Ranging is one of the best ways to safely kill monsters, thanks to safe spotting. It is simply an all-around good skill for any player to utilize, especially with Slayer. Also, always ALWAYS use the Rapid attack style when ranging; it's the best way to go.
If you didn't know already, raising the skill will increase your damage and accuracy with ranged attacking methods.
Note that with Ranging, you will gain Hitpoints experience as well as Ranged while you deal damage. Depending on how much you use Ranged and the fact that Hitpoints is a skill that cannot be trained directly, Ranging may actually be a very good form of unintentional Hitpoints training.
Among other things, one benefit to leveling Ranged is the ability to enter the Ranging Guild between Ardougne and Seer's Village at level 40 which grants the ability to complete a few Clue Scroll steps, the Ranged skillcape master, and a few archery-related stores which sell varied ranging gear.
Also note that the necessary Ranged-boosting Prayers can be flicked while ranging to boost your experience rates, this is recommended at all times. See the Prayer guide for more info.
Ranged armor such as Dragonhide is very important while training Ranged - the accuracy bonuses they grant determine your overall damage-per-second when combined with your ranged strength from your weapons which determine your attacking power. In fact, out of the entire combat triangle, ranged gear has the highest accuracy bonuses.
There are other pieces of general gear that offer Ranged bonuses, but this table only shows gear specific to rangers or best-in-slot pieces. Most ranged armor can also be crafted, but mostly you'll be buying it from NPC stores or other players.
Bows are the most basic form of ranged weapons. Most of them are made via Fletching various types of logs into an unstrung bow and then attaching a bowstring (made by spinning flax on a spinning wheel) to complete them. Many come in two different varieties: long and short, with shortbows being superior for actually killing things and longbows being superior for Fletching training and alchemy money. Composite bows and the Seercull are memes and basically only good for fashion and bankstanding, while the Dark and Crystal bows are unequivocally the best ones. Note that the Composite Ogre Bow can only use Brutal and Ogre arrows, and the Ogre Bow can only use Ogre arrows.
Each arrow type can only be used with various bows, see above. Most types can also be poisoned with weapon poison from the Herblore skill. Each weapon poisoning potion will poison arrows in batches of 5. The arrows that can be Fletched are done so by using feathers on arrow shafts and then attaching the arrowheads. Brutal arrows require Achey tree shafts and nails+a hammer for the heads. Ogre arrows require Achey Tree shafts and chiseled Wolf Bone tips for the head. Note that Brutal and Ogre arrows can only be used by the Composite Ogre Bow and that Ogre arrows can only be used by the Ogre Bow.
Crossbows are very commonly used and can be created via Smithing and Fletching - first make the limbs with a metal bar, fletch the corresponding stock with different types of wood, and then spin sinew (use raw meat on a stove) into a crossbow string to attach and complete it. At the expense of being slower than bows and without special attacks, crossbows have two advantages: they are one-handed allowing use of a shield slot item, and their bolts are more powerful than arrows while also being able to be enchanted for various effects as well.
Karil's Crossbow is more akin to bows because it it two-handed, quick to fire and has weaker ammo, but is listed here due to its name.
Bolts are made primarily using Smithing and Fletching, first their unfinished versions are made in sets of 10 per 1 metal bar and then finished using a stack of feathers.
They can also have chiseled gem-tips attached to the end, which boosts power slightly and allows for the use of the spell Enchant Crossbow Bolt. This spell unlocks the chance of an added effect happening, depending on the type of bolt. The bolt itself has to hit and deal damage or else a proc will not happen at all. "PROC" stands for "Programmed Random OCcurrence".
Throwing knives are one-handed ranged weapons which, obviously, are thrown at enemies once equipped. They are easily mass-produced via Smithing in a set of 5 knives per metal bar, and they have fast attack speeds.
Throwing darts are very similar to knives and may be better or worse than them depending on what suits you:
- Can be poisoned.
- 10 are created per bar compared to knives' 5 per bar.
- Requires The Tourist Trap's completion to create.
- Need to be feathered and therefore requires extra Fletching levels to make.
- Same attack speed as knives.
- Weaker than knives.
Throwing javelins are a type of ranged weapon that any smart player will just ignore. They may hit hard and have long ranges but they are quite slow, resulting in an overall worse DPS than every other ranged training method. They also cannot be created by players so they're hard to even get a large number of.
