A sandbag is a sack made of burlap, polypropylene or other materials that is filled with sand or soil and used for such purposes as flood control, military fortification, shielding glass windows in war zones and ballast.
The military uses sandbags for field fortifications, or as a temporary measure to protect civilian structures. Because burlap and sand are inexpensive, large protective barriers can be erected cheaply. The friction created by moving soil or sand grains and multiple tiny air gaps makes sandbags an efficient dissipator of explosive blast. The dimensions and weight of sandbags used in fortification are carefully calculated so that the bags can be interlocked like brickwork and are not too heavy to lift and move around. They may be laid in excavated defenses as revetment, or as free-standing walls above ground where excavations are impractical. As plain burlap sandbags deteriorate fairly quickly, sandbag structures that are meant to remain in place for a long time may be painted with a portland cement slurry to reduce the effects of rot and abrasion. Cotton Ducking sandbags last considerably longer than burlap and are hence preferable for long-term use. However, the vast majority of sandbags used by modern military forces and for flood prevention are made of circular woven polypropylene. The easy availability to military personnel, size and construction of the bags has also led to the use of sandbags as makeshift hoods for prisoners of war.
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Use on Armored Vehicles
Sandbags proved to be an effective means of preventing the penetration of the tankâ€™s armor, particularly on medium tanks, by the shaped charges (high explosive, anti-tank) fired from German panzerfausts and panzerschrecks. (Both were similar in nature to the widely known bazooka used by US forces.)
Sandbags were much less effective in protecting against armor penetrations by solid anti-tank rounds (shot) fired from high-velocity guns. However, there are recorded instances in which a sandbagged medium tank absorbed one or more hits from shot fired by high-velocity anti-tank guns, without hull penetration. This appears to have been a function of range from the anti-tank gun, as well as the angle of attack by the shot on the tanks armor. This said, it may well have been the case in these instances that the shot would not have penetrated the tankâ€™s armor had there been no sandbags.