According to an ad in the October 2013 issue of the new cordless Milwaukee M18 Fuel Sawzall reciprocating saw is the first 18-volt model to deliver true corded performance. When JLC asked if I’d like to field-test one, I couldn’t resist.
I’ve been a hands-on contractor since 1980, and my company is currently doing lots of residential remodels and additions. Our go-to recip has been the 10-pound, 15-amp corded Makita model JR3070CT, which pumps out up to 2,800 strokes per minute with a 1 1/4-inch stroke length. The Makita has an aggressive orbital cutting mode, electronic speed control for maintaining constant speed under load, a clutch that helps prevent gear damage if the blade jams, and a counterbalance to reduce vibration. My crew and I were anxious to see if the new M18 Fuel Sawzall could stand in for our tried-and-true corded Makita with no significant drawbacks.
The M18 Fuel is the first cordless recip with a brushless motor. Brushless motors are more compact, efficient, and durable than standard motors with brushes. The tool has the same gear design, gear-protecting clutch, and vibration-damping counterbalance as Milwaukee’s corded 12-amp model 6519-31. Advanced electronics maintain constant speed under load while protecting against overloading, overheating, and overdischarging.
The saw also has a lever-action blade clamp for speedy swap-outs, and a quick-release adjustable shoe that makes it easy to control the maximum cutting depth or to use a fresh series of teeth to extend the life of the blade. Much-appreciated finishing touches include a pivoting hang hook and a bright LED headlight with a 10-second afterglow when you release the trigger.
According to Milwaukee, the M18 Fuel cuts up to 30% faster than competing cordless recips, and can even outpace its own corded model 6519-31 in some applications despite having a similar transmission and the same stroke specs. Unlike the M18 Fuel, the 6519-31 doesn’t have electronic speed control.
As for battery runtime, Milwaukee says repetitive internal tests revealed that the M18 Fuel armed with a 6-inch Milwaukee AX demolition blade can consistently make up to 40 crosscuts per charge in 2x12 pressure-treated pine when using the optimal feed pressure.
We’re too busy to conduct our own speed and runtime tests, but we’ve pushed the M18 Fuel hard for five months—cutting everything from existing framing to 1/2-inch rebar—and it’s in a league of its own. We thought we would miss the orbital cutting mode, but we don’t. The saw speeds through our cuts like a corded tool and has yet to stall or to shut itself off to prevent overloading. The 4-amp-hour battery has had ample runtime to complete each of our cutting jobs, and its built-in fuel gauge tells us when it’s time to recharge. This is helpful given that it’s not a quick charge—in one timed trial, it took us one hour and 26 minutes to fully recharge the high-capacity battery.
The saw weighs about a pound less than our corded recip, is comfortable to grip, and does a good job of taming vibrations.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Since we started testing the M18 Fuel Sawzall, our corded recip hasn’t left the truck. The new cordless is surprisingly fast and powerful, delivers impressive runtime, and has every recip feature available. The cordless convenience is fabulous.
The bare tool (model 2720-20) costs $200, or the same price as our deluxe corded recip. That’s great if you’ve already bought into Milwaukee’s M18 platform and are using the 4-amp-hour batteries. I haven’t, so I’d opt for the full 2720-22 kit, which doubles the price. That’s pretty steep, but I think the payback is worth it. A third option is the$300 2720-21 kit, which has one battery instead of two.
Stephen Klug ownsFine Building & Finish, in Yarmouthport, Mass.