An older Marlin 336 is a lot better than the newer ones, they can be found all day for $300 and you would not be disappointed in the quality of those rifles. I own one in .35 rem that I absolutely love.
If you have to get a new rifle, the Mossberg lever action is a nice rifle for the money. Only comes in .30-30 though. I'd have one of those before I'd get a new Marlin.
You wouldn't have to save near as much for either one of those.
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