U. S. Shelby Co. P-38 and P-51 Stainless Steel Can Openers, set of One Each


Some cans aren’t easy open. Some easy open cans the tab breaks off, leaving you sobbing and lunchless. We looked at a lot of can openers, and tested them all, and finally decided that the sweet spot of the cost:quality ratio was not at the high end, not in the middle, it was at the low end.

There’s a technique to it, and there’s a slight learning curve involved. But once you master the Shelby (it’s all about leverage, work smart not hard), you become master of your fate. Army issued for decades, and so tough GIs call it “the John Wayne”.

The smaller size is for “personal” use, the larger was typically used in the mess halls to open larger cans. But they’re so inexpensive, we’ve put them together in a set. Made in the USA from stainless steel, stamped U. S. Shelby Co. for authenticity, complete with a hole at the end just perfect for a keyring or a dog tag chain.

Sometimes simple is the best.

Can of sardines for scale. Order this item and receive one P-38 and one P-51 can opener.

Note: please be careful, the nature of physics is such that using a metal blade to manually lever through other metal may create sharp ribbons and/or shards.

In stock


Check out this demo for how to use them.


  1. Christopher Therrien (verified owner)

    I purchased these can openers for travel. You can no longer bring Swiss Army knives on planes, so I figured this would be an acceptable alternative as far as can openers go. I think they would be great for backpacking and camping as well.

    The larger P-51 opener is more efficient and easier to use.

    This opener will not work on the bottom of a can as it requires a lip to catch on to. Also, can bottoms tend to be thicker than the tops, so you would have to be quite strong to even pierce the bottom of a can with this (and it would probably be dangerous to do so).

    I opened a can of Goya Chickpeas with no problem. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to use. I then opened a can of Japanese sardines (one with a pull top) to see how that would go, and it cut the metal top like butter, but it also left little twisted metal shards which actually got inside the can on the fish. That’s not good.

    I sometimes find certain brands of sardines with pull-tabs where the pull tab often breaks off. In this case, I typically use a pair of needle nose pliers to pull the top off. I was hoping this Shelby can opener would be the solution to this situation, but I wouldn’t recommend it for cans with pull tabs due to the possibility of metal shards. But it does work well for regular cans without pull tabs. Of course, it could be just the tin I was trying to open, but I’m not sure I’m going to risk it again. Digging through the fish for little metal shards is no fun.

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