Thanks again for the advice.
I haven't bought a new rifle yet, but I think I have my criteria cleared up a little.
1. Something my wife will enjoy shooting. The leaves out things like M1 Garands and bolt-action .338s.
2. Heavier round than a .22LR, but doesn't violate #1.
3. The use of this will be 99.999% shooting for fun and .001% for defense. Therefore, I want pretty cheap ammo, and a gun that isn't more than $1,000 or so. Prefer $500.
4. Based on realistic expectations, and the heavily wooded area I live in, I really can't see a need for a long-range rifle. Something that is accurate from 100-200 yards should be good enough.
5. I'm not a mall ninja or a warrior-in-my-own-mind. I don't care if it's an EBR or not. Either way is good.
6. Prefer something reasonably light and handy.
I gave these criteria to one of my favorite dealers who is a regular at the WAC shows. He recommended looking at:
AK-47 (he had two or three different makes)
vz. 58 ($875 ish)
Smith and Wesson M&P15R AR-15-style rifle in 5.45x39 (really cheap ammo right now -- about half the price of .223) ($849 without handle)
M1 Carbine in .30 caliber ($699 with walnut stock)
I asked about the Remington 7600/7615. He had a 7615 on display (he actually had just about everthing I was considering on hand), and said it was fine, but had the same expensive ammo as the 5.65 EBRs.
How does the list look so far? If I had to write a check right now, I think I'd buy the M1 Carbine: classic looks, simple to clean and maintain, lots of parts in the world, good defensive gun for short ranges, light, low recoil, cheap ammo. The other leading contender is the S&W: light, good price, cheapest ammo of all on this list at about 20 cents a round, lots of AR parts in the world, ability to change upper to .223 later if I want to. Good self-defense gun, soft recoil.
I guess I still don't know.