Top 10 Skyrim Best Bows and How to Get Them

skyrim best bows
Find and create the best bows

What are the best bows in Skyrim?

Because let’s face it: we all want to try magic, but by level five we’re having way too much fun sneaking around, picking off frostbite spiders, and hearing that satisfying sound as our sneak and archery skill increase. So what is the best bow? Where can you find it? Read on to find out as we count down the top 10 Skyrim best bows and how to get them.

#10 Dwarven Black Bow of Fate

Dwarven Black Bow of Fate

The Dwarven Black Bow of Fate ranks in at #10 on our list. It is a unique Dwarven bow that is not level-dependent. Made of ebony, the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate can be tempered with an ebony ingot and benefits from the Dwarven Smithing perk. It should be noted this bow can only be found on Solsteim, which comes with the Dragonborn add-on.

Weapon Breakdown:

  • Base Damage: 13 – One point higher than a Dwarven Bow
  • Weight: 10 – A little less than average
  • Speed: 0.75 – Right around average
  • Enchantment: 50% chance of absorbing 25 points from target’s health, stamina, and/or magicka

This unique bow can be found on Solsteim inside Kagrumez, a Dwemer Ruin located south of the Temple of Miraak. You must complete all three puzzles during The Kagrumez Gauntlet miscellaneous quest in order to obtain the bow. A detailed walkthrough of The Kagrumez Gauntlet can be found here.

#9 Glass Bow

Glass Bow

Ranking at #9 is the Glass Bow. Although no fancy name is attached, this bow remains a tried and true weapon for light armor users. It requires a Smithing level of 70 and the Glass Smithing perk. To craft, you need a refined moonstone and two refined malachite. A refined malachite ingot can be used to further upgrade the weapon at a grindstone.

Weapon Breakdown:

  • Base damage: 15
  • Weight: 14 – For a targeted light-armor user, this bow is heavier than average weight
  • Speed: 0.625 – Less than average

The Glass Bow has a decent base damage but lacks luster when it comes to weight and speed. It can be found throughout Skyrim at level 27, enchanted bows at level 28. Locations include blacksmiths and general goods merchants, random loot in chests, and are sometimes wielded by Draugr Overlords.

#8 Gauldur Blackbow

The Gauldur Blackbow

The Gauldur Blackbow comes in at #8 on our list. It is a unique leveled Ancient Nord bow, with the magnitude of the enchantments, base strength and value contingent upon character level when the bow is obtained. With the Arcane Blacksmith perk it can be upgraded with a steel ingot, and also benefits from the Dwarven Smithing perk. What makes the Gaulder Blackbow better than the Glass Bow? Let’s take a look:

  • Base Damage: 14 – 1 point lower than the glass bow
  • Weight: 18 – only two pounds away from the heaviest bow in the game
  • Speed: 0.875 – Above average
  • Enchantment: Absorb 30 points of magicka (level 36+)

The Gauldur Blackbow made it to #8 mainly because of its enchantment. Paired with an above-average speed, the Gauldur Blackbow can absorb magicka more quickly than if paired with a Glass Bow. The ability can also be learned by disenchanting it at an Arcane Enchanter. Paired with an even faster weapon such as a dagger, the enchantment can be incredibly useful.

This will give you a detailed walkthrough of the Forbidden Legend quest, where you can obtain the Gaulder Blackbow. Remember, the max level for the Blackbow is 36.

#7 Zephyr

Zephyr Bow

Coming in at #7 is Zephyr. Possibly the coolest-named weapon in the entire game, Zephyr is a unique Dwarven bow with an innate enchantment that grants it the ability to fire arrows 30% faster. With the Arcane Blacksmith Perk, a Dwarven metal ingot can upgrade the weapon, which also benefits from the Dwarven Smithing perk. Let’s break it down:

  • Base Damage: 12 – same as a Dwarven Bow
  • Weight: 10 – Less than average weight – Good for light armor users
  • Speed: 1.0 – Fastest
  • Innate Enchantment: Fires 30% faster than a standard bow

Zephyr has the highest damage per second of any weapon in the game, so why is it all the way down at #7? It’s all about quality over quantity. A faster shot paired with lower damage means you’ll be using a lot of arrows, especially with high level enemies such as revered or legendary dragons. While acquiring arrows isn’t a huge deal later in the game, arrows can be expensive when first starting out and looted ones are usually low in damage.

