Re: Rifle options. $2000 budget.
I'd take the builder up on his offer, why... 1/2" guarantee, that'll put you in the vitals of an elk further than the round has the energy to really do its job
Or, take a gamble on something else
As far as a brake, that would be a definitely for me, and wear hearing protection, regardless of where you are, range, hunting, competition...etc.
I use Howard leight electronic muffs, they flat out work, and at only $60. They enhance your hearing, then protect for the shot, they've been great for me out yote hunting.