Ask any professional remodeler, and they’ll tell you that the reciprocating saw is the single most useful tool in their arsenal. Using interchangeable blades that cut in a straight, back-and-forth motion like a handsaw, reciprocating saws equipped with the proper blade will cut through wood, metal, drywall, wire, pipe, rebar, nails, plaster and a host of other materials, making it the ideal tool for quickly getting rid of the old to make way for the new.

Because of their fast cutting speeds and the tough demands put on their blades, reciprocating saws used to be available in corded versions only. When cordless models were finally introduced, they lacked the power to be truly effective in all but light-duty applications.  But advancements in tool design and battery power have finally allowed manufacturers to offer professional-grade cordless models that rival their corded cousins.

Here’s a head-to-head comparison of two of those saw kits – the DeWalt DC385K and the Ridgid R8441. Both are tough, well-designed tools that fit the needs of professionals and weekend warriors alike, and both of these saws will power through any remodeling project you’re likely to encounter.

Both saws utilize 18-volt power, supplied through proprietary rechargeable NiCad batteries that fit into the lower part of the saw’s handle. With either saw, the batteries are interchangeable with other 18-volt tools within that company’s particular lineup.

The Ridgid saw is approximately 18 inches long, 3 1/2 inches thick, and weighs in at 9.1 pounds with the battery in place. This gives the Ridgid saw a somewhat stouter feel than the DeWalt’s 17 by 3 inches, but at only 7.1 pounds the lighter weight of the DeWalt makes it a little easier on the arms for extended use.

Cutting stroke – the total distance the blade goes out and back during each cycle – and the speed of the blade are two determining factors in how quickly the saw cuts, and here you have a bit of a tradeoff between the two. The Ridgid saw offers a longer 1 3/16-inch cutting stroke compared to DeWalt’s 1 inch, but the DeWalt saw offers a faster 2,900 strokes per minute (spm) compared to 2,500 spm for the Ridgid. Both saws have convenient trigger-controlled variable blade speed.

Both saws also have a push-button trigger lock, an important safety feature that prevents the trigger from being accidentally pulled when you don’t want it to be. On the DeWalt, you can choose between the locked and unlocked positions, making it easier to activate the trigger when you’re using the saw. The Ridgid unfortunately lacks that option, so the safety button has to be pushed in each time you want to pull the trigger. It’s a somewhat minor inconvenience, but it does take some getting used to.  

One of the best features of both saws is the tool-less blade clamp. When you want to change blades, simply lift up on a small lever and the blade immediately comes free. On both saws, blades can also be installed upside down, which simplifies plunge cutting and certain other cutting tasks. Both saws also have comfortable, rubber-coated barrel and a rubber insert on the handle that cuts fatigue and vibration, and both have a very good pivoting, adjustable front shoe.

In addition to offering their cordless reciprocating saws as part of a multi-tool combo kit, both companies now offer them as stand-alone units. This makes it easier to add one to your cordless tool arsenal without having to buy tools you either don’t need or already have.

DeWalt’s DC385K kit comes with the saw, a battery, a one-hour battery charger, and a couple of blades, all in a fitted, high-impact plastic case. The case has a spot for storing an additional battery as well, something that you really need with these power-hungry reciprocating saws, but which DeWalt unfortunately does not include with the kit. Additional batteries, along with a 15-minute fast-charger and a 12-volt charger for use in your vehicle, are all available as options.

Ridgid’s R8441 kit comes with the saw, a pair of batteries, a nice (but noisy) fan-cooled dual charger that will charge both batteries simultaneously in just 30 minutes, a couple of blades, and a soft-sided tool bag that carries everything with room left over for a couple of hand tools. 

Both saws offer excellent value, quality construction, and tough performance, and both kits retail for right around $200. So for most people, the choice comes down to a comparison of how each saw feels in your hand and what’s included in each of the kits, but either one would make a great addition to any home or professional tool collection. 

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.

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