A basic service pistol like this S&W M&P9C is just fine for nearly everyone. You don't need to start out fancy.
In today's culture, and the doctrine of autonomy, everyone is supposed to feel "special." This belief says that each of us is special, and the world and all things should revolve around us. Our ideas, life and actions are all special. Sorry, but you ain't special. There are very few people who are special, with abilities beyond ordinary that stand out in a crowd. The rest of us are normal.
Most shooters believe they need a special, custom-built pistol or rifle for this or that. Wrong. Don't get me wrong. You need quality firearms that are reliable and function properly. But the majority of us just need good weapons; there are very few shooters that have the skills to take advantage of specialty parts and weapons. Normal people like you and me need firearms that will work for a variety of applications. For readers here that means a weapon geared up specifically for self-defense that can also be used for sporting purposes such as competition, hunting or for the plain fun of plinking.
Normal people need to focus on the fundamentals: marksmanship, manipulations and the ability to do these things while moving and using cover in response to a threat. We don't need to know how to clear buildings with a four-man team, assault vehicles or engage targets at six hundred yards. Communication is another fundamental skill that we need to practice. Communication means issuing verbal commands to the threat, tell bystanders or family what to, such as call 911, and dealing with the authorities when they arrive. Just keep in mind that these are all fundamental skills, there's nothing special about them, but that doesn't mean they are easy. Training and practice are mandatory to truly learn and be able to apply these skills under stress.
Although few of us are special, we are each unique. As individual we each face a certain set of requirements that must be filled to satisfy our specific needs. Finding the perfect, or as close as possible, firearm that works for you as an individual is an example of this. The same is true for carry method, holsters, flashlights and all the other kit you need. These decisions can only be made with some education; again training and practice are necessary to determine what works for you. During your education you may discover that what you thought at first would work isn't quite turning out how you thought it would. Change, modify, or get new gear that will fill your needs, and then begin the process again. Don't stop until you discover what works for you, under a variety of conditions.
While each of us is an individual, the problems we face and the solutions to these are not unique. Other people have gone through the same things you are working on. Seek out advice, knowledge and ideas on how to proceed from as many sources as possible. Make educated decisions, train and practice on the fundamentals; always strive to improve your gear and skills. You may not be "special" but that doesn't mean you can't be excellent.
Stay safe, keep your nose in the wind and eyes on the horizon, and see you next year.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: