I'd look at PSA, you can get a quality AR for that price. You can go complete rifle or buy parts there. I always go the parts route except for a stripped lower that I get locally. Last year I put together a PSA that way (including lower) for under $700. No doubt it's a little more today.
If you go parts at the pace you can afford then you might be able to keep your 1911! I took about six months to finish last year's build since I waited for sales.
I see you're in CA, be sure to get a CA compliant AR.
The biggest issue with assembling an AR isn't so much getting the parts together right - it's getting the right parts together.
US Army 1966-69, VFW Life Member, Retired Geek
Last edited by Quentin; 06-23-2013 at 08:33 PM.