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The Best Bows in Skyrim

Remember to always aim for the knee

Archery is a great skill for just about any kind of Skyrim character. Even if you’re not looking to roleplay as Legolas or Katniss, you may still find it useful to carry around a bow as a backup weapon. A bow can offer a ranged option for when your warrior can’t reach their target, or a way to keep dealing damage from a safe distance when your mage runs out of Magicka. Thieves can also take advantage of ranged sneak attacks, sniping enemies from stealth. But what should you look for? In this guide, I’ll list the best bows in Skyrim, and tell you how to get them too!

#8 Dragonbone Bow

If you want to craft and enchant your own bow, the Dragonbone Bow is your best option. The bow deals 20 base damage, which is only beaten by Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow and Karliah’s Bow. You can then add any enchantment you’re capable of crafting as well.

You’ll need level 100 Smithing and the Dragon Armor perk if you want to craft with Dragonbone. Then you can combine 2 Dragon Bones and 1 Ebony Ingot at a forge to make your weapon.

#7 Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow

Live your vampire hunter dreams with something a little more intimidating than a longbow. The Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow is the strongest of the four crossbows in the game, dealing 22 base damage and ignoring 50% of armor.

To get your hands on this weapon from the Dawnguard expansion, you’ll first need to complete six Ancient Technology quests for Sorine Jurard at Fort Dawnguard. She’ll then have the crossbow for sale, and can also teach you how to craft it.

#6 Gauldur Blackbow

This unique Ancient Nord Bow is an ideal backup weapon for mages. It deals 14 base damage, but more importantly it allows you to absorb 30 points of Magicka from your target so you can get back to casting spells.

To get your hands on this bow, you’ll need to complete the Forbidden Legend quest, which will send you to Gerimund’s Hall, a Nordic ruin in The Rift where you will encounter Sigfis Gauldurson, the draugr who carries it. To start the quest, you’ll have to find and open a copy of the book Lost Legends.

#5 Glass Bow of the Stag Prince

Here’s a bow that may be a bit tricky to get, but offers a powerful enchantment if you’re going to be doing some hunting. The Glass Bow of the Stag Prince deals 16 base damage, which is one more than a standard Glass Bow. Its enchantment grants the Blessing of the Stag Prince, which gives you 5 points of Health and Stamina for every 20 animals you kill with the bow, maxing out at 25 points after 80 animals.

The bow was added to the game with the Dragonborn expansion and is used by Falas Selvayn, a trader who appears at the Ramshackle Trading Post in Solstheim between 12 and 5 AM. You can’t buy or pickpocket it from him without a little finagling. One option is to take the Misdirection perk, which allows you to steal equipped weapons. The other option is to reverse-pickpocket him and give him a melee weapon, and when he equips it you’ll be able to either pickpocket the bow or purchase it from him.

#4 Zephyr

If you’re looking for a rapid-fire bow, look no further than this unique Dwarven Bow with the breezy name. Zephyr does 12 base damage, the same as any other Dwarven Bow, but it has a unique enchantment that causes it to fire 30% faster than standard bows.

You can obtain Zephyr fairly early in the game if you know where to go. Inside the Dwarven ruin of Arkgnthamz in Falkreath Hold you’ll encounter a ghost named Katria. The bow belonged to her, and it can be found by exploring deeper within the ruins.

#3 Dwarven Black Bow of Fate

This unique bow only does 13 damage, which is only one point more than a regular Dwarven bow, but it has a powerful enchantment that gives you a 50% chance for each attribute to absorb 25 points from your enemy. That means you can gain Health, Stamina, Magicka, or any combination of the 3 with each hit. You’ll only need the Arcane Blacksmith and Dwarven Smithing perks to temper this weapon, so you can do it without going too deep into the Smithing tree.

The Dwarven Black Bow of Fate was added with the Dragonborn expansion and can be found by completing all three trials in Kagrumez, a Dwarven ruin on the isle of Solstheim.

#2 Nightingale Bow

The Nightingale Bow is a leveled item, so its stats will vary based on your character’s level when you first obtain it. That means that if you get this bow early in the game, it will be significantly weaker than it would be at level 46 or above (which is the highest the bow can level). Pick it up before level 18, and it will deal 12 base damage plus 10 points of Frost and 5 points of Shock damage. At level 46 and above, it does 18 base damage plus 30 points of Frost and 15 points of Shock damage. It also slows your target for 3 seconds regardless of its level.

To get this bow, you’ll need to progress through the Thieves Guild quests and join the Nightingales. Karliah will reward you with the bow when you finish the quest Blindsighted.

#1 Auriel’s Bow

This legendary bow is said to have belonged to Auri-El, chief god of the elves – their equivalent to Akatosh. The bow has a base damage of 13, and also deals 20 points of Sun damage, or triple that to undead enemies. It’s also one of the fastest bows in the game, on par with Zephyr. But the best reason to get this bow is so you can pair it with special arrows to either blot out the sun (Bloodcursed Elven Arrows) or hit your enemies with a sunburst (Sunhallowed Elven Arrows). That means that vampires and vampire hunters alike will want to get their hands on this bow.

It makes sense, then, that this bow was added with the Dawnguard expansion, and you’ll need to follow that storyline in order to get to it. You’ll track down the bow along with the last of the snow elves when you visit the Forgotten Vale, and you’ll obtain it at the end of the quest Touching the Sky.

Best Bows in Skyrim Auriels Bow
Bethesda Game Studios / Sarah Arnold
 

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