I would assume when someone says they are looking for a "small pistol," they mean a small pistol. A Sig mosquito, Taurus T-22, or S&W/Walther M&P 22 for modern polymer type pistols.
No, I wouldn't even consider recommending a Raven, Beretta ( Ammo sensitive) or pot-metal made revolver like a Heritage, or Ruger Wrangler. There's a reason these guns are cheap. And that is because they are cheaply made junk. JMHO.
I own a large number of guns and some are expensive and some are as you say, cheap. Perhaps you do not know, but most of the new semi auto 22s are a cheap zinc material, the cheapest crap on the planet. I have a few that I have had for 20 years that have fired thousands of rounds and never had one fail. An example, the Walther PP-22, cheap zine slide and has fired thousand and thousands of rounds. And I have the Firefly, the renamed Mosquito, about the cheapest polymer and zine on the planet, it is a wonderful gun for what it in intended. But them my Glock 44 is exactly the same, cheap plastic lower and zinc slide, and so is my GSG 1911-22, cheap zinc alloy slide, and so is the Walther PPK/s -22. And I can go on.
I assume you do not own any of the guns you have trashed, the little Wrangler and heritage will both last a lifetime. Modern manufacturing has totally change both materials and Manurfacturing. I have a collection of Smith and Wessons, some 100 years old, several pre-82, and still more less than 10 years old. And I have some Rossie and Taurus and Charter Arms that are equal or better than my old Colts and Smith and Wesson.
You do not get what you pay for anymore, that is long gone. What you can get is a cheap cost gun that will last a lifetime. Like the Tisas and Rock Island 1911s. We have found that they are equal to any Colt or Kimber or any other name brand and usually have the price. They have been around long enough now that lots of folks have fired 40,000-50,000 rounds thru them and most of us have taken note.
Just like cars, I am 74, when I grew up they were made to last 100,000 miles, today, any dinky import is expected to go 250-300,000 miles.
I have had the chance to become a CCW instructor in 1996, and have had the chance to deal with just about every thing on the market, and I find that price really no longer has anything to do with whether a gun will work and last as long as most people would own the gun. My point is there is not $50 worth of difference in the functional ability of a $350 dollar handgun and a similar name brand that cost $1,000. They will not look as good and have a smooth a trigger, but for folks wanting a utility of functional tool, they work just fine.