Crossbow vs Bow in Skyrim: What I Found Out Might Surprise You!

It was a chilly evening in Whiterun, the kind where the wind howls through the gaps in the Dragonreach walls. I had just returned from a perilous quest, my quiver empty and my heart full of doubt. You see, I had faced a dilemma that had plagued me for days: should I rely on my trusty bow or venture into the unknown world of crossbows? As I sat by the Gildergreen tree, pondering this, a fellow adventurer approached, echoing my sentiments. We shared tales of missed shots, stealthy approaches, and the thrill of a perfect hit. It dawned on me that many in Tamriel, just like us, grapple with this choice. And so, dear reader, I embarked on a journey to create this guide, hoping to shed light on this age-old debate.

In this guide, we’ll delve into:

  • The merits of the traditional bow and why it might just be your go-to weapon.
  • The allure of the crossbow, a powerful contender introduced by the Dawnguard.
  • The raw damage output of each weapon, because in Skyrim, every point counts.
  • The firing speed dynamics – because when a dragon’s bearing down on you, speed is of the essence.
  • Unique perks that might just tip the scales in favor of one over the other.
  • The nuances of ammunition – because what’s a weapon without its trusty sidekick?
  • The silent dance of stealth attacks and which weapon takes the lead.

So, fellow Dovahkiin, grab your mead, pull up a chair by the fire, and let’s embark on this archery adventure together. Keep reading, and may your aim always be true!

Why You Should Use a Bow Instead of a Crossbow in Skyrim

In the vast world of Skyrim, archers have a plethora of choices when it comes to ranged weapons. While the Dawnguard introduced the powerful crossbow, the traditional bow has been a staple for adventurers since the beginning. Let’s dive into the reasons why you might want to stick with the bow.

  1. Familiarity: For long-time players, the bow offers a sense of familiarity. Its mechanics have been honed over countless hours of gameplay.
  2. Variety: Skyrim boasts a wide range of bows, from the basic Longbow to the exquisite Daedric Bow, offering players more aesthetic and functional choices.
  3. Draw Speed: Bows generally have a faster draw speed compared to crossbows, allowing for quicker successive shots.
  4. Stealth: Bows are silent killers. With the right perks, an archer can remain undetected and deal devastating sneak attack damage.
  5. Arc Shots: Bows have a natural arc, making it easier to shoot over obstacles and hit enemies behind cover.
  6. Weight: Bows, especially the lighter variants, can be more weight-efficient than crossbows.
  7. Customization: With the right smithing skills, bows can be upgraded and enchanted to suit any playstyle.
  8. Availability: Bows and arrows are widely available across Skyrim, from merchants to fallen enemies.
  9. Skill Development: Using a bow can help players level up their Archery skill faster due to the frequency of shots.
  10. Aesthetics: For some, the elegance of drawing an arrow and releasing it just feels more “Skyrim.”

While crossbows have their merits, the traditional bow remains a versatile and reliable choice for many Dovahkiins. Its blend of speed, stealth, and adaptability makes it a weapon worthy of any adventurer’s arsenal. Ready to notch an arrow and take aim? Let’s explore the other side of the coin.

Why You Should Use a Crossbow Instead of a Bow in Skyrim

Introduced in the Dawnguard expansion, crossbows offer a fresh take on ranged combat in Skyrim. With a unique design and powerful punch, here’s why you might want to consider this mechanical marvel over the traditional bow.

  1. Power: Crossbows generally deal more damage per shot than bows, making each bolt count.
  2. Armor Piercing: Some crossbows, like the Enhanced variants, can ignore up to 50% of an enemy’s armor, delivering devastating blows.
  3. Stability: Crossbows offer a more stable aim, especially for players new to archery in Skyrim.
  4. Ammunition Variety: From standard steel to explosive elemental bolts, crossbows offer a range of ammunition types.
  5. Immediate Shot: Unlike bows, crossbows are pre-loaded, allowing for an immediate shot when drawn.
  6. Knockback: Crossbows can stagger opponents, giving players a tactical advantage in combat.
  7. Unique Design: The mechanical design of crossbows adds a unique aesthetic to the game.
  8. Dawnguard Association: Using a crossbow aligns players with the Dawnguard, a faction of vampire hunters.
  9. Crafting: Crossbows and bolts can be crafted at Fort Dawnguard, offering a sense of achievement.
  10. Sound: The distinct sound of a crossbow firing can be satisfying for many players.

