I think the Vanguard is probably the "best buy" (I got mine nib for $299.99 @ my lgs). I prefer Ruger bolt-actions. I currently have four of them and, though plenty accurate, a couple of them could benefit from some trigger work.
With regard toward blue vs s/s and wood vs synthetic, in terms of aesthetics, I much prefer walnut (not laminate) and blued steel. This has to be a personal choice in terms of function vs form. I may like the looks(form) of walnut and blued steel better but there's no question that s/s and/or synthetic and laminated stocks offer a more stable platform and less care needed for preventive maintenance (function).
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