Skyrim Best Bow: List of the Best Bows in Skyrim

January 23, 2013

A good bow can be a deadly accessory in Skyrim. Determining Skyrim’s best bow is not as simple as it sounds. It really depends upon on you play. There are a total of 27 bows in Skyrim, if you count 2 from the Dawnguard expansion pack. I will list all of them in order of precedence by base damage type (lowest first). If you want to check out the best bows in Skyrim, scroll down into the 20s.

1) Gauldur Black Bow

gaulder blackbowBase Damage: 4

Max Damage:  14 + absorb 30 pts of magicka

Special Effects: Able to be enchanted/leveled up for bonus damage

Where to Find it: You can get the bow during the “Forbidden Legend” quest. The bow is dropped by Sigdis Gauldurson in Geirmund’s Hall.

The Gauldur Black Bow is actually considered a unique weapon. It is not fair to say Gauldur’s bow is a bad bow. In fact, it is one of the better bows in the game because it levels up according to the skill of the character. It is also capable of being enchanted, which can make it considerably stronger. If the character level is between 1-11 the bow does 8 damage and can absorb 10 points of magicka. After level 36, the bow maxes out at 14 points damage and can absorb 30 points of magicka.

2) Froki’s Bow

frokisbow

Base Damage: 5

Max Damage: 5

Special Effects: Inflicts 10 points of stamina damage per strike.

Where to Find it: This bow can be found near the the top of a barrel in the rear of Graywinter Watch. It is guarded by two trolls.

Froki’s long bow is not particularly useful for anything other than hunting; however, it does inflict 10 points of stamina damage which can be useful in specific situations. Upon defeating the two trolls, taking the bow, and returning it to Froki, he will respond by saying something along the lines of “his best hunting days are over” and will let you keep it to do with it as you wish. The only useful upgrade is to apply an iron ingot in at a smith bench which gives the small standard damage enhancement.

3) Long Bow

longbow

Base Damage: 6

Max Damage: 6+ (plus any smith bench refinements)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: Any archers you defeat will probably have a long bow on them. The best place to find long bows without necessarily attacking anyone is by looking near blacksmith shops or and bandit camps.

The Long Bow is a standard long range archery weapon, good for hunting and ranged attacks. In the early stages of the game it is more useful as a harassing skirmish weapon before close combat. It is nothing special, but in the hands of a highly skilled (leveled up) character it can still be deadly. Since the long bow is pretty basic it is also extremely light. The low damage per strike can be made up for with a very quick draw speed, meaning you can fire off many more volleys for less damage per strike.

4) Dravin’s Bow

dravinsbow

Base Damage: 7

Max Damage: 14 (with steel smithing perk and steel ingot upgrade)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: This bow can be located in The Ratway Vaults at the very bottom vault. The bow is guarded by two characters.

This bow belongs to Dravin Llanith and is the bow that must be returned to him in a mini quest. However, the bow can be obtained prior to the quest as it is in the Ratway Vaults regardless of whether or not you start the quest. It is not particularly strong. For all intents and purposes it looks and acts like a regular hunting bow. If you choose to return the bow to Dravin he will reward you with a handful of gemstones.

5) Angi’s Bow

angisbow

Base Damage: 7

Max Damage: 14 (with steel smithing perk and steel ingot upgrade)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: This bow can only be received after completing the archery training (which is an unmarked quest) from Angi.

Like Dravin’s bow, the only thing unique about this bow is the name. It is a basic hunting bow (see below for explanation). Angi will give it to you after completing the quest “Composure, Speed, And Precision”. It can be upgraded with the usual smithing perk for double the damage.

6) Hunting Bow

huntingbow

Base Damage: 7

Max Damage: 14 (with steel smithing perk and steel ingot upgrade)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: Most General Good’s Shops and Blacksmiths will have a ready supply of hunting bows. They can also be obtained from slain enemies or from various chests.

This is the optimal bow for hunting and, like the Long Bow, is one of the easier bows to obtain. The smithing perk doubles the damage while leather strips upgraded with a grindstone will also enhance this bow.

7) Ancient Nord Bow

ancientnordbow

Base Damage: 8

Max Damage: 16 (with steel smithing perk and steel ingot upgrade)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: If you clear any dungeons you will inevitably come across an Ancient Nord Bow. They are carried by the Draugrs and Skeletons when they appear near their Nordic Tombs.

