Please do yourself a favor and don't rule out revolvers. There are a lot of excellent used Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers, and somewhat fewer Colts, within your price range. They are extremely durable given reasonable care. Most are more accurate than most people can shoot them. Smith customer service is excellent, and from what I hear Ruger is good too. A revolver in .357 Magnum gives you the option of shooting .38 Special ammo.
The manual of arms and maintenance routine of a revolver are very simple. They are fine guns for a beginner to learn with. Their reliability is legendary. They can be a lot of fun to shoot.
When you're doing your research, give the wheel guns some thought as well.