Isn't this getting away from the OP's questions? He wants a simple, easy to use, reliable handgun. No years of experience with single actions, no "old west" rigs, nothing with too many buttons or gadgets, no seventeen way safeties. Just pull a trigger.
My suggestion is simple. An S&W Model 10, preferably an ex-cop gun for economy. Load it, forget it. It will work when needed unless the house falls on it.