There is no question that anyone who wants to learn to shoot pistol with any degree of efficiency should start with a .22 L.R. The guns are readily available, the ammo is much less expensive than any centerfire, the new handgunner does not have to get a bunch of reloading gear, recoil and noise are minimal (however still wear ear protection at the range) and the .22 L.R. with hollow-point bullets is an excellent small-game cartridge.
Advertising has over the past decades promoted light-weight firearms of all kinds as being convenient to carry. What these ads do not tell the user is that the lack of weight makes them very difficult to shoot – particularly handguns. For accurate shooting barrel weight and length are desired. Although I shoot comparatively few .22s today, over the decades I have carried many and shot competitively with them in the NRA three-gun matches where the shooter competed with a .22, centerfire (usually .38 Spl.) and the .45 ACP.
In my opinion every .22 that is intended for serious use should have adjustable sights. This will enable the gun to be zeroed with pinpoint accuracy for game and target use. It is an accidental event if a fixed-sighted pistol will shoot to the point of aim. The next most important thing is trigger pull. The less the gun weighs the better the trigger has to be for accurate work. Light weight guns with poor sights and bad triggers shoot terribly. Save up for a better gun.
The grips should be large enough to be controlled in the hand. Target grips are excellent for range use, but too large for the field. With proper grip control, a shooter can use a smaller profile gun that is much handier to carry.
I like 6-inch and longer barrels on .22 pistols used for hunting and target work. There are guns with 4-inch bull barrels and revolvers like the .22/.32 S&W Kit Gun with short barrels that can work, but longer barrels are generally to be preferred for anyone who is seriously considering taking up pistol shooting and can only afford one gun. It is better that a shooter own one good gun than a drawer full of sub-standard ones that are nearly impossible to shoot well.
It makes no difference if you are starting with revolvers, semi-autos or single-shots. Select a large gun with adjustable sights and a long barrel. Guns that I have owned of this type included the Thompson/Center Arms single shot .22 with a 10-inch barrel and I used an old Hi-Standard .22 target gun at the range. There are fortunately a large selection of modern handguns to choose from. Among the most accessible are the various Ruger semi-autos. The bull-barreled version are best for target shooting, and I have used the slimmer “regular” version with after-market adjustable sights for hunting.
Once you have mastered your “big” .22, then you can consider taking up the challenge of using S&Ws .22/32 Kit Gun which has a much smaller carry profile, is pocketable in a coat and one I used for years to shoot rabbits and small game. Once you have your shooting techniques mastered, then you can do passable work with this much-more-difficult-to-shoot gun. However, this is a terrible gun to start with because it will teach you a lot of bad things and your learning curve will be much longer as you continuously fight to overcome these now-ingrained poor shooting techniques.
Rapidity of fire in a hunting handgun has little practical value. Precision placement of that first shot is what will get your game for you year after year; not spraying lead all over the country side. Rapid-fire shooting is fun, and there are shooting games where you can bang away to your heart’s delight. For hunting and target work, concentrating on one shot at the time placed as close to the bull or kill-zone of the animal as can be managed will result in higher scores and more game in the pot.
First you have to learn to shoot pistol, and the .22 L.R. remains the best entry point for lifetime handgunners from which to progress to extremely powerful hunting calibers or digress down the technological ladder to muzzleloading firearms.