The stealth archer build is one of the most popular ones in Skyrim, and for good reason. Bows allow players to do so much damage from afar, without the enemy being able to react. While having the right perks to ensure damage is high and stealth is decent is a great start for such a build, having a powerful bow is really what it boils down to.

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Skyrim has a whole range of bows that are decent, but some of the most powerful ones can sometimes be difficult to find or get one's hands on. While a few of these powerful bows require the player to complete specific quests, others can be found in loot and some can be crafted with the right perks and materials.

Updated on November 16, 2021, by Anastasia Maillot: With Skyrim's latest 10th-year anniversary edition out, everyone is talking about the game once more. One thing hasn't changed, even as Bethesda has churned out multiple releases, and that's the supreme rule of bows in the game.

With stealth archery still such a dominant and popular choice for many players, five additional great bows have been added to the list for those looking for more accessible options, especially earlier in the game.

15 Firiniel's End

Skyrim Firiniel's End Bow
  • Base Damage: 13
  • Effects: 20 frost damage
  • Location/Quest: Bound Until Death quest

This bow is actually much better than most players would think, despite its low base damage of 13 points. In addition to it, however, Firiniel's End does frost damage for 20 points, which is a special damage type that affects both the target's health and stamina pool. It's also just a really nice-looking bow overall.

To get it, players will have to join the Dark Brotherhood and start the quest Bound Until Death. The bow can be found on the balcony facing the wedding couple on their left and can be used to finish the assassination.


14 Nordic Bow

Skyrim Nordic Bow Retexture By EcthelionOtW
  • Base Damage: 13
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: None

Players with the Dragonborn DLC have a decent low-end bow at their hands: the Nordic Bow. It has a pretty unique design that differs from most base game bows, which makes it fun to use. They can also be crafted easily with 3 Steel ingots and 1 Quicksilver ingot, so long as the player has unlocked the Advanced Armor perk from their Smithing skill tree.

It's also possible to find Nordic Bows randomly in various chests, or there's even one guaranteed to be found in Skaal Village if players decide to visit Morwen. Frea also carries one in her inventory in Skaal Village, so it can be stolen from her if players are desperate enough.

The image is a retexture of the original bow by EcthelionOtW.

13 Nightingale Bow (Levels 19-26)
  • Base Damage: 13
  • Effects: 15 points of freeze, 7 points of shock damage
  • Location/Quest: Thieves Guild questline at levels 19-26

Although it's definitely better to wait until level 46 before finishing the Thieves Guild quest and getting this bow, the lower-end version of the Nightingale Bow isn't entirely garbage. It can serve the player well if they're truly desperate for a good bow around levels 19 and 26.

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At levels 19-26, the Nightingale Bow will deal 15 points of freeze damage and 7 points of shock damage. To get it, players will need to complete the Thieves Guild questline, which eventually leads them to become a Nightingale.

12 Drainspell Bow

Skyrim Drainspell Bow
  • Base Damage: 14
  • Effects: Drains 15 magicka points
  • Location/Quest: Labyrinthian during the quest The Staff of Magnus

When it comes to weapons that look unique, the Drainspell Bow definitely does the job. This ghostly weapon might not be the best weapon in the game, with a measly 14 points of base damage, but it's great against magic users as it drains 15 magicka points from the affected target.

To get the Drainspell Bow, players will need to enter the Labyrinthian dungeon during a College of Winterhold quest, The Staff of Magnus.

11 Gauldur Blackbow

Skyrim Gauldur Blackbow
  • Base Damage: 14
  • Effects: Absorb magicka (level dependent)
  • Location/Quest: Geirmund's Hall during the quest Forbidden Legend

Similar to the Nightingale Bow, the Gauldur Blackbow comes in several different flavors depending on what level the player is at when completing the quest. For best results, players should wait at least until level 19 before getting this bow. The best version drops at level 36 and above.

The Blackbow will always have the effect of absorbing a target's magicka. At levels 19-26 it will absorb 20 points, 27-35 will absorb 25 points and its highest version at level 36 and above absorbs 30 points of magicka. Levels 18 and under will have a reduced base damage of 8, which is nearly half of the higher base damage version. To get this bow, players will need to defeat Sigdis Gauldurson during Forbidden Legend. He can be found inside Geirmund's Hall.

10 Supple Ancient Nord Bow

Skyrim supple ancient nord bow
  • Base Damage: 14
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: Random loot in Nordic ruins

Ancient Nord bows are very common to come by when traveling in the various Nordic ruins of Skyrim. However, most of them are weak with the exception of this slightly more powerful variant, the Supple Ancient Nord Bow. While the Ancient Nord bow does 8 base damage, the Supple version does almost twice the damage at 14 damage points.

This bow isn't very hard to come by. It will start to appear at higher levels as loot starts to get better. The best spot is usually a Nordic dungeon, and these bows are a staple for many Draugr and skeletons that lurk in these dungeons.

9 Falmer Supple Bow

Skyrim supple falmer bow
  • Base Damage: 15
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: Looted from Falmer enemies (Gloomlurkers, Shadowmasters)

Falmer bows are generally mid-tier when it comes to damage, dealing 12 points, but their supple version ups that base damage to 15. Unfortunately, the trade-off here is the fact that the weight of supple Falmer bows is among the highest in the game, at 20 points.

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The Falmer Supple Bow is usually found on the corpses of Falmer Gloomlurkers or Shadowmasters. These Falmer bows will start to appear at higher-level dungeons, usually of the Dwemer kind. For a simple damage update, it's a nice early mid-game bow.

