The Best Bows In The Elder Scrolls Skyrim, Ranked

Bows are one of the strongest weapon types in Skyrim, especially when paired with a stealth build. For this reason, the developers added many bows into Skyrim that you can choose from to customize your unique build.

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​Some bows have effects that work well while fighting every enemy type, while some bows have very specific effects, such as dealing extra damage to animal enemies. Regardless of what type of archer you want to become, you’ll need to learn about the different bows to choose which one you want to use.

Updated November 22, 2023 by Quinton O’Connor: We’ve corrected a few bits, added additional information for every choice, and we’ve even handed the title of best bow in Skyrim to an Anniversary Edition titan of a weapon.

14 Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow

The Player Holding a Dwarven Crossbow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

22

Ignore 50 Percent Enemy Armor

Sold by Sorine Jurard inside Fort Dawnguard upon completing all six Ancient Technology side quests.

Crossbows are a Dawnguard specialty, and they’re one of the main weapons you can use to defeat the vampire menace in Skyrim. There are a few different variants of the crossbow that you can collect throughout the Dawnguard DLC, but none are more powerful than the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow.

The Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow deals 22 base damage, and if that wasn’t enough, it also completely ignores 50 percent of an enemy’s armor resistance. With such strong stats, the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow should be a part of every archer’s arsenal, especially if you side with the Dawnguard. You can buy every variety of Dwarven Bolts from Gunmar and Sorine Jurard after completing the Ancient Technology quest. Exploding Dwarven Bolts Of Fire is the strongest bolt type in Skyrim, so pair it with them for maximum punch.

The Ancient Technology quests will only be made available to you if you aren’t a vampire, nor have you chosen to side with the Volkihar Clan. Sensible enough!

13 Ebony Bow

The Player Holding an Ebony Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Where To Find It

17

Random loot and shops – One in Lost Valkygg – Sold by Falas Selvay

The Ebony Bow isn’t quite as powerful as a Daedric Bow, but they are useful if you can’t get your hands on a higher-level bow. Ebony Bows feature an appearance that feels somewhat out-of-place in a setting like Skyrim, but it’s still a beautiful weapon.

If you can’t find a Daedric Bow and want to customize your weapon with whichever enchantment you wish, the Ebony Bow is a solid choice.

Finding Ebony Bows isn’t hard, provided you’re far enough into the game. Ebony weapons begin to emerge in leveled lists when your character has reached level 36. You’ll need the Dawnguard DLC in order to craft Ebony Arrows, by the way.

12 Daedric Bow

The Player Holding a Daedric Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Where To Find It

19

Random loot from chests and dragons – After level 47: Sold by Tonilia and Niranye, or found in Brood Cavern

Daedric Bows aren’t a special type of weapon because they don’t have any enchantment or effect by default. This means enchanting a Daedric Bow with any enchantment you want is possible. Enchanting your bow will give it an advantage over unique bows found throughout Skyrim.

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Daedric Bows deal 19 damage, and they’re one of the best-looking weapons in Skyrim, along with the rest of the Daedric set. You can craft a Daedric Bow; however, you can also find them in dungeons and merchant inventories at higher levels of the game.

Thinking of decking yourself out with purely Daedric weaponry? If it’s for the stats, take care to hang on to Ebony for the War Axe and Mace. Both technically edge out their Daedric competition. Stats are identical, but you’ll be lugging around a little less weight!

11 Stalhrim Bow

The Player Holding a Stalhrim Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Where To Find It

17

Random loot from chests – Sold by Baldor Iron-Shaper and Glover Mallory

The Stalhrim Bow isn’t quite as powerful as a Daedric Bow in terms of damage; however, this is the best bow in Skyrim overall because of its unique appearance. The Stalhrim Bow glows blue, and it’s hard to obtain because you need a level 80 Smithing skill to craft it.

Stalhrim Bows deal 17 base damage. If you want a powerful bow with a beautiful appearance, the Stalhrim Bow is for you.

You will only find Stalhrim with the Dragonborn DLC via the Solstheim region, and you’ll need to complete ‘A New Source of Stalhrim’ to craft weaponry like the Stalhrim Bow.

10 Dragonbone Bow

The Player Holding a Dragonbone Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Where To Find It

20

Crafted – Looted from Soul Cairn Keepers after level 45

Dragonbone is an incredibly powerful material, and this set of weapons and armor is the strongest gear in Skyrim outside of unique equipment. Unfortunately, you need a max Smithing skill to craft this bow; however, it’s completely worth it for the 20 base damage and the ability to enchant it with whatever effect you see fit.

