heyer5, your B-in-L is lucky to have you help. The MES will get to 275 and I have seen mine hit 300+ for short periods. When a newbie comes to this forum asking for recommendations I usually give two the MES 40 and the WSM either the 18" or the 22". I think these two smokers are the best of two ways to smoke for the backyard pitmaster. The WSM using briquettes is one of the best briquette smoker ever made and used by many competing on the BBQ competition circuit either as their primary smoker or a backup. The WSM capability of producing consistent high quality smoked Q at an affordable price is the first choice for many BBQ addicts. For those who don't want to fool around with briquettes and want a more set it and forget it type smoker, the MES fits that bill, the same as the WSM the MES consistently delivers high quality Q, for a very affordable price.
I have owned my MES 40 for 6 years, and have read many comments on this forum from owners of other types of smokers who bought and use the MES, their consistent response has been praise for the MES, which some would say (M aking it E asy to S moke) is the reason to buy an MES. I also recommend the 40 over the 30 inch model for a simple reason, capacity. I have never heard a 40 owner say I wish I bought a 30 inch, but I consistently read 30 owners saying they wish they bought a 40 or they are going to upgrade to a 40. Smokers are like boats, and TVs guys will always want a bigger one.
Hope this helps.