As soon as you can, you will want to get your hands on an Ancient Nord Bow. They are the next best bow after the Long Bow and Hunting Bow and are relatively easy to find as soon as you start clearing out a few cave systems. After finishing the Glory of the Dead quest, you will be able to upgrade this bow into a Nord Hero Bow (see #11 below) at Skyforge.

8) Imperial Bow

imperialbow

Base Damage: 9

Max Damage: 9+ (steel ingot upgrade, no smithing perk)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: You can scavenge this bow off of dead Imperial Soldiers, or locate it in Imperial Holds. If you are looking for specific fixed locations, try stealing one from Castle Dour armory in Solitude. Alternatively, you can find a few on the weapon rack in Whitewatch Tower or near the smithing area of the Volkihar Castle.

This bow is the standard issue archery item for the Imperial Soldiers. It is a slightly better bow than the others immediately available in the game world. The Imperial Bow is not able to be enhanced via the smithing perk, like many of the other common bows, but the steel ingot upgrade can still improve the bow.

9) Bow of the Hunt

skyrim best bowsBase Damage: 10

Max Damage: 10+ (steel ingot upgrade and smithing perk)

Special Effects: Does extra 20 damage to animals.

Where to Find it: To get this bow head over to the back of the altar in the Clearspring Cave which is near the Clearspring Tarn.

The Bow of the Hunt is one of the best bows for hunting pure and simple. It benefits from both the steel ingot upgrade and the smithing perk which means it has significant upside potential. With the upgrades, this bow is also decent against characters other than animals.

10) Orcish Bow

orcishbow

Base Damage: 10

Max Damage: 10+ (orichalcum ingot upgrade and orcish smithing perk)

Special Effects: None.

Where to Find it: This bow will not begin appearing until level 6, but can be found at various Blacksmiths and General Merchants across Skyrim. It can also be found on the looted bodies of your enemies or chests. More specifically, Delphine carries one at the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood.

The Orcish Bow will begin appearing at around level 6 0r 7. It benefits from the Orcish smithing perk upgrade and the orichalcum upgrade at a smithing bench. The nice part about this bow is that you can craft it yourself! All you need is 1x iron ingot and 2x orichalcum ingot and a smithing level of at least 50.

11) Nord Hero Bow

nordherobow

Base Damage: 11

Max Damage: 11

Special Effects: None.

Where to Find it: The Nord Hero Bow can only be crafted at the Skyforge and only after completing the Companions quests.

The Nord Hero bow looks and acts essentially the same as the Ancient Nord Bow (#7 above). After completing the Companions missions, head over to the Skyforge to craft it. The bow requires an Ancient Nord Bow and three (3) steel ingots. It is definitely one of the better bows to have, but it is only obviously useful if you can finished the quest-line. There are also no upgrades (at least not without a slight mod fix).

12) Falmer Bow

falmerbowBase Damage: 12

Max Damage: 12+ (with chitin from the Chaurus creature)

Special Effects: none

Where to Find it: You can find this bow on any Falmer characters in the game. The Falmer hives or Dwemer Ruins are the best place to locate them.

This bow is better than most and is worth hanging onto if you come across it. It can be upgraded with the Chaurus Chitin at a grindstone, but does not benefit from any smithing perks.

13) Dwarven Bow

dwarvenbow

Base Damage: 12

Max Damage: 12+ (dwarven smithing perk)

Special Effects: none

Where to Find it: Unenchanted Dwarven bows will be commonly available in various places within Skyrim at around level 12, with enchanted bows appearing later around level 13. The best places to find them will be in various chests, at blacksmiths, or at the general merchants stores.

The Dwarven Bow is another nice bow to have. In order to upgrade it, you will need to be at a blacksmith’s forge, 2x dwarven metal ingots, and 1x iron ingot. Your character will also need to be at level 30 smithing in order to conduct this upgrade.

14) Forsworn Bow

forswornbow

Base Damage: 12

Max Damage: 12+ (steel ingot upgrade and smithing perk)

Special Effects: none

Where to Find it: Like the Falmer bow, the best place to find it is on the person’s of the Forsworn. They can be found readily in Forsworn camps or strongholds.

This is another bow that has 12 base damage and is able to be upgraded. It is called “forsworn” because it is partially made of bones, along with wood, spikes, and leather.