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The Dragonbone Bow doesn’t have quite as interesting an appearance as the Daedric Bow or Stalhrim Bow, but its base damage outshines them both.

Access to Dragonbone Armor is all yours in the base Skyrim, but Dragonbone Weaponry is linked to the Dawnguard DLC!

9 Bow Of The Hunt

The Player Holding a Hunting Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

10

Animal Take 20 Additional Damage

Inside Clearspring Tarn

The Bow of the Hunt is hardly the strongest unique weapon in Skyrim, but it has its place in certain situations since it deals a ton of extra damage to animal enemies. Animals are common in Skyrim, and occasionally you’ll have to fight a bear or tiger. That’s where this weapon comes in handy.

You can find the Bow of the Hunt in Clearspring Tarn, which is relatively easy to travel to from Helgen. If you need to fight animals shortly after starting a new playthrough, the Bow of the Hunt is the perfect weapon.

The exact location of the Bow of the Hunt is within Clearspring Cave. Look for an altar, and be sure to snag ‘Vernaccus and Bourlor’, which will boost your Archery skill by one when read. Nice pairing, right?

8 Gauldur Blackbow

The Player Holding an Ancient Nord Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

8 or 14

Absorbs 10-30 Points of Magika

Geirmund’s Hall: dropped by Sigdis Gauldurson

The Gauldur Black Bow doesn’t only have a powerful effect; it also deals (up to) 14 base damage, which is higher than most bows in Skyrim. This bow siphons magicka – particularly helpful while fighting mages and the like. The total damage bonus will vary depending on what level you are when you find it.

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Siphoning magicka doesn’t just debilitate your spellcasting foe, either. Absorb Magicka also means you’re getting the stolen amount all for yourself. If you have room in your build for offensive (or defensive!) spells, this is a nice boon, indeed.

To ensure you get the version of the Gauldur Black Bow that deals 14 damage, rather than 8, do not approach its location – Geirmund’s Hall – until you are at least level 19.

7 Zephyr

The Player Holding an Elven Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

12

Fires 30 Percent Faster

Found in Arkngthamz

Zephyr is a very interesting weapon – found during the “Lost To The Ages” quest – because it’s the only bow in Skyrim with a unique fire rate. This bow fires 30 percent faster than a regular bow, meaning you can get more hits than usual and potentially defeat enemies before they even have the chance to attack you.

However, Zephyr only deals 12 base damage — a stat quite low for a unique bow. Still, some basic number-crunching gives this DPS-centric weapon a discernible edge over bows that deal up to 14 damage.

Combine the Arcane Smithing and Dwarven Smithing perks, and Zephyr can be kitted out with considerable upgrades.

6 Glass Bow Of The Stag Prince

The Player Holding a Glass Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

16

Blesses Wielder For Total Animal Kills

Falas Selvayn at the Ramshackle Trading Post

The Glass Bow of the Stag Prince is another unique bow focusing on animal enemies. However, this bow instead buffs the user’s health and stamina as more animals are killed (up to 80) instead of dealing extra damage to the enemy type.

Between the 16 base damage, and the buffs that can send these two defensive stats up by a maximum of 25 apiece, the Bow of the Stag Prince is nothing to scoff at.

Since the acquisition of this weapon is so in-depth, we’ve included a mini-guide below – just click on ‘Read More’ for the full scoop.

5 Auriel’s Bow

The Player Holding Auriels Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

13

Deals 20 Sun Damage – Deals 3x Damage To Undead

Found within the Forgotten Vale, following the Touching The Sky quest

Auriel’s Bow is a weapon that many Skyrim fans are familiar with because it’s relevant to the plot of the Dawnguard DLC. This bow deals sun damage to enemies and can quickly defeat any type of undead enemy. Auriel’s Bow also has the unique effect of shrouding the sun in darkness, which is useful if you’re a vampire.

13 base damage isn’t a ton when other bows far surpass it, but the 20 points of Sun Damage involved (technically ten per second for two seconds, but who’s counting?) really up the ante. The terrific boost to the undead is icing on the cake.

Auriel’s Bow will be yours regardless of which faction you choose in Dawnguard, as the ‘Touching the Sky’ main quest is the penultimate either way.

4 Bow Of Shadows

Skyrim Bow of Shadows equipped by an assassin within Riften woods area.

