Letter Re: Advice on Sources for Sandbags and Sandbag Filler

Mr. Rawles,

You mention about mass and the wisdom in buying sand bags stating ‘they are cheap’. I guess that is relative to ‘something’. I can not find them for less then $2.50 each and that is empty.
Have you priced sand lately? Where we live (midwest) it is not cheap. You would need a huge pile of it to fill enough sandbags to do much good for any purpose.
So, am I missing something here? Maybe I do not understand the ‘sandbag theory’. Please advise. Thanks, – Polly

JWR Replies: In the U.S. there are several good sources for sandbags , but prices do indeed vary widely, so shop around.  (From as much as $3.75 each in small quantities to as little as 38 cents each if you buy in lots of 1,000.) For example, see:

Ranger Surplus


1st Army Supply

If you want to buy in quantity (perhaps a group purchase that you can split several ways), it is best to order direct from a manufacturer, such as Dayton Bag, or Mutual Industries, or United Bags. (The latter charged $380 per thousand the last time I checked .)

And for our readers across the pond, here is a source in England: Surplus and Adventure

OBTW, be sure to buy the later variety synthetic (such as polypropylene) sand bags. The early burlap (or “Hessian”) bags tend to rot and rip out too quickly. The latest and greatest mil-spec bags use Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) or Polyethylene film laminated with a third layer of molten polyethylene. These have the best UV protection (and hence the longest useful life out in the elements), but they are also the most expensive. Even the standard military polypropylene bags will last two to three years in full sun, and much longer if painted or kept in the shade.

As for filler material. if sand is expensive in your area, then do some comparison pricing on “one half minus” road gravel, delivered by the dump truck load. (This is gravel that has been screened so that the largest pieces are no more than 1/2-inch in diameter.) I don’t recommend using soil, since sand or gravel are superior for stopping bullets. If you must use soil, then try to get either very sandy soil or heavy clay soil. Dry loam soil is the least effective for use in sandbags. Remember: the more vegetable matter in the soil, the lower its ballistic protection.)