IMHO: A 22cal Bolt action is a good first gun and will have better accuracy then most semi-auto's. Check the gunshops and pawn shops for a used 22cal rifle. Semi's are ok except that some people develop bad shooting habits due to the quicker follow up shots.
Lever actions are fun and yes you can mount a scope on them.
If you decide on a Semi auto you won't find a better gun then the 10/22 as OGS has said, They have so much aftermarket stuff it'll make your head spin.
Bolt's are more reliable, less things to break easier to clean. But either a marlin 60 or ruger 10/22 are the most reliable semi autos out there, both 200 or less. Also, most bolts can use 22 shorts, 22 longs, and 22lr. I have a marlin 925, paid 189 for and have a burris scope on it. Scope was separate. Also, mossberg sells a 22lr bolt in most popular stores for about 110. Not sure on the model #. At 50 yards on a bench, it can clear the same hole. IF you shop around you could find a stainless bolt for under 200.
I would look at your primary deer sized rifle. Find a 22 that matches the feel and weight of it. Also, if you can put a scope on it for better accuracy. BSA makes decent 22 scopes for about $50. Most entry level rifles that comes with scopes are very poor quality. They fog up internally, the cross hairs drift after a few shots, and they are hard to see through in the early and late times of the day.
Most guns prefer certain types of ammo. Winchester super X and most CCI ammo has done me well. CCI min-mag in 40 is what I usually use. Seems finding the winchester ammo is alittle tougher, but cheaper when you do find it. CCI is about $10 for 100.
OVerall, stay away from lever 22's. They're not bad, but a new henry cost about 300 and a marlin costs close to 500. For that price, you could get a 22 and 12 gauge. Also, overall lever actions aren't very powerful at ejecting a stubborn case. Lever actions can also misfeed a round and crush it into the chamber. Rimfires have very thin brass and overall poorer construction quality than centerfire ammo. But, when it's time for a deer/defense rifle a 30-30 marlin lever action is a great choice.
I spent well over a year casually researching .22's before finally getting one, and I can tell you with confidence, throughout most of the .22 shooting world, the Marlin 60 is considered the best .22 auto-loader out there, NOT the Ruger 10/22. And many that like their 10/22s have spent $100's changing out the barrel, the trigger, the stock. I don't think I've even heard of anyone doing any serious customizing to a model 60. My best shooting bud, a very knowledgable guy whose advice I often seek on gun related issues, has two Rugers with custom barrels,etc, and my new stainless 60 shoots circles around it.
Go check out another fine forum, Thehighroad and search for threads on the best .22s, there's no shortage of them. Also take a look at rimfirecentral.
I remember one post in particular, that said, "The 10/22 is the best .22, after you spend $800 replacing every part made by Ruger".
I'm not calling the Ruger a piece of junk, not at all, but for a reliable, accurate, out-of-the-box shooter, the 60 beats it hands down.
If you want one for 150 and under, Marlin model 60 is a good choice.
At a local Bass Pro shop, well like 20 mins away, they had a sale on the model 60 and ruger 10/22. Only 130 for the model 60 and only 180 for the ruger 10/22
so look at your local stores, I wouldnt recommend buying used unless thats all you can afford.
I have been pleased with my 10/22 so far, however the only reliable Hi Cap mags I have had success with are the Tactical Innovations 25 rounder.
Although it has not withstood the test of time like the 10/22 the Kel Tec SU-22 and PLR-22 may be worth looking into as well. IMO Kel Tec leads the way in innovation and for the price they are impossible to beat. I recently picked up the PLR-22 and enjoyed it so much I've considered picking up a SU-22. Looking at a SHTF scenario a .22 is the ideal gun for the vast majority of situations.
As stated above, in my opinion the model 60 would be a wonderful choice, if you plan on going the semi auto route. I personally dont care for Ruger, never have, never will, not bashing them, just dont care for them is all. I would look for a model 60 if I could, one that was used, but still in good shape. Or if you dont mind spending a little bit of extra money, go out and get yourself a bolt action Marlin. Its hard to beat the reliability and accuracy of a good bolt action.
Look of a used bolt gun. The 22 caliber can never wear out a bolt gun so you are safe buying used. I have had the same Marlin 80 for so long with untold rounds through it and it shoots like brand new. I would say I had 20,000 rounds through, that is a conservative estimate. In my younger years I used to go to the pits with a block of 1,000 rounds and shoot all day. Most of the time we stayed until all the ammo was gone.
A bolt gun is not as much fun as a semi auto thought.
I have a 50 year old Remington 511 that will shoot circles around my Ruger 10/22 BUT at 75 yards both will hit a 20 oz coke cap every time so we are talking semantics anyway. It depends on whether you want to see how accurate you can get from the bench OR just be able to take out small game every time. More than 1" MOA at 100 is hard to squirrel hunt with long range.
Savage Mark II 22lr Bolt action Got it at Walmarts "it shoots better then i can" right out of the box.
I love it can't say enough about it.
I have a Glenfield (marlin) md 60 and I have to clean it before,during and after I shoot it,I have to resight it everytime I shoot also when it shoots it's fun but then it will always FTL or stove pipe and can't touch the Savage, one draw back with it is it only holds 10rd in the mag's and its only 22lr.
Got one for training kids.
They find a good market with trappers. A good back pack gun.
Mine has a scope and the 5 year olds stay on paper at 25 yards.
I know that is easy but we are talking about kids shooting for the first time.
I would say that it is a bit better then minute of beer can at 50 yards. The manual pulling the firing pin back after chambering the round slows down the kids a bit.
Draw is way to small to be used by an adult naturally.
I don't like that you have to seat each round by hand.
If you don't get it right you have to start again.
Real pain in the backside in winter with gloves.
And adds a layer of frustration for kids when they are starting.
On the good side the manual firing pin means that you can carry a round in the chamber with little to no chance of a ND.
The rings have to come from the company. Can't get them else where.
It weighs about nothing. An 8 year old carried one for hours with out complaint.
After 5 years of kids pounding on it and heavy use it is in like new condition with no part failures and no issues.
No more then normal cleaning and maintenance.
For $100 US you can do worse depending what you want to do with it.