I play as an archer or use archery in the majority of my characters, and I wanted to know the best bow in terms of damage per second. There are several places where you can find this out, but none that I saw gave a breakdown of archery in relation to skill, smithing and enchanting at various levels, and since I was interested here it is. I hope it is helpful.

        Thanks and credit to Nikolaj Poulsen for correcting errors and providing new data on attack speeds.

 

Bow damage per second formula

(1/(1.45+(1/(draw speed*1.3, quick shot only)))*((bow damage including smithing + arrow damage)*(perk multiplier)*(1 + (skill/200)*(1 + fortify archery enchantments total percentage)+ bow enchantment damage)

 

Crossbow damage per second formula

(1/(2.7*0.7, quick shot only)*((bow damage including smithing and arrow damage)*(perk multiplier)*(1+(skill/200)*(1+ fortify archery enchantments percentage)+ bow enchantment damage)

      I am unsure how quickshot affects Crossbow speed as Nikolaj Poulsen found out that crossbows are all draw speed, so proportionally it would have a much greater effect than on normal bows which have nock and rest time. I have included values with and without quickshot.

 

Notes

  • The long, falmer, imperial and Nightingale bows don’t benefit from smithing perks
  • The supple ancient nord bow can’t be tempered
  • The falmer supple bow may or may not be available in game, but if it is then it can’t be tempered
  • All enchanted bow values include their enchantment damage
  • To find values for damage while wearing enchanted equipment- (listed value)*(1+(enchantment percentage/100)). I did not include them in my table as they would not change the order of the bows, just the damage magnitude

 

 

Best Bows

Based on damage per second

 

Early game

Not including those which need higher levels, lengthy quests, or high smithing to access. The bound/mystic bow is included as you can pick it up in Fort Amon Prison at any level, and Zephyr as you only need to do part of ‘Lost to the ages’. Steel arrows are used, with the crossbow using steel bolts.

 

Archery 15

  1. Mystic bow 19.9
  2. Bound bow 17.4
  3. Crossbow 11.5
  4. Zephyr 9.7
  5. Forsworn bow 9.1
  6. Bow of the Hunt 8.5, 16.5 to animals
  7. Elven bow 8.5
  8. Dwarven bow 8.5
  9. Falmer bow 8.5
  10. Orcish bow 8.0
  11. Ancient Nord bow 7.5
  12. Imperial bow 7.3
  13. Hunting bow 7.3
  14. Long bow 7.0

Smithing 30, elven and dwarven smithing

  1. Mystic bow 19.9
  2. Bound bow 17.4
  3. Crossbow 12.7
  4. Forsworn bow 10.4
  5. Dwarven bow 9.7
  6. Zephyr 9.7
  7. Elven bow 9.6
  8. Falmer bow 8.9
  9. Ancient Nord bow 8.7
  10. Bow of the Hunt 8.5, 16.5 to animals
  11. Hunting bow 8.5
  12. Orcish bow 8.4
  13. Imperial bow 7.7
  14. Hunting bow 7.5

10 Enchantment damage

  1. Mystic bow 19.9
  2. Bound bow 17.4
  3. Crossbow 15.3
  4. Forsworn bow 13.0
  5. Dwarven bow 12.1
  6. Falmer bow 12.1
  7. Elven bow 12.0
  8. Orcish Bow 11.8
  9. Ancient Nord bow 11.3
  10. Hunting bow 11.2
  11. Long bow 11.1
  12. Imperial bow 10.9
  13. Zephyr 9.7
  14. Bow of the Hunt 8.5, 16.5 to animals

Smithing and enchantment

  1. Mystic bow 19.9
  2. Bound bow 17.4
  3. Crossbow 16.4
  4. Forsworn bow 14.2
  5. Dwarven bow 13.2
  6. Elven bow 13.1
  7. Ancient Nord bow 12.5
  8. Hunting bow 12.5
  9. Falmer bow 12.5
  10. Orcish bow 12.1
  11. Long bow 11.5
  12. Imperial bow 11.3
  13. Zephyr 9.7
  14. Bow of the Hunt 8.5, 16.5 to animals

 

Mid game

            Not including items needing above level 30 to appear in levelled lists or smithing of above 70. Elven arrows are used, with crossbows using exploding dwarven bolts. Glass bows are used in those using smithing only, as they don't spawn until higher levels.

