Archery in Skyrim is special, there’s something so satisfying about landing a long-range head shot, especially when the game gives you that awesome slow-motion animation. Bows themselves tend not to weigh much and arrows weigh absolutely nothing so literally any character can utilise these items.
Getting your hands on a high-quality bow is surprisingly easy, with many of the best bows being obtainable after a swift quest. Need to know which bow to use? This list will give you the answer!
Damage stats use base damages, not taking into account any perks that would increase bow damage.
Honorable Mention – Bound Bow
Sporting a Daedric appearance, the Bound Bow is a summoned weapon you can use with the strength almost identical to the Daedric Bow. It is a temporary bow, weighing nothing and hitting like a truck.
Such a strong bow is reserved for practitioners of Conjuration though, so I can’t recommend any pure archers pursue this bow.
How to obtain: Activate the Bound Bow spell, which requires an Adept level of Conjuration. Phinis Gestor and Falion sell the Spell Tome for this ability, but only when you meet the requirements to activate it.
10. Glass Bow
Coming in at number 10 on the list is the Glass bow, an easily accessible weapon to improve your damage output in the early stages of the game. Despite it being one of the lower-leveled non-unique bows on the list, Glass bows have substantial output and you should upgrade to one as soon as you can.
How to obtain: Found as loot or sold by merchants from level 27, also can be forged with a Smithing level of 70.
9. Nightingale Bow
The effectiveness of this unique weapon depends on the level you are when you acquire it. Of course, the higher your level then the higher the bow damage. It does not level up with you so wait as long as you can, maxing out at level 46 (this bow will have the same base damage output as a Daedric bow at that point). With a powerful enchantment that freezes the target before applying shock damage, the Nightingale Bow is definitely one of the best bows in the game!
8. Ebony Bow
You can swap this entry with the Glass entry if you prefer DPS, the Glass bow has lower damage but it can fire faster. If you like to sneak, re-position between shots or fire long range, the Ebony bow is far superior. If you’re very, very lucky, you can obtain this bow as low as level 18!
How to obtain: Found as loot or sold by merchants from level 36, also can be forged with a Smithing level of 80.
7. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince
Sporting a very nice damage output is another Glass bow, this one comes with a particularly savvy enchantment. For each 20 animals killed by this bow, the player will receive a bonus of 5 extra health & stamina, up to a maximum of 25. This doesn’t sound too great but for how easy it is to acquire, I’d say this bow is essential to get early on.
6. Daedric Bow
Dear god this bow looks epic, you can’t help but appreciate the truly badass appearance of this ranged weapon. Aesthetics aside, the Daedric bow has one of the highest base damages per shot than any other in the game. For raw hard-hitting power, the Daedric bow might be the best choice for you. In terms of DPS, it falls short unfortunately and it has a fairly high weight too.
How to obtain: Found as loot or sold by merchants from level 46, also can be forged with a Smithing level of 90.
5. Auriel’s Bow
Everyone hates facing those Draugr who refuse to go down, especially when they consistently send lower-tier Draugr to aggro your attention. Auriel’s bow makes short work of such enemies, dealing extremely high damage to any undead with its enchantment. Not only do undead fall in droves, Auriel’s bow deals a nice little bonus to any type of enemy it comes across, sun damage is hard to resist.
4. Firiniel’s End
Another bow with low base damage, another bow with an awesome enchantment. Firiniel’s End deals 20 damage to both health and stamina, which is amazing against bosses as you can tire them out easily. Being able to whittle down your opponent and get them feeling some fatigue is hugely under-rated, often being stronger than simply over-powering them with a high damage output.
3. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate
This entry is a bit RNG-based but when the RNG works, it rewards you extremely well. Each shot has a 50% chance of absorbing 25 health, stamina and magicka. Each attribute has a 50% chance, so you can absorb all 3, just 1 or none. In a prolonged fight, the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate will serve you extremely well, dealing high damage and keeping your stats topped up.
I absolutely love this bow, not for its insanely high damage output but for how easy it is to get your hands on it. Upon first starting your save, you’ll obtain the quest to unlock this bow instantly, so long as you ask a few people for rumors. With such a huge fire-rate, Zephyr actually has the highest DPS in the entirety of Skyrim. As mentioned before, first-shot damage is often more important than damage over time but when you have so much DPS, you have to make the top 3.
1. Dragonbone Bow
Fielding the highest base damage per shot in Skyrim is the Dragonbone Bow, capable of one-shotting anything your heart desires. Such strict methods of obtaining shouldn’t put you off, the grind is well worth it. Combine this bow with a sneak attack and you have an excessive amount of damage, even more so with a decent enchantment!