I just recently got a Remington 700 SPS Tactical. I paid just under $600 for it. and it seems like an EXCELLENT gun. With that said, I've made it a bit of a project gun and have put about the same amount into upgrades and accessories for it.
I have been reading a lot of reviews about the Ruger American and people seem to be very happy with them. My friend just bought one in .308. It seems like a really nice little rifle for only $350... with a detachable magazine (I wish my R-700 had one).
If they come out with a Ruger American in .223, I will probably pick one up. I would like to get one anyways... but I have 308 covered with my 700... and I don't REALLY want to get into yet another caliber... If I do, it'll probably be something like the 270. I wouldn't mind getting into 30-06, but a rifle that light isn't going to be fun to shoot 30-06 out of.
So yes, the R-700 is still a nice rifle, but if you just want to get started in bolt guns - there are less expensive options that will serve you well in the mean time. I only went with the 700 because I specifically wanted all of those aftermarket upgrade options... otherwise I probably would have gone with the Ruger or a Savage. The Ruger Gunsite Scout was very high on my list as well.. but was pricey. I'd still like one though...
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