The Best Bow Presses for the Home Bow Mechanic

by Vern Evans

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The bow press is one of the hottest selling tools in the archery world today. With more and more information about tuning compound bows and crossbow maintenance being provided on YouTube by a number of experts, more bowhunters are opting to work on their own gear. And if you want to do any kind of meaningful work on a compound bow, you need a bow press.

A bow press mechanically flexes the limbs of a compound bow or crossbow, which puts slack into the string and cables. This allows you to install a peep sight, twist cables, correct cam timing issues, shift cams left or right, replace damaged or worn strings, and on goes the lengthy list of bow tuning tasks. 

There are two main types of bow presses: shop presses, which are typically mounted to tables or stands, and portable presses, a convenient option that can easily fit into a backpack for on-the-go repairs. I’ve tested the best bow presses in each category, and here are my top picks. 

Topics and Products Covered

How I Chose the Best Bow Presses

Best Overall: Last Chance Ultimate EZ Deluxe Bow Press

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Best Budget: Last Chance EZ Green Bow Press

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Best Portable: Synunm Portable Bow Press

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Best for Mathews Bows: Mathews Stay Afield System

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Bow Press Accessories

Why You Need a Bow Press

How I Chose the Best Bow Presses 

When it comes to shop presses, there used to be more players in the game, but currently, Last Chance Archery is the leading bow-press manufacturer with different models for varying levels of need. I’m fortunate to work at Lancaster Archery Supply and use various LCA presses on a daily basis. I used that experience, as well as feedback from bow technicians and customers, to write up the reviews. A single manufacturer doesn’t dominate the portable bow press market and I tested several models from various companies to come up with my top picks. 

Best Bow Presses: Reviews & Recommendations 

Best Overall: Last Chance Archery Ultimate EZ Deluxe Bow Press

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Key Features

  • Can be used to work on bows that measure 12 to 54 inches axle to axle
  • Can be mounted on the wall or bench
  • Floor stand compatible (sold separately)
  • Utilizes the Last Chance wheel
  • Can be adjusted to hold the bow horizontally or vertically
  • Accepts all Last Chance Archery press accessories
  • Can be used on crossbows. If you need to press shorter axle-to-axle crossbows, an adapter is available.
  • Price: $795

Pros

  • Easily presses high-poundage crossbows and compounds
  • One press for compounds and most crossbows
  • Being able to turn the press vertically makes it handy for setting up compound bows

Cons

  • It is one of Last Chance’s most expensive presses
  • It won’t handle some of the newest, fastest, narrowest crossbows without an adapter

The Last Chance Ultimate EZ Deluxe Press is a sturdy bow press that’s capable of handling high-speed compounds and crossbows that measure 12 to 54 inches axle to axle. It can be mounted on a wall, bench, or floor stand.

There are three mechanisms for cranking Last Chance bow presses — a handle, a wheel, and an electric motor controlled by a foot pedal (sold separately). Obviously, the electric motor requires the least effort to move the press in and out, but the wheel is second in terms of ease of use. It takes almost no effort to turn the wheel to press a bow.

I actually prefer the wheel more than the motor because the wheel allows for easy micro-movements. Let’s say you’ve got the Last Chance Draw Board attached to this press, and you have your bow connected to it to check cam timing. You’ll get the cams close to hitting the stops using the draw board crank handle. But to make micro-movements for seeing precisely when each cam reaches the stopping point, you can turn the bow press wheel to extend the press.

This press has a release handle that allows the user to take a bow from the standard horizontal position to a vertical position — or anywhere in between. This is handy during bow setup when you’re mounting a rest, sight, and stabilizer mounts. The alternative is to lay the bow on a table, but then you need room for that, and even if you do have it, the bow always moves because it doesn’t sit flat. Having the bow held vertically in the press is much more convenient.

Since 2023 Last Chance bow presses come with 3-inch-wide blocks that house the pins that hold the press fingers. These blocks are wider than they were in the past, but are critical for properly pressing today’s compound bows, which have much wider limb stances than ever before. You can still squeeze the fingers in tight for older, narrower bows, but being able to spread them apart to accommodate today’s compounds is key.

