Buying your first gun
Big step, making that first choice, what kind, what size, what caliber?
Well my first piece of advice is do a lot of shopping, but no buying to begin with. A new firearm, can be a sizable investment, and you do not want to find out after the fact, that your purchase is too large or too small or too powerful for you to control, or not suitable for what you plan to use it for.
Ask any of your gun owning friends or relatives what they like, now their choice may not be your choice. It will give you a chance to handle different guns, you can ask questions, learn what the parts are, and in general what certain types cost. They may even offer to take you to the range to try their guns out, if they do at least offer to cover any expenses, or at least offer to buy lunch. Do keep in mind most gun owners have favorites, and think or believe there choice is not only the best choice, but in some cases the only choice.
Consider taking a basic course, the NRA offers many, and most of the basic ones the instructor will provide a firearm, if ask. He or she may also have suggestions on firearms suitable for your needs, note I said suggestions. Also many gun ranges have rentals, so for a few dollars you can try a gun that interests you, without spending hundreds of dollars.
One thing is you will hear certain brand names repeated over and over, and it is a good idea to stay with a popular brand, such as Glock, or Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, the list goes on, as there will be more accessories available, magazines, holsters , and parts will be readily available. If you purchase some off brand you might have problems finding a proper holster, or magazines might be more expensive.
You might even consider used, and sometimes you can save some on a used gun, although if it is your first, I’d recommend buying from a dealer, they will usually give some limited warranty, maybe only 30 days, but if you get to the range you’ll soon know if there are any problems, or you might able to purchase from a trusted friend, just make sure you do it legally for the area you reside in. Unlike cars, guns don’t come with round counters, and there are a lot of back room gunsmiths, that can ruin a perfectly good firearm, so practice caution on purchasing used.
The first thing is how does the gun fit you? Here I mean physical fit, of the grip, some guns can be too small in the grip, and some can be too large to get a proper grip, taking that class might come in handy so you understand a proper grip. After you handle a few, you’ll notice the difference in grips.
Now to size of the gun, perhaps you think you need something really small for concealed carry, look at the compact beside a standard size gun, and you may be surprised there is not that much difference, in a given caliber the felt recoil is less in a standard size gun than a compact, given the standard gun will be slightly heavier, and dampen a bit of recoil, it really is plain old high school physics.
The standard size gun will be more comfortable to practice with, and really isn't any harder to conceal, and the more you practice the more confident you’ll be in your ability to use the gun. Also the standard size gun will have a slightly longer sight radius making a bit easier to shoot accurately.
As to caliber, if shopping for self-defense, .380, 9 mm Luger, 40 S&W, and 45 Auto in semi-automatics, and 38 Special and 38 Magnum in revolvers. There are other choices, but these are the most popular calibers.
.380 can be an adequate defensive caliber, but is more expensive and less powerful than 9 mm, and most of the guns chambered in this are small, and many have hard trigger pulls. 9 mm Luger, is perhaps the most all round caliber, it usually is more affordable than other calibers, as they make so much of it, it is suitable for self-defense, as well as target shooting, and you will find a wide variety of guns chambered in 9 mm. The 40 S&W while it was popular with law enforcement, many police departments are switching to 9 mm, the 40 has about 25 % more recoil and costs more than the 9 mm, then the 45 Auto is an excellent defensive round, but the down side for many is the cost, usually about 40% more than 9 mm. recoil is more than 9 mm but it is usually more of a shove than a kick, unless you are shooting one of the really small ones.
While I’m not a big wheel gun (revolver) they are a bit harder to conceal than an auto, the 5 shot “J” frames are not the easiest guns to shoot, and for many they find the recoil to be excessive. But if it were the choice, I’d pick something rated for 38 Special + P (higher pressure rounds), I would use standard 38 special to practice, and load it with +P for when I’m carrying.
So in closing find a quality gun in a price range you can afford, that fits, take a class, and get to the range