The Best Ranged Weapons In DND, Ranked

Highlights

  • Nets are a weak ranged weapon option in Dungeons & Dragons, causing no damage and requiring a strength check to break free. They are easily replaceable and need a serious buff.
  • Blowguns have limited range and damage, but can be made viable by using special ammunition with poisons or other effects. They have the loading property, limiting attacks.
  • Shortbows are a versatile ranged weapon option, with good range and damage. They are two-handed but don’t require any feats to use effectively, making them a popular choice for many classes.

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When playing Dungeons & Dragons, we sometimes feel the urge to beat that horrible villain your Dungeon Master created due to how obnoxious they are. That said, they’re sometimes so far away from us that we feel too lazy to walk toward them. Luckily, you can shoot something at them instead.

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There are many ways to cause ranged damage, such as using spells. However, we’re going to focus on weapons, specifically weapons for characters who wish to focus on using them constantly. We’ll also mention options that are good for melee characters looking for some backup to hit enemies they can’t reach.

If you are making a melee character focused on strength, have weapons with the thrown property as backup, such as javelins.

Honorable Mention: Firearms

D&D Wild West Sheriff Art
Sheriff by HyunJoon Kim

If your DM has firearms in their scenario, you should consider taking them. They are by far the most overpowered weapons in the game, with some of them going as far as causing 6d8 necrotic damage per shot.

Sure, they’re divided into time periods, and it’s difficult to see a futuristic gun such as the Antimatter Rifle in a game. But, even if the only options are Renaissance weapons, pistols and muskets are pretty strong, and you can get even better through the Firearm Specialist feat.

9 Net

A woman using a net on a dragon
Spidersilk Net, by Steve Argyle

Nets cause no damage, have a short range — with a normal range of five feet and a long range of 15 feet — and an enemy only needs to cause five points of slashing damage to break it or escape with a strength check of ten DC. Oh, and you have to waste a whole action, bonus action, or reaction to use it, so say goodbye to all your extra attacks.

This weapon is easily replaceable for any spell that causes a restrained condition on the enemy or by asking your Barbarian friend to grab the creature. The concept here is interesting, but they need a serious buff to be helpful, like maybe having different materials that increase the difficulty of escaping.

8 Blowgun

Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald, by Jason A Engle in DND
Faldorn, Dread Wolf Herald, by Jason A Engle

Blowguns have a range that goes from 25 feet to 100 feet meaning that if your target is under 25 feet, you attack them regularly, and if they’re beyond 25 feet, you’ll have a disadvantage. And you can’t hit someone further away from 100 feet.

What makes them a bit useless is the loading property, meaning you can only attack once per turn, no matter how many extra attacks you have (there are ways around it, though, which we’ll get into), and it does only one piercing damage. Still, you and your DM can create a fun mechanic of special ammunition with poisons or other things and make this a viable secondary weapon.

7 Dart

A Hobgoblin Monk ready to throw a dart
Official art via Wizards of the Coast

Darts won’t go as far as the Blowgun, with a range from 20 to 60 feet, but they cause more damage: a d4 piercing damage, to be more specific. They have the thrown property, meaning you can attack from afar with your strength, and the finesse property, meaning you can use Dexterity instead.

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Mechanically speaking, they are daggers that don’t work in melee combat. Aside from Monks who get them during creation, most classes will have better options for ranged damage, regardless if it’s your backup weapon or your primary one.

6 Sling

Doric the druid posing in D&D
Doric, Warden Of Nature by Qiya Zhang

Slings are slightly improved Darts, though you can only use Dexterity this time around. The damage output is the same d4, but it’s now bludgeoning, which is better than piercing if you consider common enemy resistances, but not by much.

Still, they have a better range, with the normal being 30 feet and the maximum being 120 feet. Maybe darts will be better if you want to use strength or because they are half the price, but that’s up to you.

