How about a regular Norinco SKS for about $300-350 or so? They resemble an AK, also use a piston, most hold ten rounds (some use large AK mags) and are very reliable.
A simple recoil pad is not needed at all, but if you are about 5' 11" it will lengthen the short stock a bit.
There is a new rear peep sight which can be easily installed, and lengthens the sight radius, improving accuracy a good bit.
The ammo is now widely available again, and (Russian-made) Wolf etc can cost less than .25/round. The timing is right.
During this recession it can now be a bit of a buyer's market, at least compared to last winter's post-election panic
, which was mostly caused by gun store fearmongers, gun show sharpies and scalpers.