Stihl MS260 vs 261 – [Battle of Power and Reliability]

Patrick McMann


Stihl has really nailed it when it comes to manufacturing powerful chainsaws, with its MS 260 and MS 261 being two popular variants. They both belong to the same Stihl line for forestry cutting machines and share many similarities. However, they also have some differences that set them apart.

In this article, I’ll dig deep into the features and functionality of each chainsaw and see how they stack up against each other. I’ll also explore the similarities, pros, and cons of both cutting machines. So, if you’re curious to know more, keep on reading!

When comparing the Stihl MS260 and MS261 chainsaws, consider the MS261 for improved performance and features over the MS260.

Stihl 260 VS 261: What’s the Difference?

Both the Stihl MS260 and MS261 are forestry chainsaws specifically designed for professional cutting tasks. However, there are differences in their engine power, fuel, and chain oil capacity. The MS260 features a 3.5 hp engine power, 15.6 oz fuel capacity, and 9.8 oz oil tank volume. While the MS261 has a 4.0 hp engine power, 16.9 oz. fuel capacity and 9.13 oz oil tank volume.

Other than these differences, both Stihl variants differ in terms of some features as well, which has a huge impact on their cutting performance and the operator’s safety. Let’s further compare Stihl MS 260 vs 261 in detail, so you can decide which model is the most suitable for your cutting needs:

Stihl MS260 vs Stihl MS261


The Stihl MS260 weighs 4.8kg, while the MS261 comes with a 5.2kg weight, which is slightly heavier than the MS260. So, holding either of them won’t make a huge difference.

Engine Power

The Stihl MS260 chainsaw comes with a 3.5hp engine power, meaning you can use the machine for moderate cutting and limbing tasks. On the other hand, the MS261 has a 4.0 hp engine power which is relatively higher. This means you can perform heavy-duty tasks like cutting through thick wood and felling large trees.

On top of that, the MS261 features 2-MIX technology in its engine to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. The engine complies with the strict EU Stage V emissions regulations and is fuel-efficient even when performing demanding cutting tasks. There’s no such technology in the MS260’s engine.

In addition, the MS261 delivers a max RPM of 14,000, while the MS260 has a 13,000 max RPM. A 1000 RPM difference translates to the MS261 cutting through thick wood faster than the MS260.

Bar Length

The Stihl MS260 bar size support ranges from min 13-inch to max 18-inch. In comparison, the MS261 is compatible with a min 16-inch and max 20-inch bar length. As it supports a 20-inch bar, it provides more flexibility in cutting tough wood, limbing thick branches, and felling large trees than the MS260. 

However, it has no support for smaller bars than 16 inches, so you cannot use it overhead or maneuver it through tighter spaces. On the other hand, the MS260 provides more maneuverability if you’re using it with a 13-inch bar.

Fuel Capacity and Usage

The MS260 features a 15.6 oz fuel capacity, less than the 16.9 oz. offered by the MS261. Other than that, it also doesn’t have any fuel-efficient technology like the 261 does. 

The MS261 comes with Stihl’s Four Channel technology which uses four overflow channels to compress the fuel-and-air mix into the cylinder. This way, it burns the fuel efficiently, boosting the engine performance.

Learn More: Husqvarna 120 Mark II vs Stihl MS170 Comparison

Oil Tank Volume

The MS260 comes with a 9.8 oz oil tank volume, while the MS261 provides only a slightly larger 9.13 oz oil tank volume.

Air Filter System

The MS260 Stihl has a standard filter, while the 261 has a pre-separation HD2 filter. It works by removing the big particles from the air before they reach the primary Stihl MS261 air filter. 

Moreover, it keeps all that fine dust away from the engine too. This means you can use the chainsaw for extended periods without cleaning or maintaining the filter too often. The MS260 doesn’t have the HD2 filter.

Captive Nuts

The Stihl MS261 sprocket cover features captive nuts bolted to it. So they won’t ever fall off or get lost when you remove the cover. The MS260 doesn’t have this feature.


The Stihl MS 260 price ranges between $250 and $400 for a used but in good condition machine, and new will cost you anywhere from $500 to $600. In comparison, a brand new MS261 costs $689.99 with an 18-inch bar.