Despite its setbacks, Zephyr remains a high quality weapon. You can find it during the Lost to the Ages quest in the Dwemer Ruin of Arkngthamz. Here is a detailed walkthrough of the Lost to the Ages quest and how to obtain this unique bow.

#6 Glass Bow of the Stag Prince

Glass Bow of the Stag Prince on the Dragonborn

Just above our halfway point is the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince. It is a unique glass bow in reference to the Deadric Prince Hircine, who is often depicted as a man wearing a stag’s skull over his head. It can be upgraded at a grindstone using a refined malachite and also benefits from the Glass Smithing perk. As with the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate, this stunning bow can only be obtained in Solstheim through the Dragonborn add-on. Let’s take a look at its features:

  • Base Damage: 16 – one damage higher than a typical glass bow
  • Weight: 14 – Slightly above average
  • Speed: 0.625 – Slightly below average
  • Enchantment: “Blessing of the Stag Prince” – Wielder receives an increasingly powerful blessing for every 20 animals killed. Grants an additional 5 points of health and stamina, maxing up to 100 kills (25 points each to health and stamina)

Looking to hunt for that sabre cat pelt to decorate your home instead of buying it? This is the weapon for you! In addition to its impressive name and ominous association with a Deadric Prince, the Stag Prince’s bow has a very unique enchantment that makes up for its above average encumbrance and slower speed.

 To obtain this distinctive bow, one must travel to the Ramshackle Trading Post in Solstheim and buy it from Falas Selvayn. Here are some details concerning the purchase of the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince.

#5 Stalhrim Bow

Stalhrim Bow

At our halfway point we have the Stalhrim Bow. Found in the Dragonborn add-on, this icy bow requires a Smithing level of 80 and the Ebony Smithing perk to create using 3 Stalhrim. The quest “A New Source of Stalhrim” must also be completed before being able to create this bow. A unique quality to the Stalhrim Bow is that Frost Damage enchantments are 25% stronger due to the use of stalhrim. Let’s take a look at the breakdown:

  • Base Damage: 17 – Same as an ebony bow
  • Weight: 15 – Above average
  • Speed: 0.5625 – Slower than average
  • Special Perk: Frost Damage enchantments are 25% stronger

Although the Stalhrim Bow is heavier and slower in speed, it has a higher base damage than previously mentioned bows and has the added frost enchantment ability. Undoubtedly a unique-looking bow that fits in with the Solstheim culture. It can be found as random loot in chests, bought from Baldor Iron-Shaper in Skaal Village or Glover Mallory in Raven Rock.

#4 Ebony Bow

Khajiit carrying an ebony bow

The ebony bow ranks in at #4. With the Ebony Smithing perk and a Smithing level of 80, this bow can be crafted at a blacksmith’s forge using 3 ebony ingots. It is dark brown to blackish in color, staying true to what actual ebony timber from a tropical tree would look like. Once crafted, the ebony bow can be upgraded with an ebony ingot at a grindstone, and doubly improved with the Ebony Smithing perk. Let’s break the ebony bow down:

  • Base Damage: 17 – similar to the Stalhrim Bow and 2 points higher than a glass bow
  • Weight: 16 – Heavier than average
  • Speed: 0.562 – Below average

Most likely if you have the Ebony Smithing perk you are aiming toward heavy armor anyway. The ebony bow is on the heavier side, which means it has a slower speed. All that being said, the appeal of crafting a bow yourself is you get to decide what enchantment to put on it. Additionally, ebony bows have a higher than average base damage, meaning quality wins over quantity.

The Ebony Bow can be found during regular game play once you hit level 36, and enchanted bows drop at level 37. They are found in random locations such as loot in chests, bought at blacksmiths and general goods merchants, and are wielded in particular by Draugr Deathlords and Draugr Death Overlords.

#3 Nightingale Bow

The Nightingale Bow

Near the top of our list is the Nightingale Bow, coming in at #3. This is a leveled bow, with the enchantments and base strength contingent on character level when you get the bow. Once obtained, it can be upgraded with an ebony ingot and the Arcane Blacksmith perk. This weapon does not benefit from any non-magical Smithing perk and therefore cannot be improved past flawless quality without Smithing potions or using enchanted items. Let’s take a look at why the Nightingale Bow ranks near the top:

  • Base Damage: 19 – Same as a Deadric Bow
  • Weight: 18 – Same as a Deadric Bow
  • Speed: 0.5 – Same as a Deadric Bow
  • Enchantment (level 46+): “Nightingale Storm” - Freezes the target for 30 points and shocks the target for 15 points.

