A good introductory article by Mike Piccione at The Daily Caller (excerpted):
Congratulations on having the courage to defend yourself and your home. It is the right decision and you are your first line of defense. Remember, police come after the crime has been committed so being able to defend yourself is important and it will save your life.
But how do you go about getting your first gun? And what do you buy?
There are a couple of ways to approach buying a gun. The goal is to get a gun, within your budget, that you can shoot well. Let’s talk about guns.
Most likely you want a handgun. They are small, easy to have in a place where you can get it quickly and easy to operate. Rifles can be very good for home defense but they are unwieldy and can be stronger than what you need and more difficult to operate. Shotguns are great for home defense. They are powerful, reliable, incredibly effective and relatively easy to use. On the down side they have considerable recoil, and if you are a new shooter it may be more difficult to get used to shooting it comfortably and you may be restricted on where you can practice shooting. Many ranges are handgun only. . . .
Some Prebuying Advice
Most likely you have a gun friend. Ask to visit them and show you a few guns they own. I don’t think there is one gun person that would ever say “no.” Usually you will be met with unbridled enthusiasm if you ask a friend for advice. . . .
Going To The Gun Store
When you go to a gun store to shop around you will get some overload with features and don’t expect yourself to understand everything when you get there. . . . Tell them your budget and ask to see guns in your price range. After you look at guns in your price range ask them what they recommend. . . .
I did a test of gun shops in the past. The subject buyer was an attractive 25 year old woman who knows her stuff. She told them she wanted a gun primarily for home defense and maybe concealed carry down the road. Her budget was about $500. She went to four gun shops. The first two tried selling her guns in the $1,000 range. The third was in the $700 range. These three stores were less than friendly to her, some were downright rude. The fourth store showed her guns in her price range, went through the features and benefits of each and it was a very pleasant experience. I’ve experienced similar situations myself.
Of course there is a lot more to this process. I recommend the whole article, and further research. But the point is to get started, and get started now.