 

Archery 70, 4 overdraw and quickshot

  1. Dwarven Crossbow 54.2, 38.0 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 50.4, 35.3 without quickshot
  3. Mystic bow 51.8
  4. Bound bow 45.4
  5. Auriel’s Bow 37.4, 46.7 to undead
  6. Nightingale Bow (27-35) 37.0, (19-26) 32.4, (1-18) 29.1
  7. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 34.8
  8. Supple Ancient Nord bow 32.4
  9. Drainspell bow 32.4
  10. Zephyr 31.6
  11. Falmer Supple bow 31.6
  12. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 30.3
  13. Forsworn bow 30.2
  14. Nord Hero bow 29.2
  15. Bow of the Hunt 28.8, 37.9 to animals
  16. Elven bow 28.6
  17. Nordic bow 28.6
  18. Dwarven bow 28.5
  19. Falmer bow 28.5
  20. Orcish bow 27.3
  21. Ancient Nord bow 25.9
  22. Imperial bow 25.5
  23. Hunting bow 25.4
  24. Long bow 24.9

Smithing 70, arcane blacksmith, up to glass and orcish smithing.

  1. Dwarven crossbow 63.2, 44.3 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 59.4, 41.6 without quickshot
  3. Mystic bow 51.8
  4. Bound bow 45.4
  5. Auriel’s Bow 45.3, 54.6 to undead
  6. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 41.9
  7. Nightingale Bow (27-35) 41.2, (19-26) 36.7, (1-18) 33.4
  8. Zephyr 39.6
  9. Falmer Supple bow 38.7
  10. Forsworn bow 37.8
  11. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 36.9
  12. Nord Hero bow 36.8
  13. Bow of the Hunt 36.5, 45.6 to animals
  14. Glass bow 35.9
  15. Dwarven bow 35.7
  16. Elven bow 35.4
  17. Nordic bow 35.4
  18. Orcish bow 34.7
  19. Falmer bow 33.6
  20. Ancient Nord bow 33.5
  21. Hunting bow 33.2
  22. Supple Ancient Nord bow 32.4
  23. Falmer supple bow 31.6
  24. Imperial bow 30.6
  25. Hunting bow 30.5

Enchanted with 20 points of damage

  1. Dwarven crossbow 64.8, 45.4 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 60.9, 42.7 without quickshot
  3. Mystic bow 51.8
  4. Bound bow 45.4
  5. Supple Ancient Nord bow 41.3
  6. Falmer Supple Bow 40.0
  7. Forsworn bow 39.1
  8. Nord Hero bow 38.1
  9. Auriel’s Bow 37.4, 46.7 to undead
  10. Nightingale Bow (27-35) 37.0, (19-26) 32.4, (1-18) 29.1
  11. Dwarven bow 36.9
  12. Falmer bow 36.9
  13. Elven bow 36.7
  14. Nordic bow 36.7
  15. Orcish bow 35.9
  16. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 34. 8
  17. Ancient Nord bow 34.8
  18. Hunting bow 34.5
  19. Long bow 34.1
  20. Imperial bow 33.9
  21. Drainspell bow 32.4
  22. Zephyr 31.6
  23. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 30.3
  24. Bow of the Hunt 28.8, 37.9 to animals

Smithing and enchantment

  1. Dwarven crossbow 73.8, 51.7 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 69.9, 49.0 without quickshot
  3. Mystic bow 51.8
  4. Forsworn bow 46.7
  5. Nord Hero bow 45.7
  6. Bound bow 45.4
  7. Auriel’s Bow 45.3, 54.6 to undead
  8. Dwarven bow 44.1
  9. Glass bow 43.7
  10. Elven bow 43.5
  11. Nordic bow 43.5
  12. Orcish bow 43.3
  13. Ancient Nord bow 42.4
  14. Hunting bow 42.3
  15. Falmer bow 42.0
  16. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 41.9
  17. Supple Ancient Nord bow 41.3
  18. Nightingale Bow (27-35) 41.2, (19-26) 36.7, (1-18) 33.4
  19. Falmer supple bow 40.0
  20. Long bow 39.8
  21. Zephyr 39.6
  22. Imperial bow 38.9
  23. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 36.9
  24. Bow of the Hunt 36.5, 45.6 to animals
  25. Drainspell bow 32.4

