This month's issue of Field & Stream has a great article by D. Petzal on 5 affordable rifles he reviewed.
All are priced at $500 or less. Marlin x7, TC Venture, Weatherby Vanguard S2, and a Savage (forgot the model but it had an Acu Trigger)and Ruger American. The Marlin was the cheapest out the door for less than $400. Four of the five shot 1" or less at 100 yds, and the other went 1.25.
Can't remember the rest of the details but check out the article and then go put your hands on the different models. Pick the one that suits you best and enjoy the shooting