This is possible. I've seen KT's that were diamonds, others that were junk. Personally, I've yet to have one that fed anything well out of the box. My old P-11 cost me several hours getting it to run, afterwards it runs 100%. My new PF-9 has started off just the same, I've yet to obtain the reliability that I feel any carry gun must have. Its getting there though. Sorry, I can't be specific as to a P3-AT, I do figure all models have many of the same issues. I considered a 3-AT but the .380 is not a cartridge I consider as being a serious self defense round.
I have the KT P32. I like the frame size for CC. The caliber is of course suited for a back up gun only, just a little better than a sharp stick, but I'd still rather have it than nothing.
The double action trigger pull is quite long and takes a bit of getting used to. I only ran a hundred rounds or so through it but have had no problems. It is accurate at 12 yards but just point and shoot, using the sites is problematic for me.
I've heard that the 380 bucks hard in the hand but I've never shot one.
I owned one before switching back to the S&W 642-2 and my P-3AT (2nd generation) was flawless and one of the best "pocket pistols" of all that I owned at the time. I would still recommend them and spent much time on the Kel-Tec Owners Forum (KTOG).
I finally got my P3-AT and took it to the range. It had several failures to extract. I've read on the KT Owner's Group ( www.ktog.org ) that KTs commonly have a break in period of 100-200 rounds. Most people also do their own "fluff and buff" but I don't own a Dremel so I'm sending it back to the factory.
I will post another range report when I get it back.
I refused to do the "fluff & buff" thing on my P3AT when I got it in December of 2005 figuring that the gun ought to work as advertised without a bunch of consumer "fiddling-about." One shouldn't have to patch his brand new tires before they hold air for the first time and one shouldn't have to work on his brand new gun before it will function properly. I'd previously read all that fluff and buff business on the Kel Tec forum but intended to see if the one I bought would ever work properly without it. It took a long time for it to break in and function properly. If I hadn't made a "hobby" out compelling it to smooth up and function properly strictly from firing it would have gone away for I was unimpressed. It initially didn't like the Winchester "white box" flat point fmj ammo at all. It finally began feeding the UMC round nosed fmj load properly after about 400 rounds total had been fired through it. I obtained a quantity of the Spanish Santa Barbara surplus ammunition about that time and fired 100 rounds of that through it and it functioned fine though this ammo had a flat nose. It hiccuped badly again on a box of Winchester "white box" so went back to Remington round nosed ammunition and the Santa Barbara and by 600 rounds it was reliable. My brother-in-law gave me 400 rounds of his .380 handloads, a home cast round nosed lead bullet loaded over a mild charge of Unique. The P3AT ate these up like candy. More recently I tried another box of Winchester "white box" with the flat nose and it only choked once in 50 rounds of the stuff. After about 1200 rounds through it I'm confident that it will work dependably.
Lubrication is apparently very important to proper function with the P3AT. I don't like grease so mine gets machine oil like everything else around here does. Maybe use of machine oil contributed to a longer break in period but I'd have offloaded it rather than put up with nasty ol' grease. It runs great now with a dab of oil. I clean it and re-oil after each use no matter how few shots are fired. That's my habit with all my firearms. I did clean it, dry it, and test it with no oil fairly recently and it didn't like that treatment at all and choked up on me. Lubricant is critical so apply your favorite concoction.
I'd bought a couple of boxes of cheap Wolf fmj round nose ammo with the steel cases at the gun show when I bought the P3AT. These were obtained strictly for the purpose of breaking in the little automatic. These are a complete bust in my pistol. It would not feed them when it was new and I tried some more just the other day and it still will not have anything to do with them. It's a single-shot proposition to shoot the Wolf ammo. The overall length of the Wolf .380 ACP cartridge is a little shorter than other similarly configured ammo but the round nose design seems like it ought to work. It won't in my gun.
I avoid hollowpoints, preferring to go for reliable penetration in marginal rounds like .380 ACP. Here's what I'm using in the P3AT when I tote it.
The Santa Barbara stuff chronographed 1032 FPS from the short barreled P3AT and offers great penetration. It seems to be sorta "+P" in performance. The slightly concave blunt nosed bullet may offer a bit more "splat" when it hits.
My P3-AT will eat anything I feed it (FMJ and Hollow Point) from several manufactures. I have not had a failure in 250 rounds. I don't think it would stand up to extended firing of several thousand rounds but it is not designed to. It is not a target gun altho I would like to see what it would do with a decent set of sights. It is my carry gun. It gets cleaned every Saturday to remove lint and is reoiled. Maybe I got one of the good ones.
Got Mine about 11/2yrs ago and it coughed about 2 or 3 times in the frist 50rds. It hasn't failed since no matter what I put in it. I shoot 2 mags in it every week at the range just to stay in tune with it. For a back up I think they are great. Mines on me at all times.
It's a good gun once you get it working.
My biggest complaint and the reason why mine usually sleeps in the safe is the lack of a slide stop.
In a situation where you would most probably need to use Kel-Tec's little wunderwaffe yu are not going to be thinking about counting shots!!
That might lead to a rather annoying "CLICK" just when you might need it to go BANG one more time!!
Personally, my 9mm kurtz needs are fulfilled by the tried and true Walther PPK/S.
I bought a 2nd generation P3-AT when a local shop had a sale last year. Having read about the need for preparing these guns, I did use some extra-fine steel wool to smooth the feed ramp before shooting it. It's been to the range several times, with some FTE/FTF problems (especially with JHP ammo). It now runs well with any FMJ load, including the flat-nose version from Winchester. After one or two more flawless performances, it will be ready for prime time!
I've had two Kel-Tec P11s. They have both worked perfectly which is why I felt confidant buying the P3-AT. I've been a member of the Kel-Tec Owner's Group ( www.ktog.org ) for 3 years now and the consensus there is that KTs are reliable guns but you do get the occasional one that needs a "fluff and buff" job. I didn't want to spend the money on a Dremel so I sent my P3 back to the factory. They polished the feed ramp, test fired it, and sent it back to me by air mail. The other big requirement with KTs is that you MUST keep them cleaned and lubed. I'll post a range report when I can.
My first 50 rounds had a several FTF's, and that's life-threatening for SD. So I polished the feed ramp... and it's ultra-reliable now. I agree that "we" the end user shouldn't have to do this but all things considered, it is a fantastic pocket carry. I was originally looking for the Ruger LCP and they were on backorder virtually everywhere, so I bought the P3AT instead. I don't regret it...