Another vote here for the Weatherby Vanguard S2. I have one in .308 and it is very accurate with ammo it likes. The build quality is very high and the action is very smooth. It feels far more substantial and better finished than some other inexpensive rifles such as the Ruger American, Marlin X7, etc. It is a tad heavy (around 7.5 lbs) and it has a two stage trigger, which is not to everyone's liking. If you are partial to two stage triggers, the one on the S2 takes up around 1/8 inch then breaks clean at a touch under three pounds. Forget the factory MSRP; you can pick one up around $450.
As others have noted, you should also look at the Savage 11/111, Tikka T3 and FN produced 'Winchester' Model 70s.
I would avoid Remington 700s produced since Freedom Group bought them. Some people have had great luck with new 700s, but many are lemons and have to go back to the factory. Look for a good condition used one - with your budget you could buy a new barrel.
There are many rifles that will fit the bill for you and leave you plenty of money for optics and upgrades. Handle a few - or better yet shoot them if you can - and see which one fits you best.
Last edited by Joe Chicago; February 7, 2013 at 10:17 PM.