Sand, in the form of sandbags, has been used by the military for many years. There are probably many reasons it is used, including the fact that sand is available and cheap (free), but it wouldn't be used unless it worked.

So, how well does it work?

I could have just shot sand bags, but sand bags come in many forms and sizes. And, it would matter how they were stacked, end-wise, sideways, etc.

But the main problem would be that there would be no way for me to accurately measure exactly how many inches of sand had been penetrated.


I determined that I would build some boxes with drywall on each side to hold the sand.

We had learned in past tests that drywall doesn't do a very good job of stopping bullets, so it shouldn't overly affect the tests. This would allow me to exactly measure how much sand each round penetrated.

The boxes were each made from 2 X 6 lumber, so there was 5 1/2 inches of depth of sand in each box. Both sides of the boxes were covered with a 1/2 inch piece of drywall.

I wasn't sure how much sand it would take to stop a bullet, so I built 4 boxes. Turns out I "over-built".


Okay, enough talking, let's start shooting.

First, a .22 LR from a .22 revolver.

Didn't expect much penetration, but it went about 5 inches into the sand.

7-3Then 9mm Ball.


The 9mm Ball went all the way through the first box and stopped before entering the second box.

It dimpled the back of the drywall, but did not exit.


Then .45ACP Ball.


The .45 ACP penetrated the same as the 9 mm, about 6 inches.

You could just see the nose of the bullet just starting to exit the first box.


As a side note, it is always a matter of luck to catch a really neat photo while shooting, and we got one today.

I blew this one up a little. The 1911 is just opening up after firing and you can still see burning powder coming out the barrel.

Neat pic.

Neat pic.​

Time for rifles.

First, Tman shooting a 5.56mm XM-193 Ball out of a 20" AR15.

To our surprise, it completely disintegrated and we only found very small pieces of jacket.

It did not even reach the back of the box.


Then a 7.62 X 51 from a FAL.


It did not reach the back of the first box.

These are the biggest pieces we could recover of the .308.

These are the biggest pieces we could recover of the .308.​

Will a 12 gauge slug penetrate this medium? Let's see.

The slug did not exit the first box.

Tman caught me in full recoil.

Tman caught me in full recoil.​

This is the slug as recovered.

This is the slug as recovered.​

And, as a lark, the .45-70.


The hard-cast 510 grain, gas-checked round nose was stopped in the first box.

You can see that it still has the gas check on the base of the bullet.

This is it.

This is it.​

I had read the some rounds actually penetrate better at longer ranges, so, we backed up 100 yards from the boxes and tried some rifle rounds again.

We tried both the .223 and the .308.

Both rounds still did not exit the first box.

We recovered the 7.62 X 51, and this is the biggest piece.

We recovered the 7.62 X 51, and this is the biggest piece.​

You could almost reload the pistol bullets and shoot them again

For comparison, these are the 9mm and .45 ACP.

For comparison, these are the 9mm and .45 ACP.​

Lessons learned:

  1. It's still fun to shoot stuff.
  2. Sand is a very good barrier. Nothing we shot penetrated more than 6 inches into the sand. Does that mean I would hide behind 6 inches of sand and let someone shoot at me? No way!! I'd rather have 60 feet of sand in front of me.
    But 6 inches seems to work pretty well for the rounds tested.
  3. To our surprise, the pistol rounds penetrated deeper than the rifle rounds. Why?
    The pistol rounds held together better as they were ball and didn't have enough velocity to break them apart. Therefore, they held together and penetrated better.
    The rifle rounds were traveling at such a high velocity that they broke up into pieces and this stopped their penetration quicker.
  4. The 12 gauge slug finally met it's match with sand. The soft lead slug was flattened out and stopped quickly.
  5. The .45-70 hard-cast bullet penetrated a little better than the soft lead slug, but not a lot. And the sand tore it up pretty quickly.
  6. And lastly, sand is a good barricade material.
Thanks to Tman for the photo help.