We get a lot of questions about boxes of P-38 can openers marked with stenciling that says:
People contact us wanting to know are these military issue? Well the short anwser is yes and NO.
The military nomenclature for the P-38 can opener is: OPENER, CAN, HAND, FOLDING, TYPE I
National Stock Number – NSN 7330-00-242-3506
The military nomenclature for the P-51 can opener is: OPENER, CAN, HAND, FOLDING, TYPE II
National Stock Number – NSN 7330-01-289-8827
The can openers themselves generally meet the military specification but they cannot legally bear the official nomenclature or NSN number because they are not packaged correctly and labeled to military specifications as outlined in the actual mil-spec.
It is illegal to place a National Stock Number on items that are not 100% to military specifications.
This does not mean the can openers are not up to military specifications, the abscense of proper packaging and/or documentation about the manufacturing processes including things such as certifications for the materials or the plating process prevent anyone from legally selling these as NSN bearing official military can openers.
So where did the OPENER, CANNED RATION… come from? Well, they had to mark the boxes with something and as with much in the Army Navy Surplus business they wanted to give the impression of being genuine military so they create a fake nomenclature and put a number on the box that to the uneducated appears to look like military techno lingo.
What does the number P-38-5-6879 mean? Well it might means something to someone but we have no idea. The number is NOT a military number and has never been used in conjunction with the P-38 can openers as it relates to the United States Military.