Why your first handgun should be full size
When learning to shoot for the first time, you should always give yourself the greatest chance for success. This means choosing the right gun. So first off always choose a full size over compact and NEVER choose a sub compact. That is unless you are trying to fight the gun while you learn how to shoot it, not recommended :) So why is it some important to go full size you ask, cause your probably thinking you have a friend who has a gun that you can practice on but its not full sized and/or is calibered in 40 or 45ACP. I'll touch on the round size in a second but first lets talk about the gun size, or should I say the relative slide length. Before I continue, I'm only speaking to you ladies out there who are trying to learn how to properly shoot a pistol and be a badass at the range -- If you are just planning to go to the range one or two times to say you did it and take a picture than you probably don't need to read any further, although there is still value to be had. For my future badasses out there, heed this advice, it is always better to learn the right way from the beginning instead of just shooting and developing bad habits. These bad habits will have to be un-learned and then you will have to re-learn the right ones which basically means more money, time, and effort from you. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience and this is not how you want to do it.
So back to the full size benefit vs. compact/sub compact. On a full size or long slide, you have exactly that a longer slide this means that when the gun fires and the slide is forced to the rear, there is greater distance for the slide to travel meaning more energy can be released than on a compact gun. What this means for your recoil is that it is going to much more smooth and easier to control with the proper grip. With a compact and especially a sub compact gun the available distance for the slide to travel is very little due to the small size of the gun, this results in a very snappy recoil cycle and very limited space to hold onto the weapon. As a new shooter your focus needs to be on learning the fundamentals of a proper grip, sight picture, and trigger pull. Set yourself up for success by choosing a gun that is easiest to control, ahem full size and 9mm. Alright so you get the importance of full size vs compact, why 9mm? Your choices on caliber are basically 9mm, 40cal., or 45ACP -- the 9mm is by far the most affordable, offers the lowest recoil, is effective and overall a great round. So start there.
So which full size gun is the best? This is completely personal preference. My preference of the major manufactures is Glock but you'll probably hear someone swear against them and vice versa so you'll have to make your own decision. Try a few out, see how they feel in your hand and how well they shoot for you.
Smith & Wesson