Embark on a riveting journey into the gritty world of outlaw biker gangs—motorcycle clubs entwined with organized crime. The national spotlight first flickered on these groups during a tumultuous clash with the American Motorcycle Association in 1947, prompting the declaration that 99% of bikers are law-abiding citizens, leaving 1% as outlaws—a term that birthed the infamous ‘one-percenter’ label.
In the vast landscape of over three hundred outlaw biker gangs in the USA, this exposé unveils the sinister tales of SIX of the largest, most notorious motorcycle clubs, standing as formidable adversaries to American law enforcement. Brace yourself for an exploration into the dark underbelly of the motorcycle subculture.
Most Dangerous Motorcycle Clubs (MCs) in the USA
Hells Angels MC
Year Founded – 1948
Membership – 2500 (5000+ globally)
Major Presence – California
Perhaps the best-known and most dangerous one-percenter in the US is Hells Angels. This gang has a large concentration in California. It boasts over 100 chapters in the USA, with 27 chapters in California alone. The Hells Angels have members in 59 other countries (see infographic below) including unusual locations such as Egypt, Namibia, and Iceland. They even have chapters in Japan where they compete with other Japanese Bōsōzoku.
Hells Angels are all about violence, freedom, and reputation. The members of this gang participate in all types of crime. These guys have faced charges ranging from kidnapping, rape, racketeering, murder, assault, robbery, drug dealing, etc.
In all gangs, size matters. With 467 chapters worldwide, money from crime proceeds flows back to the original Hells Angels in the USA – more money means more power.
According to the Department of Justice, this biker gang plays a significant role in the manufacture and distribution of LSD, methamphetamine, heroin, hashish, Ecstasy, and PCP. A search of Google news for ‘Hells Angels’ will show you how active they still are, with endless stories of meetups, FBI raids, and murders.
It may come as a surprise, but Hells Angels have a business license and a Hells Angels Website. They have also recently sued Redbubble for using their logo on t-shirts and won the case with a $78K payout.
Year Founded – 1966
Membership – 5000+ worldwide (303 Chapters in 80 countries)
Major Presence – South (Texas)
The Bandidos MC (aka Bandidi Nation) outlaw gang came into prominence after a shootout with the Cossacks gang left nine dead, 18 injured, and 170 bikers placed under arrest in Waco, Texas, in 2015. The club has since come out of the American underworld to be declared a Tier-2 gang. This is the second-most dangerous classification by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Bandidos have built a fearsome reputation around their gruesome activities. In the 1970s, the founder Donald Chambers killed two Mexican drug dealers after making them dig their graves. The violence perpetrated by this gang involves turf wars with other biker gangs.
After the Waco shootout, Bandidos are listed as one of the Big Four Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs by the FBI. Apart from violent crimes, this gang traffics drugs across the Mexican-Texas border. It is heavily involved in the distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana, and cocaine.
Year Founded – 1969
Membership – 2000
Major Presence – Southern California
Mongols are best known for their multiple turf wars with the Hells Angels gang. This club was formed as an alternative to Hells Angels since it allowed minority groups to join. It mainly consists of Hispanic and Native Americans.
Mongols members are around 2000. The gang has chapters in 14 states and ten countries. This biker gang is well-known for extremely violent crimes in Southern California and Los Angeles after winning a turf war against Hells Angels in the 1980s.
Like other outlaw motorcycle clubs, Mongols participate majorly in the illegal drug trade of methamphetamine. Not to mention, money laundering, extortion, and robbery.
Year Founded – 1957
Membership – 1500
Major Presence – East Coast States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
This biker gang did not start as a crime syndicate. Formed in 1957, Pagans was an ordinary motorcycle club until 1965. After veterans joined the club, it would soon join the ranks of criminal activity thanks to the bitterness against the government by veterans in the 1960s.
Pagans dominate the East Coast. The gang has its share of illegal activities from smuggling of illegal drugs like meth, marijuana, and heroine to organized crime. The gang is also known for random assault of civilians, drive-by shootings of former members, and violent brawls with other biker gangs.
This outlaw motorcycle club broadly identifies as the 1%er with patches that say it. They also carry patches with coded numbers and letters aimed at pissing off law enforcement.
Outlaws Motorcycle Club
Year Founded – 1935
Membership – 1700+
Major Presence – Florida
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club is the oldest biker gang in the US. It is the top-most 1%er and is respected by other gangs. It started in 1935 but reorganized in the 1950s changing its original patch from a winged motorcycle to a skull with two pistons.
This biker gang has support clubs like the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club which serves as a recruitment club. It is a super strict gang when it comes to riding and brotherhood rules. Its members are men who own a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Women are considered property and can even be exchanged for drugs.
As one of the Big Four biker gangs in the US, this gang has a long and dark history. The members are suspects of murder, execution-style shootings, drug dealing, money laundering, extortion, shootouts, and firebombs. The gang is has a reputation for exacting revenge and have ongoing friction with Hells Angels. They even have an Acronym “ADIOS” meaning “Angels Die in Outlaw States” as a warning to the Hells Angels gang. The club motor is “God Forgives Outlaws Don’t”.
Vagos Motorcycle Club
Year Founded – 1965
Membership – 4000
Major Presence – Western United States
The Vagos Motorcycle Club came up in Southern California. This biker gang has over 4000 members. Unlike other outlaw motorcycle clubs, Vagos is involved in both legal and illegal activities.
The club identifies as an intricate organization with bylaws and legitimate businesses. But this is only one side of the club because its members are wanted for highway shootings, murder, and racketeering. The gang majorly deals with drug and weapon smuggling in the US and across the Mexican border. In a 2011 raid, eight pounds of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of cocaine and a rocket launcher were seized.
Like other gangs, Vagos also frictions with Hells Angels and has been involved in numerous gang shootouts. The Vagos gang has been infiltrated a few times by the ATF, but efforts to bring them down have not borne fruit. The gang has even won twice against law enforcement in defamation charges.
They may spot flashy leather jackets and edge. But outlaw motorcycle clubs are highly structured criminal syndicates. The biker gangs listed here are just a few of the most notorious outlaw motorcycle clubs in the USA. They pause a real threat to public safety, and Federal Law enforcement continues to put a significant focus on them.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gang FAQs
What does 1% mean in Motorcycle gangs?
The term derives from a statement made by the American Motorcycle Association in 1947 when they said 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding. The 1% being outlaws. Even today some top outlaw MC members have ‘1%’ on their patches.
Who is the most feared motorcycle club?
In our opinion, the most feared motorcycle outlaw club is the Hells Angels due to their size and number of chapters worldwide. You can’t skip the country and hide from these guys.
Who is the Hells Angel’s biggest rival?
No one gang rivals the Hells Angels as a whole, but each chapter will have its own rivals in the local drug trade. Their local rivals may not even be other MCs but local gangs like the Crips, Mara Salvatrucha, or the Cali Cartel
Motorcycle Club Intelligence Data & Resources
Sam is Automole’s editor-in-chief and classic car enthusiast. Sam is studying mechanical engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering, Austin. He also writes for many top automotive publications and appears on the Collecting Cars Podcast.