stihl ms290 or husky 455 rancher

mikefunaroJuly 16, 2007

I know the STIHL vs. Husqvarna debate has taken place many times on this site before. I have a few specific questions, and would like to address these two saws in specific, if possible.

I know that a lot of people say that dealer support is most important. I live in metro NYC and most of the dealers are pretty sleezy, and definitely not honest. I don't feel any more comfortable with a local husky dealer or stihl dealer. A lot of the dealers around here have been switching between brands as well.

I'm looking for an 18" saw with a lot of power, in the $350 range (hence these two saws). The Husky seems to offer more bang for the buck. It has steel springs for vibration, the air purge system, a metal sprocket cover, and a better air filtration system--all of which is seen more with pro saws. The stihl, however, has the compensating carbureator. I've seen the MS290 referred to on this site as a boat anchor, and thus I'm a little weary. I will admit that there are slightly more Stihl dealers around here, but not by much.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

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I own an MS 290 it is a good all around saw plenty of power they are about equal in weight the 455 and MS 290 I don't think you can go wrong with either one I just got a used 026 stihl off ebay it seems to work really well and a bit lighter in weight than the 290. I doubt you will notice any difference in the anti vibe set up I have a poulan pro with the coil springs for anti vibe two of them have broken on it but they are only a couple of bucks what is most important is good mix and good gas and sharp chain for any saw.
rod s

    Bookmark   July 16, 2007 at 9:29PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

I generally have gone with Stihl but that was to simplify my maintenance.

However, I just recently branched out to a Dolmar/Makita. If you have a dealer near you, the PS 5100S is by all accounts a very nice saw. It's only 50cc to the 290's 55cc but the same HP. Dolmar gives their weight at 11lbs w/o bar and chain. Stihl is 13, not sure if that is with b&c.

I have not read alot of experiences with the 455. I have heard some recommendations for the 290 for home firewood cutting. The 5100 gets very good reviews. Dealer support seems to be their biggest downfall.

How much are you going to use it in the NYC metro area?

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 7:48AM
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The MS290 is a pig. Very poor power to weight ratio.

I'd look into the Dolmar PS 5100.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 11:18AM
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masiman(z7 VA)

There are definitely better saws available than the 290 and 455, but for their price, they are hard to beat. Those saws will do most anything you want to and will be reliable. They are not some Xmart specials. They are not the same as their pro-quality cousins, but they have the same genes. If you appreciate good tools, stay away from the Poulan's, etc.

Keeping in your budget, those are good choices. If you are comfortable with small engines, you could get something decent used, like an MS361 or Hu 357 or even a 359. An MS260 might work for you but it is on the lighter side. If you plan on doing alot of firewood, some prefer having a longer bar so they don't have to stoop over as much. A 260 really should not have more than an 18" on it.

Any reason why you think you need to run an 18" bar? If you don't need that size bar then you can save some weight and money. It is very pleasant to have a small saw if you are only limbing and cutting down brush trees.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 2:35PM
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Thank you all for your advice.

masiman--i keep hearing about that particular dolmar saw. It has to be really good. Can I ask what your price paid was?? The closest dealer is about 20 miles away, but if they're decent, and the saw is excellent, it'll be well worth the trip. We own about a half acre of a wooded lot which has very little soil--underneath it is solid gneiss.The trees die off every 20 or so years since they run out of soil depth to support their roots. It's about that time, and several of them are already dead. I have a lot of cleanup ahead of me. Some of these trees are about 16" thick at their widest points, so I don't think a 12" or 14" bar will suffice.

Thanks to all for their time and consideration.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 9:28PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

The Dolmars are similar to Stihl in that you can not buy them mail order. I do not own a 5100, but do own its big brother the 6401 (Makita colored version of the Dolmar). Amick's has the 5100 listed for $390. They reportedly have good prices.

I bought my 6401 used for $225. It is my first saw bigger than 50cc (64cc). I like it but I'll probably only use it for dropping and blocking. For limbing and walking around work, I will use one of my smaller saws.

If you think you might enjoy the chainsaw work, definitely spend the extra for the 5100. You will appreciate that saw for a very long time. If you just want something to get the job done and know that you only need something reliable and hard working, get the 290 or 455. None of them are bad saws. The Husky line is nice, I just have no experience with them. Saws do have a feel to them. Your dealer should let you try one running. It would be great if they had a log that you could cut a cookie with, but I have not run into a dealer in my area that has that. You might get lucky though. If it is your first saw you might not feel much difference. I am on my 5th saw and generally don't feel much difference, don't care, or still don't have enough experience to be able to tell the difference. Some have stronger preferences to feel though.

