Alright, here's the deal:
I'm new to handguns (though i've read LOTS about them), though i own and am reasonably familiar with rifles already. So, i would be comfortable with either an autoloader or a revolver, either. I'm mostly undecided on which would be better.
I am not so familiar with recoil of different handgun calibers really. The only handgun i've shot is a 25 ounce (unloaded) 4" 9mm autoloader which shot comfortably for me but with a bit of muzzle rise (possibly dismissable since it was my first time i assume?). Unfamiliarity with different calibers recoil is an issue -i obviously don't want something too powerful (recoil) for me, but not something that wont stop an aggressor either.
I'm a smaller guy, 5'8 170lbs.
The gun wont be used for concealed carry necessarily, as i don't have a permit. I may get one in the future though, so i don't want anything larger than a medium-frame sized gun.
I have a pretty tight budget as i have little cash- i know a lot of you will tell me to save up extra cash and get a Glock or whatever- for the sake of this thread and my financial situation that simply isn't an option. Budget: $300-350max
With the research i've done i've come up with a few models myself: bersa thunder 380, 9mm; rossi or taurus .38sp snubby, .357mag 4" (though if i can't handle 357 i hate to be stuck with a long barrel); s&w sigma 9mm, 40 s&w (though i've read some bad reviews about the sigma); Ruger P-series 9mm, 40 s&w.
i'm open to reviews of the above mentioned models, or suggestions of other models as well. anything aiding caliber selection would be a great help (though i know it's likely something hard to recommend to someone you dont know)!
any input would be helpful. thanks!