My first thought was being that you are a beginner and have plenty of money was you can buy a Ruger P95 brand new. The P95 is as reliable as they get and they are only 350 or less new. You will have enough cash left over for a .22.
As far as I'm concerned a .22 is an excellent way to learn and practice. For one you can shoot thousands of rounds for little money. Also you can practice form without worrying about flinching.
Another way to practice is dry firing. You can do it for free at home and dry firing helps you improve faster than just shooting at a range. Handguns aren't easy to shoot.
It takes thousands of rounds to be proficient with a handgun, not hundreds at least imo. I'm just referring to a level of competence that anyone needing to defend their life or their family should have. Under stress you will fall back on your training.
Kudos for coming to this forum know what you are talking about!