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
Ok Joe Offset, New Braunfels El Dorado, Weber OTS 22.5 & 18.5, (2) Master Forge Charcoal, Auber ATC, charcoal retort Weber drum rotisserie