The paper presents a constitutive model for simulating the high strain-rate behavior of sands. Based on the concepts of critical-state soil mechanics, the bounding surface plasticity theory and the overstress theory of viscoplasticity, the constitutive model simulates the high strain-rate behavior of sands under uniaxial, triaxial and multi-axial loading conditions. The model parameters are determined for Ottawa and Fontainebleau sands, and the performance of the model under extreme transient loading conditions is demonstrated through simulations of split Hopkinson pressure bar tests up to a strain rate of 2000/s. The constitutive model is implemented in a finite-element analysis software Abaqus to analyze underground tunnels in sandy soil subjected to internal blast loads. Parametric studies are conducted to examine the effect of relative density and type of sand and of the depth of tunnel on the variation of stresses and deformations in the soil adjacent to the tunnels. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.