5 Hand Crossbow

Thri-Kreen by Irina Nordsol three Thri-Kreen standing together, one weilding a glave and crossbow, another holding a sword and shield, and another holding a non-descript sword and wooden shield
Thri-Kreen by Irina Nordsol

Hand Crossbows have the same range — 30 to 120 feet — and they cause a d6 piercing damage. What’s interesting about them is that they have the light property, so you can use them alongside your primary weapon, like a rapier. Sadly, they also come with the loading property, limiting your number of attacks.

You’ll need Two-Weapon Fighting Style to cause the proper damage. You can also combine it with Crossbow Expert, a must-have for ranged characters, allowing you to ignore the loading property from any weapon you are proficient with. It also lets you attack with a hand crossbow on your offhand with a bonus action. Overall useful, but dependent on particular builds, features, and feats.

4 Heavy Crossbow

drow taking aim with crossbow in DND
Drow using Steady Aim by Nikki Dawes

The Heavy Crossbow is the heaviest hitter among ranged weapons, and it’s the only one to use a d10 on its damage roll, also causing piercing damage. Its range is 100 to 400 feet, far more than necessary in most situations, but it comes in handy. As a martial ranged weapon, only four classes have them as default: Barbarians, Fighters, Paladins, and Rangers — technically five, depending on what subclass your Cleric chooses.

Even then, not many can get them as part of their starting gear, and let’s face it; some classes would take more advantage of a longbow than a Barbarian. Still, there are other ways to obtain such proficiency, like feats such as Weapon Master or Multiclassing. As long as you plan things well, you can still get a powerful Rogue with a heavy crossbow, for example. Crossbow Expert will also help with the loading property, but you may need multiple feats to make this weapon work as intended.

3 Longbow

Dungeons & Dragons 4e thri-kreen warrior in the dark sun holding a bow and an axe
Thri-Kreen Warrior by William O’Connor

The Longbow has the strongest damage and range from all the bows, causing a d8 piercing damage, and has an astonishing main range of 150 feet and a maximum of 600 feet, the highest range of all ranged weapons. They are two-handed, but if you’ve ever seen a bow in action, you already know that.

They suffer a similar fate to the Heavy Crossbows, with little accessibility for most classes. Still, they’re a bit easier to get, like being an Elf, for instance. They also won’t demand a lot of feats to make them work. Though Crossbow Expert still partially helps you here, a simple Sharpshooter will come a long way, literally.

2 Light Crossbow

A Hadozee Warrior wielding a Light Crossbow from Dungeons & Dragons
Official art via Wizards of the Coast

The Light Crossbow’s d8 piercing damage is quite good for a simple weapon. The same applies to its range, with a base of 80 feet and a maximum of 320 feet. They occupy both hands this time, though, so don’t let the ‘light’ fool you.

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Still, they suffer a similar fate to the other Crossbow weapons here, where you may have to rely on Crossbow Expert to remove the loading property. Still, this is an easy fix, and there are more classes proficient with this weapon, making it a beautiful option for most ranged classes.

1 Shortbow

Woman archer fires bow at manticore in DND
Flyby Night by Francisco Miyara.

The default weapon of many ranged builds, the Shortbow has a powerful range, going from 80 feet to 320 feet, and it has a d6 piercing damage, and that’s about it. Similar to the Longbow, it’s two-handed, as you’d expect from bows. To be technical about it, some of the previous weapons are better, either in damage or range.

However, few classes obtain proficiency in longbows or heavy crossbows. In contrast, ten out of 13 classes can use short bows without relying on other methods to gain proficiency, and their range will cover most scenarios in the game.

You also don’t need to depend on any feat to make this weapon work efficiently — still, we recommend Sharpshooter and even Crossbow Expert here, too. If you want to focus solely on ranged artillery, you’ll have better options, but this is the go-to ranged weapon for flexible builds who wish to swap between melee and ranged, and even ranged-only builds can function perfectly here.

NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: Best Magic Items For Ranged

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