I don't cease to be impressed by the wealth of knowledge you guys have about your guns and your willingness to help. Very much appreciated.
Lost Sheep: I am beginning to understand that one can shoot better with a longer gun, possibly even experience less recoil, than with a smaller one, while a smaller one is more suitable for concealed carry purposes. My limited understanding of firearms would hint that a longer barrel would also be more accurate. I had thought about a shotgun, but am sort of in the same boat as you were. I want something I can get some use out of as well. A shotgun is something I would buy and store in the closet, and perhaps never use. A pistol is something I would keep around in case of an emergency, but also something I could use on a monthly basis.
chris in va: I believe that at this point, the CZ P01 will be a name that will not escape my memory when I go out to look at these handguns. Their support here has been quite definitive.
Spats McGee: I called up my local shooting range and they confirmed that I do need to have my FOID card before I can even shoot at the range. Looks like I'll be mailing that out today.
west5757: I don't see myself moving out of the state any time soon, so I won't be able to conceal anyway. The EMP does look like a very nice handgun, but it's at the upper limit of my price point. I'm glad I'm doing the research ahead of time, as it seems there's a whole lot to learn and many choices to choose from.
stu925: The Browning Hi-Power looks very nice, but the MSRP is $1,059, and if that's any indication of its retail price, it will be out of my range. That, and I can't find one with an accessory rail. I did notice the Beretta 92 has an optional accessory rail that you can install later.