I post this because it just should be a no brainer.
But sadly it is not.
I as a rule always start out new shooters with a C02 powered BB pistol so that they can get an understanding toward the mechanical aspect of how a 'gin' works as by how to properly hold the gun, it's heft and shape, loading and clearing, the function of the trigger (!) and the basic concepts of sight alignment.
As well my gun has a reciprocating slide to charge and when fired, along with a frame mounted safety as well as cocking indicator too. Just like a real 9MM Walther handgun as it is modeled after.
It goes pop and has mechanical recoil albeit very minor.
Once the student and I both feel comfortable that the student has 'mastered' that stage I then move them up (!) to a .22LR as either a pistol or carbine.
We spend a lot of time repeating _exactly_ same what was just covered and learned toward the basics of gun handling as with the air gun (which is a GUN, not a toy).
From there if time allows and the student has demonstrated proficiency AND the student has interest to increase I'll jump to either .38 Special or 9MM...And STOP there. No .357 Mag, nohot home rolled loads, no deer hunting rifle calibers and NOOO 12 gauge shotgun firing 00 buck or slugs.
Just rinse and repeat of exact same basic fundamentals skill building using low to moderate recoil and report (noise) caliber guns.
Oh, and they aren't short barreled compact handguns as focused toward defense either. Always full size full length barrel guns because shooting handguns in specific is out the gate the hardest to do by default due to it's already short sight radius and having only a two hand grip.
So why would anyone think to further stack the deck as _against_ a new shooter by giving them a 3" barrel .40, .45 or .357 Mag etc.?!
Send the shooter home happy, successful and smarter/wiser than they came to start...so that they'll want to on their own come back and shoot some more! Duh.
Learn with a .22
By Wiley Clapp
Increasingly, I am getting questions from readers who are obviously new to the world of guns in general and handgunning in particular. That's fine with me, because the sport is in danger if there isn't interest on the part of new shooters. I want handgunning to thrive for tomorrow's shooters, as well as for the continuing enjoyment of today's. Sometimes, the newcomers are a little reluctant to ask questions, for fear of sounding ignorant. Ignorance is a reversible condition—all it takes is information, which reminds me of the adage: “The only dumb question is the one that's never asked.”
At the very beginning of a person's interest in the handgun, the question almost always is “What handgun should I buy to learn with?” Without exception, I believe that everyone should begin with a quality handgun chambered for the venerable .22 Long Rifle cartridge. There are several specific reasons why this is true. Certainly the most immediately obvious is expense. Shooting is a sport in which skill develops through repetitive practice. Shooters know how expensive center-fire ammo has become, but a little competitive shopping also shows that a brick (500 rounds) of plain .22s can be had for about the same cost as a full box of .45s. If your learning sessions concentrate on the basics of stance, grip, sight alignment, trigger control and follow through—as they should—it doesn't matter what caliber you’re shooting. Developing an understanding of the basic process and skill in applying to a given situation is the same with a .22 as it is with a .44 Mag. Also, using a .22 as a learner removes one distracting element from the practice session—recoil.
The full article including a comment toward advanced focus & intent defensive calibers and associated type handguns can be found at; http://www.americanrifleman.org/blogs/Learn-with-a-22/
"...Not all of handgunning is the white-knuckle stuff. If your .22 helps develop your overall ability to shoot, it has done its job. Finally, I would have to tell you that I know a whole lot of pretty macho dudes who still get a lot of enjoyment out of popping pine cones or dirt clods with a plain old .22." - Wiley Clapp