Hackzall vs Sawzall: Which is the Better Reciprocating Saw?


If you’re wondering what the differences between a Hackzall vs a Sawzall are then you’ve come to the right place. These two tools both trace their roots back to the humble demolition workhorse known as the reciprocating saw.

While they share a lot of similarities, there are several major distinctions between these two tools. The Hackzall is essentially a Sawzall spinoff designed to fill the compact single-handed niche.

The key distinction between the Hackzall and the Sawzall is that the former is compact enough to use single-handed.

The Sawzall requires two hands to use safely, making the Hackzall ideal for tasks requiring a bit more finesse and maneuverability. I’ll break down the details of the Hackzall vs the Sawzall in greater detail, so you’ll have a better idea which tool is the better choice for you.

What is a Sawzall?

The name Sawzall refers to a traditional two-handed reciprocating saw. The name comes from Milwaukee’s highly popular “Sawzall” reciprocating saw which was originally developed back in the 1950s.

Sawzall’s can either be corded or cordless, although the cordless models are generally more popular nowadays than corded.

A word about saw terminology:
Milwuakee’s tool became so popular and iconic that the name Sawzall became a generic term for any reciprocating saw regardless of the manufacturer. The same goes for Hackzall’s – the term is Milwaukee’s brand name, but nearly identical saws can be purchased from nearly all major tool brands.

The tool’s basic design features a D-shaped rear pistol grip trigger along with a forward grip for increased control over the tool. The tool is designed to be used with both hands, and with most of them weighing between 5 and 7 pounds, single-handed use is difficult for any prolonged length of time.

Sawzall’s are designed for rough demo use, utilizing powerful back and forth blade strokes that can tear through wood, metal, PVC, and masonry with ease. They are not precise cutting tools by any means, so they’re generally used for tasks like demolishing and remodeling, pruning trees, cutting through metal pipes, and cutting nail or screw embedded wood.

What is a Hackzall?

Hackzall’s are an updated take on the traditional reciprocating saw, utilizing a compact one-handed design that can be maneuvered into just about anywhere.

If you’ve ever used a normal reciprocating saw for an extended length of time, you’ll know how hefty and bulky they can be. This is fine for heavy-duty tasks like ripping out old doors and windows or pruning trees but is less than ideal when you want to cut something under a counter or while reaching overhead.

The Hackzall was designed with exactly these situations in mind. It’s perfectly balanced and optimized for one-handed use, so those awkward tricky jobs are not only possible but are a breeze.

The saw also utilizes advanced anti-vibration technology to allow for extended use without fatiguing your hands.

The overall design of the Hackzall uses a pistol grip trigger similar to that of a cordless drill. Because of the way the weight is balanced one-handed use is not only possible but is generally easier.

Unlike the Sawzall, Hackzalls are always cordless tools, so the focus here is clearly on portability over raw power.

Hackzall vs Sawzall Comparison

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of these two reciprocating saws, let’s take a closer look at the differences between them.

Hackzall Sawzall
Power Less powerful More powerful
Grip One-handed pistol grip Two-handed D-grip
Stroke Length Shorter Longer
Weight 4 to 5 lbs. 7 to 8 lbs.
Reach Shorter Longer
Use Case Versatile all-around cutting tool Heavy-duty demo and remodeling

Power

Sawzalls tend to be more powerful than Hackzalls. As they’re designed to be two-handed tools, Sawzalls can afford to have a bit more raw power than one-handed Hackzalls.

Of course, if raw power is what you’re after then you’ll have a tough time beating a corded Sawzall. These tools offer unlimited power on demand and you’ll never need to reach for a fresh battery halfway through a demolition job.

corded dewalt sawzall
Nothing beats the power of a corded reciprocating saw.

Stroke

Both of these tools cut using a reciprocating back-and-forth blade action. Think of it like a hand saw motion but sped up to thousands of strokes per minute.

The main difference between a Hackzall and a Sawzall stroke is the length. Sawzall strokes tend to be slightly longer than Hackzall strokes, which gives you a little more reach and cutting performance.

Hackzall’s tend to have a stroke length of about 3/4-inch to 7/8-inch. Compare that to a 1 1/8-inch or more for a Sawzall and you’ve got a bit more cutting ability with the Sawzall.

Reach

The two-handed design of Sawzalls are designed to give you a little more reach than Hackzalls. This can be useful when pruning branches or when reaching overhead to make awkward cuts.

Of course, this reach can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. It makes the Sawzall unwieldy to use one-handed, whereas the Hackzall has the ability to get into tight spaces that would be tough with a full-length Sawzall.

Portability

Portability is one of the main advantages a Hackzall has over the Sawzall. They weigh between 4 and 5 pounds without the battery, which is significantly less than 7 to 8 pounds for a reciprocating saw.

Milwaukee hackzall

Combine the lighter weight with a significantly more compact frame and you’ve got a tool with the ability to make cuts in tight areas like under sinks, inside cabinets, under vehicles, and more.

This makes the tool extremely popular with plumbers, electricians, HVAC professionals, and other tradesmen who need to make cuts in tight spaces.

Price

As the Hackzall is a newer tool than the Sawzall, they tend to cost more a bit more. This is not always the case though, as you can see if you compare the price of Milwaukee’s M18 Hackzall at $89.99 for the bare tool to the M18 Sawzall bare tool at $118.99.

Ultimately, the price difference between the two saws isn’t all that significant, plus you can find a range of saws at several different price points.

Conclusion

To wrap up the Hackzall vs the Sawzall, they both make excellent demolition and all-around cutting tools, and you’d probably have a tough time picking just one.

If you’re debating between these two saws, consider what you’d typically use it for.

If this involves typical DIY and homeowner jobs like pruning trees and bushes, removing rotted window trim, or dismantling old cabinets then going with the smaller Hackzall makes sense. On the other hand, if you plan to undertake more heavy-duty demo and remodeling jobs, then the traditional Sawzall likely makes more sense.

For my money, you can’t really go wrong with having both tools on hand. If you’ve already got a battery-operated reciprocating Sawzall, then picking up a Hackzall from the same manufacturer is a welcome and affordable way to add to your tool lineup.


Featured image source.


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