Thought I would throw this together for new people to read when they want to buy a handgun, but have no idea where to start....
First off, people usually want to know about their state laws - every state is different when it comes to rules and regulations governing handguns. Two excellent on-line resources are:
http://usacarry.com/ and http://www.handgunlaw.us/
Of course, there is no substitute for getting it from the horse's mouth. I would do some research on that web site, talk to some employees at your local gun stores (go to a few, in case you get mixed messages), and also take a local NRA class (or some other type of gun education class). Be aware that many local law enforcement officials don't know the gun laws themselves - if you asked 5 policemen, you'd probably get 5 different answers. So, while this may make sense, be prepared to get mixed messages.
As for guns - I promise you that you will get different answers and suggestions from everyone. You will get advice stating that you should start with a revolver first, and some people will also say to start with a .22, or to buy a certain brand/model, etc, etc, etc.
The truth is, you should find a place that will rent various guns (I have a local range that rents them for $5 each, but of course you must buy the ammo from the range if you use a range gun). Find out what you like the most. Grip the various guns - see what is most comfortable. Then, try shooting them. A gun might be comfortable to hold, but not necessarily to shoot. If you have a friend who owns guns, this may also be a way to go, and it will save you the rental fees.
I don't necessarily buy into the "you have to start w/ a .22 argument" that some may tell you. Personally, I think I would have found that boring when I was first getting into shooting. I have recently taken my 67 year old mother out to the range for her 1st time shooting a gun ever. And, the same for my wife. Both shot a 9mm just fine.
Any of the brand names are good - Springfield, Beretta, Glock, Walther, Ruger, CZ, and HK, just to name a few. But, by renting and trying the guns, you will see the style you want - a gun with a safety/without one. A gun with an external hammer/a gun without one. A metal gun/a polymer gun. A double action/single action gun, or a gun that is consistent on every shot.
I have my favorite (which has changed a few times, over the years), but if you really are that new and have no one to show you, then you should seek instruction locally, and also find out what works best for you. Me telling you what to buy won't do you much good.
By having someone teach you, you will also learn how to hold a gun. The trick of SQUEEZING the trigger right to the breaking point before you actually fire the gun (not jerking it), how to stand, etc. I had an old range master give me some tips years ago, and that really gave me the skills to be a better shooter!
Last edited by bruce333; 10-31-2009 at 08:30 PM. Reason: removed dead link