id say Savage its the best brand of guns out there last year i used a cheap Savage Axis $378 with only the scope and rifle they gave me and shot a deer over 350 yards away it is very good for the money.
A couple years ago I would have said Stevens, but they have really gone up in price if you can find one. Do they even still make them? I like the Savages without the Accu-Trigger, but I am a little old school.
I'd go with a Savage bolt action in 223? Sometimes Cabela's offers some variant of the M700 synthetics in 223 at almost the same low price as a Savage.
Then again, earlier this summer there was a used but minty Savage 223 (pencil barrel, birch stock) at my favorite shop for a tad less than $300, bases already on it. I have no problem buying used rifles, never have.
There are some out there that just can't abide a Savage, no matter how great a deal it is, or how great it shoots.
NEF/H&R single shots are kind of a crapshoot. I've had an NEF heavy barrel 223 for several years, that's a real tack driver, but others have grumbled about them. Haven't toted it much since I bought a used M700ADL synthetic in 223 a few years ago. One of their original versions with a fairly stout 24" barrel, shoots great.
Some folks' learnin' curves just look like circles...3A Camp/also hunt 4B
I just recently bought a Savage Model 25 Walking Varminter in 223, it's light and shoots great. It has the Accu Trigger which I like also. All the deer I killed over the years were from a Savage. I paid $507 for the 223 that included tax and shipping charges.
My name is Moss and i'm a turkey huntin' addict