Gear Bag: The DEWALT DCS387P1 20-volt Reciprocating Saw

Recently, I had a few hours on a Saturday morning to sneak in some additional outside playtime. I decided to march into a local Kankakee woodland and test out a potential new restoration tool. A DEWALT DCS387P1 20-volt MAX Lithium Ion Compact Reciprocating Saw to be exact. This specific tool was given to me by Friends of Langham Island volunteer John Sullivan, and I have been anxious to put it through its paces. John initially brought this to a work day near a high traffic public park and I was intrigued by its performance, but was skeptical until I could have it in my hands.

In the box comes the saw itself, a lithium ion battery, a battery charger, and zip up travel bag. Blades are purchased separately.

I see this saw as a chainsaw alternative so that is what I am comparing it to. With that in mind, here are some things I like and dislike about this saw:


  • Noise: The saw is a fraction as loud as chainsaw…it reminds me of an air mattress pump for comparison. This low noise factor is beneficial for urban restoration work when you need to cut quickly but want to limit public disturbance.
  • Easy on/off: Literally all you do is press the trigger button and go. Let off and it instantly stops the blade. No choke, no pull starting, no tightening chains, no mixing gas, no bar oil…minimal of minimal training needed.
  • Weight: it weighs about 9 lbs. with the battery on it. For comparison, I estimate my Stihl MS 250 Chainsaw is about 15lbs (with fuel/bar/chain) and my MS 271 is closer to 18 lbs. I had no problem holding this saw with one hand.
  • Blade Position: The chuck head allows the blade to be mounted down, up, right or left which can help you make some awkward cuts.
  • Light: there is an LED light on the chuck that can help guide you if you are working in failing sun or are an overachiever working at sunrise.
  • Blade Types: There are several different blades you can buy with different tooth patterns. Aside from wood this can also cut metal and plastics. In a restoration area with an old fence or debris you might find this handy. Blades are fairly cheap 6 for $10 or so.


  • Price: It is a little expensive at around $200….so it won’t be a purchase for everyone, but it is much cheaper than many mid-level name brand chainsaws (plus the extra gear they require).
  • Battery Life: The battery, if working straight through, lasts about an hour or a little more. I was working alone for 2 hours taking time to stack the brush and paint stumps. I never had to change the battery during that time. Most workdays I attend last longer than 2 hours so you may want to buy additional batteries, but those are not cheap either at around $70.
  • Cutting Limit: I felt comfortable cutting stems 3 ½ inches or less. I did cut a few stems a little bigger for a test but I could tell there was more stress on the saw/blade than I wanted.


If you are new to power tools, but want to try something other than a bowsaw this might be for you. Chainsaws take a decent amount of training and extra gear to run properly… while this saw is just charge and go. You could still easily get hurt using this saw it is much simpler in design, lightweight, and easy to maneuver.  If you are looking for the adrenaline rush and unlimited cutting diameter this saw is not going to meet your expectations and perhaps something more like a Stihl 171 for a similar price is a better route. For honeysuckle and buckthorn cutting this will cut a great deal of things you encounter and in a relatively quiet manner. Since cutting brush isn’t Dewalt’s original purpose for it, I am going to give it a 4/5 rating. Minus a half star for price and minus a half star for battery limitations.   You will see this guy on the steep slopes of Langham Island and Rock Creek where the weight and maneuverability are big benefits.

Viva La Resistance!

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Trevor Edmonson

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