15) Supple Ancient Nord Bow

Skyrim Best Bow

Base Damage: 14

Max Damage: 14

Special Effects: none

Where to Find it: The best way to find this is by exploring the numerous cave systems within Skyrim. This bow is wielded by the Skeletons and Draugrs who inhabit the caverns.

After a number of middling bows, the Ancient Nord Bow takes a significant step up in terms of face value base damage. It is a nice bow to have, assuming you have no plans to upgrade it. It is one of a group of bows in Skyrim which cannot be upgraded at the grindstone. If you find one, hang on to it at least until you find something better.

16) Elven Bow

elvenbow

Base Damage: 13

Max Damage: 13+ (upgraded with refined moonstone at grindstone and Elven smithing perk)

Special Effects: none

Where to Find it: This bow will begin appearing throughout Skyrim around level 19. At this time, you will be able to purchase it at most General Good’s merchants, find it in chests, on other characters, or at Blacksmith’s. The best fixed location to find one is inside the locked case in the rooms of Jorrvaskr.

This might seem like a step down from the Supple Ancient Nord Bow, but since it is able to be upgraded it remains an excellent choice for further customization. The refined moonstone upgrade enhances the bow. If you cannot locate one, you can craft one with 1x quicksilver ingot and 2x refined moonstone. If you want to craft it, make sure you have a smithing level of at least 30 as well as the Elven smithing perk.

17) Auriel’s Bow

aurielsbow

Base Damage: 13

Max Damage: 13+ (upgraded with refined moonstone at grindstone and Elven smithing perk)

Special Effects: Enchantment – The bow deals 20 points of “Sun damage”. The effect is basically 20 points of fire damage in addition to any base damage. 

Where to Find it: This bow can only be found in the Dawnguard expansion. The only way to acquire this bow is by defeating Arch Curate Vyrthur in the Touching the Sky quest. It will be in the Inner Sanctum in the Forgotten Vale.

This bow may appear to be just another above average bow, but it is actually one of the most powerful bows in the game if you factor in the special effects. Another nice effect of this bow is the extremely quick draw speed. There is an extensive lore behind this bow. It has appeared in a number of games in the Oblivion series, having its origin back in the Dawn Era.

18) Zephyr

zephyrbow

Base Damage: 14

Max Damage: 14+ (upgraded with dwarven metal ingot at grindstone and dwarven smithing perk)

Special Effects: 30% faster draw speed (hence the name). 

Where to Find it: This bow will be recovered after the quest Lost To The Ages.

This bow belongs to Katria (or rather “belonged” to her). Katria died in an earthquake, but her reincarnation guides your character to the spot in the chasm where she died. It is at this point that she notices the spot where she dropped her bow, allowing you to go and pick it up. The bow itself is not as good as it seems. While the base damage is nice and the faster draw speed can be extremely useful in tight spots, the bow cannot be upgraded or enchanted.

19) Falmer Supple Bow

supplefalmerbow

Base Damage: 15

Max Damage: 15 (no upgrades available)

Special Effects: none

Where to Find it: Wherever the Falmer Bow is found, you are bound to find a few of the “supple” variety. Dwemer ruins are a good place to start, but Falmer hives are also good places to find them.

The Falmer Supple Bow is quite similar to the Falmer bow. It has 3 points higher base damage, but otherwise is identical. The only drawback is that the supple bow cannot be upgrade or benefit from the smithing perk. However, the high base damage makes this is nice bow to have, especially if your character is not primarily an archer. The Supple Falmer Bow is a good secondary weapon for ranged attack prior to close quarters melee engagement.

20) Drainspell Bow

drainspellbow

Base Damage: 14

Max Damage: 14 (no upgrades available)

Special Effects: absorbs 15 points of magicka damage per hit. 

Where to Find it: This is one of the bows that is almost impossible to predict where it will appear. Your best bet is to explore the numerous caverns, in particular Labrynthian, as the bow will be found on the bodies of Daugrs.

This bow is an unusual one. The base damage of 14 is good, but it is particularly valuable in the hands of an aspiring mage (or a character who frequently does battle with magicka characters). The Drainspell Bow is one of a series of “Drainspell” weapons that are among the “ghost” weapons able to be found in the game. As it is quite difficult to find, try not to plan your character around acquiring this bow in particular. If you find it, you may want to develop your characters magicka skills track to put this bow to good use.

