JUST ANY OLD GUN WON'T DO
I'm a first time shooter and my friend told me I need a .357 magnum revolver.
I hear that all the time as a firearms instructor. People come into the range to try a certain gun because their neighbor's uncle's girlfriend dated a cop who said that it was the best.
Am I bashing a .357 magnum revolver? No. It just isn't the best choice for most people learning to shoot and train for self defense.
There are numerous reasons why that is. A double action snub nose revolver has a very long trigger pull. Long trigger pulls usually don't bode well with first-time shooters.
The .357 magnum—chambered in a lightweight revolver—has a lot of recoil. If you shoot at something with a .357 magnum and can't hit it, what good does it do? If you can't hit your target with a .357, use something else you can confidently and accurately shoot with. Say you perform best with a .380 ACP or 9mm. If so, that's what you should use. Shoot the gun that feels most comfortable and groups the best for you.
You're doing a lot better hitting your intended target with a lesser caliber than missing completely with a more powerful cartridge. A gun you can handle and meet defensive accuracy standards with is what you want. If you miss with a .357 mag, but can hit with a .380 ACP, the choice is clear.
When choosing a handgun, the most important thing is to make sure it's the right one. Make sure it fits the hand holding it. Be certain the shooter can effortlessly and fluidly operate all functions on it. Be accurate with it.
Choosing a handgun isn't difficult. It's not listening to everyone who tries to influence your decision that is. The only way to know the best gun for a given person is to try out different ones. That's the best advice I can give.