Stihl MS261 Specs Vs Stihl MS260 Specs

Stihl MS260
Stihl MS261
Engine Power
2-stroke engine, 3.5 hp, 50.2 cc displacement
2-MIX engine, 4.0 hp, 50.2 cc displacement
Bar Length
13-18 inches
16-20 inches
Fuel Capacity
15.6 oz.
15.9 oz., Four-Channel technology
Oil Tank Volume
9.8 oz.
9.13 oz.
Air Filter
Standard Filter
Standard and HD2 Filter
Captive Nuts
$250-$400 for used and $500-$600 for new
$689.99 with an 18-inch bar

Similarities Between the Stihl MS260 and MS261

The MS260 and MS261 have much in common, and there aren’t many differences. So, let’s dig into their similarities one by one, and I’ll explain each one of them in detail:

Engine Displacement

Both the MS260 and MS261 deliver the same 50.2 cc engine displacement.

Single-Lever Master Control

One common feature between the MS260 and MS261 is a single-level master control for better control and less fatigue while using the chainsaw. The lever has a choke, throttle, and on/off switch all in one place, so you can easily handle them and won’t have to fumble around with different controls.

Side-Mounted Chain Tensioning

The MS260 and MS261 come with side-mounted chain tensioning, making it convenient to tighten or replace the chain while keeping it safe and secure. To tighten or replace the chain, you just need to slide in the tensioning screw from the side of the sprocket cover, and you’re good to go.

Anti-Vibration System

Both the MS260 and MS261 come with buffer zones to keep the engine and chainsaw vibrations from bothering your front and rear handles. 

So, when you’re using the chainsaw, it runs much smoother, and that means you don’t have to deal with shaking. It saves your strength and lets you work longer without feeling worn out.


The MS260 and MS261 have a Quick Stop chain brake that can be activated automatically or manually. When it kicks in, it wraps around the clutch drum, making sure the chain won’t move even if you squeeze the throttle trigger.

To engage the chain brake manually, you only have to push the front-hand guard forward on your chainsaw. The chain also covers your safety. Whenever there’s a powerful kickback, the brake automatically triggers into action, halting the cutting machine in its tracks.

Stihl Ematic System

Both the MS260 and MS261 boast an Ematic lubrication system that delivers the right amount of oil to the chain, and other components, keeping them well-lubricated. 

It also reduces oil consumption by a whopping 50%, saving you some bucks. An important part of this Ematic system is the removable intake screen that stops debris from gumming up the oil system, ensuring it is well-lubricated.

Compensating Carburetor

Another common feature in Stihl MS 260 and MS 261 is a compensating carburetor that manages the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. When the filter gets clogged, and the airflow decreases, the compensator automatically cuts back on the fuel to the carburetor. 

On the flip side, if there’s too much air in the filter, it adds more fuel to the mix. Basically, the compensator always keeps the chainsaw running super efficiently, no matter the condition. 

Related: Adjusting a Chainsaw Carburetor
Cleaning a Chainsaw Carburetor

Controlled Delivery Oil Pump

Both the Stihl MS 260 and MS261 come with a controlled-delivery oil pump. It keeps a steady flow of oil going to the bar and chain, irrespective of the weather or cutting job you’re tackling. By making sure the bar and chain are always well-lubricated, the oil pump prevents excessive wear and tear on the chainsaw.

Stihl ElastoStart

Both the Stihl MS 260 and MS261 feature a pre-installed Elastostart system that soaks up the kickback energy when you pull the starting cord. This means you won’t have to use as much force, saving your arms from unnecessary strain.

Manual Decompression Valve

The MS260 and MS261 feature a decompression valve right on top of the chainsaw. This valve helps release some of the compression forces in the chamber, so pulling the starter cord is way easier and less of a hassle.

Tool Free Fuel Caps

The MS260 and MS261 come with tool-free fuel caps. You don’t need any extra tools to open them up. It’s super convenient because it makes maintenance convenient and saves time when refueling the cutting machine.


Stihl offers 1 year of domestic warranty and 3-months of commercial guarantee for both the MS260 and MS261 cutting machines.

Now you know the similarities between the 260 and 261 variants, Let’s check out the upsides and downsides of both models and see how they affect cutting performance and maintenance. This way, you can figure out which one fits your needs best:

Pros of Stihl MS260

Support for Smaller Guide Bars

The MS260 is compatible with smaller guide bars like 14 and 13 inches other than its recommended 16-inch bar. This means you can use it to cut overhead branches and maneuver it easily between tight spaces.

Less Expensive

It’s less expensive than the MS260. You can also find it in refurbished or used condition at a more affordable rate.

Cons of Stihl MS260

Not Fuel Efficient

Although the MS260 offers less oil consumption, its engine doesn’t feature any fuel-efficient technology. Therefore, expect it to guzzle more fuel than the MS261. Also, you may have trouble using it in an area with strict emissions regulations.

