Have you looked at the Walther PK380? It's new, but it's light, compact, low recoil, and when loaded with +P rounds, has ballistics similiar to a 9mm and recoil is still controlable. I just picked one up for a concealed carry gun and after shooting it at the range, my fiance decided it was hers and now I'm looking for another one.
I guess it's true what they say, what's hers is hers, what's mine is hers, and what's ours is hers...
I would have to say a nice 22 would work great as a first gun thats fun to shoot and the ammo is relatively cheap. For a 22 revolver the Ruger single six is hard to beat or the bearcat which is a smaller framed model which may fit your hand better. If you want a larger caliber it's hard to beat the Ruger GP100 in 357.
You look at some of the used guns our there. A 4" 38 is a nice gun to shoot. There are many older Colts and S&W's with a lot of miles left in them. I recently bought a 3" Model 60 S&W that I like a lot. As well they are selling a 5" 22 that is sweet.
I have owned and enjoyed shooting the big N frame Smiths, but for the type shooting you are looking to do, I'd try to stick with the smaller J frames as they fit the hand better. See if you can find an old Smith K17 in 22. that is a great gun. Good luck
As a gunshop owner for over 25 years, instructor for 30 years, and shooter for a many more than I care to admit, I'd recommend a double action 38/357 revolver. It won't jam and doesn't require any mechanical aptitude. Nor does it require much maintenance, specially in stainless steel. Depending on your budget there are so many to choose from. You can't go wrong with a Taurus, Smith and Wesson, or Ruger. If you want to shoot it a lot go with a .22LR revolver. The Taurus M94 is a good choice at a reasonable price. Mine has taken a lot of snakes, foxes, and feral cats.
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