Hello and welcome, Ms T,
I suppose all I can really say is that there is good reason for the many varieties of handguns..........and it may take a while to find the one which 'makes friends with you'.....meaning it is the right shape, weight and 'feel' for you, and one with which you can 'bond'.
So.......if you can go to range events, and ask to try a wide range of different handguns, sooner or later you'll get some good experience in the subjective 'feel' of 'what works for me'......don't be afraid to experiment a bit, and understand that everyone else had to go through the same 'learning-curve'.
Personally, I prefer double-action revolvers, and, of those, prefer the feel of a Smith & Wesson over any other make.......the differences are subtle, but meaningful.
As a purely personal opinion, I don't care much for the Charter Arms revolvers, but then, I did mechanical inspection for years and years, so I tend to look closely at mechanical 'fit and finish'.....there's good reason for a H&R or Charter Arms to be less expensive, they're just not as well made as a Smith or Colt.
If I may offer an idea.......if you can possibly afford to, get a best quality (Smith or Colt) revolver in .22. The .22 is 'the key' to developing handgun skill, as its not very loud, doesn't recoil, and the rounds are so cheap that you can do lots and lots of practice. It does take time and practice to develop the 'muscle memory' to handle a handgun........I use the analogy of playing guitar.......after some practice, you can just think 'G chord' or 'C chord', etc., and your fingers will land on the correct strings at the correct frets. So it is with a handgun.....after a few thousand rounds in practice, you'll have 'the feel', like doing chords on a guitar or piano.
The .22 makes practice easy. You can shoot a lot of .22 for the price of a box of .38 or .45 rounds. Actually, the humble .22, with high-velocity hollow-point rounds is no joke as a self-defence weapon, should need arise. (unless your assailant is a wild boar, feral pit bull, or mountain lion, in which case a .41 or .44 mag is your friend)
Its an old truism, but it really is true.......its a lot better to hit, firing instinctively, with a .22 or .32, than to miss with a .44 or .45.
I have a .45 myself, but, then, I worked up to it over several years, with lighter rounds. Its too easy to develop a bad flinch if you start firing a hot .357, or .44 or .45 before you've developed the 'muscle memory' to instinctively compensate for recoil with, say, a lightly loaded .38, or a .380.
Once you've developed the instinctive compensation to handle recoil without getting hurt, which really is just practice and more practice, you'll find that you could handle a .41 or .44 mag easily........lots of relatively slender, lightly built women have done that, its not 'brute strength', but a sort of 'muscle finesse'......hard to explain, but it works.
Also.......different versions of grips can seem to completely change the 'feel' of a handgun......it may take awhile to find the grip size/shape which is right for your hand.....persevere, there are many grip sizes and shapes to choose from.
Last edited by Asphodel; 02-11-2013 at 9:24 PM..