21) Glass Bow

glassbow

Base Damage: 15

Max Damage: 15 (upgraded with refined Malachite and glass smithing perk)

Special Effects: none 

Where to Find it: This bow starts appearing around level 26 and can be found at the General Goods merchants, blacksmiths, and in various chests or raided as loot from bodies.

The Glass Bow is a nice advanced bow with a base damage of 15. While there is nothing unique about it, it still is  worth picking up if you are still using the Nord or basic Falmer bows. You can craft the bow on your own using 1x Refined Moonstone and 2x Refined Malachite. You will also need the glass smithing perk and a smithing skill level of at least 70.

22) Firiniel’s Bow

firinielsbow

Base Damage: 13

Max Damage: 13+ (upgraded with refined Moonstone and elven smithing perk)

Special Effects: target takes 20 frost-bite damage to both stamina and health per hit

Where to Find it: This bow can only be found after completing the Dark Brotherhood quest Bound Until Death. After completing the quest, Gabriella will tell your character that she left something on a balcony (of Castle Dour). If you can’t find it right then, it will be waiting for you there so long as you have completed the quest.

This is a very powerful bow, but not because of its base damage. The special effect of giving 20 points frostbite damage to health and stamina of the target makes Firiniel’s Bow one of the best in the game. It is a hard bow to get. You may play a whole game without every having the opportunity to find it due to character choices made earlier in the game. If you are inclined towards the “dark” side at all, this should be your prize bow of choice.

23) Nightingale Bow

nightingalebow

Base Damage: 12-19 (depending on character level)

Max Damage: 19+ (upgraded with refined Ebony ingot and arcane smithing perk)

Special Effects: Target freezes for 30 points and shocks for 15. 

Where to Find it: The bow itself is a reward given by Karliah after completing the Thieves Guild quest entitled Blindsighted.

The Nightingale Bow’s base damage varies depending on the level of your character when you receive it. Levels 1–18 render the bow a base damage of 12, while level 48 and higher have the damage starting at 19. The bow can be upgraded, which is a nice bonus, but it does not benefit from the smithing perk (although it does require it to be upgraded). As a bonus side effect of frost damage is that the target will be 50% slower for 3 seconds. This is one of the most powerful bows in the game.

24) Ebony Bow

ebonybow

Base Damage: 17

Max Damage: 17+ (upgraded with refined Ebony ingot and ebony smithing perk)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: These bows will start appearing around level 36. They can be found in all sorts of places, but purchasing them at the local goods merchants and blacksmiths is a safe bet. Otherwise, chests and the bodies of other characters may yield them, particularly Draugrs (and their Draugr overlords).

This bow is a great bow because has both a high base damage and can be upgraded. If you cannot find it you can forge it yourself with 3x Ebony ingots, the Ebony smithing perk, and a smithing level of at least 80.

25) Daedric Bow

daedricbow

Base Damage: 19

Max Damage: 19+ (upgraded with refined Ebony ingot and daedric smithing perk)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: The bow will begin appearing around level 46. It is possible to find it as loot in chests or as loot randomly left behind on the corpse of dead dragons. For fixed locations, try Brood Cavern, on the counter in The Ragged Flagon, or talk to Niranye the fence in Windhelm (once she becomes available). Alternatively, Tonilia in Riften will sell them (both enchanted and unenchanted).

True to the Elder Scrolls series, this bow has a demonic like appearance. It is also extremely powerful. It benefits from the daedric smithing perk and can be upgraded at a forge, making it one of the top three bows in the game. The bow can be crafted using 1x daedric heart and 3x ebony ingots.

27) Dragonbone Bow

dragonbonebow

Base Damage: 20

Max Damage: 20+ (upgraded with Dragon Bone and dragon armor perk)

Special Effects: None

Where to Find it: This bow is available exclusively in the Dawnguard expansion DLC. You can find it in the Soul Cairn, one of the Keepers will have it.

This is one of the most powerful bows based solely on damage, but it is also one of the heaviest so make sure you have the room to carry it in your inventory. If you are progressing down an archery skill path, this bow is a must have. You can forge this bow with 2x Dragon Bone and 1x ebony ingot, but you will need a smithing skill level of 100 to make it work.

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