I asked the type of sawing you would be doing because of your metro NYC location. Glad to hear that you have some land and some trees and not just an idea that you have a dogwood you want to remove :). You are correct, a 16" could do the work but you will be happier with an 18".

Be careful with leaners (trees that are stuck in another tree) if you have any. They can be very dangerous to work on.

Don't forget to buy PPE (personal protection equipment) with that saw if you don't already have it. Steel toe boots, chaps, gloves, helmet, eye pro, hearing pro. I have a "forestry" helmet with integrated ear muffs and a face shield. I thought it was a little silly at first but now I enjoy putting it on. I even wear it with my trimmer now. I have had many a chunk of wood bounce of the mesh face shield. There are a few times when I did not put the shield down that a piece of wood slipped in behind my safety glasses. Peltor and Husky seem to be the more popular models. I have to admit that I don't always wear my chaps (especially when climbing), but I did nick my chaps once. If I am going out to just do ground work I do wear them. I find that I am laziest about putting them on after I come down from climbing. I am getting better at that though. Chaps will save you a world of grief. That $60-70 will prevent or make a many thousand dollar hospital bill into a minor situation. I can recommend Labonville full wrap chaps. Check out their website and the video they have of testing chaps. Almost any chaps are better than none. If your wife has a problem with the money it costs, show her the video :).

Remember, saws are like wives, bicycles and anything else you value. Never lend them out.

Good Luck. Post back with what you decide to get.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 10:48AM
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I used to run a Stihl 290, but had some service concerns and ended up switching over to the Husky 455 Rancher.

Having heard good things about both, I had no real concerns about quality when I made the switch.

Having used the 455 for a year now, it is clear that - at least in a straight across comparison between those two particular saws - the 455 is IMO a much better saw.

The xtorq is great and even when cutting up an old 24" dia birch tree in my yard last year it didn't even come close to bogging down. All it did was "settle in" to work and ate through it like nobody's business.

I don't use my saw a whole lot and only usually cut about 12 cords per year (add 8 from last years yard clearing), but if I had to buy a new one today I would buy the 455 again .... okay, maybe the 555. The 455 has no problem doing what I need it to do, but a bit more power is always nice, right? :-)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 12:21PM
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masiman(z7 VA)

You can't work a chainsaw for any amount of time without wanting more power :).

If I understand the Husky model number system, the XP versions seem to be the pro grade saws.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 1:21PM
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I gotta say i put my ms290 to the ultimate test.Bout 3 weeks ago my county was hit by four tornadoes.An ef3 ripped right throught the middle of my neighborhood.As soon as the twister passed,it looked like someone picked up the woods across the street crumbled them up and spiked them in the middle of the road.I ran straight for my 290,fired her up and set out on a 16 hour marathon of road clearing cutting logs out of houses,cutting houses open so the emergency teams could reach my area.My Ms290 helped me get my injured neighbours to safety.The twister killed 5 in my neghborhood.I used to be a Husky man but I'd have to say....go with the Ms290...It's a real heavyduty work saw.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:06AM
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I bought a husq 455 rancher a couple year ago and was pleased with the power and the way it handled until it started throwing chains and tearing everything up on the inside...So I went out and bought Stihls best selling saw, the MS-290. After using the saw for a couple of hours, it scares me a bit to think this is Stihl's bestseller. There must be alot of wimps out there. My 14 inch Poulan wood shark outworked this thing. I use saws to drop trees on the farm clearing for pasture more so than for cutting firewood so maybe I'm expecting a little much from all these "great" saws. I've used saws to clear 40 or so acres to date and if given a choice between grabbing the husky or stihl to drop a tree, the first thing I look at is the diameter of the base and if $100 Poulan will handle it, I grab it. It makes me sick to hit a nail or rock with those high dollar saws and round the edge of the tooth where you have to take half of it off to get it sharp again. That's where the cheap saws have both stihl and husky beat. You can tear them up and you're not out alot. But if the poulan won't handle it, I grab the husky and pray the chain don't fly off. The chain is the key...not so much the saw. I can trim up a downed tree faster with a sharp chain on a little poulan than any 455 or 290 just because it's lighter and much easier to handle. In all fairness to the 290, I've only used it for a couple of hours and it may need some tweaking being new right out of the box but I know it was bogging down on a 16 inch yellow poplar today with a new chain. I ain't liking that. I hope I didn't waste my money.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 1:49AM
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