I am playing a stealth archer character and I started to check on the weapons weights which led me to start wondering about how the weight of a bow matters.

Overview of the Drawing Process

Draw Speed:

Firing a bow has three stages:

  1. Nock the arrow.
  2. Draw the bow.
  3. Loose the arrow and recoil.

The nock stage appears to take about 0.4s and the recoil stage about 0.6s regardless of bow or perks. The time required for a full draw varies, however--heavier bows take longer to draw, and the Quick Shot perk increases the draw speed.

Pros of a Lightweight Bow

  • Faster draw speed
  • Higher DPS for top smithing quality and enchantments
  • Hit effects applied more often
  • Arrow bonus damage
  • Smithing bonus damage
  • Weapon enchantment effects
  • Power Shot, Bullseye effects
  • Less overkill wastage on average
  • Less weight to carry around
  • Easier/cheaper to find/make

Pros of a Heavyweight Bow

  • Higher damage
  • Higher DPS with poor to moderate smithing quality and enchantments
  • Fewer resources consumed
  • Arrows
  • Weapon enchantment charges
  • Aim time
  • Zoom stamina
  • Higher first-shot damage (e.g. sneak attacks)

So, what would be the better option? I like to shoot things fast.

Should I choose the Glass Bow upgraded with smithing as my best option or Nightingale Bow?

  • 4
    It seems like you've already got a pretty good list of pros for each listed. The game was designed to be roughly balanced, so one probably isn't much "better" than the other. It mostly comes down to a matter of personal preference, which we can't really decide for you – Dave McClelland Feb 6 '12 at 13:35
  • I'd like to withdraw my vote to close if possible :/ It seems there is a difference in draw speed for bows after all, making the other answer in the other question wrong. – l I Feb 6 '12 at 14:56
  • @desaivv Thanks. I have 100 smithing at the moment and i am not willing to make use of any feedback loop,i guess i will just go for the Glass bow / dagger . What do you think ? – Marcello Grechi Lins Feb 6 '12 at 16:51
  • I have a pretty high alchemy skill (78) and found it was easy to make potions of paralysis + ravage health. I like any bow that will let me sneak in and add this poison. It usually stops everything except a dragon or a giant, though I did one shot a giant with it once. Used a flawless Elven bow. – Nohl Feb 6 '12 at 17:11
  • If your sneak is high enough, you can get in 2-3 sneak hits with a light bow due to being able to draw more quickly. – Jonas Feb 6 '12 at 18:34

As a stealth character, I always go by the credo, kill it in 1 shot

You want to do as much damage with the initial shot as possible so you won't need a second shot. Because of this, I tend to favor the bigger, heavier weapons over the lighter ones.

Having said that, if you were solely relying on bows as your source of damage, then you should be carrying two bows in the first place. From uesp:

time = 0.4s full draw * (1 + 0.1 * bow weight) / (1 + Quick Shot perk)
minimum full draw shot time = time + 1s

Here are some bow values with base damage:

  • Longbow - weight 5 - 6 damage
  • Hunting Bow - weight 7 - 7 damage
  • Daedric Bow - weight 18 - 19 damage

Longbow weighs the least so shoots the fastest, but it doesn't allow you to use smithing perks to obtain the maximum damage. Hunting bow is the lightest bow that you can improve to the max. Daedric Bow does the most damage.

Using the above formula, here are the total speed it takes to do 1 shot (with no perks):

  • Longbow - 1.6 seconds
  • Hunting Bow - 1.68 seconds
  • Daedric Bow - 2.12 seconds

For all accounts and purposes, the Hunting Bow is far superior to the Longbow since it has a much higher maximum possible damage value due to steel smithing with very little increase to total shot time. So now the choice is between the Hunting Bow and Daedric Bow.

