20 Best Bows in Skyrim (Ranked)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
The bow: a weapon every archer carries with them.
Yet it seems not to get enough credit. Finding a proper bow can turn a mediocre bowman into a master of the arrow. It’s the perfect weapon for those who prefer ranged damage and there are many to pick from.
This list ranks the 20 best bows in Skyrim based on power, rarity, design, enchantments, and more. This should help you decide which weapon to get in your journey towards a pro archer.
20. Falmer Bow
I’ll say it, this beautiful Falmer Bow is just a beaut to look at. It’s a ranged weapon that has to be crafted used chitin.
As you would expect, and as is the case with most Falmer wear and weaponry, you must harvest the necessary materials to craft this by killing the fearsome Chaurus that lay in the deepest underground places of Skyrim.
It’s also the main ranged weapon of the Falmer in the game. You can find them in most Dwemer Ruins if you want to go exploring for one.
19. Forsworn Bow
The Forsworn bow is a rather common piece of weaponry, yet a very complex-looking bow.
It can be crafted using materials that are relatively easy to find like bones, leather, and wood.
It has a base damage of 12 just like the Falmer Bow, but the nature of its materials makes the weapon much lighter than its Falmer counterpart.
This is also the weapon wielded by Forsworn archers, which means that it can be found if you dare to kill any of these foes.
18. Zephyr Bow
So the Zephyr Bow is a type of Dwarven Bow and it’s a really nice one.
It can only be found during the “Lost to the Ages” quest that is included within the Dawnguard DLC.
You need to enter Arkngthamz, the Dwemer Ruin that must be visited during the quest.
You’ll learn that the Zephyr Bow once belonged to a valiant adventurer who was struck down inside the ruins. You, the mighty Dragonborn, might now harness the power of this amazing bow by reclaiming it from the fallen body.
It weighs even less than the Forsworn Bow and it has a base damage of 12, as well as a cool design that goes with almost any outfit.
17. Nordic Bow
The Nordic Bow can only be found if you have the Dragonborn DLC installed.
It’s a very common weapon and you should come across it quite a lot, even in the early stages of the game. It can be crafted by using three steel ingots as well as one quicksilver ingot if you want to make it yourself.
This is the preferred weapon of one of the Dragonborn’s DLC companions, Frea.
You may freely take it from her inventory once she agrees to become a part of your party. However if you don’t wish to have her following you around then you may also pickpocket it from her.
16. Supple Ancient Nord Bow
The Supple Ancient Nord Bow is a variant of the regular Ancient Nord Bow, and it is quite a bit more powerful than the original version of the weapon.
You can find it by striking down Draugrs and skeletons in Nordic Tombs.
Note that it’s quite heavy, but it hits for 14 points of base damage so it’s worth its weight so to speak.
15. Elven Bow
The Elven Bow is level-locked so you’ll only start seeing these weapons after reaching level 19.
You may also find them in many regions across Skyrim in their enchanted form once you reach level 20.
Many vendors in the region will have Elven bows in stock once you hit these levels as well, so in general they’re pretty esay to find.
These powerful bows are the preferred weapons of the Redoran guard which are present on the Dragonborn DLC. They have a base damage of 12 and a solid weight of just 13, making it a powerful companion for all sorts of archers.
14. Glass Bow
Want to go with something a little stranger? Well the glass bow is a level 27-and-up ranged weapon that just looks like a household decoration.
It starts spawning as random loot and being worn by enemies once you meet the level requirement.
It may also be found after reaching level 15, but it’s much more difficult to come across given its high base damage of 15. Still you may as well start seeking it out once you’re at that point.
13. Dwarven Blackbow of Fate
The beautiful Dwarven Blackbow of Fate can only be earned if you have the Dragonborn DLC installed.
It has a base damage of 13 and it comes pre-enchanted(you may not take the enchantment away from this bow).
Each shot has a 50/50 chance of absorbing 25 points of the enemy’s health, stamina, or magicka. So yeah that’s a pretty nice effect!
This can be found in the southern room of Kagrumez, after retrieving and placing the Kagrumez Gems in their rightful place.
12. Drainspell Bow
The Drainspell bow, as its name suggests, is a special bow that drains 15 points of magicka upon each hit that lands.
The bow may only be found in Labyrinthian as you’re completing the quest The Staff of Magnus.
This is a ghost weapon and it has a base damage of 14 and an incredibly low weight of 6 points. But that special effect is totally worth the effort finding this bad boy.
11. Gauldur Blackbow
If you want something a bit later in the game try looking for the Gauldur Blackbow. It can be considered an improved version of the Drainspell Bow, with the main disadvantage of this weapon being much heavier at 18 points.
The Gauldur Blackbow drains twice as much magicka as its ghost counterpart as long as you find it after level 36.
There are weaker variants of the bow that you can find if you are lower than level 30.
The bow is dropped by Sigdis Gauldurson during the “Forbidden Legend” quest.
10. Ebony Bow
With a base damage of 17, the Ebony bow is one of the strongest weapons that an archer can use in base-game Skyrim.
