Looking for a varmint/deer rifle
Alright so I just got back from a 2 day trip to Western Kansas where we spent some time blasting some prairie dogs, that was a great deal of fun. The only problem was that every previous notion I had about getting a long range rifle came back and I feel my wallet opening up like a P dog hit by a JHP round. This was the first time that we actually used my dads 22-250 (M77 MKII Target with Bushnell Legend 5-15 X40) and the success was mild, I couldn't seem to hit much out to 400 yards like my friend holding a M700 .204 with an old 3-9x40 tasco. I'm sure the JHP rounds weren't much help compared to the .204 with V-Max bullets but they were the cheapest and that's why we bough them. On the bright side I now have plenty of brass to reload if I can get my grandpa to let me actually use his reloading equipment instead of going over with that intent and watching him for 3 hours.
If I can scrounge up enough money after accounting for student loans then I'll be looking to get myself a long range gun around Christmas time. I've spent hours now going over the possible calibers and models to put it in and came up with the conclusion that just asking would get me better answers then more hours of reading in the wrong direction.
I read the article on budget long range rifles and that's what I'm basing part of this on. My budget for the gun itself is about $500-$600
I'm looking for a cartridge that is great for varmint and target shooting out to around 600 yards, with relatively low recoil, long barrel life, and low heat. I also do a fair bit of deer hunting which requires a bullet sized over .23" here in Kansas. Although frankly I'm not that concerned about it, wouldn't phase me to shoot a deer with that 22-250. Right now I use a light barreled 7mm RM and that things been kicking my ass since I was twelve so I definitely don't want to go High Powered. I'd like a cartridge that is easy to find and cheap to reload so that I don't have to break the bank when shooting.
For the actual gun IDEALLY I would in the end like a thumb-hole synthetic stock, heavy fluted barrel, in stainless finish. So the gun I am looking for has to be good when purchased but easily upgradeable to something great. Although when your on a budget you rarely ever get what you want. Neither weight nor size is any large concern.
Frankly I'm not really sure what to look for. I was looking at the Stevens 200 for the budget option but that doesn't really have any of my preferred characteristics and even after changing the barrel to a stainless bull it would still have a blued receiver. Not to mention after adding the barrel, accutrigger, and thumb hole stock it would hardly be the same rifle.
My other option is to have a friend who happens to be a gun dealer get me a good used model, assuming I can give him a list of guns to look for he can find me a good used gun or even a gun with a bad barrel so that the money saved could be used toward a new improved barrel. So what's the thought on used guns? If it's a good idea what's a good gun to pick up used for around $500?
Thanks for the help.