Keep in mind the values you see are base damage, with skills in marksman as well as the archery perks, the final difference between the hunting bow and daedric bow will be amplified.

final damage = (base damage + smithing increase) * (1 + 0.5 * skill/100) * (1 + perk effects) * (1 + item effects)

Lets assume smithing adds the same amount of damage to both bows, so we can drop that modifier, we can ignore arrows for the same reason:

Lets also add in a 50% marksman damage modifier from gear since that's pretty easy to get:

Final damage values:

  • Hunting Bow - 31.5 damage = 18.75 DPS
  • Daedric Bow - 85.5 damage = 40.33 DPS

@Andreas is right, I shouldn't have dropped smithing and arrow bonus since it benefits the bow with the faster shot more:

Final DPS values with an arbitrarily high smithing and arrow bonus (lets say adds 200 damage):

  • Hunting Bow - 231.5 damage = 137.797
  • Daedric Bow - 285.5 damage = 134.670

Looks like at this point the hunting bow starts winning out DPS wise.

So the daedric bow not only does more damage per shot at low smithing but the hunting bow eventually wins out. However, keep in mind the higher damage from the daedric bow is increased by x3 from the sneak attack multiplier for roughly ~150 more damage in the end.

Use the Heavier (Daedric Bow) for sneaking

Final Caveat:

If you are facing a lot of small and weak enemies (swarm of rats, for instance), then you purely want # of shots per minute since doing high damage is overkill. In those situations, you will go with a longbow for the fastest arrow output.

  • my calculations have shown otherwise - see other answer. smithing+arrows benefit from lighter bows as well, so we can not ignore them. – Andreas Petersson Feb 7 '12 at 11:55
  • you are right on that point, even though they are both enhanced by the same amount, it skews the results due to one bow having different shot time – l I Feb 7 '12 at 12:21
  • addendum to your final caveat: Hunting Bow is superior to long bow since it can be improved using Steel Smithing. – Andreas Petersson Feb 7 '12 at 13:36
  • Your comparison also ignore the benefit of triggering on-hit enchantments more frequently with a lighter bow. It doesn't impact the final analysis much, but it lowers the smithing/arrow/skill breakpoint at which the lighter weapon pulls ahead in a sustained damage situation. (I.E. against a dragon.) – LessPop_MoreFizz Feb 7 '12 at 14:51

If you want to kill in one shot, the answer is easy: go with the highest damage - in most cases, Daedric Bow (if enchanted or improved with smithing), for non-smiths + non-enchanters, Nightingale Bow will turn out best.

For sustained DPS, this question is surprisingly hard to answer - therefore i made a spreadsheet:

Take a look at it and fill out the values on the left for your skills/access to potions. For the highest-end Smithing + Enchanting, a Hunting Bow (weight 7, damage 7) might be the best choice. For DPS, check column C; for single-shot damage, column J.

The Nord Hero Bow, as it turns out, is a really superior DPS choice.

For standard endgame enchanting/smithing (without Necromage/Vampirism booster):

  • Daedric Bow: 508 damage per shot, 273 DPS
  • Hunting Bow: 463 damage per shot, 304 DPS

Interestingly for early-game stats, Dwarven Bow turns out on the top, with Nighingale Bow as a strong competitor, especially if you have weak enchanting, Nightingale Bow is a real alternative.

  • nice spreadsheet – l I Feb 7 '12 at 11:55
  • shouldn't the full damage per shot value difference between the hunting bow and daedric bow be bigger? they have a base damage difference of 12, if you max out all the bars, that should roughly be enhanced 4x to a damage difference of 54 – l I Feb 7 '12 at 12:01
  • do you mind posting which formulas you used? If I set all the sliders to 0 there is a bonus damage of -.8 applied for most bows, curious where that's from – l I Feb 7 '12 at 12:12
  • lots of formulas, they are all visible in the spreasheet – Andreas Petersson Feb 7 '12 at 12:27
  • I meant the source of the formulas, sorry – l I Feb 7 '12 at 13:01

One important detail that has been overlooked in these evaluations is the shot distance and accuracy.

The Long Bow has a very short range shot with significant drop off at distance. The Hunting Bow is better but still suffers as a "sniper." You can't just aim directly at your target at distance with these weaker bows.

I have not tested all bows but the Elven Bow that I use has a very true shot at distance.


I use bows mainly and I have 4 bows that I carry. Of course Nightingale just because it is so awesome. The Draugr Wights drop a drainspell bow that weighs 6, and does some nice damage; it has absorb 15pts magicka as well. I have a ebony shock bow and an ebony freezing bow. I originally enchanted the freezing bow for fire breathers, but i picked it back up later because it slows Forsworn and some other enemies.

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