Read Next: Best Fletching Jigs

Best Budget: Last Chance EZ Green Bow Press

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Key Features

  • Able to press bows from 26 to 48 inches long
  • Powered by a hand crank
  • Fingers move forward and back to allow for pressing parallel or past parallel limb bows
  • Fingers move laterally to allow for pressing narrow or wide limb bows
  • Mounts to a bench, wall, or floor stand
  • Price: $425

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Will handle most compound bows

Cons

The Last Chance EZ Green Bow Press is the workhorse press for the bowhunter. If you hunt with a compound bow, this press will do everything you need a press to do. It extends from 25 to 48 inches and is powered by a hand crank. The crank turns easily when pressing bows with even the heaviest draw weights.

The press comes with fingers that can be adjusted forward and back to work with parallel or past parallel limb bows. They also adjust side to side to press bows with super-wide or narrow limbs.

Attach the EZ Green to a bench, the wall, or to a Last Chance floor stand so you can use it wherever you need it. It will accept all Last Chance press accessories, such as the Last Chance Draw Board.

Read Next: Best Bow Sights

Best Portable: Synunm Portable Bow Press

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Key Features

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Rubber-coated fingers protect your bow
  • Easy-pull system requires little effort to press a bow
  • Price: $110

Pros

  • You can take it anywhere
  • Once you get the hang of it, it operates pretty simply
  • Inexpensive compared to shop presses

Cons

  • It can take a while to get proficient with it
  • It’s no substitute for a shop press

The Synunm Portable Bow Press is the backcountry bowhunter’s answer to the question: “What if I derail my bow out in the wilderness?” With this press that packs down to the size of a soda can, you can do emergency bow work anywhere. It works similar to a block-and-tackle rig that evenly compresses your limbs with a tug on the rope.

You’ve got two sets of hooks connected to ropes that run through a pulley. Put the hooks over the limb tips and pull on the tag end of the rope to press the bow. It’s not a complicated device, but the ropes do tend to get tangled, and until you’ve used it a few times, you will ask yourself every time you use it, “Am I doing this right?”

But hey, the Synunm isn’t meant to take the place of a traditional bow press. It’s mean for taking to places where you can’t haul a bench-mounted press, and to make emergency repairs.

The Synunm is the least expensive press I’m reviewing here, but it’s not my pick for best budget mainly because it’s just not a substitute for a traditional press.

Best for Mathews Bows: Mathews Stay Afield System

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Key Features

  • Weighs less than 1/2 ounce
  • Specific versions for specific Mathews bows dating from 2022 and newer
  • Looped ends that connect to cam posts
  • Price: $40

Pros

  • Light
  • It can fold up to fit in your pocket.
  • Can be used to do many string repairs and maintenance

Cons

  • Only works on specific Mathews bows
  • Does not allow for a full string and cable set replacement

If you have a Mathews bow from the V3X series and newer, and you are a backcountry bowhunter, this is a must-have for your pack. It weighs nothing. It takes up no room, and it’s precisely what you need to set a peep sight, replace the bowstring, reserve the center serving, and tackle other string-related jobs.

This is a cord designed specifically for the newer Mathews bows. It attaches to a post on each cam, which allows you to press the bow enough to put slack in the string and the cables. Once you have that slack, you can do the work that needs to be done.

It’s not really a bow press substitute because you need the cams to stay in place. So you can’t play with Tophat shims or do any job that requires removing the cam from the bow. But again, for making quick string fixes on your Mathews bow in the field, this is the ticket.

Bow Press Accessories

Once you decide to invest in a bow press to work on your bows, you will want a couple other tools to broaden your capabilities. Here are a couple of must-have accessories to add to your Last Chance press.

Draw Board

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A draw board is a device that allows you to mechanically draw your bow while it’s mounted in a fixed position. Fit the bow grip over a padded rod, hook a pulley to the D-loop, and then crank the draw handle to pull back the string. Doing this allows you to check the cam timing to make sure both cams are hitting the draw stops simultaneously, check draw length, measure the distance between the arrow and your peep, and other tasks.

