How does the recoil of a .38 special compare to a .45 ACP? Is there a lot more recoil to the .45 over the .38?
Recoil is very much subjective, the particular firearm, barrel length. grips and the experience of the shooter are all important, for instance I find the 10 mm auto round a jarring (damn near rattled out my filing)s)
in the Colt Delta elite and yet my former Glock 10 mm was
entirely controllable fairly comfortable experience even with the
hottest hand loads and the Norma solids loading.
In a light, short barreled revolver some of the 158 gr. loads
can get definitely your attention, in my 6" S&W L frame .357
the hottest +P+ .38 loads are fairly mellow.
I'd recommend starting out with a decent quality 4" .357
revolver S&W, Ruger or Taurus, the .38 mid range wad cutter
target loads are extremely mellow and very economical
and with a serious tactical load like the .357 Federal hydra-shock are entirely controllable and pretty much the standard of comparison for handgun effectiveness.
You can also load up with shot loads for stream fishing
where there are Water moccasins.
The above is versatile in the extreme
Remember handgun stopping power is in actuality pure unadulterated bullshit, it's entirely a matter of shot placement
If you're looking for stopping power, you're looking at a shotgun, or better yet an M 79 40 mm Flechette round ;-)
I believe the late great Bill Jordon once said " a solid hit from a .22 is a good bit more convincing than a loud miss with a .44 Mag "
.22's will definitely do the job and with the ability to buy a brick of .500 .22's for $15 will definitely encourage getting the practice and experience actually needed to be a serious Pistolero instead of a Willie Whippin Couch Commando.
Kind regards J. T. Hut