You have to watch out for the gunfire in the shopping malls of Boston these days...
Glad you took a firearm course, although not required? Reads like you assimilated much savvy already. If you keep going, the firearms courses of interest to you may cost you as much as or even more than the actual handgun you finally purchase. All of a sudden a $400.00 gun increments up, commanding a price tag of maybe even $800.00.
Is it worth it? May keep you from going off 'half-cocked.' Actually, what price would you pay for this sort of knowledge? Knowledge that you may be fed for free on the internet, but can only feel and appreciate with a face-to-face with an instructor. ...And if you are involving your son, the small dollars is very inviting. One four-hour course by itself is a good start. I feel that $100 for the additional course-for-two that you mentioned, plus being 'armed' with opinions from this forum will go a long way in helping you make the right decision for yourself. Is it worth it? To me it would be. Go for it.
There were so many choices of firearms presented to you all at once, that it must have been confusing. What to carry, what to carry? For close-up personal self-defense I'd consider the .45, for its stopping power, the 9mm for the number of rounds you can throw out there from one magazine then the popular .38 Special for its simplicity -- Autos can jam although the better ones may never while revolvers don't. The .357 is powerful, and to me it is too powerful for 'the street' and is meant more for distance -- It can go right through someone at close range without even mushrooming. A good black bear hunting tool is the .357 at ranges maybe up to 50 feet. The 380 is a shorter low-power scaled-back miniature version of the 38, and if small is on your mind then it is worth considering ONLY for weight and concealability. If you get someone right between the eyes with it it'll work (I still think of those (OW) hot casings. I hated it when that happened.).
Again, I am only relating personal thoughts and am NOT suggesting in any way, shape, or fashion anyone should go out and purchase and/or carry a weapon. To be trained and/or armed is a personal decision that only you and the Lord can or should make.
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[This message has been edited by moulton (edited 01-24-99).]