On the Garand, you won't go wrong with the Springfield, but you CAN get an "old" one for less. Checkout www.auctionarms.com
, and www.gunbroker.com
. A little bit of studying and knowledge will go a long way toward a rifle you can be proud of and one that has a bit of history.
Also, check out the Russian Tokarev rifle. This was a semi-auto chambered for the 7.62X54R, often referred to as the "Russian Garand". The Dragunov sniper rifle is another good one, often found used, VG, with the original scope, for around $800.
Next up is the FN-built Egyptian Hakim, a nice MBR semi chambered for the 8MM Mauser cartridge. A little harder to find, but ammo is plentiful and cheap, and you most likely won't run into someone with one on the range.
Then you have the myriad SKS variants, and AK models. Stick with the Russian or Yugo models for the best workmanship. You'll find a lot of Norinco(China) in this category and some shoot and perform as well as the better models, but it's more of a crap shoot.
A great "curiosity" rifle is the Swiss-made Schmidt-Rubin straight-pull bolt rifle. Ammo is currently available and fairly reasonable, and it's a real oddity as a MBR.
The FN-FAL is always a good choice, but try to stick with the "inch pattern" models for the best return on your dollar.
Now that I've completely confused you, where do you live? If you're in Maine, think about a visit to Maine Military Supply, in Brewer. You can handle a wide variety of the SKS, AK, and AR style rifles and they usually have some of the others in stock. The owner and the manager are both knowledgable and won't ignore you when you tell them you're looking for a military rifle, instead of a new hunting rifle.
Registered Maine Guide