Well I've heard a lot of good things about savages. Probably want a heavy barrel huh? Also consider marlins X series rifles. Been thinking of a marlin XS7 varmint in 223 myself. 26" heavy barrel and an adjustable trigger for under 400 bucks.
If you want to go custom I'd suggest a stevens 200.
From there you can replace the stock, barrel, and trigger and have a more customized rifle.