Whew! That's a tough question that has been asked and answered 20 gazillion times, I'm sure, but to tell the truth, there is no real answer, only advice and suggestions. Determine a price range and then research places like Gallery of Guns and Budsgunshop.com and get some weapon ideas in your price range. My personal advice is to consider a 9mm first. With today's +P loads, the 9mm is a deadly capable round, and is a controllable round when fired in distress from a handgun. Start with perhaps a Glock, S&W MP9, or the Beretta 92. You may want to begin with a revolver, such as a Ruger LCR in .357. The advantage of a revolver is it is more forgiving to someone new to firearms in a stressful situation. I could write forever on this, but I think you catch my drift ... I hope this has been helpful. Give me your budget and handgun experience & I lay out some good weapons for you to research.