Levels 1-61 : Iron Knives
Iron knives are the most cost-effective and arguably fastest method of training ranged at lower levels, as they are quite easy to manufacture and also incredibly cheap to buy from other players. They require 22 Smithing to make, which you can easily level up to or just complete The Knight's Sword for a bigger experience boost than you'll need. Mining iron also only requires 15 Mining, but smelting iron ore only has a 50/50 success rate - if you're making iron bars yourself you may want to consider leveling Magic to Superheat the ore or making Rings of Forging/purchasing them from another player for a 100% smelting success rate (One RoF will last for 140 iron bar smelts, so for 1,000 bars you'll need at least 7-8 rings). In case you didn't know already, the best spot for mining iron is north of Yanille and the best spot for smelting ores is in Port Phasmatys (with at least 64 Agility / Priest in Peril completed with 10 Ecto-Tokens, or with Ghosts Ahoy completed) or at any bank if you're Superheating.
If you really don't like Mining, the ore vendor in Keldagrim by the Blast Furnace sells various ores including Iron ones. Please see the Smithing guide for more information.
You'll want to get around 1,000 iron bars, and therefore 5,000 iron knives. It's very likely that this number will be more than you need to get to 61 ranged, so you can either leave your stack before it's fully depleted or just keep going past 61 a bit.
Also, Martin Thwait in the Rogue's Den stocks 100 Bronze, Iron, and Steel knives at a time too if you'd like to purchase them (if you have the 50 Agility and Thieving which are required to trade with him). They cost 2, 4, and 12 coins each respectively.
What you'll be killing with all these knives are Slayer monsters. With a low ranged level you don't quite want to be killing the near-universal best task in the game (Blue Dragons) yet, instead you should go to Hill Giants or Moss Giants. Both types of giants can be found in the Edgeville Dungeon, click on the collapsible tables below for more info on them.
You can also kill Goblins found across the bridge in Lumbridge, but only do this if your Hitpoints are too low to even risk running to a Hill/Moss Giant safespot area for now, or if you're just after Level 1 Clue Scrolls.
During your slaying escapades, you will level your Ranged enough to use better gear as shown in the collapsible table near the top of this guide. You may want to prepare and make/buy all of what you think you'll need beforehand, as taking a break to go make/buy better gear might eat into your training rates.
Going up to at least 61 Ranged will have you go through quite a few equipment sets too, so don't feel bad about skipping one or two of the lower tiers. Just make sure you wear d'hide gear once you're able to.
Note that as you near level 61 Ranged, you will gain the ability to use ranged weapons that may be better than your iron knives. Once you hit level 50 for example, feel free to consider switching over to a Magic Shortbow as long as you have a lot of arrows stocked up. Never use a crossbow below Rune, however, as they will hamper your experience rates compared to knives or a magic shortbow.
Levels 61-70/99 : Rune Crossbow
Next up, you'll be using a rune crossbow for your slaying escapades. It is most commonly made via Fletching rather than Smithing as the limbs are dropped from Iron/Steel/Mithril Dragons and the crossbow only requires 69 Fletching to make while the limbs require 91 Smithing. More commonly than that, they are usually simply bought from other players. For the ammo, it is recommended that you either manufacture or purchase Mithril bolts, as they are the best to use damage:cost ratio wise. Mith bolts can be easily and cheaply made via the Keldagrim method with at least 53 Smithing, see that page for more info on making them yourself. Unlike with iron knives, the average amount of ammo you'll be needing to reach the next training tier isn't fully known yet. Just know that it'll go by fast enough.
What you'll be crossbowing are exclusively Dragons. Namely Blue Dragons, as the other viable ones are a little too tanky at this ranged level for now. If you didn't already know, Dragons are extremely dangerous when fighting them without an Anti-Dragon or Dragonfire shield equipped. Thankfully, crossbows are wielded with only one hand allowing the use of a shield for your convenience. While this does forego a small stat boost from the Unholy Book or Book of Balance as they are also equipped in the shield slot, it isn't as big of a deal as you may think.
This section seems barebones compared to earlier because Blue Dragons are the only monster to kill, but they honestly are the best. Each of their drops allows the best or near-best method for training a huge amount of skills or for making money, and that makes killing the dragons themselves the best or near-best way of training most combat skills as well.
