Location: Mostly eastern hardwoods/low lying swamp land, heavily wooded areas (Middle and western Tennessee and the Mississippi Delta lowlands) with occasional field hunts and infrequent western trips to chase mule deer on the Kansas Plains. Species: Looking for a versatile cartridge that will work on game from coyote to mulies. Whitetail and shooting steel are where the majority of shooting will occur. Why the 7mm-08: I own and shoot a .270 Winchester and a Marlin 336 in .35 Remington. Other than 5.56/.223, I have no other centerfire rifles. I want something flat shooting, appropriate for western game including antelope and mule deer (If it's bigger, I'll go to the .270), in light recoil. I'll be frank: The .270 recoil is manageable, but reasonably unpleasant to me. I love shooting it, but after one box of ammo at the range, I've had enough. When I bought it at my LGS many years ago, I was looking for a .30-06 or a .308 for a versatile cartridge, but in the particular rifle I wanted, all they had was .270 which was my third choice. Now, I'd like something that falls between the .270 Win and the .223/5.56. Plus I want a short action. Size: 5'10. Wide shoulders, thick chest. Weigh 220. Budget: Sub-$400 to leave room for an optic and ammo. Not because I can't afford more, but I can't justify spending more for occasional use when there's decent stuff below this price point. The candidates: I will buy new. I live in a small town and don't want to drive all over hell and half of Georgia to find the right gun in the right condition at the right price. Please hold your comments of, "Well you can get a used (whatever) for the same price!" because, no, I can't. Not here. -- Ruger American. Highest priced option I'll consider. Round count is low, but I am not sure it's a problem and the design/firearm has been out a long time. Generally, I am not a huge fan of Ruger centerfire rifles (some experts tell you their tolerances are sloppy and QC has not always been great, particularly on the Mini series rifles), but I've shot one in .308 and the rifle itself fits the bill (recoil on the .308 seemed about the same as my .270, perhaps a tiny bit less in the ammo I was using). Plus, the Ruger comes in a compact model with a 16.5" barrel which appeals to me for long-distance walking in the woods. -- Thompson Center Compass. Has really good magazine capacity based on a rotary design, has a three-lug bolt (which I prefer) and is feature rich, though I have no need (at this time) to mount a can, so the threaded barrel is extraneous to me. It takes a few knocks for having a thin, hollow stock that some say gives way to pressure and some claim the bolt fit and tolerances have it feeling slightly low end or unrefined. It is the cheapest on the list and that counts for something, especially considering all-in, it's almost $100 less than the Ruger off the shelf. It does come with a 1-inch MOA at 100 yards guarantee. -- Savage Axis II. Checks all the boxes but one: 2 lug design. I own a Mossberg 100 ATR that I bought years ago (that's my .270). I just don't care for the high lift required (90 degrees) on a 2 lug sporting rifle. Some say the Accutrigger on the Axis 2 feels a little weird with the dingus in the middle of the trigger face like it is on some handguns. I have never shot the rifle, so I can't say if it's a problem or not, but it's a highly regarded gun (and the handguns with the dingus don't bother me for the most part). The cheaper version, the Axis, does not have an adjustable trigger and that trigger has been described by some as "awful." So if I go with the Savage, it would be the Axis 2 model. -- Mossberg Patriot. This one is more "honorable mention" and starts at the very bottom of my list (which is in no particular order otherwise), but I'd consider it. My ATR has been a fine rifle, shoots accurately and has held up well despite having plastic molded sling mounts and other "cheap" shortcuts. I have a favorable opinion of the company and am a huge fan of the 500 series shotguns... and my ATR does what it should. Still, 2 lug design (90 degree bolt lift). So-so capacity. I have no reason to believe it's not a great gun, but it doesn't excite me. Not interested: - Remington 700, 770, 783 (what has happened to that company?! Nothing they put their name on gets good reviews anymore). Not saying any one of them are bad, but I am not excited about any of them. I grew up on this brand, so my viewpoint is more a result of high levels of recent customer dissatisfaction than anything else. Like, but can't go there: - TC Dimension. For the cost, I'd buy two guns, not one with interchangeable barrels. - Weatherby Vanguard. Would love one. Don't plan to spend it. - Tikka - Again, past what I want to pay. Sorry so long. Thanks for the input. Yes, ridiculously low post count. Been a member for a long time, but I usually find the answer I seek without posting.