Stamped Out

P-38 Can Openers

The Military had a problem during WWII.  The C-rations that the soldiers ate came in steel cans and  without carrying a large can opener into the field, how was the common soldier supposed to open a can of food?  That question was answered in the summer of 1942 when the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago, IL developed the P-38 can opener in just 30 days.  Measuring just 1 1/2 inches long and with a hole in one end, it could be hung comfortably on the soldiers dog tag chain so that he would never be without a way to open the cans of food he needed to live on.

To purchase a P-38 Can opener for only $0.75, please go to Stamped Out's Catalog here.

Official Nomenclature:
Opener, Can, Hand, Folding    Pre-1988 nomenclature
Opener, Can, Hand, Folding, Type I    Post-1988 nomenclature

National Stock Number:
Click here to help figure out what this means.

Intended Use:
Type I (P-38) can opener is intended for use by military personnel in the field to open combat-type rations (Commercial No. 2 cans), in-flight rations, and emergency rations.

Blade Hardness:
Rockwell Hardness 47-55

Military Specification: Date of Spec. PDF Available (click to view)
MIL-O-20582A 28 November 1956
MIL-O-20582C 30 January 1967
MIL-O-20582D 30 September 1970
MIL-O-20582E 24 March 1988
MIL-O-20582E NOT 1 14 June 1996
A-A-52203 06 June 1996


Military Drawing: Date of Drawing. PDF Available (click to view)
48148 07 February 1956
2-9-148 07 February 1956
2-9-148A 06 September 1961
2-9-148B 16 March 1988


The P-38 can opener is slowly getting phased out due to the new Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE).  In a MRE the food is packaged in plastic bags that do not require the use of a can opener. 

The DOD adopted the MRE as the combat ration in 1975, with a large scale production test starting in 1978.  Delivery did not begin until 1981.

If you have a specific question that is not answered in this information area, please contact us.