There's a school of thinking that sees more promise in superior gains than in digging up great starting prices, even if you seem to be overpaying for that bottle rocket. Richard Driehaus, the godfather of momentum investing, takes exception to buying low and selling high: "I believe that far more money is made buying high and selling at even higher prices." And our Rule Breakers analysts would agree with that: momentum-like criteria show up twice in the six pillars of that newsletter's strategy.

Price momentum may not be a traditional marker of a strong business or a capable management team, but when you think about it, those qualities should eventually generate strong returns. This is just a slightly backward way of looking at the numbers, throwing "cause" and "effect" into the same basket to find a starting point for more research.

So what kind of bottle rockets can we find today? I took that question to our CAPS screener, looking for stocks that have at least doubled from 52-week lows and are still within 10% of yearly highs.

One stock that caught my eye among the resulting tickers today is Nanometrics (Nasdaq: NANO). If you bought shares a year ago, you're sitting on a massive 130% gain today. It's been nothing but blue skies ahead since late 2008 and the stock looks set to explore new highs -- again and again.

Here's how Nanometrics' gains stack up against some direct rivals over the last year:

Company

% Above 52-Week Low

% Below 52-Week High

Nanometrics

169%

(7.0%)

KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC)

9%

(22.8%)

Nova Measuring Instruments (Nasdaq: NVMI)

224%

(30.3%)

Veeco Instruments (Nasdaq: VECO)

70%

(40.0%)

Teradyne (NYSE: TER)

23%

(30.3%)

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. Data as of Aug. 28.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results, and you should always do more research after finding a promising stock by screening. In this case, Nanometrics straddles an exceedingly large business moat.

The competition on Nanometrics' particular rung of the semiconductor manufacturing industry is so fragmented that very few companies can be said to compete directly with the company. Specifically, process control for photovoltaic chip wafers is not easy, and the small handful of businesses in Nanometrics' corner of the universe have gone on to subspecialize even further and shield themselves with hundreds of technology patents.

 Nanometrics doesn't stop at solar PV, though. It stands to gain plenty from the increasing use and manufacture of products like digital camera sensors, solar power cells, and LED lights -- all of which rely on testing systems from Nanometrics.

Buy now or forever hold your peace: This bottle rocket still has plenty of dry powder left in its growth engines.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.