The Most Dangerous Biker Gangs in America

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Outlaw motorcycle gangs have been a thorn in the side of US law enforcement since the 1960s. Today, these dangerous organizations are engaged in criminal activities on both coasts and throughout the American heartland. “One-percenter” motorcycle clubs—so named because the American Motorcyclist Association has said that 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding—run drugs across the borders and participate in a litany of additional crimes, from contract killing to petty theft. 

Because of their prominent role in the American underworld, outlaw bikers have long been mythologized in film, TV, and literature. Hunter S. Thompson’s book Hell’s Angels brought the gangs’ ruthless behavior to light, and the popular TV show Sons of Anarchy rekindled America’s interest in the subculture. Along with the Hells Angels, gangs like the Mongols, Pagans, and Bandidos are active to this day.

In fact, two high-ranking members of the Pagans were recently hit with federal charges for allegedly beating a man they thought was aligned with Hells Angels. Reports circulating in March 2022 claimed that the same Pagans gang was expanding its base of operations to New York City as well, despite 20 members being arrested and pleading guilty to racketeering charges. And a biker brawl in Massachusets involving dozens of people left seven people injured in May 2022. It took place at one of the gangs’ clubhouses. Other incidents—like a 2015 gun battle involving hundreds of bikers at a restaurant in Waco, Texas, in which nine people were killed and 18 injured—are reminders that the gangs are both ruthless and here to stay.

Regardless of arrests and outright takedowns, it’s clear that biker gangs are alive and well. Below are the most dangerous outfits operating in America today.

Warlocks

Territory: Eastern Seaboard
Approximate membership: More than 500

The Warlocks have such a brutal reputation that many outlaw bikers refuse to associate with them. The gang has a history of extreme and wanton violence, including assaults on rival leaders and indiscriminate killings of police officers. The Warlocks are most active in Florida, where they have 11 chapters. Their influence also extends north of the border: in 2014, four members were arrested in a massive drugs and guns bust in Alberta, Canada.

The Highwaymen

Territory: Detroit (with several chapters scattered throughout the Midwest and South)
Approximate membership: More than 300

Based in Detroit, the Highwaymen are relatively small compared to the likes of the Outlaws and the Hells Angels. But that hasn’t stopped them from disturbing the peace in the Motor City. The club was founded in the 1950s and has been the subject of several large-scale investigations. The most recent, in 2007, led to the arrest of 40 members and associates on charges ranging from racketeering to police corruption. The gang’s leader, Aref “Scarface” Nagi, was sentenced to 37 years.

Black Pistons Motorcycle Club

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: 400+

Some one-percenter jobs are so dirty that even the most feared clubs in America won’t touch them. When that’s the case, the gang calls in a “support club,” a smaller group that deals drugs and commits violent crimes at the mother club’s behest. The Black Pistons are the official support club of the Outlaws, and their members have been involved in crimes across the country, including a drug distribution ring in Georgia, a barroom beat down in Michigan, and a grisly dismemberment in Illinois.

Vagos Motorcycle Club

Territory: Southwest
Approximate membership: 4,000

The Vagos’ main business is coordinating drug smuggling from both sides of the Mexican border, but they were also involved in the assassination of a Hells Angels member in Nevada in 2011. Oh, and they were accused of setting booby traps for police officers in California – an accusation that led them to launch, and win, a defamation lawsuit against a local police department.

The Sons of Silence

Territory: Midwest and South
Approximate membership: 250-275

This Colorado-based gang is one of the smallest on our list, but what they lack in numbers, they make up for in ruthlessness. The Sons of Silence have been embroiled in turf wars for decades. They initially carved out territory in Colorado, Arizona, and Kansas, and later aligned with the Hells Angels for protection. That made them a target for smaller clubs, which explains why a 1999 clubhouse raid turned up machine guns, pipe bombs, and grenades.

The Pagan's

Territory: Eastern Seaboard
Approximate membership:  More than 1,000

Formed in the late 50s, the Pagan’s didn’t become a criminal organization until John “Satan” Marron took control in the late 60s and 70s. Today, they’re considered one of America’s Big Four outlaw motorcycle clubs and are widely feared for their ties to the Italian Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood. The Pagan’s are accused of producing and smuggling drugs on a large scale and have been implicated in numerous conspiracies, bombings, and weapons deals. In 2010, 19 members were arrested in New York for plotting to kill Hells Angels with homemade grenades. In 2018, a Rhode Island clubhouse bust unveiled a large stash of illegal weapons, including a rocket launcher.