 

End game

            All bows available, dragonbone arrows

 

Archery 100, 5 overdraw

  1. Dwarven crossbow 65.1, 45.6 without quickshot
  2. Mystic bow 64.0
  3. Nightingale Bow (46+) 62.1, (36-45) 57.2, (27-35) 52.6, (19-26) 47.7, (1-18) 44.2
  4. Crossbow 60.3, 42.2 without quickshot
  5. Auriel’s Bow 57.7, 67.0 to undead
  6. Dragonbone bow 56.6
  7. Bound bow 56.0
  8. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 53.1
  9. Supple Ancient Nord bow 52.0
  10. Drainspell bow 52.0
  11. Zephyr 51.6
  12. Falmer Supple bow 50.3
  13. Forsworn bow 49.3
  14. Nord Hero bow 48.1
  15. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 47.9
  16. Bow of the Hunt 47.8, 61.5 to animals
  17. Ebony bow 46.8
  18. Stalhrim bow 46.8
  19. Glass bow 46.7
  20. Dwarven bow 46.6
  21. Falmer bow 46.6
  22. Daedric bow 46.3
  23. Elven bow 46.1
  24. Nordic bow 46.1
  25. Orcish bow 45.4
  26. Ancient Nord bow 44.0
  27. Hunting bow 43.7
  28. Long bow 43.2
  29. Imperial bow 42.8

Smithing 100, all smithing perks

  1. Dwarven crossbow 81.0, 56.7 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 76.2, 53.3 without quickshot
  3. Auriel’s Bow 71.6, 80.9 to undead
  4. Nightingale Bow (46+) 69.5, (36-45) 64.6, (27-35) 60.0, (19-27) 55.1, (1-18) 51.6
  5. Dragonbone bow 69.2
  6. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 65.7
  7. Zephyr 65.6
  8. Mystic bow 64.0
  9. Forsworn bow 62.7
  10. Nord Hero bow 61.5
  11. Bow of the Hunt 61.5, 75.1 to animals
  12. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 59.5
  13. Dwarven bow 59.2
  14. Orcish bow 58.4
  15. Glass bow 58.4
  16. Elven bow 58.3
  17. Nordic bow 58.3
  18. Ebony bow 57.9
  19. Stalhrim bow 57.9
  20. Hunting bow 57.4
  21. Ancient Nord bow 57.3
  22. Daedric 56.8
  23. Bound bow 56.0
  24. Falmer bow 55.4
  25. Long bow 53.0
  26. Supple Ancient Nord bow 52.0
  27. Drainspell bow 52.0
  28. Imperial bow 51.6
  29. Falmer Supple bow 50.3

Enchanted with 2*25 points of damage

  1. Dwarven crossbow 91.5, 64.1 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 86.8, 60.7 without quickshot
  3. Dragonbone bow 77.6
  4. Supple Ancient Nord bow 74.2
  5. Forsworn bow 71.6
  6. Falmer Supple bow 71.3
  7. Nord Hero bow 70.4
  8. Dwarven bow 67.6
  9. Falmer bow 67.6
  10. Orcish bow 67.1
  11. Long bow 66.5
  12. Hunting bow 66.5
  13. Elven bow 66.4
  14. Nordic bow 66.4
  15. Ancient Nord bow 66.2
  16. Glass bow 66.1
  17. Ebony bow 65.3
  18. Stalhrim bow 65.3, 70.0 if one enchantment is frost damage
  19. Mystic bow 64.0
  20. Daedric bow 63.9
  21. Imperial bow 63.8
  22. Nightingale Bow (46+) 62.1, (36-45) 57.2, (27-35) 52.6, (19-26) 47.7, (1-18) 44.2
  23. Auriel’s Bow 57.7, 67.0 to undead
  24. Bound bow 56.0
  25. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 53.1
  26. Drainspell bow 52.0
  27. Zephyr 51.6
  28. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 47.9
  29. Bow of the Hunt 47.8, 61.5 to animals

