I got some comments that fall directly in line with what I wanted to write about next -
Do not just go out and buy a gun unless you are ready to spend a lot of time with it. Owning a gun is a dangerous liabilty if you do not correctly know how to use it, you don't properly practice/train with it regularly, and you aren't willing to use it against another human being in a time of crisis.
It is extremely true that you cannot just carry a gun around with yourself and expect it to protect you if you haven't done extensive training with it. I will strongly agree with a reader who said "without the proper defense training, a gun at best provides a false sense of security." If you are not able to access your gun fast enough, you aren't familiar enough with it, you are a bad shot, or you fumble with your gun while struggling with a perpetrator, you might (and probably will) just get yourself (or an innocent bystander) shot.
Although you can never plan out how a certain situtation MIGHT arise, you still need to work thru different scenarios in your mind and really spend some extensive practice time at a range. You need to regularly practice shooting from different positions, unholstering your gun quickly, accuracy with an increased heart-rate, and so much more - IF you own a gun, IF you want it to help you instead of hinder you, and IF (not when) you get attacked. Chances are, most likely, that you will never end up in a life-threatening situation, but nothing is for certain. I personally don't want to take the chance of not being prepared. I want to become highly trained to protect myself and others, and I want to have fun in the process, which brings me to another point -
Being scared into the idea that you may someday need a gun to protect yourself is NOT the only reason that you should develop an interest in guns. It may be the thing that first gets you thinking about guns, but there is so much more to gun ownership than that. Our 2nd Ammendment right to bear arms is constantly in limbo of being taken away from us, not to mention that shooting guns can just be a lot of fun. There are lots of sport-shooting events, programs, and competitions out there. Lots of marksmanship training courses to be apart of. Lots of ranges and gun clubs to join. Lots of major gun shows to attend. Lots of products to check out. Lots of gun magazines to read thru. Not to mention, if you have a gun, you can go out into the woods and shoot yourself a meal if you're hungry and desperate for food.
Ok, someone asked me about my shooting experience, so I guess I'll move onto that.
Once I became interested in guns, I did alot of online research, reading about different rifles and handguns. I mainly wanted to figure out which ones wouldn't have much recoil and would be good for just starting out. I then got a membership at the local gun club and began trying out different rifles that people had at the range. I shot a lever-action 30-30, pump-action 22 magnum, bolt-action 243, semi-auto 223, and a Ruger 10/22. I haven't shot a muzzle-loader, yet, or a shotgun, although I'm sure I will soon enough. As for handguns, I've shot quite a few. I've got my concealed pistol license and personally own a Smith & Wesson Model 63 (22 revolver) and a Ruger LCR (lightweight carry revolver) (38 special). The 38 special is my concealed carry pistol, and my 22 is just a kit-gun for field use/plinking/target practice. I've also put several rounds through a Ruger SP 101 (using 38 and 357 magnum ammunition), a Sig Mosquito 22 automatic, a Springfield XDM 40 (40 caliber automatic), a Springfield XDM 9 (9mm automatic), a Glock 17 (9mm automatic) and a Smith & Wesson 38 revolver.
In terms of comfort, weight, grip, and recoil, here are my favorites so far:
Rifles: The Ruger 10/22 (shoots 22LR ammo) is my top pick, followed by the Ruger Mini-14 (shoots 223 ammo) and the Savage 243.
Handguns: I love both my LCR and Smith & Wesson Model 63. The recoil with my LCR can be a little rough, but I just love how lightweight it is for everyday carry. I don't own the Springfield XDM 9 or the Springfield XDM 40, but they were both very comfortable to shoot. I wouldn't mind owning a Springfield XDM 9 (20 capacity! 19 + 1 in the chamber). I would also really love to try a Springfield EMP. Anyone have any experience with one of those?
Training: I head to gun ranges alot, in fact I just went to a new one today that was indoors and had different automatic moving targets to shoot at. Fun fun fun. Practice practice practice :) Training isn't a chore, it is a fun thing to do. Especially when you are out in the woods, plinking with your friends, on a warm, sunny, afternoon. As long as you know what is beyond your target and you have a good backstop, shooting at bottlecaps, milkjugs, and popcans make for excellent practice. I also took an NRA home-defense course, with range time, in order to get my CPL.