The one problem I have with the modern Lever Actions from Marlin and Winchester are the terrible lawyer safeties on the side. They are death traps for a home protection long arm. So I would either buy used ones that dont have these or buy a pin that relaces and de-activates these safeties.
The lever action is simplicty personified, work the lever and pull the trigger, repeat as needed. With the side safety, it can easily be engaged and you not know it. The lever disconects and hammer half cock safeties work well, get rid of the side safety.
Any of the 30-30 hunting loads (125gr-150gr-170gr expanding bullets) will put a stop to any gun fight quickly.
The 44 mag would be my next choice, any expanding bullet @ 1800 + FPS will also work well.
The .357 will work great as well but I would be carefull of the lighter bullets. I would shoot some animals to see if they give you deep enough penetration. I have found the 158 gr hollow points tend to come apart when I have shot deer with them. The .357 with hollow points is my favorite for around the house varmit control. The bullets come apart and dont ricochet.
The added benefit of having common handgun and carbine ammo has been recognised for a long time.
Good luck and hope you never need a defensive weapon and just have fun getting good with them.