July 29, 2015

How to use a military manual can opener: the P-51 and P-38

If you have some emergency food storage (which I hope you all do!) you probably have some of it in cans.  Assuming a natural or man-made disaster hits and your home is without power, or you've had to leave your home with your 72 hour bag and be evacuated somewhere and you have some canned goods with you, how do you plan to open those cans if you don't have or have never operated a manual can opener of any sort?

For me personally, I've never used electric can openers regularly by choice.  As a very small child (age 3-4) I learned to use our family's Butterfly Can Opener and although I remember my parents buying an electric can opener at some point in my elementary years, I never liked using it and usually opted for a manual opener of some sort.

After I grew up and was married, we purchased a nice, well made, Swing-A-Way Can Opener and that became our go-to opener.  I never realized knowing how to operate a manual can opener was a lost skill until my kids were old enough to have friends over and they would prepare snacks and food in the kitchen.  Of all the friends my three kids had over to the house over the years, I'm not sure any of them knew what a manual opener was - and their faces when they tried to operate the butterfly opener?  Shock and confusion.

If a time comes when you are without electrical power and you need to use some of your canned goods, you need to have a way to open them.  Having a couple manual openers in your kitchen drawer is a great idea for any household - but I'm going to take it one step farther.

A military can opener is a smart option to have in your 72 hour kits, your kitchen, your camping gear, on your key chain, your food storage pantry, etc.  I was throwing together a black bean salsa recipe this week that uses a number of canned goods in it, so I thought it was a great time to snap a few pictures and post about the importance of having a non-electrical can opener in your emergency storage.

The P-38 and P-51 are a pocket-sized can opener, approximately 38 mm and 51 mm long, and consist of a short metal blade that serves as a handle, with a small, hinged metal tooth that folds out to pierce a 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.

One technical explanation for the origin of the name is that the P-38 is approximately 38 millimeters long. This explanation also holds for the P-51, which measures approximately 51 mm (2.0 in) in length. However, use of the metric system in the US was not widespread at this point, and United States Army sources indicate that the origin of the name is rooted in the 38 punctures around the circumference of a C-ration can required for opening.

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 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.

To Use:  
First, the cutting point is pivoted (opened up) to its 95-degree position, from its stowed, folded position.
Then, for a right-handed user, it's is held in the right hand by the flat long section, with the cutting point pointing downward and away from the user, while also hooking the edge of the can through the circular notch located on the flat long section next to the cutting edge.
The can is held in the left hand, and the right hand is rotated slightly clockwise, causing the can lid to be punctured.
The can is then rotated counter clockwise in the left hand, while the right hand rotates alternatively slightly counterclockwise and slightly clockwise, until the can has been rotated nearly 360 degrees and the lid is nearly free.
The lid of the now opened can is lifted, most often with the P-38 or P-51 cutting edge, and the P-38/51 is wiped clean, and the cutting point is rotated back to its stowed, folded position.
Left-handed users simply hold the P-38/51 in their left hand, with the cutting point aimed towards themselves, while holding the can to be opened in their right hand, while also reversing the sense of the cutting hand movements just described.

The P-38 worked well for me except it did tend to slip often

Puncture the can

Continue to 'walk' around the can, puncturing it along the way

The P-51 is the same, except a little bigger so most people
find it easier to use.

Open the hinge until it clicks into place

This picture shows how you hook it under the rim of the lid

Again, puncture the tin to open

Walking it around the can

The edges will be jagged so be careful - they are sharp

You can use the flat end to lift the jagged edges of the can open

Click it back shut, and put it away until next time!

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