The aim of this work is to examine the uncertainties involved in measuring residual strain and their dependence on both the gauge volume of the neutron beam and the acquisition time in self-pierce riveted (SPR) joints while using the neutron diffraction technique. The main challenge involved dealing with the very small dimensions of SPR joints and developing optimum instrument configuration that allowed faster and/or more accurate stress measurement in SPR while maintaining the same time resolution required for the millimetre scale of the problem. Two different gauge volumes were used (0·125 and 1·0 mm3), and two different measuring directions were chosen in order to examine the rotational accuracy of the sample table. All measurements were conducted in steel-steel joints. Even though small sizes were involved, meaningful results were obtained and measurement errors were reduced by optimising the instrument parameters.