Look on the used market for the Marlin. Prices (of everything) have gone nuts in the last few years, but deals can still be found. I've had two of the .357s (gave one to my Father-in-law), and one of the .44s. Fine guns. Wouldn't pay what they want for retail these days, though.
I bought my current .357 at a gun show about 3 years back, $300 cash, rifle in like new condition.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.