Choosing the Right Tool: Hackzall vs Sawzall

Choosing the Right Tool: Hackzall vs Sawzall

When it comes to cutting and demolition tasks, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference in efficiency and safety. Two popular options for powerful, versatile saws are the Hackzall and Sawzall reciprocating saws. But with similar capabilities on paper, how do you know which is the best choice for your needs?

I’ve used both the Hackzall and Sawzall extensively for home improvement and contracting work. While they share a number of strengths, after comparing Hackzall vs Sawzall side-by-side over many hours of real-world use, I’ve determined some key factors that set each saw apart.

What Are Hackzall Saws?

Hackzall saws are lightweight, compact reciprocating saws designed primarily for use in constrained spaces where maneuverability and precision are vital.

Weighing under 7 pounds with a 12 inch barrel, they can fit and cut easily in tight spots like attics or between studs. The single-handed design also facilitates great control for accurate plunge cuts and clean edges.

While lacking the highest stroking power, Hackzalls Rapidly cut through lumber, piping, branches and more with 6000+ strokes per minute. Variable speed triggers further bolster versatility across materials while the orbital mode toggles a slight elliptical blade path for faster slicing through wood with reduced blade binding.

For home renovations or contractors working in finished Interiors, the Hackzall’s convenient size and handy grip manages detailed demolition work without excess strength compromising safety or finesse.

What Are Sawzalls Saws?

Sawzalls present the heavyweight reciprocating saw class designed to tear through tough demolition jobs with high cutting rates and brute strength. Their heavier 14+ pound frames accommodate two-handed control while managing massive torque And forces transmitted to the sharp demolition blades.

Despite the bulk, Sawzalls shred lumber, roots, concrete and even steel at a blistering pace thanks to rapid 3000+ SPM stroking backed by sheer motor power.

Orbital modes toggle wider elliptical paths to augmentation slicing through wood while tool-free blade changes assist swapping lengths And styles for specialty materials.

Though sometimes cumbersome for tight spots, Sawzalls thrive on raw power and ruggedness suited to outdoor work and high quantities of aggressive cutting.

Hackzall vs Sawzall – Design

The basic reciprocating saw design is essentially the same between the Hackzall and Sawzall – an electric motor powers a reciprocating blade in a push and pull “hacking” motion with up to 3,000 strokes per minute. This allows fast cutting through even thick materials like wood studs, PVC piping, metal rods and more.

Where These Saws Differ Most Obviously Is In Their Size And Weight:

Hackzall –

At around 6 lbs with a compact 12” length, the Hackzall is extremely lightweight and easy to maneuver into tight spaces. The body is slim for an easy one-handed grip.

Sawzall –

Weighing about 8-9 lbs depending on battery and with a larger 18” frame, the Sawzall has noticeably more bulk and heft. The wider body accommodates two-handed operation.

The Hackzall’s smaller stature sacrifices some cutting power but allows phenomenally controlled use in constrained areas like attics or between narrowly spaced studs. The Sawzall is best for heavy duty cuts and all-day use where maneuverability isn’t as critical.

Both feature variable speed triggers for matching blade speed to the cutting application. But the Hackzall’s shorter stroke length reduces its speed capacity compared to the Sawzall’s full 0-3,000 SPM range.

Hackzall vs Sawzall – Features

Despite differences in size and handling, the Hackzall and Sawzall share many of the same great features that boost their functionality:

  • Orbital action allows adjusting the blade’s path to a slight elliptical rotation for faster cutting in wood or a straight up-and-down path for cleaner cuts in metal.
  • Tool-free blade changes let you swap blades quickly without searching for an allen wrench.
  • Adjustable shoe pivots to maintain solid contact with the work surface at any angle.
  • Optional belt hooks and shoulder straps turn the saws into customizable hands-free cutting machines.
  • Overload protection technology prevents blade jams and motor burnout if the blade binds up.
  • Variable speed triggers give you precise control over blade speed to match different materials and tasks.
  • Brushless motors on higher end models increase efficiency and durability while reducing maintenance needs.

The Sawzall weighs capacity for larger 12.0 Ah batteries exceeding the Hackzall’s 6.0 Ah limit. This translates to 2-3x more cuts per charge to power through extended use.

For those working in wet areas, the Hackzall lacks a water and moisture resistance rating that the Sawzall maintains to keep functioning after exposure to the elements.