Crossbows bring a new dimension to ranged combat in Skyrim. With their power and unique features, they offer a compelling alternative to the traditional bow. But how do these weapons stack up in terms of raw damage and speed?

What are the Damage Differences Between the Crossbow and Bow?

When choosing between a crossbow and a bow, damage output is a crucial factor. Let’s delve into the numbers to see which weapon packs a bigger punch.


The standard crossbow has a damage rating of 19, while the Enhanced Dwarven Crossbow, one of the most powerful crossbows, boasts a damage of 22 and can ignore 50% of armor. Generally speaking Crossbows are more powerful than Bows.


Bows vary widely in damage, from the basic Longbow with a damage of 6 to the Daedric Bow with a whopping 19. However, bows tend to make far less noise than crossbows.

While the top-tier bows and crossbows have comparable damage ratings, the armor-piercing capabilities of certain crossbows give them an edge in many combat scenarios.

However, crossbows are not as ideally suited to stealth as a normal bow and arrow.

How Does the Firing Speed Compare Between the Two?

Beyond raw damage, firing speed can be a game-changer in heated battles. Let’s compare the firing mechanics of these two weapons.


Crossbows have a slower reload time after each shot, which can be a disadvantage in certain situations where rapid firing is necessary. However, they offer the advantage of an immediate shot when drawn, as they’re pre-loaded, making them ideal for surprise attacks or quick, decisive strikes.

Additionally, crossbows are generally easier to aim and require less physical strength to use than traditional bows, making them a popular choice for those who may not have the physical dexterity needed for a bow and arrow. Furthermore, the bolt from a crossbow has a far higher velocity than an arrow from a bow, making it a more powerful weapon for long-range attacks.

Overall, while crossbows may have some drawbacks compared to bows, they offer unique advantages and versatility that make them a valuable addition to any arsenal.


Bows have a variable draw time based on their type, with lighter bows drawing faster than heavier ones. This allows for quicker successive shots, especially with perks that enhance draw speed.

When using a bow in Skyrim, the speed and distance of an arrow shot depend on the draw time of the bow. If you release the bow before completely drawing back the arrow, the arrow will fly slower, in an arc, and deliver less damage. Even at full draw, an arrow still flies slower than a bolt from a crossbow. However, this means that the arrow will naturally arc over long distances, which must be taken into account when targeting enemies over a long distance while trying to stealthily ambush prey. This mechanic adds a layer of strategy to archery in Skyrim, as players must carefully choose the right bow and draw time to achieve their desired outcome.

While crossbows deliver an instant shot, bows offer a faster rate of fire, making them more suitable for situations where rapid shots are essential.

Are There Any Special Perks Associated with Using a Crossbow or Bow?

Skyrim’s perk system allows players to enhance their proficiency with weapons. Let’s explore the perks associated with bows and crossbows.


The Dawnguard expansion introduced specific perks for crossbows, such as “Quick Reload,” which decreases the reload time.


The Archery skill tree offers a range of perks for bow users, like “Eagle Eye,” which allows players to zoom in on targets, and “Power Shot,” which increases the chance to stagger opponents.

Both weapons have their unique perks, allowing players to tailor their archery experience to their playstyle.

How Do Crossbow Bolts Differ from Traditional Arrows?

Ammunition plays a pivotal role in archery. Let’s dive into the differences between crossbow bolts and traditional arrows.

Crossbow Bolts:

Bolts, which are projectiles fired from crossbows, are generally shorter and thicker than arrows. They are designed to pack a punch, delivering a powerful blow to the target. Bolts come in various types, ranging from the traditional steel bolts to the stronger dwarven bolts. In addition, there are even elemental variants that explode upon impact, causing even more damage. These bolts are stored in a quiver that is usually attached to the crossbowman’s hip.


