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How to Use a P-38 Can Opener

How to Use a P- 38 Can Opener
How to Use a P-38 Can Opener

Buy a P-38 at Amazon

For some, the usage of a John Wayne can opener needs no instructions, for others they may need to be shown how to use a P-38 can opener.

Either way, these tools are quite useful.  I have never had one wear out, and only one rust.  Sitting on my keychain it gives those in the know a bit of a hint about military service.  It seems that only vets, shooters, or preppers keep them on their key chains.

I typically buy these in bulk (like the 20 piece set shown in the picture to the left).  That way I have them to give away when asked.

John Wayne Can Openers

These handy compact can openers came from the military and have the nickname as a “John Wayne”.  Any serviceman from the c-rations era remembers the P38 can opener.

My Dad was a Vietnam era Marine and he is the one that taught me about the P-38.  Rumor has is that it got its name because it takes 38 punches with this can opener to open a C-ration can.   I doubt that as there were huge amounts of fake knowledge people memorized for promotion boards (like how many holes in a MRA cracker and what they stood for).

They make a larger version for big cans but don’t bother with them as the smaller opener fits perfectly on my keychain.

How to Use a P-38 Can Opener

  • Unfold the can opener.
  • There is a notch on the handle under the blade portion. Slip this notch under the lip on the outside of the top of the can
  • Place the blade on the inside of the lid of the can.
  • Then twist.  You will push the blade down so that it cuts into the can.
  • Move the point of the can opener so the point is at the edge of the first hole and twist again.
  • Ensure that the notch on the side of the handle is hooked firmly on the lip, otherwise the blade will pull the handle forward instead of cutting the lid.
  • Repeat until only a small tab of metal holds the lid to the can.
  • At this point you can either finish cutting and let the lid drop in the can.  I typically pull it up as I don’t have a lot of patience.

I had a lot of fun showing my son William Tell how to use a P-38, he is very interested in the military, even if he doesn’t like John Wayne.

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