The nightingale bow cannot be disenchanted at an arcane enchanter, but with such a high base damage you’d be hard-pressed to find a better weapon to have an enchantment on. This unique bow is given as a reward after completing the Blindsighted quest, part of the Thieves Guild quest lines. You can find a detailed walkthrough of the Blindsighted quest here.

If it’s the same as a Deadric Bow in every aspect and has the extra bonus of being enchanted, why is it sitting behind the Deadric Bow on our list? The main reason is because it doesn’t benefit from any non-magical Smithing perk, and because it cannot be disenchanted. Once you pass into the 50-level mark the Nightingale bow can easily be surpassed with a well-enchanted Deadric Bow.

#2 Daedric Bow

*Disclaimer: It is not recommended to use any bow on town chickens. The results are disastrous*

Coming in at #2 is the Daedric Bow. Demonic in design with several spikes protruding from the body, the Daedric Bow doesn’t rest for the wicked. It has a unique recurve bow design, curving away from the archer when the bow is strung. Crafting this demonic masterpiece will require a Smithing level of 90 and the Daedric Smithing perk along with 1 Daedra Heart and 3 Ebony Ingots. It can be upgraded with an ebony ingot at a grindstone and is doubly improved with the Deadric Smithing perk.

  • Base Damage: 19 – second highest in the game
  • Weight: 18 – Heavy
  • Speed: 0.5 – Slower than average

Ever wondered what to do with all those Centurion Dynamo Cores? The neat aspect of the Daedric Bow is that it can also be crafted at the Atronach Forge (located beneath the College of Winterhold). A Conjuration skill level of 90 is required, as well as 1 Daedra Heart, 1 ebony bow, 1 Centurion Dynamo Core, and 1 Black Soul Gem (empty or filled). Note: creating the Daedric Bow at an Atronach Forge is not better or worse than a regular blacksmith forge…just a little cooler and more satisfying.

In addition to crafting, the Daedric Bow can also be found as random loot in chests once level 46 is reached. They will sometimes be dropped by revered or legendary dragons as well. See here for a full list of fixed locations you can find a Daedric Bow.

#1 Dragonbone Bow

The pinnacle of archery

Come on, crafting a weapon from the bones of a dragon? Of course this bow is #1! Requiring a Smithing level of 100 and the Dragon Armor perk, the Dragonbone Bow is the peak achievement of archery Smithing. You need two dragon bones and an ebony ingot to craft it and can upgrade it with a Dragon Bone at a grindstone. If you have the Dragon Armor perk it doubles the improvement. Let’s look at why the Dragonbone Bow ranks #1.

  • Base Damage: 20 – Highest in the game
  • Weight: 20 – Heaviest in the game
  • Speed: 0.75 – Right around average

Though its speed is considered average when pooled against all the bows in Skyrim, taking into consideration its weight and high base damage, the Dragonbone Bow is pretty quick, and deadly effective. Besides the Gauldur Blackbow and Zephyr, it is the fastest bow on this list. And, did I mention, it’s made from the bones of your fallen enemies! How cool is that? You can finally put all those dragon bones you’ve been saving to use.

Dragonbone Bows can be found in the soul cairn during the Chasing Echoes quest, but cannot be looted. If you want one of these cretaceous-like weapons, you’ll have to craft it. With this in mind, you can enhance the bow with any enchantment you like, which will certainly help put your Dragonbone Bow in the niche of your own playing style.

No matter what style of Skyrim gamer you are, there is a bow out there that fits your role. Take careful consideration of what style you play; light armor, sneak, magicka, heavy armor etc. These will all come into play when choosing the most powerful and effective bow that benefits your character the most. But seriously…dragon bones? You can’t beat that!

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With a sword glistening into the shape of a pen, armor in the form of her keyboard and a potion of black coffee in hand, Robyn strives to write fantastical stories and create worlds to marvel at
Gamer Since: 1999
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Currently Playing: Skyrim, MTG
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