Depending on how many bolts you have, you may wish to simply keep going to 99 and keep crossbowing dragons to get there. It's possible if you have the time/money to spare to acquire a load of bolts, but this is a little less recommended over the next training method involving the Crystal Bow - see below.
Levels 70-99 : Crystal Bow
The final Ranged training weapon for most people will be the Crystal Bow. Unlike the other training methods, the Crystal Bow is exclusively accessed through the Roving Elves quest's completion. See this page to see where to go to buy one once you meet the requirements. It requires 70 Ranged to equip, which is why you start using it here, as well as 50 Agility, but you should have at least 70 Agility at this point in order to kill Blue Dragons anyway.
What's unique about the CryBow is the fact that it does not require any ammunition to fire (it magically generates its own arrows) and instead it slightly degrades for each shot, up to a maximum of 25,000 shots. See the ::degradeinfo command in game for a more detailed explanation.
What you'll actually be killing with the CryBow are dragons again for the most part. Blue Dragons can be done all the way up until 99 if you want to, so see back above for the details on them. Something new you can kill with a more powerful ranged weapon now is Black Dragons if you're into that:
Very similarly to Blue Dragons, Black Dragons are incredibly profitable in both money and experience to train on, and they may or may not be better than Blues depending on what you're after. They give more Slayer and Hitpoints/Ranged exp per kill because they have more health than Blue Dragons, and still drop Dragon Bones, but they also drop Black Dragonhides which are amazing Crafting exp and alch fodder once crafted. Coupled with the chance for an incredibly rare and valuable Draconic Visage drop, as long as you have the extra Ranged levels to get past their higher defences then Black Dragons may very well be the best thing to kill. The only solid disadvantage is the fact that their slayer tasks are currently nonexistent at the moment, you can only get a max of 20, therefore stick with Blue Dragons if you value Slayer experience more.
Note that if you're using the Crystal Bow to kill them, you cannot use a shield that protects against Dragonfire at the same time while you're killing them. This isn't a big deal because you'll be safespotting anyway, but just remember to keep an Anti-Dragon shield on you and equip it on every kill when you run in to pick up drops. This is thankfully not a concern if you're sticking to your crossbow.
Like with most other skills too, past level 80 you may want to start leveling Ranged up at Pest Control.
As stated on other skill guides, please see the Pest Control guide if you're unsure how to play. Remember that exchanging over 100 points grants a 10% experience bonus.
Ranged is actually a very viable method for Pest Control, especially when using the Crystal Bow. Unlike with Magic for the most part, you can use the skill you're actually training within the minigame without having to sacrifice a lot of money.
Not much to say at this point, Ranged gets trained pretty quickly near the end.
Ranged is an incredibly useful, profitable, and mostly safe combat skill that's quite easy to train. Due to its ease of use and potential for profit, you don't have much of an excuse to not train it - even Magic and Meleeing can be more difficult at times than Ranged.
Dark Bow VS Crystal Bow
The reason why the Crystal Bow is preferable to use over the Dark Bow while training is because good arrows (such as Rune, or Dragon for the Dark Bow's Special Attack) are very expensive and not cost-efficient at all. If you've come across a lot of good ammo (such as from Dust Devils which drop Rune arrows frequently) however, a Dark Bow loaded with at least Rune arrows can out-DPS even the Crystal Bow, and with Dragon Arrows equipped its Special Attack changes to deal possibly obscenely high damage.
tl;dr Only use the Dark Bow if you're rich/have extra ammo/are doing PvP in short bursts.
The Void Ranged set from Pest Control (or trading with other players), despite its equipment stats not indicating such, is actually the best set for rangers at higher levels above 70 at least. This is because the effect bonus while wearing all four pieces of the set gives a 20% damage and 10% accuracy increase - this immediately increases your max hit over simply wearing Black Dragonhide, and because the percentage bonuses will scale as your Ranged level increases, above ~70 Ranged the accuracy increase will be more than what Black Dragonhide gives too.
However at the minimum levels required to wield Void sets (42 Attack/Strength/Defence/Ranged/Magic and 22 Prayer), it will not outperform other sets at those levels; for Ranged, this means you still want to wear Green/Blue/Red D'hide sets as you're able to.
tl;dr It's superior to Black D'hide, wear it if you're rich or have the autism to get it from Pest Control and you have at least 70 Ranged among the other requirements for it.