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How Much Sand Is Needed to Stop A Bullet?

This post is part of our series “What Will Stop a Bullet.” Please consider visiting this post's sponsor, “The BulletSafe Vest.

A few years ago there was a lot of buzz in the industry when rumors started to circulate about criminals filling their walls with sand in order to build bullet proof rooms. The theory suggests that about 3 and 1/2 inches of sand would be all that is required to stop a bullet since the standard distance between two pieces of drywall is about 3 and 1/2 inches. Sand bags have been used in military contexts for many years when building trenches and barricades so there is some general feelings that enough sand will stop a bullet.

will sand bags stop a bulletSand is a very heavy and dense material and so you can easily imagine it stopping a bullet but is less than 4 inches enough?

The most definitive testing seems to have been done by the pros over at The Box O' Truth in which they fired various handgun rounds and rifle rounds into boxes of sand. From all the tests “no rounds penetrated more than 6 inches” of sand. (See their article here)

Our friend over at BulletSafe also decided to put it to the test with a Desert Eagle and his results were slightly more successful but still he was unable to penetrate more than about 7 inches.

So it would seem that Sand is an effective stopper of bullets. I can understand why the military would use Sandbags for an effective cover shield. The great guys over at Tin Hat Ranch also did a balistics test with sand bags.

I'm still not convinced that pouring sand into my walls is a good idea but it would likely slow down most handgun rounds enough to at very least make them far less lethal or potentially would stop them altogether. Sand is cheap and easy to find so there are many potential applications!

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14 Responses to How Much Sand Is Needed to Stop A Bullet?

  1. Dodged5 May 3, 2016 at 12:10 am #

    Why not try a more realistic test using the actual construction of a common house exterior wall filled with sand. Using building codes of most areas, an exterior wall would be something like Hardy plank siding over Tyvek on 1/2 inch plywood or chipboard, with 2 x 6 studs and 1/2 inch sheetrock on the interior with the cavity filled with sand. That would give you a sand filled wall about 6-3/4 inches thick. Much more realistic than cardboard boxes. Now run your tests.

    • Riley Bowman May 4, 2016 at 11:00 am #

      I hope in the future to do more mockups myself involving actual building construction and materials, but it probably won’t be for a while. But stay tuned!!

      • daddy June 8, 2016 at 7:00 am #


    • John September 26, 2019 at 3:19 pm #

      Most places are not going to have 2×6 walls especially in the more low income areas that gang members would live, so testing with 2×4 is the way to go.(though I agree siding, vinyl not cement, OSB and drywall would be important) Or if we are talking urban apartment buildings it might even be cinder block and that would be a whole different test all together…

  2. frank May 3, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    could you give a R rating or value with that ?

    • Don R May 4, 2016 at 2:50 am #

      Frank: That is a smart ass reply. But it is cute, something I might have thought too.

    • Riley Bowman May 4, 2016 at 10:58 am #

      Since you asked…

      R-value of sand would depend on the actual moisture content. But typical R-value of sand would be somewhere around 0.5 most likely. In other words, not very good! But it probably would do okay with trapping residual heat during the day to release at night and vice versa.

      But definitely not a recommended building material as far as placing inside your walls!

    • christopher c. June 4, 2020 at 11:15 pm #

      here’s what i found on r rating

  3. deprogramming services May 4, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    Filling a wall on an existing house with sand would not be easy; I’m trying to imagine how you’d go about doing it. Fortifying your house with sandbags (or bags filled with whatever dirt you have in your back yard) like they show in the military manual on field fortifications makes a lot more sense, and it’s still invisible from the outside (you might want to add some shoring to your floor so it can handle the weight). And the hole you dug the dirt out of becomes either a few foxholes or pit traps, which further add to your fortification; it could even become a ditch that allows you to get out through a basement window without exposing yourself.

  4. TOm c May 4, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    thank you from TOM C

  5. Noah Holkeboer November 18, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

    BTW pit traps and all traps are illegal so… don’t do it

  6. Treeman March 8, 2019 at 8:28 am #

    Lots of practical jokers on here. Reason I am.putting up a back stop on level ground. Going to use 4×8 plywood.5 layers thick front and backwalls.i.e.7″ of plywood. Fill with dirt, thinking 2′ should be adequate.mostly pistol rounds and occasionally 30:06.reason’s all available free material.

  7. Don M October 13, 2019 at 8:04 pm #

    In houses, the 24 studs become a weak point, about every 16 inches apart. The weight of sand is massive when stacked high, so could pry the drywall off the inside, or buckle it. For a 2 story house, earthquake resistance would be much reduced.

  8. christopher c. June 4, 2020 at 11:18 pm #

    my question is this how deep of a box would i need to make and fill with either sand or shredded rubber or a mix of both to make an indoor shooting range in my basement for testing firing etc

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