I have one. It was $429 not $500 from Lowes.
I like it just fine.
I dont see an issue with the bolt on firebox. If there is ever a problem with it it can be easily replaced. I have had not a leakage between the 2 chambers either.
I dont have an Academy Sports in my state so I could not compare it to one of those smokers.
But mine works just fine, holds temps well, welds are fine, I have no complaints.
I did do a few mods, the most important was tuning plates. I also extended the chimney to grate level but I have cooked with the extension on and off and dont see any difference either way so I am not sure the value of that.
I use one stick about every 45 mins or so, that seems to be the norm with these types of smokers
Michigan Custom 'Que
"Serving Those Who Have Served US"
Shirley Fabrication Custom Smoker
Member Great Lakes BBQ Assn
ServSafe Food Handler Certified