Bows are one of the ranged weapons available for the player in The Elder Scrolls V. Players will deal damage to their target based on the weapon’s stats, enchantments and arrows used.
After the original release, crossbows were added with the Dawnguard DLC, increasing the number of ranged weapon types by three alongside magic staffs.
If a player wants to create a ranged build, what’s the best bow in Skyrim?
Auriel’s Bow is arguably one of the best bows in Skyrim, being one of the quickest bows and unique sun damage enchantment that is highly efficient against the undead. On top of it, it’s the only bow that can use Sunhallowed or Bloodcursed Elven Arrows.
|20 sun-damage points, undead take x3 damage
Can use Sunhallowed or Bloodcursed Elven Arrows
|Darkfall Cave’s Inner Sanctum during the Touching the Sky quest
|Bow of Shadows
|The weapon draws 20% faster
Casts invisibility for 30 seconds to the player
|Whiterun during In the Shadows quest
|Dwarven Black Bow of Fate
|50% chance of absorbing 25 points in Health, Stamina and/or Magicka from target
|Kagrumez ruins in Solstheim
|Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow
|Craftable at Gunmar’s forge in Fort Dawnguard with a Dwarven Crossbow and 2 Quicksilver Ingots
|Drains 10-30 Magicka points to target
|Geirmund’s Hall near Ivarstead
|Glass Bow of the Stag Prince
|Blessing of the Stag Prince, the player’s Health and Stamina increase by 5 points every 20 animal kills
|Ramshackle Trading Post in Solstheim
|Nightingale Storm, Freezes and slows the target for 30 seconds
Deals 15 points of shock damage
|Irkngthand ruins in The Pale region
|Applies at random Demoralize, Drain Magicka, Frenzy, Frost, or Paralyze to the target.
|Stony Creek Cave during The Edge of Ruin quest
|Frost Damage enchantments are 25% stronger
|Recipe unlocked after finishing quest A New Source of Stalhrim
Crafting requires level 80 in Smithing, Ebony Smithing perk and 3 Stalhrim
|Will fire 30% faster than a standard bow
|Arkngthamz ruins in the Falkreath Hold region
10. Ruin’s Edge
- Damage: 12
- Speed: 0.875
- Effects: Applies at random Demoralize, Drain Magicka, Frenzy, Frost, or Paralyze to the target.
- Location: Stony Creek Cave during The Edge of Ruin quest
The first entry in our list is a unique bow added by the Ruin’s Edge creation in Skyrim’s Anniversary Edition.
The bow has an animated eyeball above the grip, and it’s available as a reward thanks to The Edge of Ruin quest. You’ll need to go to Stony Creek Cave and claim the bow from the bandit camp set there.
The Ruin’s Edge enchantment works by randomly applying one out of 5 effects.
Frenzy and Demoralize will take effect for 20 seconds, Frost deals 25 extra points of damage, Paralyze can freeze the target between 1 and 15 seconds, and Drain Magicka will act for 20 seconds with 1000 pts.
The player will need the Arcane Blacksmith perk and a Daedra Heart to temper it.
9. Bow of Shadow
- Damage: 19
- Speed: 0.9
- Effects: Weapon draws 20% faster, casts invisibility for 30 seconds to the player
- Location: Whiterun during In the Shadows quest
The Bow of Shadows is a Daedric Artifact associated with the Daedric Prince Nocturnal. It was added by the Bow of Shadows creation, also included in the Anniversary Upgrade.
The player can obtain this weapon by completing the quest In the Shadows. You will need to disrupt an assassination attempt against the Jarl of Whiterun, and when killing the assassin, you will find the Bow of Shadows.
Using the bow will apply invisibility to the player for 30 seconds. You will also be able to draw the bow 20% faster, which can stack with the Quick Shot perk.
To temper the Bow of Shadows, you will need to unlock the Arcane Blacksmith perk and use an Ebony Ingot.
8. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince
- Damage: 16
- Speed: 0.625
- Effects: Blessing of the Stag Prince, player’s Health and Stamina increase by 5 points every 20 animal kills
- Location: Ramshackle Trading Post in Solstheim
The Stag Prince is a reference to Hircine, the Daedric Prince of the Hunt.
Players need the Arcana Blacksmith and Glass Smithing perks combined with one Refined Malachite ingot to upgrade the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince.
The Blessing of the Stag Prince will increase the player’s Health and Stamina attributes by 5 points for every 20 animals killed with the weapon. The enchantment maxes out at 25 points, meaning that the player will have to kill 80 animals to reach the cap.
The Dragonborn has to enter Ramshackle Trading Post between midnight and 5 am to find Fala Sevayn, the NPC owning the bow.
Falas Sevayn won’t sell the bow and the player cannot kill him since he’s tagged as essential by the game. Instead, you will need to pickpocket the bow from him while having the Misdirection perk from the Pickpocket skill tree. Another option is to reverse pickpocket a melee weapon that will make him unequip the bow and show it as available for stealing from his inventory.
7. Gauldur Blackbow
- Damage: 14
- Speed: 0.875
- Effects: Drains 10-30 Magicka points to target
- Location: Geirmund’s Hall near Ivarstead
This bow can be obtained by defeating Sigdis Gauldurson located inside Geirmund’s Hall, near Ivarstead. The location is associated with the Forbidden Legend quest. However, it’s not necessary to follow the quest beforehand since the player can read a writ of sealing when defeating Sigdis.
The bow’s enchantment will absorb between 10 and 30 Magicka points from the target, with each shot depending on the player’s level. To obtain the strongest version of the bow, the player should defeat Sigdis at level 36 and above.
Its enchantment makes Gauldur Blackbow an extremely useful weapon when facing enemy casters.
