I own a STI Edge in .40 S&W and it is a phenomenal gun. It is hghly accurate and reliable. The Edge is built on their 2011 platform and not really suited for carry or self defense. I cannot speak for their other guns, but I am very happy with mine.
As for the other brands, Springfield Armory has a great reputation. I am not sure what you were planning on spending on gun smithing, but I recommend you just spend it up front and get a better model.
I'm guess you are looking to spend about $1,000 total. Try looking on gunbroker.com to find a deal. If you move quick, this looks like a GREAT DEAL!!!
It is a Springfield Armory Range Officer. There is no reserve and the starting bid is only $780. Better move quick if you want it. Only 3 hours left!!!
You can also get a stainless Mil-Spec 1911
for around $800
There is also a Stainless Target
model starting bid of $900