Stihl chainsaws have model names like MS 362 – that is, a few letters and a three-digit model number. I have always wondered whether these model names are just random numbers or is there some logic to them?
There are many suggestions for a naming logic, but I was not able to find anything conclusive. So, I decided to find out myself, and dug through the specs of present and historic Stihl chainsaws.
In this article, I will tell you what Stihl chainsaw model names mean. Shortly put, Stihl chainsaw model names have no strict coding, but they do tell the energy source and give a rough indication of the output power and model version. The leading letters MS/MSE/MSA tell whether the model is gasoline-powered, electric or battery-powered. The following number divided by 100 gives saw output power in kilowatts or horsepower, while the last digit separates successive saw versions. Finally, one or more trailing letters may be used to indicate special features in the model.
Next we will take a closer look at the Stihl chainsaw model name structure and I will tell how I came up with the power coding.
Leading letters: MS/MSE/MSA
The letter combination in the beginning of Stihl chainsaw model names tells you the energy source – i.e. is it a gasoline, plug-in electric or a battery-powered saw.
The letter coding is summarized in the table below. In short, MS means gas, MSE means plug-in electric and MSA means battery power (a newer addition).
|MSE (Motorsäge elektrisch)
|MSA (Motorsäge Akku)
Number: Power output (kW/hp)
By listing and plotting the powers of all current Stihl chainsaw models (MS and MSE), I found that the Stihl model name actually gives a good indication of the saw output power.
The output power seems to have been coded in two different ways: a kilowatt rule for new model lines and a horsepower rule for old. The graph below shows the rules as lines and all current Stihl chainsaws as data points. You can see that all models fall either on or close to the two lines.
Models: MS 250 to MS 500i, MSE
Mid-range gas saws MS 250 to MS 500i and all electric MSE models: model number divided by 100 gives output power in kilowatts (kW).
output [kW] ≈ model name / 100
This rule means that MS 311, for example, would have an output power of 311/100 = 3.11 kW. For this model, this matches the specified power (3.1 kW) exactly.
The Kilowatt Rule is very accurate for MSE saws and gasoline saws from MS 271 to MS 500i, with the exception of MS 391. The rule seems to have been used particularly in naming newer Stihl models.
Most models covered by this rule have just a bit less power (~5%) than the rule suggests, but the MS 261 overshoots by 15%.
Models: MS 150…211, MS 660…881
Small and large MS saws: model number divided by 100 gives output power in horsepower (hp).
output [hp] ≈ model name / 100
This rule is fairly accurate model numbers below MS 200 and for MS 880, but underestimates MS 201 and MS 661. This rule seems to have been used for older Stihl models.
MODEL NAME VS.
|model name / 100 = output kW
|model name / 100 = output hp
|no power specs
Battery saws (MSA)?
How about the new battery-powered (MSA) Stihl chainsaw models?
Sadly, Stihl gives no power specs for any of its battery saws. Just as with most other manufacturers and types of battery-powered tools, only the battery voltage and amp-hours are given.
My guess: the MSA models are closer to the horsepower rule than the kilowatt rule. This guess is based on comparing the MSA models to gas saws with similar recommended max bar length and chain.
Last digit: Version
The last digit in Stihl chainsaw names seems to be used as a version indicator. For example, MS 251 is an updated MS 250, MS 462 is an updated MS 461 (in turn updated from MS 460).
The current three-digit Stihl chainsaw model names, in use since around 2000, are still mostly in xx0 or xx1 versions. The exceptions are MS 360…362, MS 460…462, and MS 190…194, where the version digit extends up to 4.
Many Stihl chainsaw models names have one or more trailing letters after the number. These letters indicate some special features that the saw has over a base version. The trailing letter options are listed in the table below, with a brief description.
(only MS 500i)
& carb control
Despite many claims to the contrary, we saw that Stihl chainsaw names do actually seem to carry information of not only the energy source, but also of the saw power and model version.
The power estimate they give you is not 100% accurate, but gives you a pretty good guess. Because there are two power rules, you have to pick either the kilowatt or the horsepower rule. Fortunately practically all saws are between these rules – you know that MS 661, for example, has an output power between 6.6 hp (4.9 hp) and 6.6 kW!
Knowing the power coding behind the Stihl chainsaw names helps you make sense of and navigate the lineup. I hope you will find this information useful!