Here is my 2 cents on choosing a handgun.
Buying a handgun is a very personal choice. Some people like different features in their guns. I have been shooting for a very long time. Every handgun I shoot has a single action trigger (short and light trigger in a nut shell), but I would never recomend that to a new shooter.
When a new shooter asks me what gun they should get, I always tell them to learn as much about guns as they can. Then go home and put pencil to paper, and write down the features they want in a gun. I usually tell them to pick a "main stream" gun, because once you buy one you'll want to add to it (night sights and the sort). Also parts are much easier, and a lot of times cheaper in main stream guns. For example a Ruger mag will be more difficult to find, than say a Glock mag, which you can find at any gun store for about $15-$20.
As far as learning to shoot, it is much better to learn from either a shooting school or a highly qualified person. Remember if God forbid you ever have to use your gun to protect yourself, there will be a court case and everything that happened in that 20 seconds of a gun fight will be put under scrutiny for months. If the tactics you use in the gun fight came from a shooting school or a qualified instructor, it will go a long way in court, rather than well my buddy told me this is what I should do.
And lastly remember that shooting is by no means a cheap hobby, but how much is your or your family's life worth? Basically don't settle on a gun you're not 100% comfortable with because it had a small number on the price tag.
And practice practice practice!!!!