For those of us who pay attention to these things, there is a whole new niche for bolt action rifles. Some of the major players are making something called the Entry-Level rifle.
Marlin makes a bolt action rifle both in long action (XL7) and short action (XS7). Caliber choices are the usual suspects in both long and short actions. One thing that some folks have noticed is that the .30 caliber barrels are 1 turn in 12 inches, which should be just the ticket for cast bullet shooting. Gunbroker prices are running about $300.00.
Savage has something they call the Edge series. This rifle is made in one action length (long), but you can get it in a variety of calibers, from .223 to .30-06. If I know Savage rifles, the accuracy is going to be excellent. Again, Gunbroker prices seem to be hovering around $250.00 plain and $300.00 with a scope package.
Mossberg has a rifle they call the 4X4. Dave Petzal reviewed it recently. They've also got a rifle they call the ATR. If I know Mossberg, both are rugged and simple to maintain. Street prices on the ATR are running around $300.00 and the 4X4 is going for about $450.00.
Then, of course, Savage has a line of rifles they market under the Stevens brand. These rifles have been sold for several years and they've made a good name for themselves as accurate starter rifles. Street prices on them are running about $300.00 and some should start showing up on pawn shop shelves at a discount as used rifles. The Stevens 200 uses standard Savage parts from the Model 10/110 line and should be easy to rehab if it needs a new barrel. If I were looking for a project gun I might start by buying a beater Stevens that needs a new stock and barrel.
Even if it's May of the year, if you're thinking about a new rifle, now's the time to start planning to buy it. Getting a new rifle early in the summer gives you time to wring it our and learn all about it before the hunting season. If you're buying for a kid or grandkid, they'll need time on the range too.
And, there is a whole new niche of rifle being marketed, with very attractive prices.