Smithing and enchanted

  1. Dwarven crossbow 107.4, 75.2 without quickshot
  2. Crossbow 102.6, 71.9 without quickshot
  3. Dragonbone bow 90.2
  4. Forsworn bow 84.9
  5. Nord Hero bow 83.7
  6. Dwarven bow 80.1
  7. Hunting bow 80.1
  8. Orcish bow 80.0
  9. Ancient Nord bow 79.6
  10. Elven bow 78.6
  11. Nordic bow 78.6
  12. Glass bow 77.8
  13. Ebony bow 76.5
  14. Stalhrim bow 76.5, 81.1 if one enchantment is frost damage
  15. Falmer bow 76.4
  16. Long bow 76.3
  17. Daedric bow 74.4
  18. Supple Ancient Nord bow 74.2
  19. Imperial bow 72.6
  20. Auriel’s Bow 71.6
  21. Falmer Supple bow 71.3
  22. Nightingale Bow (46+) 69.5, (36-45) 64.6, (27-35) 60.0, (19-27) 55.1, (1-18) 51.6
  23. Dwarven Black Bow of Fate 65.7
  24. Zephyr 65.6
  25. Mystic bow 64.0
  26. Bow of the Hunt 61.5, 75.1 to animals
  27. Glass Bow of the Stag Prince 59.5
  28. Bound bow 56.0
  29. Drainspell bow 52.0

Tags: Tips and Tricks Guides

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Replies to This Discussion

This is awesome! Could you do a test for the Glass Bow of the Stag Prince and Dwarven Black Bow of Fate? They have different base damages than the glass bow and dwarven bow respectively.

Nice..    I be referring back to this from time to time (shortcut).

  My favorite is the bound bow (I like bound weapons), you can get it early and never have to worry about arrows.  It's good all the way throught the game.

Wow, I had no idea that the Dwarven Crossbow was that good. Then again, if I recall correctly, it has the highest base damage out all the game's bows. Also, for what's it worth, they have a graph about this on UESP, though they used some different criteria (for example, using Dragonbone Arrows instead of Daedric, though I can't imagine that would make a difference).

Daedric arrows do 24 damage while dragonbone do 25, so they should still make a difference. What're the asterisks for?

To Sean I will do tests for the stag prince and black bow of fate, I thought incorrectly that they had the same damages as their base bows.

To Rune Red I also love using the bound bow, especially once you get quick shot.

To Albino should I redo the highest tier with dragonbone arrows then? I forgot that you could craft them as in my usual play I barely ever get smithing so high

To Sean again I think the asterisks are for the fact that they can't be tempered, and Karliah's bow, as far as I know, can't be aquired, you get the Nightingale bow instead

Thanks for the info and good luck testing! 1.9's change-log says that the nordic hero bow will be made temperable, so that's nice.

Updated-

  • includes dps values
  • includes the dwarven black bow of fate and the glass bow of the stag prince
  • uses dragonbone arrows for end game

Brilliant, nice job on testing and the presentation makes it easy to follow and understand. Surprised at crossbow also. Still prefer the bow personally, due to being able to reload faster and firing off arrows without being fully drawn at close range targets can make it faster also. I know it probably won't come near top but I noticed you don't have Firiniel's End on your list. Also when you did the enchanting test, did you try frost on the Stahlrim bow, really interested to see what that is, as I'm playing a build that's going to be using it later in game. Nicely done, awesome work

Very cool! These results must've taken much work, great job!


@John Kelly: I've heard that frost / chaos on stalhrim has the highest dps.

Oh I never thought about chaos on top of it, thanks for heads up

Very nice, there is a lot of good information here. I do have a few corrections/questions though.

What do you mean by enchantment damage? If it's something like fire damage then you shouldn't add it in with base damage and arrow damage, enchantments aren't fortified by marksman skill/perks.

You have a multiplier which is "1 + 200 / skill", this should be "1 + skill / 200". With "1 + 200 / skill" you'd end up getting a LOT of damage (1 + 200 / 50 = 5). 

What does the third and fourth column represent? Arrow damage or total damage including arrows? DPS with said arrows?

Is the nock and rest time the same for crossbows as it is for bows?

I did some calculations on attack speed in this thread, if you're interested.

Yes enchantment is meaning fire damage etc, and ahh I have put it in the wrong place then, I will try and sort it later today or tomorrow.

The multiplier I used is 1 + skill/200, i just wrote it down wrong, thanks for pointing it out.

3rd and 4th column is dps with said arrows.

For the crossbows I think so, I looked everywhere I could and couldn't find any evidence to the contrary.

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