To clear fallen trees, buy a reliable chain saw and use it safely

Homeowners in the dozen or so states affected by Superstorm Sandy are starting to get their lives in order. Unfortunately, for many people that means cleaning up a property littered with myriad branches, sticks, and other detritus thrown about by the storm. If you're considering buying a chain saw, you're not alone: Chain-saw sales spiked 16 percent last year following multiple storms such as tornadoes, Hurricane Irene, and the freak Halloween nor'easter. The 11 models in Consumer Reports tests range in price from $80 to $440.

While our chain saw tests aren't brand new, the results are current because this product category turns over less frequently than others—meaning that plenty of the models in our Ratings are still readily available in stores. For example:

Electric models:

  • Husqvarna 316, $220.
  • Poulan Pro 400E, $110.
  • Stihl MSE 180 C-BQ, $440.
  • Stihl MSE 140 C-BQ, $330.
  • Poulan ES350, $80.

Gas models:

  • Stihl MS 180 C-BE, $230.
  • Echo CS-370-16, $270.
  • Stihl MS 250 C-BE, $330.
  • Poulan Pro PP3816AV, $175.
  • Poulan P4018WT, $150.
  • Poulan P3314WS, $130.

Safety first
Whichever you buy, be mindful of its hazards as well as its benefits. Tens of thousands of injuries and even some deaths are attributed each year to chain saws. Safeguards designed to eliminate kickback have prevented some injuries, but anyone running a chain saw needs to take measures such as:

  • Wear snug-fitting clothing and sturdy work boots, preferably steel-toed;

  • Shield your legs with cut-resistant chaps and the backs of your hands with protective gloves;

  • Wear a helmet with a face shield, and

  • Use hearing protection, even with an electric saw.

Also, before you spring for a new chainsaw, check out our buying advice, which discusses the pros and cons of electric versus gas models and details many helpful features worth considering.
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