8 Glass Bow

Skyrim Glass Bow
  • Base Damage: 15
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: Random loot and merchants

The Glass Bow does just as much damage as the Falmer Supple Bow, but the reason why it's just a bit better is due to its significantly lighter carrying weight. Glass Bows do 15 damage points, and their carrying weight is 14, which is much less than their equivalent, the Falmer Supple Bow.

Even better, players with high Smithing and the Glass Smithing perk unlocked will easily be able to craft one. The requirements are one refined moonstone and two refined malachites. If Smithing isn't an option, they can also be looted randomly in various areas as early as level 27. Merchants and blacksmiths will also sometimes sell them.

7 Glass Bow Of The Stag Prince

Skyrim Glass bow of the stag prince
  • Base Damage: 16
  • Effects: Blessing of the Stag Prince
  • Location/Quest: Bought from Falas Selvayn

The Glass Bow of the Stag Prince is a unique variant of a regular Glass Bow. It can only be found if the Dragonborn DLC is installed. Head over to the island of Solstheim, and go northeast of Fort Frostmoth into a shack called the Ramshackle Trading Post.

Inside, there's a merchant named Falas Selvayn, and he'll usually be selling this bow. The enchantment on it is quite unique, which is what makes it worthwhile. For every 20 animals killed, the Dragonborn receives a special blessing of the Stag Prince, which can stack up to 80 animal kills. Every blessing received increases Health and Stamina by 5 points.

6 Ebony Bow

Skyrim ebony bow on Khajiit character
  • Base Damage: 17
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: Random loot and merchants

Ebony Bows are the next step from Glass Bows when it comes to random loot in chests. Once the player reaches level 36, they'll start to notice these bows and many other ebony items spawning in chests and on various enemies.

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The Ebony Bow is decently powerful. Its base damage is 17, and it can be crafted pretty easily if the Dragonborn is specialized in Smithing and has the right perks. The Ebony Smithing perk is needed to make an Ebony Bow, along with three Ebony ingots. As mentioned, post-level 37 this should be fairly common loot and can be purchased from blacksmiths and general merchants as well.

5 Stahlrim Bow

Skyrim stahlrim bow
  • Base Damage: 17
  • Effects: None, but applied frost enchantments will receive a 25% power bonus
  • Location/Quest: Baldor Iron-Shaper or Glover Mallory

The Stahlrim Bow is a very special and unique kind of bow that only appears in the Dragonborn DLC. It has the same damage as ebony bows, but it's slightly lighter at 15 carrying weight. That being said, what makes it special is that frost enchantments will always be 25% more potent when put on Stahlrim bows.

These bows appear in loot on the island of Solstheim, and can also be purchased from two different merchants on the island. Either head to Skaal Village and speak with Baldor Iron-Shaper or go to Raven Rock and talk to Glover Mallory. To create one, the player needs the Ebony Smithing perk, as well as three pieces of Stahlrim.

4 Daedric Bow

Skyrim Daedric bow
  • Base Damage: 19
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: Merchants like Niranye, Syndus and Tonilia, and the Brood Cavern

The Daedric bow is definitely closer to end game damage and gear. In order to find one easily, the player should level up to 46. They'll begin to appear in chests and other loot, and Revered Dragons might occasionally contain them as loot as well. It deals 19 damage.

There are a few locations where one is guaranteed to buy one. Both Niranye and Tonilia from the Thieves Guild will sell one after level 47. There's also one naturally generated on the corpse of an archer in Brood Cavern in Hjaalmarch, down by the river south of Morthal. Syndus at the Ragged Flagon will also sell one, though keep in mind any of these will appear after level 47.

3 Nightingale Bow (Level 46)

Skyrim nightingale bow
  • Base Damage: 19
  • Effects: 30 frost and 15 shock damage
  • Location/Quest: Thieves Guild main quest after level 46

The Nightingale Bow is a pretty unique weapon because it's a leveled reward that has five different versions of it. To get its best version, the player should wait until level 46 or higher before completing the relevant Thieves Guild main quest called Blindsighted. To make it easy, just don't touch any of the Thieves Guild quests until level 46.

RELATED: Skyrim: Best Perks For DPS Builds

At its highest level, the Nightingale Bow does 19 damage, as well as deals 30 frost and 15 shock damage. This is what makes it even better than a base Daedric Bow, although with high enough Enchanting and Smithing perks a Daedric Bow made by the player has the chance of being just as good, if not better.

2 Dragonbone Bow

Skyrim Dragonbone bow
  • Base Damage: 20
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: Craftable, or found in Soul Cairn past level 45

Unique bows aside, Dragonbone Bows are the best bows in the game. Unfortunately, they're also incredibly heavy. While they deal a whopping 20 points of base damage, they also weigh 20 points, which puts a huge dent into anyone's inventory.

The easiest way to get one is to actually craft one. It requires an extremely high Smithing of level 100 and the Dragon Armor perk. For its ingredients, the player will need two Dragon Bones and one Ebony Ingot. There's also a Keeper in Soul Cairn who has a Dragonbone Bow, which can be looted off of him provided the player is level 45 or higher.

1 Karliah's Bow

Skyrim karliah's bow
  • Base Damage: 25
  • Effects: None
  • Location/Quest: None, requires console commands

Technically, the Dragonbone Bow is the best bow in the game. However, if the player isn't beyond cheating and is looking for the absolute best of the best, there's no question about Karliah's bow being the ultimate best bow in the entirety of Skyrim when it comes to pure, base damage only.

Karliah's bow is very light at only 9 carrying weight but deals an insane amount of 25 points of damage. To get this, the player will need to use the following command: player.additem 000DEED8.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim was released on November 11, 2011, and is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, Stadia, and Nintendo Switch.

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