1. Take a basic handgun safety course. They will tell you the basics and will explain the different types of handguns (revolver, semi-auto, single action, double action, etc.) and the different calibers available. The instructor will be a gun nut and will be willing to spend a lot of time answering your questions.
2. Join the NRA (or other like minded organization). There is a lot of "chatter" going around that our 2nd Amendment rights are going to be under attack for the next few years. At the very least, add your name to the list of those who support our right to arm ourselves.
3. No matter what caliber your dream gun is, you're not going to only get one. If you're like most people, you're going to amass a nice size collection in short order. Make your first or second handgun a .22. The ammo is dirt cheap and you'll learn all the basics without the distraction of heavy recoil. You'll also be more likely to practice if the ammo costs $15 for a brick of 500 instead of $30 for 50 shots.
4. It doesn't matter what kind of hand cannon you've got in the night table to take care of intruders if you can't hit them. So PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!!!
5. If you've got little, curious fingers (kids) playing with all your cool stuff when you're not looking, GET A SAFE! Even if you think they won't touch it, they will! If the gun isn't in your hands or on your hip, it gets locked in the safe!! All the time!!
6. Any time you pick up the gun, check to see if its loaded. Every time!!! If you don't think that's important, check out this guy's web site: Negligent Discharge
7. Don't mess with Todd. He means business!