P-51 Can Opener
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P38 the army's greatest invention ever ] P-38 Can Opener ] [ P-51 Can Opener ] P-38 Can Opener Articles ]


3 for $5.00
$1.85 each

Please visit our on-line catalog to purchase
Genuine Issue
P-51 can openers.


DogTagsRus has teamed with Georgia-Outfitters to bring you the most concise history we can of the P-38 and P-51 Can Openers.
We are trying to bring to you both the technical and humanitarian history of the "thingamajig" know as
"The Greatest Army Invention Ever"

For all your Tru-Spec, BDU and military clothing needs please visit our friends at Georgia-Outfitters.com

P-51 Can Opener History and Information



"John Wayne"

The P-51 can opener is the "big" brother of the P-38 can opener. 

Many an "expert", has espoused as "fact" that the government never issued a P-51 can opener and that the P-51 was some aftermarket creation of the manufacturer to sell more can openers.  To dispel any confusion and to set the record straight about the P-51 can opener - the P-51 is in fact an official Government Issue item.  The P-51 was conceived, designed and produced shortly after the introduction of the P-38 can opener. 

The P-51 can opener is still in the military inventory and is currently assigned NSN 7330-01-289-8827.  The P-51 is somewhat obscure and elusive because military Mobile Kitchen Trailers (MKT) are currently issued a counter top mounted, hand crank, rotary, can opener and a Opener, Can, Hand, For Tray Packs and Round Cans (A-A-52202) as standard issue.

Below is listed select technical excerpts from the military specification that addresses the P38 and P51 can openers.  The information is reprinted here verbatim from the actual military specification. 


Pertinent Documents:

A-A-52203 - 1996
MIL-O-20582C - 1967
MIL-O-20582D - 1970
MIL-O-20582E - 1988

Official Nomenclature: OPENER, CAN, HAND, FOLDING, TYPE I

This specification is mandatory for use by all Department and agencies of the Department of Defense.

1.1 Scope.  This specification covers a lightweight, folding, hand-operated can opener for severing tops of rimmed metal cans.

1.2 Classification.  The can openers shall be of the following types as specified (see 6.2):

     Type I - Small, for opening individual portion-sized cans in the field.
     Type II - Large, for opening group portion-sized cans in the field.

2.1.2 Other Government documents, drawings, and publications.  The following other Government documents, drawings, and publications form a part of this specification to the extent specified herein.  Unless otherwise specified, the issues shall be those in effect on the date of the solicitation.



          2-9-148 - Opener, Can, Hand, Folding, Type I; Can Opener and Directions for Use
          5-13-4260 - Opener, Can, Hand, Folding, Type II

3.2.1  Carbon Steel, sheet and strip.  The material for the can openers shall be carbon steel sheet and strip conforming to numbers 1050, 1055, or 1065 of QQ-S-700.

3.3  Design and Construction.  The can openers shall be designed and constructed as specified herein and as shown on the applicable drawing.  The openers shall completely sever the tops of circular, rectangular, or tray pack cans, as applicable, when tested as specified in  The openers shall be assembled so the knife blade offers resistance to changing from the closed position to the open position and from the open position to the closed position.  Opening of the blade shall be accomplished by use of the hand without the use of an auxiliary instrument.  It is not required that the blade be retained firmly in the open position.

3.3.1  Heat treatment (hardness).  The body and the blade of the can openers shall be heat treated to a Rockwell "C" hardness of not less than 47 nor more than 55 and shall be verified by the test specified in

3.3.2  Knife Blade.  The knife blade shall have a sharp, tapered, cutting edge formed by grinding, milling, shearing or coining.

3.3.3  Finish (plating).  All burrs and rough edges shall be removed.  The opener shall be tin plated in accordance with type I of MIL-T-10727.  The thickness of plating on all surfaces shall be not less than 0.0001 inch when tested as specified in

3.4  Identification Marking.  Each type I and type II can opener shall be permanently and distinctly stamped with letters "U.S." and the manufacturer's name or trademark.  Markings shall be of the size and in the locations shown on the applicable drawing.  Markings shall be applied so there is no distortion or unevenness opposite the markings or penetration through the metal.

4.5.3  Cutting.  Each sample can opener shall be tested to determine that it completely severs the tops of both circular and rectangular cans as required by 3.3.  The test for the type I can opener shall be performed on one commercial No. 2 circular can and one rectangular can measuring approximately 6-5/8 inches long by 4-1/8 inches wide by a minimum of 1-5/8 inches high.  The test for the type II can opener shall be performed on one rectangular 1001 by 1206 by 200 size tray pack can, and on one commercial No. 10 circular can.  Any non-conformance with the specified requirements shall constitute failure of this test.  Unit packing.  Each can opener, with the blade folded flat, shall be packed in an envelope made from material comprised of not less than 0.0005-inch thick polyethylene coated on not less than 25 pounds basis weight (24 by 36 - 500) unbleached Kraft paper and the seams shall be formed by heat sealing.  The envelope containing one can opener shall be closed by heat sealing.  The maximum dimensions of the envelope shall be 1-11/16 inches by 2-3/4 inches for the type I can opener, and 2 inches by 3-1/4 inches for the type II can opener.

5.4.1  Special Marking.  Each unit pack shall have printed thereon a diagram and directions for use as shown on the applicable drawing.

6.1  Intended Use - The type I can opener is intended for use by military personnel in the field to open combat-type rations, in-flight rations, and emergency rations.  The type II can opener is intended for use by military personnel in the field to open military tray pack and round can components of the 36-soldier Tray Pack Meal Modules.

6.5  Subject term (key word) listing.
     Can opener
     Meal module
     Tray pack

This can opener was designed to open larger cans such a commercial No.10 institutional food can with a lid diameter of 6-3/16 inches and food tray packs and T-Rats that are used in Mobile Field Kitchens (MKT) and mess halls.

Much like the P-38 can opener, the P-51 derived it's name from the fact that it took approximately 51 twists to sever the lid from a commercial No. 10 can.

Official Government Drawing for the P-51 can opener.  Click the photo below to be taken to the drawing.  Actual copies of this drawing are available for purchase on-line in our catalog.

  Click on the Photo to the Left to see a copy of the P-51 Government engineering drawing


Reprints of this drawing are available for purchase.


We have had so many requests for Original Issue - full sized - sets of prints or engineering drawings that we now offer the prints for sale.  Plotted as full D sized engineering drawings these prints make great wall hangers, posters or conversation starters.  There is so much history associated with these can openers that almost 8 out of 10 people will instantly recognize the can opener and the prints encourage conversation - lead in to war stories and we guarantee at the least they will conjure up dreams, memories and tall tales.

We take framed prints to all our on site shows and venues such as car shows, gun shows, etc.  The prints themselves generate as much interest as the can openers.  Many people want to copies of the engineering drawings after they know the history of the P-38 or P-51.

Note:  The drawing above has been modified for use on the web site and has been watermarked to protect our research efforts.  Purchased copies of these prints are original copies (unadulterated) and are delivered plotted as D sized (22"x34") engineering prints. 

NOTE: Both the P-38 and P-51 can opener is considered contraband when traveling on a commercial air line.  These can openers will be confiscated by airport security personnel.  See the below excerpt from a testimonial.


3 for $5.00
$1.85 each


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P38 the army's greatest invention ever ] P-38 Can Opener ] [ P-51 Can Opener ] P-38 Can Opener Articles ]

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