Bandidos Motorcycle Club

Territory: The South, concentrated in Texas
Approximate membership: More than 5,000

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and the Bandidos Motorcycle Club is no exception. With more than 5,000 members worldwide, this San Leon-based gang is one of America’s biggest one-percenter clubs. Their specialty is drug smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border, and their members have been accused of multiple murders. The FBI considers them one of the Big Four outlaw motorcycle clubs – a designation legitimized by their involvement in the Waco gun battle.

Outlaws Motorcycle Club

Territory: Eastern and Central U.S.
Approximate membership: 1,700

Founded in 1936, the Outlaws are thought to be the world’s oldest outlaw motorcycle club, and they’ve only become stronger with age. With over 1,700 members in hundreds of chapters, the Outlaws have massive influence over drug smuggling at the Canadian border and control large swaths of the Great Lakes region. The club’s rap sheet includes capital offenses across the nation. They may be the Hells Angels’ biggest, toughest rivals.

The Mongols

Territory: Southern California
Approximate membership: 2,000

The Mongols don’t have the same nationwide influence as the Outlaws or Hells Angels, but in Southern California they’re as feared as anyone. Thanks to longstanding ties to the region’s street gangs, the Mongols seized control of SoCal from the Hells Angels in the 80s and have yet to relinquish it.

The club’s beef with the Angels dates back decades. In fact, the Mongols were founded by bikers who were denied entry to the Angels because of their race. Today, most members are Hispanic or Native American.

Hells Angels

Territory: Nationwide (Strongest presence in California)
Approximate membership:  2,500

When you think about outlaw motorcycle clubs, you probably think of the Hells Angels. This gang has become so well known that it’s actually incorporated in the U.S. and Canada. (Business dealings include suing movies like Wild Hogs for copyright infringement).

Legal businesses aside, the roughly 2,500 hardcore members of this club deal in every manner of criminal pursuit, from wide scale drug dealing to racketeering. Their aggressiveness has led to long-simmering feuds with many of the other clubs on this list, including the Mongols in Southern California and the Outlaws along the Canadian border. These guys are the best-known one-percenter gang for a reason.

Avengers Motorcycle Club

Territory: Midwest
Approximate membership: Unknown

Founded in the late 1960s in Michigan, the Avengers Motorcycle Club was involved in a war with the Iron Coffins and Forbidden Wheels clubs in the late 90s. With members engaged in racketeering, arson, assaults, and even firing at West Virginia State Troopers, this gang attracted enough attention for the Pagan’s to put a hit on the leader’s head.

The Breed

Territory: Northeast
Approximate membership: 20 – 60 fully patched, as of 2015

The Breed, formed in New Jersey in 1965, experienced rapid expansion in the 1980s and was at one point among the most feared one-percenter clubs in the northeast. Now headquartered in Pennsylvania, its members have been arrested and charged with running protection rackets, sexual assaults, gang assaults, and the production and distribution of crystal meth.

Outcast Motorcycle Club

Territory: Centered in Detroit with chapters in the South
Approximate membership: Unknown

This all-black one-percenter club was founded in Detroit in the late 1990s and has been engaged in a long-running feud with the Wheels of Soul Motorcycle Club. Its members have been implicated in a number of murders, including the 2014 shooting of a Wheels of Soul member in Birmingham. They are also involved in drug distribution.

Brother Speed Motorcycle Club

Territory: Northwest
Approximate membership: More than 200

Unquestionably one of the best-named clubs on this list, Brother Speed was formed in Boise, Idaho, in 1969. Its members have a long history of distributing meth and assaulting rival gangs. And they don’t just pick on smaller clubs – these one-percenters have been known to tangle with the likes of the Mongols, as well.

Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club

Territory: Centered in Detroit with chapters around the country
Approximate membership: Unknown

The Chicago-formed, Detroit-based Phantom Outlaw Motorcycle Club is notable for its close ties to the Vice Lords street gang – in fact, some members are pledged to both groups simultaneously. These ties have helped the Phantom Outlaws expand around America and hold their own in a series of violent altercations with rival gangs and motorcycle clubs.

Cossacks Motorcycle Club

Territory: Texas
Approximate membership: Unknown

The Cossacks were founded in 1969 in Tyler, Texas, and have yet to expand outside the state. Unlike other clubs on this list, the Cossacks don’t have a long history of drug-running or violent crime. However, they played a prominent role, alongside the Bandidos, in the 2015 Waco shootout. That event alone earns them a place in infamy.

Sons of Satan

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: 100+

We’ve already discussed the role of support clubs in biker culture – they do the dirty work of larger, more recognizable clubs. The Sons of Satan are the Pagans’ support club, and considering the crimes that Pagan’s members have handled themselves, the Sons’ resume doesn’t bear discussing.

