Friday, January 30, 2009
While cleaning up around my apartment I came across a little device I was given when I was about 8 years old by my dad's friend. It's a thin, about 3 1/2 inch long piece of metal with a small blade attached. It's been floating around for a number of years, and I figured it was a rather gimmicky military can opener with little to no practical application. I decided to research it and find out if it was valuable or what it was exactly.
The only marking on it are a rather lengthy serial number and the year 1985, along with a faded British Board of Ordinance marking (looks like an arrow, it's present on almost all British made military equipment).
Through some quick Google research, I found it to be an Australian version of the P-38 and P-51 can openers. The P-38 and later model P-51 can openers were issued in mess kits in the 40's, and were apparently supposed to be disposable, however the soldiers were keeping them so they made their way into standard issue. The Australian military seems to have capitalized on the concept by improving the design by adding a can opener, and spoon-like depression to the end.
It's very light weight, sturdy and durable, and has a hole so it can be attached to a key ring, making this my new favorite survival tool. I also read they have been used as screw drivers, box openers, and one source even reported them being used by women in the 50's and 60's as weapons against rapists and muggers.
The US versions are no longer issued, but the Australian versions are still in use and are still available from some Australian surplus shops.
*UPDATE*: As of 2005, the Australian Military have determined the F.R.E.D. to be redundant and have removed them from standard issue. Since writing this article I have found them to be rather difficult to get a hold of, though they are available through military contractors by using the NATO Stock Number (NSN) on the back of the F.R.E.D. (7330-66-010-0931)