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I haven't tried running the tape without the guard. I plan to finish transferring all my old tapes, then take apart another maxell to see how it is put together and hopefully use it or fix the old one to transfer the damaged tape. I have been using an old Sony EV-C8u cassette recorder to play the tapes. I found that a Sony TRV-608 Hi8 camera can play the tapes with better success on some tapes the old sony can't play for whatever reason; however, I am having some transfer issues with the usb with the Hi8 camera. I don't want to try anything with the old spliced tape until, I have finished transferring the rest of the library. The tapes originated on a Canon Video Camera which has long since failed on playing them. I had another EV-C8u which also failed. (It froze shut with a head cleaner tape) The second EV-C8u has worked well up to this point but this is old equipment.