Left Handed, Right handed, or “Pistol Grip” Circular Saw?

 In Tool Reviews
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Primarily these saws are made for left vs. right handed people…but why do people buy and make left vs right handed circular saws? The two saws I have here are the right handed Makita LXT 36-volt brushless circular saw and the left handed Makita LXT 36-volt brushless pistol grip saw.  While we are at it, what is a pistol grip saw, and why are they all left handed?


Before we get into anything, let’s talk about safety (you know red tape and such.)

A left handed saw is primarily for lefties because when you are holding a left handed saw with both hands, and you are a rightie, your left hand goes across the blade.  Also, if you are holding your work-piece with your off hand, you are pushing the saw one handed. You are pushing the saw right at your off-hand (soon to be your hand-off.) The same goes for a right handed saw as a lefty. 

Although the handles for southpaw saws have moved further and further away from the blade they are not the form factor of the classic “pistol grip” saw.  The Makita LXT left handed 36-volt saw is one of these pistol grip form factors. The pistol grip saw was popularized with a classic saw, the SKIL saw which is now synonymous with a circular saw on any job site. The SKIL saw is still very popular with professionals and companies like Makita and DeWalt have tried to capitalize on this classic design with pistol grip style cordless saws.  With a pistol grip style saw, you are engaging with the saw from behind the blade rather than on top of the saw, this means your hand positions are safer for both lefties and righties.

With any left handed saw, you still deal with the safety issue as a righty of pushing the saw towards your off-hand (when your work isn’t safely clamped.)  You also have less base plate between your hand and the blade when using the saw one-handed (which you aren’t supposed to but…)


One of the reasons many folks still use a south-paw saw, even with the potential risks to triggering their apotemnophobia is the visibility of the blade.  As a righty using a left handed saw, you have a lot clearer view of the blade. This is very important for rip cuts and also for cutting to marked lines when cross cutting.  There is certainly something to be said for watching the blade cut into the marked line, but you can train yourself with a saw to use the 0 and 45 degree demarcations on the sole, but they are usually a bit tricky.

Another thing to consider, just like with hand tools, is the bio-mechanics of using the saw.  You can train yourself to naturally cut a square line so you don’t have to mark them when cutting things like framing or decking.  The pistol grip saws put your body in the most natural position for making a repetitive cut. Your elbow, shoulder, and the blade are all in a natural line giving yourself a simple motion to train to cut square and straight even without an straight edge guide. This one of the big advantages of a saw like the Makita LXT 36-volt pistol grip style saw.  It still takes training but it is a lot more natural with a pistol grip saw.

When shooting for a vertically square cut and optimal safety (ergonomics generally works best when you have all of your extremities) typically a right handed saw is best for righties, and a left handed saw is best for lefties, although pistol grip saws are somewhere in between. If you want to be the safest and you haven’t gotten used to a lefty or pistol grip saw already, try something like the right hand bladed Makita 36-volt LXT saw, I believe it is the only right handed cordless saw with more than 20-volt power.  Even with the pistol grip saws, something to think about when breaking convention, is that when you are cutting right handed with a left handed saw, it is spitting the sawdust all over you…so that is not ideal.


You do you, at your own peril.  Personally I prefer pistol grip saws.  I am still trying to figure out the balance between the cordless Makita and DeWalt.  We will see. I am actually shooting a hand tool shootout as I write this looking for “THE GREATEST CORDLESS CIRCULAR SAW, OF ALL TIME.”  So more on that soon. I don’t mean to make any tool suggestions with this post though, there are great saws of all varieties. It is really more about figuring out what style saw you are most comfortable with from a safety, ergonomics, and comfort level.

I hope this helps…If you liked it, check these out

Jigsaws, cordless…cool.

My favorite pistol grip saw…probably still, we’ll see

Surviving December…barely

Keep Your tools sharp, and you mind sharper



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