Wow guys, thanks for your suggestions! I went to a local gun dealer today to heft a few rifles and liked everything that I held, which were several Rem. 700s and Savages, although I could definitely hold steadier with the heavy barreled versions. I should say that I was just a little put off by the sound of the 700-series actions, but I imagine that I'd get over it.
Since I failed to mention what I plan to use the gun for, let me do that now:
Years back, I got a Tree Lounge treestand, so I plan to, on a regular basis, walk deep into a Wildlife Management Area, climb up a tree, and prepare to wait all day for a deer. I figured that I'd shoot better with a heavy barreled varmint-style rifle than a standard walk-around type, but I'm really open to the idea of the light barreled guns based on how well you all say that some of them are shooting.
I'll probably wait a few more days before making my purchase in order to pour over your suggestions and do some praying about it. Yeah, I know that a lot of you buy and sell guns all of the time, but I will probably keep whatever I buy for the rest of my life, so in many respects, this purchase is a big deal for me. Having said that, I have so far only ruled out the Stevens; if I were to buy it, I'd probably always be wishing that I had gone ahead and spent a little extra on something else.
Again guys, I appreciate you. I'll keep checking this thread and will definitely keep you posted.
Jerry has given you some very good advice. The un-answered question is what do you want it to do? I will assume that since you're at this web site that it is going to be a for hunting, so I'll proceed fom there.
Consider a used savage in preferably in 308. with an accu-trigger. I believe it is going to be the best value for an accurate, out of the box rifle that is sutable for both hunting and varminting.
If I didn't make it clear, I'll be using the gun for deer hunting from a stand.
Oh, and a little update: I went to another gun store, but noticed no heavy barreled rifles displayed. The owner didn't have anything good to say about any factory bolt action with the exception of Remington. I ended up looking at the closest thing that he had to something that interests me, which was a regular SPS.
This is what I'm thinking right now:
Savage 112 Varminter Low Profile in 25-06 (Most expensive of all)
Savage 12FVSS in either 308 or 270 WSM
Remington 700 VLS in 308 for $629
Remington 700 SPS Stainless in 270, 7mm-08, or 7 Rem. Mag. for $529
Weatherby Vanguard Stainless in 257 Wby.
Needless to say, I'm open to all feedback/suggestions. This is a difficult decision.
sml, Sounds like your hunting deer in timber, most shots under 300 yards. You have no money so you wont be going out west or hunting anything other than small southern deer. You will not be able to afford a rangefinder, or reloading equipment.
I recomend a savage in 243, shoot factory 100 grain ammo, mount any of your run of the mil economy scopes in 3x9 in the $200 price range. The heavy barrel will drag you down on your long hikes into the timber so stick with a sporter.
When finances allow, you can economically rebarrel your savage add aftermarket goodies and make it a long range rig. If thats where your interests take you.
I would rule out the 257 Wby, the ammo is a little on the expensive side. I have had really good luck with the Howa's, but I own all Rem, just done mostly load development for the Howa boys around here. They shoot really well out the box. I have had a couple bad experiences with the proclaimed exceptional accuracy of a Savage, I couldn't get anything close to acceptable with the one's I owned.
For tree stand hunting on deer in thick woods, I would again, suggest a Savage but this time the 10FCM in a 7-08 or 308. Small and handy rifles will do more for your hunting then any paper potential you read about.
Putting yourself on a treestand all day is interesting but what's to say you will not get your deer going to or from your stand. I size my hunting rifles for exactly that...hunting.
I also like the 243 but just incase, you see a big one way out there, I like the 7 and 30 for a bit more ooomph.
Forget the semi designer cartridges, you will go broke learning. The 308 then is pretty much ideal as factory ammo is everywhere, usually cheaper, and usually very accurate.
If you have a good supply of 7-08, I would go this route as the 7-08 will work better in the wind at extended distances, at least when you start to reload.
The 270 is also a great one, but you did say you would be plinking as well so that gets a bit tough on the shoulder.