No Pre-Separation Filter

It doesn’t come with a pre-separation filter. This means you can’t use the cutting machine for longer periods and will have to do frequent cleaning and maintenance.

No Captive Nuts

It doesn’t feature captive nuts, so you’ll have to avoid losing them when you take off the sprocket cover.

Cannot Perform Professional Heavy-Duty Tasks

The MS260 is for medium-duty forestry and daily home-cutting tasks. Although you can use it for felling large trees, I don’t recommend it, given its engine power and max support for only an 18-inch bar.

Pros of Stihl MS261

Powerful Engine

It’s an absolute powerhouse for demanding cutting tasks supported by an efficient engine that can easily handle tough jobs like felling big trees.

Support for Longer Guide Bars

It supports longer guide bars like 18 and 20 inches other than its recommended 16-inch bar. This means you can use the cutting tool to perform heavy-duty professional cutting and forestry tasks.

Fuel Efficient

If you’re cutting in an area with strict emissions regulations, the MS261 is ideal for the job. It features a fuel-efficient technology that consumes less fuel and reduces emissions by 60%.

Pre Separation Filter

It requires less cleaning and maintenance due to its pre-separation filter, which removes larger particles before they can reach the primary filter.

Cons of Stihl MS261

Not Compatible with Smaller Guide Bars

It’s incompatible with smaller guide bars like the MS260, so it may not be comfortable to use for smaller cutting tasks.

More Expensive

It’s more expensive than the MS260, given it’s still available and is not discontinued like the 260. Besides, it comes with advanced features and is designed specifically for heavy-duty tasks, making it more expensive.

Difficult to Find

You may find it challenging to purchase the MS260 as it’s a discontinued model, replaced by the more advanced MS261. But you can track down the Stihl MS260 chainsaw for sale on auction sites or in a refurbished condition on eBay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Stihl MS 260 have all the same features as the MS 261?

The Stihl MS 260 and MS 261 have a lot of similar features, such as the Ematic lubrication, anti-vibration system, and compensating carburetor. But they don’t have all the exact attributes.

The MS 261 is fuel-efficient and ideal for heavy-duty tasks and professional forestry work. Pros love it for its extra power. Meanwhile, the MS 260 is great for small-scale forestry work and medium-duty jobs around the house.

Can the Stihl MS 260 be used for cutting larger trees and thick logs?

The Stihl MS 260 can handle cutting bigger trees and thick logs, but it does have its limits compared to the more powerful MS 261. It’s great for moderate-sized tasks, but for heavy-duty jobs with larger trees and tough logs, the MS 261’s extra power would make cutting way easier and more efficient. 

What type of tasks is the Stihl MS 261 best suited for? 

The Stihl MS 261 is best suited for heavy-duty tasks and professional-level cutting jobs. It excels in handling challenging forestry work, such as felling larger trees and cutting through thick logs. 

This chainsaw is ideal for professionals, including loggers and arborists, who need a powerful tool to tackle demanding cutting tasks efficiently and effectively. 

Is the Stihl MS260 discontinued?

Yes, the Stihl MS260 was discontinued in 2011. Its successor, MS261, replaced it with more advanced features.

Which chainsaw is more fuel-efficient?

The Stihl 261 is better at using fuel than the 260 because it has a smarter engine design and improved technology. This means it can run for longer on the same amount of fuel, saving you money in the long run.

Are the parts interchangeable between the two chainsaw models?

You might be able to use some parts from the Stihl 260 on the 261, but it’s really important to check the manufacturer’s info or ask an authorized dealer first. If you mix and match without being sure, it could cause problems with how it works and even be dangerous. So, better double-check before swapping parts.

Which is the cheaper out of Stihl MS260 and MS261?

The price difference between the STIHL 260 and 261 can change depending on where you buy them and if any deals are going on. But in general, the 260 is cheaper because it does not have as advanced features as the 261.

Stihl MS260 VS 261: Which One is the Best

Both the Stihl MS 260 and MS 261 chainsaws are designed specifically for forestry needs. They share a lot of similarities, come with their own pros and cons, and have a few differences as well, which makes them better suited for specific cutting jobs. 

The MS 260 is perfect for handling medium-duty cutting tasks around the house and in the forest. On the other hand, its successor, the MS 261, packs more punch and is excellent for professional and heavy-duty jobs. 

If you’re after an affordable cutting machine to handle moderate limbing and logging in the forest, the MS 260 will do the job just fine. But if you want serious power for taking down bigger trees or cutting thicker wood and fuel efficiency, the MS261 is your go-to choice. Pick the one that matches your cutting needs and budget!

Patrick McMann