The P-38, developed in 1942, was a small can opener issued in the canned field rations of the United States Armed Forces from World War II to the 1980s. It is a must have for any survival kit or bug out bag.
The P-38 is known as a “John Wayne” by the United States Marine Corps, either because of its toughness and dependability, or because of an unsubstantiated story that the actor had been shown in an as-yet-unidentified training film opening a can of K-Rations. The can opener is pocket-sized, approximately 1.5 inches (38 mm) long, and consists of a short metal blade that serves as a handle, with a small, hinged metal tooth that folds out to pierce the can lid. A notch just under the hinge point keeps the opener hooked around the rim of the can as the device is “walked” around to cut the lid out. A larger version called the P-51 is somewhat easier to operate. The handle portion can also double as a flat-blade screwdriver.
Size comparison of P-51 and P-38 openers
P-38s are no longer used for individual rations by the United States Armed Forces, as canned C-rations were replaced by MRE rations in the 1980s, packed in plastic pouches. The larger P-51s are, however, included with United States military “Tray Rations” (canned bulk meals). They are also still seen in disaster recovery efforts and have been handed out alongside canned food by rescue organizations, both in America and abroad in Afghanistan. The original U.S.-contract P-38 can openers were manufactured by J.W. Speaker Corporation (stamped “US Speaker”) and by Washburn Corporation (marked “US Androck”); they were later made by Mallin Hardware (now defunct) of Shelby, Ohio and were variously stamped “US Mallin Shelby O.” or “U.S. Shelby Co.”
Cost: GI P-38 Can Opener (5 Pack) $3.49