This is one of the most common questions asked by a new shooter… and why shouldn’t it be? There are so many options available when looking for your first carry gun.
My first suggestion is to get something with stopping power. A .22 isn’t going to cut it — and many are iffy on .380’s, too. While possession of a gun by itself can serve as a deterrent, if you ever do actually need to fire it, if your target is wearing thick or various layers you don’t want the bullet to lose its velocity before hitting skin.
When I went in search of my first handgun, .380 ammo was more expensive than 9mm, so combined with the lesser stopping power, this deterred me from going for this caliber. I shot a .380 anyway, just to see, but ultimately nothing about it spoke to me enough to purchase one.
The absolute biggest piece of advice I can give — try before you buy!!
If you ask online, you’ll hear a ton of suggestions. There are a lot of popular favorites out there. But just because a lot of people recommend a certain model doesn’t mean it will be best suited to YOU.
My personal experience — I went in as a first time shooter to try some out before buying. I shot a S&W M&P Shield 9mm, the EZ .380, a Glock 19, and the older model of the Springfield XDS. The S&W’s had come highly recommended, so I was pretty sure walking in that that was what I was going to be buying. Glocks are obviously a favorite to many, I would have loved to order myself one (don’t ask me how I would’ve done that in MA, lol. But it was an option at the time). And nobody had really said much to me about the Springfield XDS, so I didn’t think much of it but figured I’d give it a whirl.
I ended up being most comfortable and most accurate with the XDS, and I left the shop with one on order for myself.
Figure out what works for you! For your hands, for your budget, for your intended carry style. While some brands are “better” than others, it comes down to what is going to serve you best, and no amount of answers on an internet forum can tell you what that will be.