I agree with gak's well-reasoned summary. I would add that my pick is the (as mentioned, now discontinued) Winchester (Miroku) Model 1886 reproduction rifle in the "Extra Light Weight" configuration. Extremely smooth, strong and reliable action and exhibits superb workmanship and finish. I prefer a good receiver sight (a Williams "FoolProof" is the unit I'd recommend) on all of my "traditional" lever-action rifles (though I do have a 1x5 scope mounted on my Savage Model 99 chambered in .358 Winchester).
Where I might differ with gak is that I hunt with this rifle "regularly" even though I "fondle" it a lot.