Devils Disciples Motorcycle Club

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: More than 1,400

Originating in California in 1967, the Devils Disciples Motorcycle Club has spent the last several decades engaged in racketeering, drug trafficking, robberies, and beatings. Now headquartered in Michigan, the club took a major hit in 2006 when members were convicted of involvement in the meth trade. On a lighter note, Dog the Bounty Hunter is a former member!

Unknown Bikers Motorcycle Club

Territory: Focused in New York
Approximate membership: 100+

As the name suggests, not much is known about the Unknown Bikers except that they’re New York-based and have several clubhouses in the state. Oh, and you don’t want to mess with them… in 2016, a group of around a hundred members surrounded a Hells Angels clubhouse in Long Island after an altercation over patches. Anyone willing to confront the Angels should not be crossed.

Diablos Motorcycle Club

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: Unknown

These pieces of shit are not only drug trafficking murderers, but devoutly white supremacist drug trafficking murderers. Racism is rampant in outlaw biker culture, and the Diablos Motorcycle Club is one of its proud flag bearers. Plus, they were involved in a massive brawl with the Outlaws in May 2019 that left two people injured.

Thunderguards Motorcycle Club

Territory: Delaware and the mid-Atlantic
Approximate membership: Unknown

Thunderguards Motorcycle Club is one of several all-black clubs that formed in response to other gangs’ exclusionary membership policies. Formed in Delaware in the 1960s, this one-percenter gang has a strong presence in mid-Atlantic states like South Carolina and Georgia. Members have been linked to numerous crimes, including shootings and cocaine distribution.

Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: Unknown; chapters in at least five countries

Featured heavily in Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels, the Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club was founded in San Francisco but later forced out by the real Hells Angels. Today, their headquarters are in Oregon, and their preferred sources of revenue include meth peddling, thievery, and dealing in weapons. Members have also been accused of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and torture. Not a pleasant group.

El Forastero Motorcycle Club

Territory: Midwest
Approximate membership: 100

El Forastero (translation: the foreigner) is a classic example of a ‘second-tier’ one-percenter gang. It doesn’t have the reach of a club like the Outlaws or Hells Angels, but its members are plenty capable of distributing meth and stealing motorcycles. This gang was formed in Sioux City, Iowa, in the early 60s.

Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club

Territory: Northeast and Midwest
Approximate membership: Unknown

Founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, with chapters across the United States, the Iron Horsemen’s claim to infamy occurred in 1997, when three members beat an off-duty police officer to death in Maryland. The gang has also been involved in drug smuggling, weapons dealing, and shootouts across the Northeast and Midwest.

Sin City Deciples Motorcycle Club

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: Unclear – one of the fastest-growing clubs in America

The Sin City Deciples were formed as a black motorcycle club in Gary, Indiana in 1966; today, members come from all races, and many are military veterans. This is a fast-growing club that has expanded rapidly across the United States. Members have been charged with everything from kidnappings to gun-running, and are known to handle minor transgressions with an iron fist. 

Peckerwoods Motorcycle Club

Territory: Western USA
Approximate membership: Unknown

The Peckerwoods are another whites-only motorcycle club. They are included on this list because they commit racist attacks. The less said about them, the better.

Iron Order Motorcycle Club

Territory: Scattered across the United States
Approximate membership: Unclear

The Iron Order Motorcycle Club is one of the most unusual entries on this list. It is made up predominantly of military and law enforcement members and claims to be a law-abiding club. However, it has been involved in numerous altercations with one-percenter gangs over the past several years. It may not be long until this group is considered a classic outlaw club.

Night Wolves

Territory: Russia
Approximate membership: More than 7,000

America may be the birthplace of outlaw motorcycle culture, but dangerous clubs exist around the world. The Night Wolves are a Russian club that receives funding directly from the Kremlin. Formed in 1989, the group acts as enforcers for Vladimir Putin’s ruling party and follows the President’s strict moral framework, including hostility to the LGBT community.

Rebels Motorcycle Club

Territory: Australia
Approximate membership: More than 2,000

Australia has a massive biker culture. Many prominent American clubs have chapters Down Under, but few can measure up to the Rebels. The club has thousands of members who dabble in every level of crime, including murder, drug distribution, and auto theft.

Rock Machine

Territory: Canada
Approximate membership: More than 1,000

Between 1994 and 2002, the Canadian province of Quebec was ground zero for outlaw biker violence. During that time, the Hells Angels waged a brutal, bloody war against Rock Machine, a Montreal based one-percenter club. The conflict resulted in more than 160 deaths, including several innocent bystanders, and scores of injuries.

 

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