I have spent a great deal of time searching and reading here (I lurk far more than post, you could say) about rifle choices and such, but I am looking for a final push in one direction (or at least narrow the field). I have a question that I would like to present in two parts - the first being cartridge and then the second the rifle. This may get long winded, so bear with me while I walk through my thought process so far. I'm going to approach this from a cost/usefulness perspective. I'm looking for something that is fun to use on the range, relatively cheap to expend ammunition, and that would also be useful in a SHTF scenario. From here I'll move into the usual method of asking this sort of question: Part 1 - The cartridge Intended use: Primary range/target, secondary SHTF (no, not the end all be all SHTF, but something that you could definitely rely on a bit) Considered: So far I have .223, 7.62x39, and 5.45x39 on my radar. It would be great to get some feedback about cost, availability, general fun factor, etc. I have read that people are worried about 5.45 drying up, which would not be good- I would like to be able to feed my rifle well after the zombies attack. If you have another suggestion, please let me know. Notes: Engagement distance would be no more than 200 yards. I am certainly interested in accuracy, but not in the extreme sense. I won't even bother with saying MOA. Looking more for minute of man. Part 2 - The Rifle This is the more open part, since a lot of my choice has to do with what I choose to have for ammunition. Obvious things on the consideration list are AK's, AR's, Mini 14's, SKS, carbines - hell, somebody might even suggest a lever action in a pistol cartridge if it would fit the bill. I'd be open to it. Budget: If I can get away with spending $300 on it, great. If it costs $700 to get something reliable that I can enjoy for a long time, so be it. Notes: After reading and reading I was sort of swayed into an endless circle of AR, AK, Ruger, lever, Saiga, hi-point carbine, rinse, repeat. Final note: I have never owned a gas operated weapon before. I am definitely open to advice centered around rifles that are good for first time owners in terms of cleaning, operability, simplicity, etc. Any input from anyone is greatly appreciated. Thanks.