Get a friend who shoots that has revolvers and autos or call a gun club or range and tell them ur situation. A friend of mine spent about 3 hours with a young neighbor and gave him safety instruction and let him shoot about 10 handguns. He decided to get a small frame 357 revolver. You need to see what you like and what is comfortable to shoot. Just handling in the shop without experience might not give u good results. Thats from my own experience. Grip size matters alot.
Ruger SR series makes a compact version that should work well on your budget. I know some people will also bad mouth Taurus, but my brother-in-law about a Taurus snubbie for his wife and she loves it. Shoots it all the time to, I think it was well under $400. There are options out there.
"For every problem there is always a solution that is simple, obvious, and wrong." - Mark Twain