(Operating without coffee, so bear with me.)
You may want to consider a revolver over an automatic. You don’t have to remember to cock it for the first round (even a double-action auto needs to have a round chambered) and you don’t have to worry about a safety. When you wake up in the middle of the night, just point and shoot. Smith & Wesson makes excellent revolvers, and they even have a “LadySmith” line for smaller hands.
I prefer automatics, but I used to shoot frequently. Also, I don’t have guns for defense; they’re for sport. (Although if you’ve seen my collection you’d think I’m lying.) For a .380, there is the Beretta already mentioned; but I like the Walther PPK. I think it’s “sleeker”. [insert James Bond theme here.]
There are many, many handguns out there. I’d suggest going to the local range and renting several different ones. See what you like before you buy. Be sure it “fits”. That is, does it feel good in your hand? Are you comfortable with the features? Do you like it?
I’m a little more awake now, and skimmed through the previous posts. Anthracite mentions what I was planning to mention next: A handgun might not be the best home-defense tool. She recommends a Ruger Mini-14. I have one of those, and it is an excellent rifle. Mine is pre-ban, so I can put a folding stock on it. I have an almost-exact copy of the factory folding stock. I tend to swap the stocks more frequently than I shoot! Personally I like the AR-15 (or whatever Colt is calling them now) better. I think it points better and it certainly looks nastier. These are illegal in the city and county of Denver, so if you live there the Mini-14 is the choice.
But IMO, a better choice would be a shotgun. First, if you load a shotgun with #6 or #8 shot, there is less risk of the shot penetrating your walls and injuring someone who happens to be outside (or your neighbour whose asleep in his bed). Smaller shot means more projectiles. 00 (“double-aught”) in a 12-guage is about 6 or 7 (I’m not sure) .38 cal. lead balls. Smaller shot means a greater chance of hitting an intruder with something. Also, I have to disagree with Anthracite that your intention should be to kill an intruder. Believe it or not, you can be charged with murder even if you shoot someone who has broken into your house. 00 shot indicates to an anti-gun prosecutor that you intended to kill an intruder. Intent may equal murder. If you go up against a prosecutor, smaller shot supports your claim that you just wanted to stop him (and it’s almost always a “him”) from harming you. A reasonable prosecutor and jury will probably not find you guilty of murder or manslaughter, but why give them any… er, “ammunition”? You do not want to kill your adversary. You only want him to stop his course of action because he is putting you in “immediate fear of death or grave injury”. But you must be psychologically prepared to take a life.
With a shotgun you may not even have to fire. The rack-rack of a pump-action shotgun can be very discouraging to an intruder. He might change his mind and leave.
The downside is that they kick. Hard. My ex-g/f was 5’4" and 100 pounds, but she liked to shoot a Winchester Model 94 rifle, which also had a vicious kick. She put a recoil pad on the butt and didn’t have any problem. With training, you can deal with the recoil. Besides, you are probably only going to shoot it once or twice; not all night long. And in a survival situation you’re probably not going to notice any pain until afterward.
20-guage shotguns have a lighter kick, but I’d rather have the 12-guage. Good models include the Winchester “Defender”, Remington 870 and the Mossberg. All have short barrels for maximum shot dispersement (contrary to popular belief, shotguns don’t “spread” as much as they do in the movies) and for handling in tight quarters. All three of the models I mentioned are excellent. The Mossberg is the least expensive (about $200). The Remington is the most expensive (about $300). I like the Winchester, which is priced between the other two, because I like Winchesters. The Defender also comes with a longer sporting barrel.
If you do go with a rifle (like the Mini-14) or a handgun, look for the “Glaser” (I think) ammo. This is designed to shatter on impact so that it doesn’t penetrate walls. This is safer for your neighbours. Unfortunately, they also tend to shatter inside of a body, which can cause severe damage to the poor intruder.
In summary, try out many different handguns to see which one “fits”. Be prepared physically and psychologically. Training helps with the first part of that. I don’t know about the second. Consider a rifle, as [b[Anthracite** said, or a shotgun. The Mini-14 has very little kick, but a huge muzzle flash (I think flash supressors are now illegal, unless you bought a gun manufactured before a certain date). It’s also very reliable, simple to operate, and cool-looking. Consider a shotgun. Just the sound of it can discourage an intruder. It will do quite a bit of damage if you do have to use it.
Oh, I forgot. Guns are loud! Very loud. Consider that when you make a loud noise in an enclosed area, you may be disoriented by it. A smaller gun makes a smaller sound. This just popped into my head: How about a Ruger 10-22 .22 cal. rifle? You get 10 rounds in a quick-change magazine, it’s quieter indoors, there is no recoil to speak of, and a .22 can kill (look for “Yellow Jacket” or other high-power hollowpoint rounds). Yes, people have told you not to get a .22; but I wouldn’t want to be shot with one.