The player can temper this bow by unlocking the Arcane Blacksmith perk and using one Steel Ingot. In addition to this, the player will double the tempering effect if they have unlocked the Dwarven Smithing perk beforehand since it is classified as a honed draugr weapon.
6. Stalhmir Bow
- Damage: 17
- Speed: 0.5
- Effects: Enchantable, Frost Damage enchantments are 25% stronger
- Location: Craftable after completing A New Source of Stalhrim quest
Unlike other entries in this list, the Stalhrim bow is a craftable weapon added by the Dragonborn DLC.
Crafting a Stalhmir Bow requires 3 Stalhrim and unlocking the Ebony Smithing perk, which also allows better stats from tempering. Note that Stalhrim can only be mined with an ancient Nordic pickaxe.
In contrast to other materials available for crafting, Stalhrim grants a passive effect to the bow where Frost Damage enchantments are 25% stronger.
If the player uses the Extra Effect perk to add more enchantments to a Stalhmir Bow, this will also affect other Destruction enchantments that aren’t Frost. For example, this can happen with Chaos Damage, where all possible Destruction effects get the boost.
The player needs to visit Raven Rock to unlock the material’s 25% boost to frost enchantings. Otherwise, any Stalhrim item will not have the boost even after visiting Raven Rock.
5. Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow
- Damage: 22
- Speed: 1
- Effects: Ignores 50% of the target’s armor
- Location: Craftable at Gunmar’s forge in Fort Dawnguard
The Dawnguard DLC adds all crossbows, and the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow is the last upgrade available for this weapon.
The player must side with the Dawnguard during the DLC’s main quest; otherwise, they won’t have access to Gunmar’s Forge located in Fort Dawnguard. The player also needs to retrieve the schematics by completing the Ancient Technology radiant quests.
The biggest advantage of the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow comes from its passive perk. Every attack ignores 50% of the target’s armor, making it a highly-efficient weapon against tougher enemies.
Using a crossbow also allows the use of exploding bolts, dealing extra damage to the target on impact.
4. Nightingale Bow
- Damage: 19
- Speed: 0.5
- Effects: Freezes and slows the target for 30 seconds and deals 15 points of shock damage
- Location: Irkngthand ruins in The Pale region
The Nightingale Bow is a unique bow in Skyrim with powerful enchantments and fast-firing power. You will need to follow the Thieves Guild questline until completing the quest Blindsighted to obtain the Nightingale Bow from Karliah. To get the best stats possible, the player should start the quest at level 41+.
The target will receive frost and shock damage when shooting with the bow, each with 30 and 15 points respectively. It will also apply the Slow effect for 3 seconds.
To temper the Nightingale Bow, it’s required to unlock the Arcane Blacksmith perk and use one Ebony ingot. However, this weapon will not benefit from the Ebony Smithing perk.
- Damage: 12
- Speed: 1
- Effect: Will fire 30% faster than a standard bow
- Location: Arkngthamz ruins in the Falkreath Hold region
Zephyr is one of the quickest bows available in Skyrim, found inside the Arkngthamz ruins after its original owner fell down a cliff while exploring. This is because of its unique effect, firing 30% faster than a standard bow.
Compared to other unique bows in Skyrim, the effect is a passive perk that won’t run out of charges. However, the player cannot enchant or disenchant Zephyr.
The player can temper Zephyr with the Arcane Blacksmith perk by using one Dwarven Metal Ingot, and the upgrade doubles when unlocking the Dwarven Smithing perk.
2. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate
- Damage: 13
- Speed: 0.75
- Effects: 50% chance of absorbing 25 points in Health, Stamina and/or Magicka from the target
- Location: Kagrumez ruins in Solstheim
Unlike other entries in this list, the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate has lower base damage identical, but its unique enchantment is what makes it a strong option for the Dragonborn.
The player can find the bow inside the Dwarven ruin of Kagrumez after completing all three puzzles. It looks similar to a Dwarven bow, with the visual differences including a colour scheme resembling the ebony material and intricate constellation patterns near the handhold.
If the player has the Anniversary Upgrade, there will be Soul Stealer Arrows next to the bow. These black Dwarven arrows can be crafted once the player picks them up.
The enchantment works similarly to Chaos Damage to determine which effect will apply to the target. This means that with every strike, the player can either absorb all three attributes, two, one, or none of them. The player cannot disenchant the weapon to learn the unique enchantment.
To temper the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate, it’s required to have the Arcane Blacksmith perk and use one Ebony Ingot, contrary to what’s implied in its name. The player will double the tempering effect if they have the Dwarven Smithing perk acquired.
1. Auriel’s Bow
- Damage: 13
- Speed: 1
- Effects: 20 sun damage points, undead take x3 damage
- Location: Darkfall Cave’s Inner Sanctum during the Touching the Sky quest
Auriel’s Bow has appeared in previous Elder Scrolls games due to its alleged link to the elven god Auri-El. It’s one of the best bows available in the game thanks to the Sun Damage spell, and it’s also the only bow that allows you to use Sunhallowed or Bloodcursed Elven Arrows’ additional effects.
The sun damage enchantment creates a sunlight explosion that will deal 20 points of damage in a 15-foot radius. Undead foes will receive triple the damage, making it a deadly weapon, including other damage multipliers, like sneaking.
When shooting with the Bloodcoursed Elven Arrows at the sky, the sun will be blocked until the next morning, annulling any debuffs of walking in direct sunlight for vampires.
Using the Sunhallowed Elven Arrows towards the sun will trigger light rays at nearby enemies. If shot against an enemy, the Sunhallowed arrows will cause explosions, similar to the Storm Call shout.
The player can use a Refined Moonstone to temper the bow, and all upgrades will benefit from the Elven Smithing perk.