10 Best One-Handed Weapons In The Game, Ranked


With no real news of The Elder Scrolls VI on the horizon, Skyrim is still a mainstay for fans of the Elder Scrolls series. For those revisiting Skyrim, maybe looking into its vibrant modding community, it’s important to choose the right weapon. The mighty Dragonborn needs protection, and those two-handed weapons are clunky! Thieves, spellswords, and fighters all rely on one-handed weapons for their speed and versatility.

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Using a one-handed weapon gives the Dragonborn an invaluable tool; an off-hand. Two-handed weapons require the player to lock themselves into a more narrow combat style. Yes, shouting can replace spells somewhat. Yes, the two-handed kill moves are cool. Still, having an off-hand is better. Give up on claymores and battleaxes and instead seek out these legendary one-handed weapons!

Updated by James Austin on September 26, 2022: Skyrim has almost too many one-handed weapons. These are some of the most ubiquitous weapons in the game, and limiting our favorites to only ten felt wrong. Therefore, we’ve updated the list with even more of our top picks. All new entries are marked with an asterix (*). The game of Skyrim hasn’t changed, but there are certain weapons that deserved to be on the list originally that never were. In particular, Dragonbone and Stahlrim weapons have been added. Both of these types of weapons can be upgraded and enchanted to become the truly dominant choices on this list.


15/15 Valdr’s Lucky Dagger*

Valdr’s Lucky Dagger looks like a normal steel dagger at first glance, but it carries a very fun effect: a 25% chance for a critical hit with each strike. Unfortunately, critical hits aren’t as great in Skyrim as they are in other RPGs. Also, because the dagger’s effect is not an enchantment, it can be used indefinitely, but it can’t be reapplied to other weapons.

However the dagger’s lightweight, its easy upgradability, and its unique effect all work well for assassin characters. Assassins can combine crits with sneak attacks for some truly impressive amounts of damage. It’s also fairly easy to find. The Dragonborn must simply travel to Moss Mother Cavern, just west of Lake Ilinalta, and finish the quest that begins there.

14/15 The Pale Blade*

The Pale Blade is a unique Ancient Nord Sword. It’s a leveled blade, the best version of which is obtained at level 27. To obtain it, the Dragonborn must complete the quest “The Pale Lady”. Travel southwest of Dawnstar and stick near the mountains to find Frostmere Crypt, where this quest begins.

At its best, the Pale Blade does 11 base damage. It inflicts Fear on creatures up to level 16 and does 25 frost damage, as well as an unmatched 50 points of stamina damage. It’s not the most powerful blade on this list, but it’s an all-around solid choice with a nice aesthetic to boot.

13/15 Dragonbone War Axe*

All Dragonbone weapons are amazing — swords and warhammers are no exception. We’ve chosen the War Axe because it’s the most balanced of the three — middling in terms of both speed and damage. The Dragonbone War Axe has an outstanding base damage of 16. Plus, Dragonbone weapons can be upgraded and enchanted to further boost their effectiveness. With the right enchantments, they have the potential to surpass all other one-handed weapons.

The only drawbacks to Dragonbone weapons are their high weight, as well as how difficult it is to craft them. The Dragonborn only gains access to them at Smithing level 100.

12/15 Stalhrim War Axe*

Stalhrim weapons are weird, powerful artifacts from Skyrim’s Dragonborn DLC. To create them, the Dragonborn must complete the quest “A New Source of Stalhrim”, which begins by talking to Deor Woodcutter in the Skaal Village in Solstheim.

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Stalhrim weapons get an inherent 25% bonus to frost damage enchantments. They’re favored among enchanters for this reason. But on their own, they’re still very good. In terms of sheer damage output, Dragonbone does surpass them. But if the player puts in the extra work and does some enchanting, they become more desirable. They’re also lighter and easier to craft than Dragonbone weapons. Consider synergizing with the Augmented Frost perk in the Destruction skill tree to unlock the true potential of Stalhrim.

11/15 Lunar Weapons

Lunar Weapons can always be found at Silent Moons Camp in Whiterun Hold, where they respawn every so often. There are six lunar weapons in total, but only a few can be found around the bandit camp at a time. Part of what makes them great is how easy they are to obtain.

No other weapons have the unique enchantment held by the Lunar Weapons, though the Dragonborn can apply it to other weapons manually. It’s a damaging enchantment that scales with player level. At levels eight and up, it deals twenty extra points of damage, but only at night. In other words: at night, a Lunar Sword is twice as good as a Daedric Sword, but during the day it’s only half as good.

10/15 The Mace of Molag Bal

A Daedric Artifact, the Mace of Molag Bal has made an appearance in every main Elder Scrolls game since The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. To obtain it, the Dragonborn needs to complete the questThe House of Horrors” which begins at the Abandoned House in Markarth.

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The Mace comes with an enchantment that deals 25 points of damage to health and stamina. It also triggers a three-second soul trap effect upon each strike. Its enchantment does not scale with level. This means the mace is devastating in the early game, but weaker later. All in all, the Mace of Molag Bal is a solid weapon that’s especially useful for enchanters thanks to its soul trap effect.

9/15 Mehrunes’ Razor

Mehrunes’ Razor is a small dagger with a unique enchantment, granting it a 2% chance to instantly kill most enemies with each strike. Since it’s a dagger, strikes come very often, usually multiple times per second. The Razor shines against enemies with big health pools, like dragons or trolls.