Arrows are one of the most important pieces of equipment for archers. They come in many different sizes and shapes, ranging from small, lightweight arrows to larger, heavier ones that are designed to pack a greater punch. But generally, all arrows are longer and lighter than Crossbow bolts. These arrows are made from a variety of materials, including iron, steel, and Daedric material. They are typically stored in a quiver on the back.

While arrows offer a broader range of materials, crossbow bolts provide unique explosive options, adding a new layer of strategy to combat.

Which Weapon is More Silent and Suitable for Stealth Attacks?

Stealth is a crucial aspect of Skyrim, allowing players to take down enemies without being detected. Let’s see which weapon is the silent assassin’s choice.


While powerful, crossbows produce a distinct sound when fired, potentially alerting nearby enemies. Crossbows are ideal for delivering a massive killing blow to a single unaware enemy for a stealth multiplier to damage. However, once that shot has been fired, the sound of the crossbow will alert any nearby enemies to your presence.


Bows are virtually silent, especially with the right perks. Drawing and releasing an arrow produces minimal noise, making it the ideal choice for stealth attacks. However, enemies that see your arrow will investigate in the direction from which the arrow came from. So if you can try to take out enemies that are facing in your direction first.


For those who tread in the shadows, the bow is the clear winner. Its silent operation ensures that players can maintain the element of surprise, striking from the darkness without alerting their foes. Whether you’re an assassin of the Dark Brotherhood or a thief lurking in the shadows, the bow is your silent partner in crime.

Wrapping Up the Ranged Rumble

The age-old debate of crossbow vs. bow in Skyrim is akin to choosing between a powerful two-handed sword and a swift one-handed dagger. Both have their merits and cater to different playstyles.


For those who love the thrill of a powerful shot and the satisfaction of piercing through armor, the crossbow is your trusty sidekick. It’s like the warhammer of the archery world – heavy, powerful, and impactful.


On the other hand, the bow is the nimble dagger of ranged weapons. Quick, silent, and deadly, it’s perfect for those who prefer finesse and strategy over raw power.

In the end, whether you choose the crossbow or the bow, it’s all about how you play the game. Skyrim offers a vast playground for adventurers, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So, notch your arrow or load your bolt, and let your adventures in the land of the Nords guide your choice.


As the sun set behind the mountains of Skyrim, casting a golden hue over Whiterun, I found myself reminiscing about our journey through the world of archery. The tales shared, the insights gained, and the camaraderie felt with fellow adventurers like you. We’ve ventured deep into the heart of the bow vs. crossbow debate, and here’s what we’ve unearthed:

  • Traditional Bows: A symbol of familiarity, offering speed, stealth, and a wide variety.
  • Crossbows: A powerhouse of damage, with unique perks and a distinct design.
  • Damage Dynamics: While top-tier bows and crossbows are neck-and-neck, the latter’s armor-piercing capabilities give it an edge.
  • Firing Speed: Bows offer rapid succession, while crossbows pack an immediate punch.
  • Unique Perks: Both weapons have their skill tree perks, allowing for a tailored archery experience.
  • Ammunition Nuances: From the silent arrows to explosive bolts, choose your ammunition wisely.

With our quivers full of knowledge and our hearts set on the path ahead, it’s time to decide which weapon will accompany you on your next quest. But before you set off into the horizon, there’s one more section you might find intriguing. Ready for the next chapter? Dive into the “What Next?” section!

What Next?

I’ve always believed that knowledge without action is like an arrow without a bow. So, here are some actionable steps to take your Skyrim archery game to the next level:

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Spend an hour honing your skills at the archery range in Solitude.
  • Craft and Upgrade: Visit the local blacksmith and enhance your chosen weapon.
  • Seek Expertise: Find an archery trainer in Skyrim and invest in some lessons.
  • Experiment in Combat: Switch between the bow and crossbow during battles to find your rhythm.
  • Join the Dawnguard: If you haven’t already, embark on the Dawnguard questline to explore more about crossbows.

With these tasks at hand, your journey as a master archer in Skyrim is just beginning. Equip your gear, take aim, and let the world of Tamriel be your playground.

Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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