43 Uses for a P-38

P-38 Can OpenerI first put my P-38 on my keyring over 10 years ago, and it has been there ever since. Keeping it there has saved the day in a number of instances. What is a P-38? It is a can opener. Designed as a throwaway item intended for one-time use, it will last forever. They were given out with canned C-Rations, which have been replaced by un-canned Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s), so that P-38’s are no longer standard equipment.

This little tool has an amazing history. Anyone who is familiar with the military (indeed, with any part of the government) knows that they do not do anything fast. In 1942 the P-38 was conceived, designed, prototyped and went into production in less than 30 days. For the Government to do anything in less than 30 days is a phenomenal accomplishment.

The P-38 is designed to do one thing; open cans. As such it is an amazingly effective device. It opens any classic tin can, any time, any place. It runs forever. No batteries required. Fully portable. Self-protecting. Cost is zilch. No users manuals or tutorials.

Fortunately for us, it also does more than just open cans. Without further ado, here are 43 reasons that I carry my P-38:

  1. can opener (duh!)
  2. all-purpose toothpick
  3. fingernail cleaner
  4. splinter remover
  5. flat-head screwdriver – use one of the ends
  6. phillips-head screwdriver – use one of the corners
  7. bottle opener
  8. box cutter
  9. letter opener
  10. chisel
  11. stirrer
  12. neck slasher (women used to carry to use in case of attack)
  13. seam ripper
  14. cut fishing line
  15. open paint cans
  16. window scraper
  17. scrape around floor corners
  18. digging
  19. clean out groove on Tupperware lids
  20. reach in and clean out small cracks
  21. scrape around edge of boots
  22. {in the field} gut fish
  23. {in the field} scale fish
  24. test for “doneness” when baking on a camp fire
  25. prying items
  26. strip wire
  27. scrape pans in the field
  28. lift key on flip top cans
  29. barter
  30. marking tool
  31. deflating tires
  32. measurement
  33. striking flint
  34. puncturing plastic coating
  35. knocking on doors
  36. Morse Code
  37. write emergency messages
  38. scratch an itch
  39. save as a souvenir
  40. rip off rank for on the spot promotion
  41. carburetor repair tool
  42. bee sting removal tool (scrape off w/ blade)
  43. knife sharpener

My trusty P-38 has come in handy numerous times. More than once I have gone on a camping trip and no one thought to bring a can-opener, even though everyone brought canned food. Fortunately, I was prepared (and it’s always humorous to watch the un-initiated use a P-38 for their first time.) I have even saved members of other groups, such as the unfortunate lady who walked around half of the campground looking for a can opener before getting to our site.

Besides a can-opener, I often use my P-38 for a screw driver; I have tightened glasses, fixed equipment at work, opened battery compartments when geocaching and more! I cannot stand having dirt underneath my nails, and so frequently use this to clean underneath my nails (I sterilize it on a regular basis, as well!) Without repeating the list above, suffice it to say that my P-38 is the most commonly used tool on my keyring and I feel lost without it.

Think you could use a P-38? You can grab one here, or G.I. P-38 Can Openers (15 Pack)get a number of them and share. Or keep them all for yourself and store them in various places: keychian, glovebox, tacklebox, mess kit, etc.

If the 1.5″ P-38 is smaller than you want, you can always try its big brother, the P-51. At 2″ long, it is still convenient enough to carry daily, but is easier and faster than the smaller P-38. The larger size affords more leverage and doesn’t require as much thumb pressure to use. They are especially good for smaller or arthritic hands.

Get yourP-38 or P-51 today, you never know when it’ll come in handy!

22 thoughts on “43 Uses for a P-38

  1. Matthew says:

    I love my P-38. Grabbed for it today and realized my keys were in the other room. Had to settle for using the screw driver on my Swiss Army Knife. 😀

    You could get him one as a gift.

  2. Holden Bailey says:

    I saw on the list one of the uses for the p 38 was a knife sharpener. I was wondering how do you sharpen a knife with the p 38? Just curious.

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  5. stanley czarzasty says:

    I have mine since 1953 ,it can with C rations we had on your ship,when we transported Marines for landing ops

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  8. Rick Balutewicz says:

    I have my Great Uncle’s from WWII on my key ring. It has come in handy many times. Once you get used to it you can open a can in a matter of seconds.

  9. Dennis E. Moran says:

    I took a 1962-dated G.G. Greene P38 from a case of C-rations in 1963, and had it on my dog tag chain until my discharge in 1965. Now, I have given it to a grand-nephew who is going into the Army this month (July 2018). By the time he is discharged, that P38 will have had a military career which encompassed 58 years. A real keeper.

  10. Sandra Morrison says:

    I HAD mine for 7 years, i just lost it yesterday.
    I had it on my cellphone strap, and I just got a new case! FUCK!
    I juzt bot a snake hook, it’s time to go dumpster diving! I’m getting that BACK!

  11. Raymond W. Ryals says:

    I NEVER go anywhere without mine. Still have my original from the Army in ’69, and a lot more stashed places where I can get to it. Camping, key rings, home garage dog tags. etc. Like they said about a certain credit card…”don’t leave home without it”.

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