As Viking said, BERSA is really proving their selves to be the best weapon of affordability. My dad has had the Thunder 380 for years, and I've always loved that gun so much that while yes ammo is outragious, I got myself one. Icarry all day and night. 300-400 is alot for me, but I am thinking very seriously about getting the Ultra Pro that is offered in 9mm, 40cal., and 45acp. Personally I'm a biggy on external hammers and DA/SA capabilities. The 9mm luger is my choice simly because I spend a good bit of time at the range. My 380 breaks my wallet though. As for the price range you were looking for, if you go a little cheaper (not a flippin saturday night special) you can still have some $$$ jingle left to put towards a shotgun as you had mentioned. Again, just my $.02 worth. But if you are new into guns, I think that a shotgun is something every home needs. If they did, I promice that crime rates would plummet. However, whatever, good luck. Oh and you can't ever go wrong with a gun unless it consists of you getting rid of 'em. (note: my signature q=^D) Any gun is better than no gun. Also, as for the guys that are going to write against the Bersa, research them. Read some reviews. You will be impressed. IMHO Bersa has got to be the best semi-auto manufacturers of the affordable firearms. On a scale of 1-10, I give it a 9.5. That's an awesome pistol. Am I against any of the other suggestions? No. But there are other guns than just 1911's, Glocks, S&W's, and XD's. Yes I'd love to have one of those, but why spend that much on a Glock or an XD/XDM, when I can get two for the same cost. Day V just let us know what it is that you decide. And again, GOOD LUCK!