I hardly-ever buy anything major at a gun show, but man did I luck-out at the last one I went to... I found my very own Ruger 10/22, and it was exactly like I had wanted - a beautiful hard-wood stock and a stainless barrel. BRAND-spankin' new, for $225. It is an older model (2005), so it actually has the original metal (aluminum) trigger guard, as opposed to the plastic one that comes on the current Ruger 10/22 that you will find in the store.
For those of you who don't know, the Ruger 10/22 is semi-automatic rifle that shoots .22 LR ammo. It has basically zero recoil, excellent quality, is simple to use, shoots inexpensive ammo, and is a simply gorgeous rifle (of course this is a matter of opinion, but I sure think so...) It is one of the most customizable rifles that you can buy, mainly due to its popularity - In other words, they have come out with tons of after-market modifications to change the look, improve the performance, increase the magazine capacity, etc. Don't like the stock? Switch it out to a different color or, better yet, a Butler Creek folding one. Want to go thru more ammo than the original factory 10-round magazine? Get a Hot Lips 25-round magazine or a tri-mag magazine coupler that will hook three 10-round factory mags together! There is even an entire book you can buy, all about how to Customize the Ruger 10/22.
I really do believe that it is the perfect first rifle for a beginner, but honestly they are not simply for beginners. In my opinion, everybody who owns a gun should have a .22 rifle, whether it be a pump-action, bolt-action, lever action, or semi-auto. They are all great for plinking, shooting small game, and blowing thru cheap ammo for practice. My dad actually has a Mossberg bolt-action .22 rifle that is alot of fun to shoot, and I especially love the fact that his has a peep sight (EXTREMELY accurate).
The Ruger 10/22 is my very first rifle. Since picking it up, this is what I have purchased for it:
1. soft rifle case (Mossy-Oak Infinity Break-up pattern):