Cheapest isn't a good idea. The reason is some cheapies are actions only or bad bores that are pitted, or rfling shot out, or cracked and broken stocks.....see my point? Are you looking for a good shooter class, or collector piece (not necessarily for firing)? Give us a hint and I'll supply you with some sites for you to look at.
Here's a list of C&R dealers you can search on. I suggest you look for a Large-Ring Mauser action. Stay away from the Spanish .308 conversions (they really aren't .308 but designed only for the 7.62mil loads).
Twine: You and BigBill (Howdy Buddy) already solved your problem. Just get yourself a Turkish Mauser and sporterize the darned thing. I believe I saw them recently for the same $39 that BigBill paid for his. I think that in this day and age the 308 is somewhat overstated. It's a military round and American ammunition and firearms makers are trying to make it into the end all to be all. But the 8mm still beats it and is a lot less expensive to shoot. Sporterize a Turk for your brother - call it a Christian (ooops, sorry all you Muslem folk) or call it a Spurk, or a Tauser or a Sportish or sumptin. He'll prolly never know and you will have found another 8mm fan. This be Mikey jes causin' trouble.
mannyrock said: "I am not trying to rain on anybody's parade, but just to tell you to be careful. The .308 Winchester hunting rounds produce SAAMI chamber pressures of around 67,000 psi. The mauser actions were specifically designed to fire the 8mm or 7mm mausers, which generate only about 50,000 psi. Some of these mausers you are talking about are almost 100 years old. Get the picture?"
You mean to tell me that my 257 Ackley I built on the small ring '98 Mexican Mauser that I've been shooting for nearly 20 years is dangerous?!?!?
BAH!!! I don't mind telling you I've loaded that thing HOT- i.e. 100 gr. bullet @ 3300+ fps. It's **** on the brass, but the rifle/action has held up well.
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