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My suggestion is one that will cost a bit more as you build it, but it will give you two caliber options. Go with the AR-15 in 5.56 for training and proficiency, and purchase a 6.5 Grendel upper, bolt, and magazines for hunting...and better tactical results. For a basic system to start with, there are any number of good AR platforms to go with. I'm sure the others will speak their piece on the subject, but my current choice is the P415 from POF-USA. Alexander Arms has complete 6.5 Grendel uppers and magazines.
I'd recommend starting with the AR, whichever one you choose, and accessorize and train with it for a while. After you build up the budget a bit more, go ahead and get the second upper with whatever accessories you feel like you need. Ammunition for 5.56 is cheap and plentiful, while 6.5G is more costly and not quite as available. Nevertheless, you can find 6.5G at various locations, and stockpile it when it becomes available. Midway and a couple others have what you need. Remember one thing about 5.56, which is that it is sufficient for small game. It isn't legal for taking that trophy muley, but there's a lot of other, smaller game that's good for meat on the table. That's not to say a well placed 5.56 won't take that muley, just that it isn't legal under normal circumstances.
Some may recommend going with the 6.8 SPC, and I won't knock it, but believe the better option to be with the 6.5G. Ballistics at longer ranges are superior in 6.5G and come close (exceed, in some cases) to 7.62x51 at a thousand yards. That's important to some folks like me.
Sarg,I am pedijudiced and agree with the M-14, the Mil version surplus is the one I have,and it has quality glass in the form of a Sheperd P-3 on it.
My Unit used the M 14 back in 1965/66 until we received the M 16. Loved the M 14 then and still do. Wish I had one.
If you take the seeier and tie it back, you can fire it fully auto. You could fild it of hold it back using other means but you may not want your weapon firing up all of your ammo all in one setting.
I totally agree with MSgt (he beat me to the punch), go with an M1A, put some good glass on it. As a cheaper option (if the M1A is out of your price range), go with either an FN FAL or HK-91/G3 clone. You can pick up either of these for around $700-1K.
Shoot me with the bb gun please. Not the sling shot. I have been hit with both. The ball bearings launched at you with a Wrist Rocket hurt like the dickens...
.44 cal lead muzzle loader balls are nasty from a wrist rocket. I thumped a dog that whizzed on the rally wheels on my 390 GTA (that's how long ago it was) with that set-up. No more dog whizz on my car, and he crossed the street to avoid me after that.
I used a model 700 bdl 300 mag.!000 mtrs easy.