The Last Chance Draw board attaches to all its presses. You’ve already made room for the press. Maximize your use of space by attaching a Last Chance draw board to it.

Bow Scale

Last Chance makes a scale that attaches to its draw board. Connected to the draw board and the bow, you can crank the draw board handle to pull back the bow string and then learn the maximum draw weight as well as the final holding weight. Knowing these numbers is key for arrow selection and customizing your setup to your specifications.

Limb Lock Kit

Periodically through the years, bow manufacturers have come out with bows carrying limbs that curve sharply from the limb pockets to the tips. They basically form a big arch. Such bows are considered “past-parallel limb” bows, because the limbs curve beyond the parallel point. And they’re tricky to press, because they want to squirt out the bottom of the press, due to the limb curves. One of the most recent bows with this design was the 2017 Hoyt Defiant 30.

The Last Chance Limb Lock Kit is designed to deal with past-parallel limb bows. It includes four unique fingers with rocking heads to capture the limb tips, plus rubber supports that are mounted below the fingers to prevent the bow from shooting down when the bow is pressed. You can use these fingers on most compound bows, but they’re designed especially for the past-parallel limb bows.

Mathews Finger Set

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Introduced at the end of 2023, the Mathews Finger Set is a wider-than-normal set of aluminum fingers designed especially for the newest Mathews bows with super wide limbs. They can be used on any Mathews bow that has the limb support caps, which dates back many years. The caps are cupped protrusions at the limb tips on Mathews bows designed to sit securely in the fingers of a bow press.

The new Mathews Fingers provide better support across the width of the limbs on 2023 and 2024 Mathews flagship bows — Phase 4 and Lift — than the standard Last Chance press fingers. The wider support prevents the limbs from twisting as the bow is pressed. This is particularly important when you need to remove the axle from the limbs. The new fingers keep the limbs parallel to one another, where the skinnier fingers can allow them to twist, which makes replacing the axle a difficult chore.

Why You Need a Bow Press

Having your own bow press can save you trips to the pro shop. The pro shop is always there if you have issues with a bow that seem greater than your abilities. But there are several simple tasks for which you need a press, like installing a peep sight, getting your cams timed properly, and running the cable of a cable-driven arrow rest through the middle of your bow’s down-pulling cable.

If you want to do all your own bow work, then a bow press is a necessity. You’ll need it for many tasks, including changing strings and cables, shimming cams on some bows during tuning, replacing limbs and on and on. Every pro shop on the planet has at least one bow press.

Let’s say I get a new Mathews Lift 29.5 that I want to set up myself. I’ll start by installing all my accessories, which means I will need a press to split the down cable to run the cord from my Integrate QAD MX2 arrow rest through the cable and to install my peep sight.

At some point, I’m going to check the timing of my cams. So I will put the bow in my Last Chance Draw Board mounted to my press and draw back the string. I notice the top cam is reaching the stop at full draw about a quarter inch before the bottom cam. 

So I put the bow into the press and put one full twist into the top cable. I put the bow back in the drawboard and checked the timing again. Now it’s good. 

In shooting my bow through paper to test my arrow setup, I notice a harsh nock-right tear. So I put the bow into the press, pull the top axle and change the Tophat spacers Mathews employs so that I can shift the cam to the left. I take another shot, and I get a bullet hole.

Now my bow is ready to go. And there’s no way I could have gotten to this point without a press.

Read Next: Best Hunting Arrows

Final Thoughts on the Best Bow Presses

Getting one of the best bow presses to work on your own bows and/or crossbows might seem intimidating. It’s true, you’ll probably feel uneasy the first time you work on a bow in a press because you’re increasing the tension in the limbs. You’re taking an already tightly wound machine and winding it even tighter.

But compounds and crossbows are made to be put into presses. Stick with it, and your comfort will grow. Not only that, but when you can work on your own gear, you’re likely to become a better archer, since you can fix issues as soon as they arise.

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