Another perk of the Razor is that its unique enchantment has infinite charge. It’s a great all-around weapon for evil characters (as it’s an artifact of Mehrunes Dagon, the Daedric Prince of Destruction). To start down the path toward obtaining Mehrunes’ Razor, the Dragonborn must visit Silus Vesuius at his museum in Dawnstar.

8/15 Dawnbreaker

Skyrim players know Meridia well. Her search for a champion puts her in the crosshairs of virtually every Dragonborn at some point. Her quest, which leads to Dawnbreaker, begins when the player picks up her beacon for the first time. Meridia’s Beacon can spawn randomly in most chests, hence why almost every Skyrim player has found it.

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Dawnbreaker isn’t incredible in terms of damage, but its enchantment makes it great. It deals fire damage and often causes huge explosions which turn undead. Also, Dawnbreaker has one of the highest charge levels of any enchanted weapon. It can be used many, many times before needing a recharge. The downside is that when you recharge it, you’ll need several filled soul gems in order to do so.

7/15 Dragonbane

Dragonbane is a unique katana found in Sky Haven Temple in The Reach. It’s usually found by players during the quest “Alduin’s Wall“. It has a unique enchantment that deals 10 points of shock damage to all enemies and a variable amount of extra damage to dragons.

Dragonbane’s effectiveness is determined by the player’s level when they first enter Sky Haven Temple. For best results, the player should wait until their character is at least level 46. At this level, the sword deals a staggering 40 points of extra damage to dragons. Waiting will force a delay in the main quest, but the results are worth it.

6/15 Dawnfang & Duskfang

The legendary Dawnfang & Duskfang were added to Skyrim as a Bethesda creation. Once the creation is bought (for roughly five dollars) and downloaded, the Dragonborn will need to go through a short quest taking place in Riften’s Ratway to claim their prize.

Dawnfang & Duskfang are actually one sword that changes forms. When the sun is out, it’s Dawnfang, and it deals fire damage. At night, it switches to frost damage and becomes Duskfang. When it changes forms, its magic charge completely resets. Also, once Dawnfang/Duskfang kills a certain number of enemies, it gains either an absorb health or absorb Magicka effect. With 14 base damage and* a slew of other effects, it’s hard to go wrong with these blades from the Shivering Isles.

5/15 Bloodscythe & Soulrender*

This time we have different pair of swords. Bloodscythe & Soulrender are two separate blades, but they’re effectively inseparable in battle. They each have powerful enchantments, but these enchantments only work when the blades are wielded together.

For players who are willing to dual-wield, or who prefer to, these are some of the best weapons in the game. Their powerful enchantments absorb health and magicka. Bloodscythe has a chance to lower armor, and Soulrender has a chance to cast a spell on opponents. To start the quest that unlocks these blades, the Dragonborn must first reach level 36, then locate and read a copy of the book Deathbrand. The book can be found in several spots in Solstheim.

4/15 Miraak’s Sword

The sword of the ancient Dragonborn priest, Miraak, has the highest base damage of any one-handed weapon (16 damage when it’s at its best). This blade’s dark appearance should be an immediate draw for fans of the Lovecraftian Hermaeus Mora. It also carries an enchantment that absorbs 15 points of stamina.

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Unfortunately, the enchantment is just decent, not great. A great enchantment, combined with the blade’s base damage, would elevate it to an even higher position. Miraak’s Sword can be looted from his skeletal remains at the very end of the Dragonborn DLC. For best results, it should be obtained at level 60 or higher.

3/15 Windshear

This odd sword can be found sticking out of a wooden mast on board a ship called The Katariah. This ship appears during the Dark Brotherhood quest “Hail Sithis!“. The sword’s appearance is identical to that of a Hammerfell scimitar, and its base damage is mediocre, but its enchantment is arguably broken.

If the off-hand is kept empty, Windshear’s bash attacks have a chance to paralyze an opponent. Additionally, every time an opponent is hit with Windshear, they will be staggered. It’s unclear whether this second effect was intended by Bethesda, since it’s not mentioned in the enchantment description. The constant staggering makes fighting hilariously easy. The only reason Windshear isn’t ranked higher is that the Unofficial Skyrim Patch removes its stagger effect, and most modern players use this patch.

2/15 The Nightingale Blade

Obtained as a reward toward the end of the Thieves Guild questline, the Nightingale Blade is incredibly powerful. Its effectiveness is determined by the player’s level when they first obtain it. For best results, wait until level 46 before completing the quest “Hard Answers”.

At its best, the Nightingale Blade deals 14 points of damage. It has an excellent enchantment (also scaled by level) that absorbs 25 points of health and stamina at its best. The absorption effect puts this blade over the top, allowing the player to continuously power attack while also restoring health. Though it needs frequent recharging, its high base damage makes the Nightingale Blade a viable option even at zero charge.

1/15 Chillrend

Chillrend is a legendary glass sword with a cool blue coloration. Like other, similar weapons, the best version of this blade is obtained at level 46 or higher. It’s normally found during the Thieves Guild questline, while the Dragonborn is exploring Mercer Frey’s Riftweald Manor. However, with a bit of creative cheating, it can be obtained at any time.

Chillrend comes with an enchantment that deals 30 points of frost damage at its highest level. That’s in addition to its base damage of 15. Those who invest in Destruction magic can use the Augmented Frost perk to boost the frost damage even higher. Along with its devastating paralysis effect, Chillrend’s exceptional damage output makes it the best one-handed weapon in the game.

NEXT: Skyrim: Best Bows In The Game, Ranked


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