Hackzall vs Sawzall – Cutting Performance

With cutting versatility their biggest selling point, how the Hackzall and Sawzall actually perform making cuts reveals more key differences:

Power –

The Sawzall’s heavier weight isn’t just for show – it allows for much greater blade forces and cutting capability in thick, dense materials. Don’t expect the compact Hackzall to match the Sawzall’s pure strength in ripping through framing lumber or cast iron plumbing.

Control –

What the Hackzall lacks in brute strength, it makes up for in finesse and precision. The single-handed use and lighter design provide phenomenal control for delicate cuts around wiring or plumbing without damage.

Speed –

Translating power into blade speed, the Sawzall maintains higher strokes per minute for faster cuts, especially with a 12.0 Ah battery. The Hackzall isn’t far behind but has a narrower overall speed range.

Blades –

Both saws use universal reciprocating saw blades, but thinner blades optimize the Hackzall’s capabilities while the Sawzall can leverage thicker, longer blades for specialist cuts like drywall.

I find the Hackzall better suited to detailed cuts in confined spaces where maintaining absolute control is key to protect surrounding structures. It simply won’t bog down or twist out of hand like a heavier saw would.

For larger demolition jobs, heavy-duty piping, tree roots/branches or extended cutting needs, the Sawzall’s advanced power clearly beats out the Hackzall. But the Hackzall still packs respectable cutting abilities despite its smaller size.

Hackzall vs Sawzall – Recommendations

Based on their distinct designs, features and performance, here are my recommendations on selecting between the Hackzall vs Sawzall:

For Home DIYers

Hackzall is my top choice for home improvement tasks. It’s less expensive, extremely portable, and simply offers better control and safety for using around the house. Most residential cutting tasks fall safely within the Hackzall’s capabilities for cleaner, damage-free cuts.

For Professional Contractors

Professionals needing to work longer, push their tools harder and tackle heavy-duty cuts are better served by the Sawzall. It’s added power range, battery life and durability pay off when performance matters most, even if you sacrifice some compactness.

As an avid home DIYer and professional contractor, personally I find myself reaching for my trusty Hackzall far more than my Sawzall for typical tasks. But when I come across thicker demolition work, the Sawzall proves its brute force cutting abilities to save time and energy.

Owning both saws gives the ultimate versatility to handle light duty finesse cuts as well as heavy splitting cuts all day long. But choosing just one saw for your needs, on balance the Hackzall offers better practicality for most amateur work while the Sawzall is built to withstand daily professional use.


When choosing between these two excellent reciprocating saws, keep these key factors in mind:

Hackzall Strengths

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Agile handling for tight spots
  • Affordable price point
  • Better suited for home DIYers
  • Delivers superior control and accuracy

Sawzall Strengths

  • More powerful cutting performance
  • Longer run times per charge
  • Heavy-duty and durable construction
  • Works well in wet/outdoor conditions
  • Built for daily professional work


Are The Hackzall And Sawzall Made By The Same Manufacturer?

Yes, both the Hackzall and Sawzall models of reciprocating saws are manufactured by Milwaukee Tools as part of their M18 line of cordless power tools aimed at professionals and serious DIYers. They share li-ion battery compatibility.

What’s The Difference In Blade Lengths Supported?

The more compact Hackzall accommodates shorter 6-9” compact reciprocal saw blades making it better for restricted space areas. The Sawzall uses full-size 9-12” blades for maximum versatility in cutting applications.

How Long Will The Batteries Last Per Charge?

With a lower maximum Ah rating, the Hackzall batteries typically provide around 60-90 minutes of runtime depending on workload. The high capacity Sawzall can extend up to 240 minutes per charge thanks to 12.0Ah li-ion battery support.

Can I Remove Nails With These Saws?

Yes, both models are well suited for prying apart lumber and cutting nails thanks to their metal cutting-capable blades and high strokes per minute. The Sawzall has more impact force to quickly strip nails.

Are These Reciprocating Saws Safe For Oven/Electrical Work?

No, despite their versatility neither model is insulated for live electrical contact safely. Use appropriate non-conductive tools for any wiring work. Both saws are corded/battery powered.

While their capabilities overlap significantly, understanding where each saw excels based on your needs makes all the difference in choosing the right tool for the job. Whether it’s finessed finish cuts or brute demolition strikes, the Hackzall and Sawzall deliver unmatched cutting versatility.

I hope this breakdown gives you a clearer sense of which saw fits your future projects. Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions on comparing these demolition powerhouses!

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