You may find these bows once you reach level 36 in the form of random loot or by killing enemies that wield it.
However, the game gives you the option to find it as early as level 18 if you know where to look for it. Visit Lost Valkygg at Labyrinthian and you’ll find one of these layered with a stack of arrows.
9. Stalhrim Bow
As a more exclusive weapon, the Stalhrim Bow can be found once you grab the Dragonborn DLC.
It’s quite difficult to smith as it requires a level of 80 in the craft.
However you may also purchase it from various in-game vendors like Baldor Iron-Shaper and Glover Mallory.
If you meet the level requirement you may craft it with 3 Stalhrim pieces. The bow hits for 17 points of base damage right off the bat so it’s a tool you want to have in your archery toolbox.
8. Falmer Supple Bow
The Falmer Supple bow is a stronger version of the Falmer Bow mentioned earlier.
But this one weighs 20 points and does much more damage than the original, now with a base damage of 15.
It can be crafted using the same materials as the normal Falmer bow. It can also be found being wielded by the strongest Falmer enemies in the game.
Albeit powerful, many players are not keen to use the Falmer Supple bow because of its weight – this black-and-green weapon is one of the heaviest bows in the game so this is a huge disadvantage.
7. Friniel’s End
The lethal Friniel’s End causes whoever gets shot by one of its arrows to take an additional 20 points of damage to their health and stamina, alongside a base damage of 13.
Talk about really ruining someone’s day!
This powerful bow can be obtained by completing the Bound Until Death quest from the Dark Brotherhood, and may not be crafted or earned in any other way. So it’s a one-time thing that’s also pretty tough to obtain.
6. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince
The Glass Bow of the Stag Prince is a variant of the original glass bow that can only be found in the Dragonborn DLC.
It has a powerful and unique enchantment which lets you gain escalating amounts of power with every 20 animals that are killed by this bow.
As such, it’s one of the best hunter weapons in the game.
It can be purchased by speaking to Falas Selvayn who usually spends his days at the Ramshackle Trading Post.
5. Nightingale Bow
The Nightingale Bow is unique and cannot be crafted.
The only way to obtain this powerful weapon is by playing through the Thieves’ Guild quests until Karliah gives it to you.
The name of the quest you have to complete for this weapon is called “Blindsighted”. It’s not all that difficult but may take you some time.
It has a staggeringly high base damage of 19 and it also comes with powerful enchantments which are tied to your level.
This means that the bow will be more powerful depending on what time in the game you first get it.
The Nightingale does additional frost and shock damage to targets too, but it cannot be disenchanted so this is an effect you’re stuck with. Hope you like it!
4. Daedric Bow
The Daedric Bow is the second strongest non-enchanted bow in the game, just a point behind the mighty Dragonbone Bow.
As is the case with most Daedric weapons, this bow has a devilish shape that makes it worthy of being around the depths of Oblivion.
It has a lot of spikes on its edges and players tend to find this bow very appealing because of its shape more so than its power.
It may only be found once you reach level 46 and it will start spawning with enchantments after level 47.
There are no quests or fixed locations where you can find this at lower levels. So really this is a post-game weapon unless you’re prone to cheat.
3. Auriel’s Bow
Available in the Dawnguard DLC, Auriel’s Bow is one of the best weapons in the game for those looking to do damage and combine it with Dawnguard arrows. These can be enchanted after completing some quests of the main story too which makes them incredibly powerful.
As such, Auriel’s Bow is the only bow in the game that triggers the effects of Sunhallowed arrows and Bloodcursed arrows.
The bow itself doesn’t deal a lot of base damage to be honest. But any arrow that hits undead targets does triple damage which is a nice plus.
And the bow hits opponents with an extra 20 points of sun damage with each shot that it lands.
Now onto the tougher side: actually obtaining this. You can only get Auriel’s Bow by defeating Arch-Curate Vyrthur at the end of the Touching the Sky quest inside the Inner Sanctum.
2. Dragonbone Bow
As the name suggests here, the Dragonbone Bow is quite powerful and may have something to do with dragons.
. It has a base damage of 20, but the same number of points also apply to its weight, making it one of the heaviest ranged weapons in Skyrim.
There’s only one known foe to wield this weapon+arrows of the same material into battle, which is one of the Keepers of the Soul Cairn. This is exclusive to the DLC too.
The bow may also be crafted with 2 dragon bones and an ebony ingot, but you’ll need to have a maxed out smithing skill to even try.
1. Karliah’s Bow
Picking the #1 choice was not easy but I do think that Karliah’s Bow is the strongest weapon in the game.
With a weight of just 9 points and a monstrous damage of 25, this one is going to be tough to fight against.
The only problem is that this weapon can’t be obtained without using console commands.
Yet some players have managed to pickpocket the bow from Karliah and equip it without problems so that may be an option too.
Be sure to give this a try if you can, as the biggest disadvantage of this bow is that it’s hard to find and cannot be enchanted.
Other than that, its base damage is ridiculously high and it weighs next to nothing. The perfect destruction machine for any archer.