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

17

20 Percent Faster Draw Speed and casts Invisibility for 30 seconds

Found within the Forgotten Vale by beginning the ‘In the Shadows’ side quest

The Bow of Shadows is Creation Club content, meaning up until the launch of Skyrim: Anniversary Edition, we’d never have placed it on a list as ‘official’ as ours. Now that so many have upgraded, even hardcore fandom sites like UESP are beginning to treat Creation Club fare as… well, canon is a weird word for a weapon, but basically that.

Enough lore – here’s what makes the Bow of Shadows so cool. That 20 percent draw speed bonus is a welcome sight, but casting Invisibility upon firing? We can’t think of anything better qualified as an assassin’s best friend, except perhaps for Shadowmere. You’re the ultimate silent sort with this murderous piece of art.

To trigger ‘In the Shadows’ and obtain the Bow of Shadows, you will need to ask Proventus Avenicci if there is anything he needs from you, prompting him to hand you a note. Bear in mind, Avenicci won’t have the note until after ‘Dragon Rising’, the early main quest wherein you battle a dragon for the first time, right outside Whiterun. Kill the assassin you fight during ‘In the Shadows’, loot his body, and the weapon is yours.

3 Nightingale Bow

The Player Holding The Nightingale Bow in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

12-19

Deals 10-30 Frost Damage and 5-15 Shock Damage; slows the target for three seconds

Quest reward for completing the Blindsighted Thieves Guild quest

The Nightingale Bow deals both frost and shock damage to enemies, a duo that isn’t possible with most other weapons. This enchantment is unique, and it helps defeat enemies quickly during combat, since you are depriving them of the stamina and magicka required to fight back.

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On top of this powerful effect, the Nightingale Bow also deals 19 base damage, which is terrific for a non-enchanted weapon. It even slows your foe for a few seconds, which is enough time to get in a couple of hits more rapidly, or heal if necessary.

Acquiring the Nightingale Bow is easy – you just need to wrap up the ‘Blindsighted’ Thieves Guild main quest. But you should aim to do so at level 46 or above if you’d like your Nightingale Bow to possess its best possible stats – no small task by comparison.

2 Dwarven Black Bow Of Fate

The Player Holding The Dwarven Black Bow of Fate in Skyrim

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

13

Has A 50 Percent Chance To Absorb Either Health, Stamina, or Magicka

Within Kagrumez, beyond the resonance gem gate

The Dwarven Black Bow of Fate is a weapon added to Skyrim in the Dragonborn DLC, and it has the strongest effect of any bow you can craft or obtain.

This weapon’s effect gives you a 50 percent chance to take 25 points of HP, stamina, and magicka from a damaged enemy. What makes this enchantment so powerful is that you can take all three from the same enemy with a single hit. If you’re looking for the strongest bow in Skyrim, there’s a fair argument to be made that this is the best.

Just to emphasize this, the 50 percent chance activates the absorption of all three stats rather than selecting one at random. It’s pretty goshdarn good!

1 Bow Of Shadows

Skyrim Bow of Shadows equipped by an assassin within Riften woods area.

Base Damage

Bonus Effect

Where To Find It

17

20 Percent Faster Draw Speed and casts Invisibility for 30 seconds

Found within the Forgotten Vale by beginning the ‘In the Shadows’ side quest

The Bow of Shadows is Creation Club content, meaning up until the launch of Skyrim: Anniversary Edition, we’d never have placed it on a list as ‘official’ as ours. Now that so many have upgraded, even hardcore fandom sites like UESP are beginning to treat Creation Club fare as… well, canon is a weird word for a weapon, but basically that.

Enough lore – here’s what makes the Bow of Shadows so cool. That 20 percent draw speed bonus is a welcome sight, but casting Invisibility upon firing? We can’t think of anything better qualified as an assassin’s best friend, except perhaps for Shadowmere. You’re the ultimate silent sort with this murderous piece of art, and if you’re playing a Stealth Archer, this is easily our pick for best bow in Skyrim.

To trigger ‘In the Shadows’ and obtain the Bow of Shadows, you will need to ask Proventus Avenicci if there is anything he needs from you, prompting him to hand you a note. Bear in mind, Avenicci won’t have the note until after ‘Dragon Rising’, the early main quest wherein you battle a dragon for the first time, right outside Whiterun. Kill the assassin you fight during ‘In the Shadows’, loot his body, and the weapon is yours.

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