I started with all the wrong inputs - family used to argue over guns in the house (get rid of that jamming rifle), dated a cop who took me out for 'training' to get over bad association and used big caliber (hey a revolver is simple), had a subsequent guy take me to a busy public range ( guns and muzzles all over the place- let's LEAVE!) -- yet managed to get past that.
Use the good hints from here, and I'll add a few from my scared and quaking beginning:
Find an instructor who can go soft and slow at YOUR pace.
I liked going somewhere that was quiet - few people shooting.
An outside range might be nicer for that, if not busy.
Yeah, I wish someone had told me to double up on ear protection!
Start with small caliber and don't move on until you are comfortable.
(Barrel length is immaterial -rifle or handgun, start light caliber.)
Have an experienced teacher (not your date/spouse) look at your hands and body and begin with something that fits you. Try several brands in the same caliber to find something you like ( like shopping for anything in your wardrobe).
Feel welcome in a group that says - come along, watch, talk, dry fire, shoot or nothing. I learned a huge amount just sitting on the periphery and watching to find who I would be comfortable to go shoot with. That's called window shopping!
If you don't care for a member of a group or school, shop around.
Be willing to voice your own mind, limitations and preferences.
Keep asking questions. Sort through the chaff and you'll find kernels of
wisdom and recognize them. This is not tough, and the calguns group is hugely supportive.
I got motivated to learn to use the handgun that was left behind by a roommate, when my town became crummy enough that I was unhappy being out at night. I travel all over California for work (and pleasure). I sought training with the handgun I had. Over a year's time, and training, I decided that I wanted to invest in a better tool for that job.
Now I have a concealed carry permit, and have resumed traveling where and how I wish, with awareness and preparation. I have found along the way that I enjoy my target time and practice drills. Through the sampling of guns available through friends, acquaintances, rentals at ranges, I now have
what some folks would think was an arsenal - the original, plus two that suit me very well.
I am done shopping. But I will enjoy practicing my skills, reading and learning, and occasionally meeting new folks who share my views.
Please do consider joining the outing in NorCal. They sound like a nice, low-key group. It is a low pressure, low expense way to keep dipping your toe in the pond and nibbling down the fear factor.
Have fun and take it at your pace.