Thanks for for the gentle reprimands and encouraging me to think this thing out thoroughly.
Nice explanation of mental/physical stop.
I've had multiple guns over the years, but after firing the M16/M4 and M249 SAW machine gun for years, I'm not much into shooting guns for fun anymore. 10 machine guns going, firing tracers, lighting the range on fire at night is hard to beat. Although some plinking w a 22 or shooting clay pigeons is fun from time to time.
I do plan on shooting whatever I carry to get proficient with it, understand it's limitations, what ammo it likes and how to handle it safely and efficiently and in as close to real world conditions as I can replicate at a range.
I do want a safety. I plan on carrying with an empty chamber, safety on. Overkill in terms of safety, yes, I know. I've never had an negligent discharge and will do everything I can to prevent that. I am not comfortable carrying a gun without a safety (I know, keep your booger hook off the trigger).
Regarding how I will carry. I think pocket carry or a small holster is most practical for me.
So I think I'm looking at .380 up to .40 possibly? But looks like .45 is out.
The following is what I am specifically looking for then. I've geeked out and made a spreadsheet with your suggestions.
.380/9mm or possibly .40. (once I decide on the gun/caliber, I'll have to consider ammo selection)
SA/DA or DAO so long as it has a safety
should be honest with myself and have some kind of budget (max $500ish?)
admit I like the laser grips but don't think I NEED them
stainless or other corrosion resistant material
lightweight to relatively lightweight 10-25 ounces (big range I know)
and many other things I'm not thinking of
Thanks for the thoughtful comments, I will include my spreadsheet as an attachment soon.