This technique is used to create clones in the shape of himself or others using sand as a medium. The clone's form can be changed instantly into sand, and the enemy's body can be trapped. Unlike other clones, it does not dissolve or vanish when hit once, but can reform itself. Its many applications with long-range attacks can have it act as a lure and a decoy. Due to the properties of the sand, Gaara was able to use it as a trap, hiding Gold Dust inside of it. This is where it draws the line with other clones.
In the anime, Sasori used a sand clone as a replacement although it dissolved after being hit.