyg says:

    I reckon that the smaller stroke is a bonus for using these tools with one hand, a longer stroke could lead to more “accidents”.

  16. Garry Harris says:

    Yeah, the one handed version is actually much easier to use. The long, powerful stroke on the two-handed saw made the saw want to grab and jump —  hard to hang on to. The one handed reciprocating saw is more of a precision tool.

  17. Terrance J. says:

    This is quite helpful guideline. One handed reciprocating performance is just awesome. I am satisfied with its performance.

  18. I like your guideline. One handed version is helpful for lighter work. It may be smaller, but still, it has same power of the regular size reciprocating saw. Thanks for sharing this blog

  19. Ted Oliver says:

    I’m in my later years and have used the “standard” ricep saw all my life, both battery and cord power. After reading this blog and all the comments I would like to try the one handed type. With my free hand I could hold on to the piece I’m cutting or to whatever it is attached to.:) I might even add one to my website. Thanks for all the info!

  20. Sam says:

    One-handed recip saw is a better choice. It absolutely completes my tool kit. Once you get hang of it, then you cannot stay away from it.

  21. Ryan says:

    I agree with anna here. Compact yet powerful is the way to go. Makes it easier for older people to keep up with their projects. Also, saves a lot of space in the workshop!!

  22. Alexis Facca says:

    All this time I was wondering what is there with one-handed orbital reciprocating saw and whether it would be suitable for my requirements. Thanks to you now I know What’s Up With One-Handed Recip Saws.


  23. Dom says:

    Getting a one handed recip made a big difference. You still need the traditional version for many projects, but the single hand operation is lighter and great for overhead work or providing a way to hold something while you’re working. Nice recap and great info in the comments too!

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