In the firearm world, more often than not, brand is a good indicator of subsequent performance and reliability. As you learn more, you'll see the same names repeatedly rise to the top. And more often than not, "you get what you pay for" also holds true.
I spent 3 years in military, learned my share of weapons, and I noticed that here in US, "bigger is better and expensive is better" attitude is present in some fields more than in the others, hobbies, like guns and bikes and cars and other money pits are reflecting these attitudes a lot.
As I said, I've seen cheap Galil rifles outperform many famous brands, like FN for example, not even mentioning M16A2 being able to be used as tent poles only while Galils were never having issues. I have seen cheap CZ pistols outperform many fancy brands in dusty and sandy conditions. Also, many thousands of people were killed with cheap crude guns made in Eastern Europe without any problems. and more than half of the world armed people are walking around with cheap and crude AKs made in China, Romania and Yugoslavia.
I know my share of weapons, but not familiar with US and South American brands, and have my budget limitation.
I am pretty sure, that if you are not looking at quality of machining and finish, and flashy materials, you can find a reliable and dependable shooters at a fraction of the cost of Colt, Kimber and alikes