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Chainsaw Kickback

Kickback is the most common cause of serious chainsaw injury accidents. It may occur when the moving chain at the nose or tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Tip or bar nose contact can, in some cases, cause a lightning-fast reverse reaction, kicking the guide bar up and back toward the operator. This usually occurs when the saw operator least expects it.If the operator is unable to control it, he will likely get a serious cut. Tired and inexperienced chain saw operators are often the victims of this violent action.

This is why it is smart to use a reduced kickback chain. These chains can still kick back, but when they do, it is with less force. Using reduced kickback chain is not an excuse to be careless. Reduced kickback chain is still capable of causing serious injury to a saw operator.

Chainsaw Kickback_01.gif

The top of the tip of the chainsaw guide bar is known as the KICKBACK DANGER ZONE. When contact is made with an object such as a branch or a log, there is a danger of a sudden bar nose kickback reaction.

Modern chainsaws are equipped with a variety of devices intended to reduce the risk of injury from kickback or from other causes. Among these are the chain brake, the front (left) hand guard, and reduced kickback saw chain and guide bars. To assure the protection of these devices, it is important your chainsaw is properly assembled and that all components are functional.


No matter how your saw is equipped, we recommend using a reduced-kickback chain and bar unless you have experience and special training for dealing with kickback.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I select a reduced kickback chain and bar?

We, or another servicing dealer can help you select the proper bar and chain for your saw. Different saws use different reduced kickback bars and chain. There is not one type that works on all saws.

How do reduced kickback chains look?

Reduced kickback chains can sometimes be identified by what appears to be extra riders or bumps between the cutter teeth. Also, they are always full compliment, which means they have the maximum amount of cutter teeth a chain can have. A skip tooth chain is never reduced kickback chain, no matter how many reduced kickback features it appears to have.

Do reduced kickback chains still perform well?

Yes. In fact, they may be the smoothest cutting saw chains you have ever run. Also, properly sharpened, they will melt through a cut almost as fast as professional saw chain.

How does a reduced kickback guide bar look and how does it perform?

A reduced kickback bar just like any other guidebar, but has a slimmer bar tip. By having a narrow nose radius, the "zone" or area where kickbacks can occur is reduced. A saw fitted with a reduced kickback bar works very well.

Chainsaw Kickback_02.jpg

This operator is wearing sturdy boots, cut protective chaps, eye protection, ear plugs, and gloves. When running a chain saw, an operator should have all of these personal protective devices. The saw he is running is also equipped with a chain brake and a reduced kick-back saw chain.

Our Advice on Making Your Saw a Safer Tool

  1. Learn about kickback. It is not an uncontrollable force. It is only dangerous when you are too tired to react or too inexperienced to know what is happening. Everyone who has run a chain saw very much has experienced some form of kickback. Knowing the forces at work and understanding how to control them, will help reduce the chance of being cut.

  2. Be alert when running your saw. Think about what you are doing. Stop and rest when you feel you can no longer run your saw safely. Avoid alcohol and other drug use that could impair your judgment and ability to react. Always keep track of the tip of the bar and what it might touch.

  3. Always use reduced kickback chains and guide bars.

  4. Make sure your saw has a working chain brake. Test it often. All new STIHL and HUSQVARNA saws have them, but old models may not. If your saw doesn't have a chain brake, get one for it or get a new saw.

  5. Wear protective equipment. Gloves protect hands and prevent slippage. Heavy leather boots are good for foot protection. Our steel toed rubber caulked boots with cut resistant fronts are even better. They protect the feet and ankle, plus give you better traction. Chain saw chaps are a must and protect the legs. Ear plugs, safety glasses, and a helmet protect the head and should become part of your standard "sawing" apparel, too.

  6. Be careful. Never run a saw with one hand. Don't run a saw while on a ladder. Avoid cutting anything over your head. Use common sense.



Cutting chain can cause injury if incorrectly fitted to a chainsaw or if the saw is used improperly. Install, adjust and maintain the chain as recommended. 

Beware of kickback, particularly when cutting with the bar nose. Kickback can lead to dangerous loss of control of the chainsaw and result in serious injury to the saw operator or bystanders. 

Before using any chainsaw, thoroughly read the manufacturer's operating and safety instructions


Note: Much of the information on this page including the kickback image is courtesy of Oregon Cutting System. For more information, go to their web site: They also offer a free pocket-sized Maintenance & Safety Manual. Every saw owner should have.

Got more questions about chainsaw safety? Call or stop in.

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